Dispenser Designs

This lesson explores how engineers work in a team to solve problems. Students work in teams to develop a new design for a handheld tape dispenser that can be easily operated by a person who has limited strength and only has the use of one hand.

  • Learn how user needs, materials, costs, and manufacturing processes impact the design of everyday items.
  • Learn about the process of product re-engineering.
  • Learn about patents and ethics issues.
  • Learn how engineering teams address problem solving.
  • Learn about teamwork and working in groups.

Age Levels: 11-18

Build Materials (For each team)

Required Materials

  • Rolls of cellophane tape
  • Cardboard sheets
  • Cardboard rolls (paper towels or toilet paper)
  • Aluminum foil
  • Plastic wrap
  • Paper clips
  • String
  • Wire
  • Glue
  • Popsicle sticks 

Testing Materials

  • Example of a hand held tape dispenser

Materials

  • Example of a hand held tape dispenser

Process

Test each team’s design by having the team demonstrate how the tape is dispensed. This should be done using one hand, while pretending to have limited strength.

Design Challenge

You are a team of engineers which has been given the challenge of designing a handheld tape dispenser to be used by a person with limited strength and the use of only one hand.

Criteria

  • Design must accommodate someone who has limited strength and use of only one hand.
  • Design must be creative and different than existing designs.

Constraints

  • Use only the materials provided.
  • Teams may trade unlimited materials.
  1. Break class into teams of 2-4.
  2. Hand out the Rubber Band Racers worksheet, as well as some sheets of paper for sketching designs.
  3. Discuss the topics in the Background Concepts Section. Show students various examples of tape dispensers (mini, hand held, desktop, disposable, refillable, low priced, high priced). Discuss what the needs may have been for each design.
  4. Review the Engineering Design Process, Design Challenge, Criteria, Constraints and Materials.
  5. Provide each team with their materials.
  6. Explain that students must design and build a tape dispenser for someone with limited strength and the use of only one hand. Encourage students to be creative in their designs so that the new dispenser is completely different from the ones currently manufactured.
  7. Announce the amount of time they have to design and build (1 hour recommended).
  8. Use a timer or an on-line stopwatch (count down feature) to ensure you keep on time. (www.online-stopwatch.com/full-screen-stopwatch). Give students regular “time checks” so they stay on task. If they are struggling, ask questions that will lead them to a solution quicker.
  9. Before students begin brainstorming, ask them to pick two tape dispenser designs and compare them by answering the following questions as a team:
    ● Which design do you think was less expensive to manufacture? Why do you think it cost less to make? (consider materials, size, other factors)
    ● What are the needs met by the more expensive dispenser? What do you think the engineers thought the prospective users cared most about? (consider aesthetics, durability, other factors)
  10. Students meet and develop a plan for their tape dispenser. They agree on materials they will need, write/draw their plan, and present their plan to the class. Teams may trade unlimited materials with other teams to develop their ideal parts list.
  11. Teams build their designs.
  12. Test each team’s design by having the team demonstrate how the tape is dispensed. This should be done using one hand, while pretending to have limited strength.
  13. As a class, discuss the student reflection questions.
  14. For more content on the topic, see the “Digging Deeper” section.

Student Reflection (engineering notebook)

  1. What challenges did you face in executing your working model?
  2. Did you find you needed to rework your plan when going through the model phase? If you did, how did your design change?
  3. Which design created by another team did you think worked best? Why?
  4. Based on what you saw the other teams develop, do you think you could now create an even better design? What aspects of other designs would you incorporate in your team’s model? Why?
  5. Did you find that there were many ways to solve this challenge? If so, what does that tell you about the engineering of everyday products created in real life?
  6. Do you think you would have been able to create your new design if you had not been working in a team?  What are the advantages of teamwork vs. working alone?

Time Modification

The lesson can be done in as little as 1 class period for older students. However, to help students from feeling rushed and to ensure student success (especially for younger students), split the lesson into two periods giving students more time to brainstorm, test ideas and finalize their design. Conduct the testing and debrief in the next class period.

Divide into teams
Review the challenge and criteria constraints
Brainstorm possible solutions (sketch while you brainstorm!)
Choose best solution and build a prototype
Test then redesign until solution is optimized
Reflect as a team and debrief as a class

Tape Dispenser Details

A Sticky Subject

Have you ever thought about the engineering that went into developing transparent tape or the dispensers you use to cut it into usable strips?

What is Transparent Tape?

Transparent Tape or “Sticky Tape” like Scotch Tape and Sellotape is cellulose-based and transparent. Adhesive tape is an adhesive-coated fastening tape used for temporary or, in some cases, permanent adhesion between objects. Adhesive tape that will stick with application of pressure only (i.e. without activation by water, solvent or heat) is known as pressure-sensitive tape.

David Pimborough-bigstock.com

Adhesive tape was invented in 1926 by Richard Drew of 3M. The original tape was a paper-backed masking tape. Transparent and other tapes grew from this invention. Like ‘Hoover’, used to refer to vacuum cleaners in general, Scotch Tape (in the USA and other countries, such as Argentina), Sellotape (in the United Kingdom), Tixo (in Austria) and Tesa (in Germany) have become almost-genericized trademarks, being used to refer to adhesive tapes in general.

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But How Do We Cut It?

Many systems were developed to cut transparent tape into smaller, more usable strips. There have been hundreds of dispensers throughout tape history! Some are more effective than others in different situations.

Internet Connections

Recommended Reading

The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman (ISBN: 978-0465050659)

Writing Activity

Write an essay or a paragraph describing the needs engineers met as they designed and redesigned the can opener — an everyday item with many variations in cost, structure, function, and design. Consider patent and ethics issues in your work.

Alignment to Curriculum Frameworks

Note: Lesson plans in this series are aligned to one or more of the following sets of standards:  

National Science Education Standards Grades 5-8 (ages 10 – 14)

CONTENT STANDARD A: Science as Inquiry

As a result of activities, all students should develop

  • Understandings about scientific inquiry 

CONTENT STANDARD E: Science and Technology

As a result of activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop

  • Abilities of technological design 
  • Understandings about science and technology 

CONTENT STANDARD F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

As a result of activities, all students should develop understanding of

  • Personal health 
  • Risks and benefits 
  • Science and technology in society 

CONTENT STANDARD G: History and Nature of Science

As a result of activities, all students should develop understanding of

  • History of science 

National Science Education Standards Grades 9-12 (ages 14-18)

CONTENT STANDARD A: Science as Inquiry

As a result of activities, all students should develop

  • Understandings about scientific inquiry 

CONTENT STANDARD E: Science and Technology

As a result of activities, all students should develop

  • Abilities of technological design 
  • Understandings about science and technology 

CONTENT STANDARD F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

As a result of activities, all students should develop understanding of

  • Science and technology in local, national, and global challenges 

CONTENT STANDARD G: History and Nature of Science

As a result of activities, all students should develop understanding of

  • Historical perspectives 

Next Generation Science Standards Grades 3-5 (Ages 8-11)

Engineering Design 

Students who demonstrate understanding can:

  • 3-5-ETS1-1.Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.
  • 3-5-ETS1-2.Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
  • 3-5-ETS1-3.Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.

Next Generation Science Standards Grades 6-8 (Ages 11-14)

Engineering Design 

Students who demonstrate understanding can:

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

Next Generation Science Standards Grades 9-12 (Ages 14-18)

Engineering Design 

Students who demonstrate understanding can:

  • HS-ETS1-2.  Design a solution to a complex real-world problem by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable problems that can be solved through engineering.

Standards for Technological Literacy – All Ages

The Nature of Technology

  • Standard 3: Students will develop an understanding of the relationships among technologies and the connections between technology and other fields of study.

Technology and Society

  • Standard 6: Students will develop an understanding of the role of society in the development and use of technology.

Design

  • Standard 8: Students will develop an understanding of the attributes of design.
  • Standard 9: Students will develop an understanding of engineering design.
  • Standard 10: Students will develop an understanding of the role of troubleshooting, research and development, invention and innovation, and experimentation in problem solving.

Abilities for a Technological World

  • Standard 11: Students will develop abilities to apply the design process.
  • Standard 13: Students will develop abilities to assess the impact of products and systems.
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You are a team of engineers which has to tackle the challenge of reengineering the handheld cellophane tape dispenser to be used by a person with limited strength and the use of only one hand.

Activity Steps

  1. Review the various Student Reference Sheets.
  2. Your team has been provided with examples of different designs of cellophane dispensers. Review these and determine the decisions engineers made (cost, durability, design, user needs) when developing this variation on the product. Complete the questions below:
Pick two dispenser designs and compare them, then answer the questions below:

a. Which design do you think was less expensive to manufacture?  Why do you think it cost less to make? (consider materials, size, other factors)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

b. What are the needs met by the more expensive dispenser?  What do you think the engineers thought the prospective users cared most about? (consider aesthetics, durability, other factors)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Next, your team of “engineers” must develop a new design for a dispenser that can be used by a person with limited strength and the use of only one hand. Think about the needs of the user and how your design might be an improvement on what is currently available. Consider aesthetics, and the ethics of making only minor adjustments to someone else’s patented design.
  2. Draw a sketch of your design on a separate page, then build a working model, and present to the class.
  3. While your team’s working model will be made of simple classroom materials, list what materials your final dispenser would be made from.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. How would this impact the manufacturing process?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. What is the price you would sell this dispenser for? Can you make it for this price?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. In redesigning the product, what rights does the patent holder of the original product have? Should they be compensated if your new design sells well?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Evaluate/reflect on your design and those developed by the other “engineering” teams in your class using the attached worksheet.

Use this worksheet to evaluate the different designs developed by the “engineer” teams in your class.

  1. What challenges did you face in executing your working model?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Did you find you needed to rework your plan when going through the model phase? If you did, how did your design change?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Which design created by another team did you think worked best? Why?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Based on what you saw the other teams develop, do you think you could now create an even better design? What aspects of other designs would you incorporate in your team’s model? Why?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Did you find that there were many ways to solve this challenge? If so, what does that tell you about the engineering of everyday products created in real life?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Do you think you would have been able to create your new design if you had not been working in a team? What are the advantages of teamwork vs. working alone?

 

 

 

Lesson Plan Translation

Additional Translation Resources

Downloadable Student Certificate of Completion