First graders were working on making our planet a cleaner place this month with a design challenge to build a "trash grabber" that would allow them to pick up trash without using their hands.
After learning about Earth Day and the benefits of recycling from the Lower School Recycling Helpers, Design Teacher Deborah Morrone Bianco challenged first graders to build a device that would allow them to pick up trash. The design brief also included a few constraints. The device had to be long enough to reach the ground, and the garbage had to come off the device quickly into a trash receptacle so that no hands would be required at any stage of the trash collection process. Students were given straws, cardboard, popsicle sticks, plastic cups, tape, and toilet paper rolls to use as building materials and were placed in groups to ideate possible solutions.
Deborah challenged students to come up with at least three different ideas. Since they were working in groups of three or four students, developing multiple ideas was easy; compromising and incorporating various designs into a single device was challenging! The project tested the teamwork and cooperative skills of the first graders. Some groups discussed conflicting ideas and successfully settled on a single design, while others created elaborate contraptions that reflected multiple plans cobbled together.
Students took their devices outside to test them on an array of trash items that Deborah had placed on the grass. Several design concepts were very successful, including a trash scooper that used two large pieces of cardboard to pick up the trash and a scissor-like design that used two cups on the end of reinforced sticks to scoop litter, hold it into place, and then deposit it in the trash bag. Less successful designs often had a functional component that could be improved to make the design successful. One student used tape wrapped around the rim of a cup to adhere to the trash and just needed to figure out a way to loosen it from the grabber and get it into the trash bag. After each group tested their design, the class discussed what worked well and what aspects of each device could use improvement. Next, students will apply what they learned from the testing phase to their final product.