IGNITE Summer 2019 | Page 17

Thinking Outside the Box The Container Design Project roots back to 1994, when Sr. Alice attended a workshop at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth. Attendees were tasked with a challenge of their own: What’s an original project that teaches students the value of problem-solving? What Goes into Building a Container? More Than You Think The best containers require more than an idea and hot glue gun. Sister Alice breaks down the steps to constructing a winning project. Sr. Alice left that workshop with an idea for a collaborative, container-based project. Twenty-six years later, she’s still using that mostly unchanged 1 format to challenge her students. At first look, the requirements seem straightforward: design a container suited for a specific purpose. In past years, teams have pursued concepts including 2 modular snack trays, heart transplant carriers, and portable picnic tables. To do so, students create decision-making matrices to determine the right material — an affordable, eco- 3 State the problem Chips getting crushed? Phone getting dropped? Make the issue clear. Research specifications Find materials that accommodate your needs — and your budget. Consider the shape Use calculus to determine the ideal dimensions. friendly, and insulating wood, for example. Then they use min-max theory to consider different shapes — a cylinder, sphere, and frustum, for instance — to maximize volume and minimize cost. 4 Survey your audience Get practical input from people who’d use the container. However, winning requires more than math. The interdisciplinary project challenges participants to tackle teamwork in fresh ways. 5 Report to a mentor Get honest thoughts and feedback from a professional engineer. The teams of four or five must share responsibility, working amongst themselves to share tasks, overcome disagreements, and confer with mentors for advice and approval. Their last step as a team is the most 6 daunting: withstanding the scrutiny of an expert panel Build a model Whether gluing, folding, or 3D-printing, find a way to test your concept. of judges. 7 Make your case Stand tall, speak clearly, and sell your idea to the judges! 17 1