Lesson Focus

Lesson focuses on how the process of folding has impacts on engineering and is evident in nature. Students consider many applications of folding such as parachutes, wings in a cocoon, heart stents, and solar panels in space. They work in teams to create a model out of everyday items of a solar panel that can be folded (for transport) and expanded (in space). Students design their solar panel on paper, build it for transport, and open or test it. All teams evaluate their results, reflect on their design, and present to the class.


Full Lesson Plan
Student Worksheets

Age Levels:

8 – 18


  • Learn about folding technology.
  • Learn about engineering design.
  • Learn how engineering can help solve society’s challenges.
  • Learn about teamwork and problem solving.

Anticipated Learner Outcomes

As a result of this activity, students should develop an understanding of:

  • engineering design
  • folding technology
  • teamwork

Lesson Activities

Students explore how the folding of materials is sometimes critical to the functionality or shipment of a product. Students work in teams to develop a solar panel that can be folded into a small box and then deployed to its original size. The unfolded “panel” will be constructed out of everyday items including aluminum foil and must be at least 1 foot or about 30 cm, by 3 feet or about 90 cm in size when unfolded. Students work in teams to select materials, design the solar panel and engineer the folding process. They build and pack their solar panel into a small box and unfold it to determine damage or functionality. They compare their designs to those of other student teams, reflect on the experience, and share observations with the class.


  • Teacher Resource Documents (attached)
  • Student Resource Sheet (attached)
  • Student Worksheet (attached)

Alignment to Curriculum Frameworks

Curriculum alignment sheet is included in PDF.