STEAM Design Challenge: Chair Prototyping

Time Required: 3 to 4 40-minute sessions
Skill Level: Intermediate
Recommended Grades: 6th to 8th

For this STEAM based lesson, students will work individually or with a partner. They will use 3Doodler pens to iteratively develop a chair design using criteria and constraints.

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Lesson Plan


Step 1

Explain to students that they will be working on a mini design challenge with 3Doodler pens. Let them know that the overarching goal is to learn how to iterate as part of a design process while working with criteria and constraints. Secondary goals can include introducing students to the idea of creating prototypes and helping to reinforce the concept of proportions. If you choose to integrate the extension exercise (see "Possible Extensions" section below), then you can explain that now as well.

Step 2

Review safety procedures when using the Create+ and model how to use properly.

Step 3

Discuss with students that they will need to create a series of strips with the plastic strands with slits in them that can be assembled to form a structure with a grid pattern. This helps to build a structure that can hold weight. Ask students: “Think about what other shapes help to build strong structures.”

Step 4

Provide criteria and constraints. Students will need to plan on paper or in a sketchbook what the initial phase of their structure should look like. Draw a very basic example on your whiteboard but encourage students to think differently. Explain the following:

-Each strip needs to be no more than four inches high and nine inches long.
-You need a minimum of four strips, but no more than ten.
-Your strips need slits in them so that they can slide together.

Step 5

After students successfully complete your instructions, explain that they need to redo their drawings, but at a quarter of the scale. This is where their prior knowledge of proportions will come in. The smaller scale design will be the foundation for what they will use to make their strips with the 3Doodler pens.

Step 6

Evaluate student drawings and don’t provide the pens until the drawings look accurate. Once their drawings are complete, provide the appropriate number of plastic strands and pass out the pens.

Step 7

Have students assemble their strips where the slits are. Put a pack of post it notes on their models to see if the structures hold the weight. As time allows, have students progressively add more weight in small increments until they feel they are about to reach the limits of how much it can hold.

Step 8

Now it is time for the next iteration. Now that students have had some success, build on that by asking them to apply the same principles (strips with slits), but this time they need to create their own mini chair. Make sure students draw out their design first with all the measurements for you to approve first.

Step 9

If you have enough material and time allows, have students get feedback on their design from peers and have them make revisions accordingly.

Step 10

Provide time for students to share their finished designs with the whole class.

Step 11 - Reference Images

Wrap Up

Teacher will share students' iterative chair designs on Twitter. @3Doodler #3DoodlerEDU


The teacher will assess students’ work based on their models and overall participation.

Possible Extensions

After working through this lesson with 3Doodler pens, students can apply what they learned to cardboard in order to create a cardboard chair that can hold the weight of at least one student. If you want to do this activity, you can mention this as the long-term goal to your students, and that this goal influences some of constraints in the lesson.



  • design - to prepare the preliminary sketch or the plans (for a work to be executed), especially to plan the form and structure of an object, building, bridge, etc...

  • engineering - the art or science of making practical application of the knowledge of pure sciences, as physics or chemistry, as in the construction of engines, bridges, buildings, mines, ships, and chemical plants.

  • engineering design process - The engineering design process is a series of steps that engineers follow to come up with a solution to a problem. Many times the solution involves designing a product (like a machine or computer code) that meets certain criteria and/or accomplishes a certain task.

  • proportion - a part, share, or number considered in comparative relation to a whole.

  • prototype - a first model of something from which other forms are developed or copied.

  • STEM - science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, considered as a group of academic or career fields.

Educational Standards


Use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.

In This Lesson

Students will use the 3Doodler pens to visually demonstrate the structure of a chair through successive iterative designs.


Students develop, test and refine prototypes as part of a cyclical design process.

In This Lesson

Students build models of chairs and can refine the chair if it is determined that the design needs improvement.


Exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance and the capacity to work with open-ended problems.

In This Lesson

Students will work with the open ended problems that accompany designing a prototype for a chair.


Students contribute constructively to project teams, assuming various roles and responsibilities to work effectively toward a common goal.

In This Lesson

Students will work together to design and build the chair prototypes.

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