Emerald Connection January 23rd, 2024

By: Kristi Hardy

Students were given cardboard boxes in a variety of sizes, and two types of tape, duct tape and shipping tape, and were instructed to design and build a sled. By using the design method, we engaged students by first identifying the question, what makes a good sled? Individually or in pairs, students worked to create their version of the best sled. In a few separate teams, some students focused on making the sled go fast, choosing to line the bottom of their sled with tape. Others wanted their sled to be comfortable and have room for their legs, so they combined several pieces of cardboard to create more of a toboggan. One student decided to make a snowboard-sled, so they added foot straps to the base of their sled.

Having created their initial prototypes, the students were ready to test their sleds out at the Howelsen sledding hill. Choosing the ‘best’ sled, however, necessitated a variety of tests as each group focused on different goals for their design. We decided to start with a race, to see whose sled was the fastest. The winning sled was not only lined with duct tape (which we discovered was faster than the sled lined with shipping tape) but also had a slight lip on the front of the sled to keep it moving through thicker snow. In terms of comfort, the toboggan style sled was deemed the best, as students could stretch out their legs while riding.

The biggest lesson from the day was that sleds made from duct tape and cardboard don’t last very long. Although most sleds were destroyed after 15 minutes, they were able to successfully use the design process to ask a question, dream up a solution, use given materials to construct their designs and test their models while noticing areas for improvement. All in all, the students’ use of play in the design process as well as out in the field made for a successful and thoroughly enjoyed day in the beautiful outdoors!

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