Engineering Design - Paper Bridge


Paper Bridge for Teaching the Engineering Design Process

Time Frame: 7 - 42 minute periods

Activity Description

In this activity, students will learn about and apply the engineering design process to solve a problem.  The activity frames the problem around designing, building and testing a paper bridge that maximizes the weight it holds.  Resources included in this lesson are found at the bottom of this document and include:

       ● Teacher guide

       ● Engineering Notebook Document

       ● Design Process Presentation

       ● Design Process Note Sheets

       ● Links to videos

       ● Pre/Post Assessment


Stage 1 - Desired Results

Big Ideas

● Asking questions and defining problems are essential to developing scientific habits of mind.

● Scientists construct mental and conceptual models of phenomena to represent current understandings, aid in developing questions and experiments, and to communicate ideas to others

● Scientists and engineers plan and investigate the world to systematically describe it and to develop and test theories and explanations about how the world works.

● The engineering design process is a method used to solve technological problems and/or improve existing ideas.


PA Core Standards / Next Generation Science Standards

T & E Education

Science Education



Explore the design process as a collaborative endeavor in which each person in the group presents his or her ideas in an open forum.


Explain how technology is closely linked to creativity, which has resulted in innovation and invention.


Explain how the use of technology can have consequences that affect humans in many ways.


Know and use the technological design process to solve problems.

    ● Define different types of problems.

    ● Define all aspects of the problem, necessary information and questions that must be answered.

    ● Propose the best solution.

    ● Design and propose alternative methods to achieve solutions.

    ● Apply a solution.

    ● Explain the results, present improvements, identify and infer the impacts of the solution.


NGSS.MS.ETS1.2: Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.


Relate careers to individual interests, abilities, and aptitudes.


Analyze the role of each participant’s contribution in a team setting.


Essential Questions

●  What kinds of questions do scientists and engineers ask?

●  How do scientists and engineers develop and use models?

●  What do scientists and engineers do to find out more about our world and how it functions?

●  How can the engineering design process be used to solve real-life problems?

●  Why is it important to document your design work?


Students Will Know / Students Will Do

Students Will Know

Students Will Be Doing

●  Content specific vocab

        ●  Bill of materials

        ●  Constraints

        ●  Criteria

        ●  Design brief

        ●  Decision matrix

        ●  Innovation

        ●  Invention

        ●  Model

        ●  Prototype

        ●  Sketch

        ●  Technical Drawing

●  Steps of the Design Process

●  How to use a decision matrix

●  Applying the design process to a real-life scenario

●  Conducting research

●  Creating sketches

●  Creating technical drawings

●  Writing directions/instructions

●  Reflecting on their work


Stage 2 - Evidence of Understanding

Assessments (Formative and Summative):

Performance Task(s)

●  Informal Formative Assessments throughout unit (i.e. classroom observations, questioning)

●  Formal assessments on:

      ○  Completed Engineering Notebook

●  Individual Course Summative Assessments:

     ○  Engineering Design Process Pre/Post-Test

●  Designing a paper bridge that maximizes the weight held

●  Utilizing an engineering notebook to document ideas and progress towards a final solution

Stage 3 - Lesson Learning Targets

Learning Activities:

Learning targets are written from the students perspective.

I can…

     ●  Identify

     ●   List/Tell

     ●  Describe

     ●  Solve

     ●  Convert

These should lead up to answering the Essential Question(s).

     ●  Identify the steps of the design process.

     ●  Solve a real-world problem by applying the design process.

     ●  Identify a solution by using a decision matrix.

     ●  Create sketches/drawings of my ideas

     ●  Create a set of directions that others could follow to create my design.






● Lesson Guide

● Engineering Notebook



● Engineering Design Process Presentation

● Skeleton Note Sheet

● Completed Notes

● Dream Big - Bridges in Haiti Video

● Dream Big - Haiti Behind the Scenes

●Pre/Post Assessment

● Engineering Notebook Rubric


Downloadable Files

Download: Paper_Bridge_Challenge_-_Lesson_Guide_tsCZPZp.docx

Download: Paper_Bridge_-_Engineering_Notebook_1f7jOGl.docx

Download: Engineering_Design_Process_Overview_lNCeTbx.pptx

Download: Design_Process_Skeleton_Note_Sheet_vNQSkjm.docx

Download: Design_Process_Completed_Notes_6QSiFUY.docx

Download: Engineering_Design_Process_Pre_Post-Assessment_XeQsB5Q.docx

Download: Engineering_Notebook_Conventions_Rubric_XOZiqMj.docx

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