Skip to main content
Teacher Portal


Designers and Engineers create solutions that solve problems every day. In this Unit, students will use the Engineering Design Process to build, test, and modify the Pendulum in Lab 1. In Lab 2, students will use the Engineering Design Process to test and modify elements of their Pendulum Kerplunk game.

What is the Engineering Design Process (EDP)?

Students will use the Engineering Design Process (EDP) as they modify their Pendulum builds to solve challenges. The EDP is a series of steps that engineers follow to come up with solutions to problems. Often, the solution involves designing a product that meets certain criteria or accomplishes a certain task.

The EDP can be broken down into the following steps: DEFINE → DEVELOP SOLUTIONS → OPTIMIZE.

  • Defining engineering problems involves stating the problem to be solved as clearly as possible in terms of criteria for success, and constraints or limits.
  • Designing solutions to engineering problems begins with generating a number of different possible solutions, then evaluating potential solutions to see which ones best meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
  • Optimizing the design solution involves a process in which solutions are systematically tested and refined and the final design is improved by trading off less important features for those that are more important.

Define, Design, and Test steps of the EDP
Define, Design, and Test

The EDP is cyclic or iterative in nature. It is a process of making, testing and analyzing, and refining a product or process. Based on the results of testing, new iterations are created, and continue to be modified until the design team is satisfied with the results.

In this Unit, students will use the EDP to modify the Pendulum build and test how their modifications affect the performance of the Pendulum. Then, they will use the iterative design process to design their own Pendulum Kerplunk game.

What is a Pendulum?

A pendulum is an object on an arm. The arm is attached to a pivot, which is a point to swing from. The object will naturally hang down because of gravity, but if it is pushed to one side it will swing from side to side (oscillate). The frequency of a swinging pendulum will stay constant until gravity and friction stop the pendulum.

Video file

Pendulums have historically been used in timekeeping, gravity measurement, and even as early seismographs to measure earthquakes. In this Unit, the Pendulum build is used as a base for students to experiment with as they build the Pendulum Kerplunk game. Students will be asked to modify the Pendulum Kerplunk game as they create their own rules and objectives.

Pieces in the VEX GO Kit

Children are fascinated with building things and taking them apart. VEX GO builds are student-made, creative, physical structures for STEM investigations. Students will be introduced to the pieces of the VEX GO Kit in the Pendulum Kerplunk Game Unit.

The VEX GO Kit poster lists the major categories of parts: pins, standoffs, shafts, gears, pulleys, disks, connectors, wheels, beams, angle beams, large beams, plates, and electronics. The poster also calls out the Pin Tool and the other pieces included in the kit.

VEX GO Kit Pieces
VEX GO Kit Pieces

Pins and Standoffs

Because pins and standoffs connect other pieces together, students may confuse their uses. Standoffs connect two pieces but leave a space in between. Each kind of standoff has a different width gap that will be created by its use.

Pins connect two or more pieces so that they lay flush with one another. The Red Pin can connect with one piece on each side. In contrast, the Green Pin can connect one piece on one side and with two pieces on the other side.

Pin and Standoff Example
Pins and Standoffs


Pins and standoffs create connections between pieces that are in parallel to each other. However, connectors create connections at a 90 degree, right angle. The Green Connector and Orange Connector allow right angle connections as well as parallel connections.

Connector Example
Example of a Connector

Beams and Plates

Beams and plates are used to create the structural base of most builds. These are flat pieces with varying widths and lengths. The width and length of a beam or plate can be measured by the number of holes on the piece. Students will learn as they begin to build that beams (1 hole in width) are not as stable as large beams (2 hole width) or plates (3 or more hole widths).

There are several unique beams including four Angle Beams. These beams create angles at 45 or 90 degrees. Other unique beams include the Blue Thin Beam which has one hole that will fit a shaft and allows the beam to rotate, and has additional holes for standard connections. The Pink Slotted Beam can be used to secure the Rubber Band or ropes in a build.

VEX GO Beams and Plates
Beams and Plates

Unique Pieces

Spacers can be used to add space between parts or as a collar for a shaft. Spacers are especially useful when making room for a part to move freely in a build.

The Rubber Band is a stretchable band that is used in a variety of ways in VEX GO builds, such as creating power or to link pulleys together. Stretching the Rubber Band to different lengths will give the build different amounts of potential energy that can be transformed into kinetic energy to power a part of a build.

The Long Rope and Short Rope are multipurpose pieces that have many applications in VEX GO builds. In particular, they can be used to attach parts or facilitate a transfer of energy within a build.

Rope and Spacer
Rope and Spacer

Pin Tool

While students become familiar with the VEX GO Kit, they will inevitably need help separating pieces. The Pin Tool helps students to separate pieces through three different functions: the Puller, the Lever, and the Pusher. The Puller is best suited for removing pins that have one end free.

To use the Puller, insert the pin into the slot at the nose, squeeze the Pin Tool, and pull back. The pin should be easily removed from the hole. In the case that a pin is not partially exposed, the Pusher can be used to push part of the pin free. The Lever is most appropriate when attempting to disconnect two beams or plates that are flush with one another. The Lever can be inserted between the two pieces and used to separate the connected pieces.

Video file