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Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Strength vs Weight

This collection includes a design challenge that explores engineering concepts and the use of lightweight structures that are also strong. 

Students will explore the benefits of a lightweight, strong structure and build within parameters to meet a challenge. Strong, light structures are necessary in constructing buildings (especially in areas with extreme weather) as well as air and space craft. 

Keywords: #airandspace, National Air and Space Museum, NASM, keva plank, 

National Air and Space Museum Smithsonian

Mayor Myers-Design A City!

Follow the steps to design a streetscape. 

Alyssa Myers

Design It Yourself: Design a Streetscape

Follow the steps to design a streetscape. 

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Visionary Concept Tire, 2016-2019

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Monarch Sanctuary, 2018-Ongoing

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Prototyping: Built Environment

A prototype is an experimental model of an idea. It is a way to give our ideas a presence that we can put in front of someone else to see if our idea has value. It is important to match the fidelity of the prototype to the stage of the design process. At the beginning we want to use low-fidelity prototypes. Low-Fidelity prototyping refers to rapid prototyping from cheap, readily available materials. At this stage we are testing broad concepts such as materials, forms, usability. 

This learning lab collection documents low-fidelity prototyping objects, techniques, activities and examples specific to Built Environment Design (Architecture, Interior Design, Landscape Architecture). This collection is designed for use by students, teachers and parents. After you explore this learning lab collection you will be ready to embark on your own prototyping adventures.

Learning Goals:

  • Understand the materials used in low-fidelity prototyping 
  • Identify ways that designers gain inspiration for design ideas by exploring designed objects
  • Consider how ideas can be represented, tested and iterated using prototypes  
  • Understand and explore techniques to create low-fidelity prototypes
  • Consider how prototypes are used at various stages of the design process 
Jasmine Kassulke

The Hexagon and Honey Bee in Design and Engineering

Exploring the hexagon in design and engineering, using the honey bee as a model.

Pamela Schembri

Getting Started with Design Thinking

This collection allows students and teachers to gain an understanding of the Design Thinking process utilizing Cooper Hewitt learning lab resources as well other materials. 


Mary Marotta

Ideas to Solutions with Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

How do you help students test their ideas in your classroom? A critical step in the design process, prototyping and testing ideas helps problem-solvers learn from failures, experiment with materials, and visualize their solutions. Educators will dive into a case study from Michael Graves Architecture and Design and explore various techniques to experiment with ideas in the classroom with resources from professional designers and Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.



Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Seeing, Thinking and Wondering About Space Food

Astronauts need food and good nutrition to stay healthy in space. This collection looks at the challenges in preparing, packaging, transporting, and storing food in space. What innovations were required? What problems needed to be solved? How did the problems change over time?

This collection uses the "See Think Wonder" visible thinking routine developed by Project Zero at Harvard University. This strategy encourages students to make careful observations and thoughtful interpretations. It helps stimulate curiosity and sets the stage for inquiry.

First, Watch the Apollo 11 TV broadcast of July 22, 1969 of an astronaut eating in space (22 seconds). Use the "See Think Wonder" routine to stimulate interest among students about the problems encountered by astronauts when trying to eat. Ask, "What do you see? What do you think about that? What does it make you wonder?" Next look at the second image in the collection, "Space Food, Meal Package, Day 11, Meal C, Apollo 11 (white)". Repeat the questions examining both the food and the label.

Next, ask students to search the collection for "space food" and assemble one meal -- breakfast, lunch or dinner. Compare the different meals created by students using the see, think, wonder routine. For example, what kinds of foods do they see (or not see)? How are the foods packaged and how does it change over time? How are the more recent foods different from the first meals? The purpose of this discussion is to help students see how engineering problems and solutions evolve over time. Ask students, what impact would longer missions have on packing meals for space?

Watch the video, "Three Types of Food," and compare the information in the video with student ideas. Then ask students to propose solutions for the current question -- "How can we grow food in space?"

Stephanie Norby