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Teacher Toolbox icon Teacher Toolbox - The Purpose of this Page

The goal of this page is to introduce the concept of iterative design. Read this page with students and make sure they understand the concept of iterative design before they practice it by moving on to round two where they will improve their previous tower design.

Teacher Tips icon Teacher Tips

If students are having trouble understanding the concept of iterative design, engage the students in a whole class discussion and ask the students questions such as, “What are some examples of when you had to build, create or draw something that had to be edited?” “Did you ever make a mistake and have to fix it? Perhaps even multiple times?” “Have you been provided feedback to make a design or creation better?”

A Wolf Tries to Huff and Puff and Blow Down the Houses of Three Little Pigs
The big, bad wolf tries to blow down the three little pigs' houses.

Improving Your Design

In the children's story The Three Little Pigs, the pigs build houses to protect themselves from a wolf. Each pig uses a different material to build their house: straw, sticks, and bricks. The wolf tries to blow down the houses with his powerful breath.

The house made of straw gets blown down immediately. It is not strong enough to withstand the wolf's breath. The house made of sticks is a little stronger, but also falls down. The brick house withstands the wolf's power, and the wolf gives up.

To make sure your building is as strong and sturdy as you want, you should try multiple different designs. Test your first design and see what works and what doesn't. Write down your ideas, then make some changes that you think might improve the design. Test again and see what happens. This process is called iterative design. After several versions (iterations) of your design, you will find out what ideas work better, and what to avoid.

Extend Your Learning icon Extend Your Learning - Iterative Paper Airplane Design

To try other activities with this concept, ask your students to fold a piece of paper into a paper airplane. The airplane can be any design that they want - it does not have to follow a certain form. Instruct the students to throw the paper airplane to see how well it flies. Ask students to record their design and results in their engineering notebook. Have the students repeat this process two more times to have a total of three airplanes. Once the students have engaged in the iterative design process to improve their paper airplane design, have students conclude this activity by writing their final thoughts about their progress from their first design to the third in their engineering notebook.