Ship the Chip

In this lesson, students learn how engineers develop packaging design requirements, and work in a team to evaluate the external stresses that engineers must consider when developing a package or product design. Students develop a plan, select materials, manufacture their package, test it, and evaluate their results.

  • Learn about engineering product planning and design.
  • Learn about meeting the needs of society.
  • Learn about teamwork and working in groups.

Age Levels: 8 – 18

Lesson Plan Overview

Build Materials (For each team)

 Required Materials

  • Potato Chip (Pringles® or Lay’s Stax® work best)

 Alternative Materials

  • Paper/Cardstock
  • Cardboard
  • String
  • Cotton balls
  • Plastic wrap
  • Tissues or paper towels
  • Toothpicks
  • Popsicle sticks

Testing Materials

  • Large box

Materials

  • Large box

Process

  • Each team will design and build one package and test it by tossing it around within the team.
  • Based on the testing results, each team should then build a second package that will be used during the final testing process.
  • Each team should label their package with a team name
  • All of the packages should then be collected, placed in one large box, and the entire classroom should participate in “bumping” the box around to simulate the mailing process.
  • Once the “box bumping” test is complete, the teams should collect their packages and open them to inspect their chip. Each team should record a score based on the following:
    • The following three measurements must be made for each package:
      • Mass of the package in kilograms/ounces to at least 3 significant figures.
      • Volume of the package in cubic centimeters/inches to at least 3 significant figures.
      • Intactness score of the chip on the following scale:
        • 100 Points: like new, perfect 50 Points: slightly damaged; cracked but still in one piece 10 Points: broken in 2 – 5 pieces 5 Points: broken in 6-20 pieces
        • 1 Point: broken into more than 20 pieces or crumbled
      • Determine the overall score for each package to determine the top scoring team. Use the following equation:
        • Overall Score = Intactness score divided by mass(kg) times volume(cc)
        • Example: a. mass = 0.145 kg b. volume = 240 cc c. intactness score = 100
        • Overall Score: (c) 100 / [(a) 0.145 kg x (b) 240 cc] = 2.87

What does a Packaging Engineer do? Get an inside look at what Packaging Engineers do. (Video 2:18)

Source: Design Squad Global YouTube Channel

Packaging you can eat? Yes, researchers are developing ways to reduce waste with edible packaging. (Video 2:02)

Source: American Chemical Society YouTube Channel

Design Challenge

You’re a team of manufacturing engineers given the challenge of designing the smallest, lightest package possible using everyday materials. The package should be designed to protect a single potato chip if it were to be shipped through a postal service.

Criteria

  • Design the smallest, lightest package possible
  • You may not eat the chips!

Constraints

  • Can use only the materials provided.
    • Unused materials may be shared with other teams or materials may be traded.

Procedure

  1. Break class into teams of 2-4.
  2. Hand out the Ship the Chip worksheet, as well as some sheets of paper for sketching designs.
  3. Discuss the topics in the Background Concepts Section.
  4. Review the Engineering Design Process, Design Challenge, Criteria, Constraints and Materials. If time allows, review “Real World Applications” prior to conducting the design challenge.
  5. Before instructing students to start brainstorming and sketching their designs, ask them to consider the following:
    • How the size of the packaging relates to the item that is being shipped.
    • How both the size and weight of the package factors into Post Office requirements and shipping costs.
    • How well your package will survive if it finds itself at the bottom of a stack of heavy boxes during shipping.
  6. Provide each team with their materials.
  7. Explain that students must design a package that will protect a potato chip as it is shipped through the mail.
  8. Announce the amount of time they have to design and build (1 hour recommended).
  9. Use a timer or an on-line stopwatch (countdown 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.
  10. Students meet and develop a plan for their chip packaging. 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 the package designs (see Testing Materials and Process Section) Use the Evaluation worksheet to guide the scoring process.
  13. As a class, discuss the student reflection questions.
  14. For more content on the topic, see the “Real World Applications” and “Digging Deeper” sections.

Student Reflection (engineering notebook)

  1. What aspect of the design of the package that had the best overall score do you think lead to its success?
  2. If you had a chance to do this project again, what would your team have done differently?

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

What do manufacturing engineers do?

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Manufacturing engineers often work in teams. They will frequently meet with other engineers and others outside engineering to review the manufacturing process, goals, and current status. Manufacturing engineers may be involved in workforce planning and use, work flow, and the design and space planning for the manufacturing process. They may be involved in product planning, providing input into original product design — with an eye to what will be required to ultimately manufacture the product. Their expertise in production efficiency is helpful in product design, and packaging planning. Graduates with an accredited degree in engineering management may also be involved in packaging engineering. They work in most  industries, particularly on larger projects or programs which require overarching  organization and planning to ensure success. Engineering management students take  courses such as accounting, finance, marketing, operations management, general  management, strategic management, management of technology, industrial and quality  engineering, and manufacturing and packaging engineering.

Packaging Options

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Engineers often work with marketing, sales, and perhaps a creative department when recommending packaging requirement for a product. Good packaging must protect the product, eliminate any damage while moving, shipping, or storing the products, and also make the product attractive if it is to be displayed in a consumer environment such as a grocery store, hardware store, or department store. For this reason, packaging is a critical part of a product’s design and engineering process, and engineers must take many factors into consideration including appearance, function, and costs.

Material Selection

Engineers have to consider the durability, cost, and performance of different materials when designing products and the package they will ship or be displayed in. Many factors will help  determine which materials to use, such as how long the package will be on the product,  how fragile or expensive the product is, and whether exposure to temperature or humidity  would impact the performance of the product.

  • Constraints: Limitations with material, time, size of team, etc.
  • Criteria: Conditions that the design must satisfy like its overall size, etc.
  • Engineers: Inventors and problem-solvers of the world. Twenty-five major specialties are recognized in engineering (see infographic).
  • Engineering Design Process: Process engineers use to solve problems.
  • Engineering Habits of Mind (EHM): Six unique ways that engineers think.
  • Iteration: Test & redesign is one iteration. Repeat (multiple iterations).
  • Manufacturing Engineer: design, integrate, or improve manufacturing systems or related processes.
  • Mass: Weight measured in grams (g) or kilograms (kg).
  • Prototype: A working model of the solution to be tested.
  • Volume: Size measured in cubic cm. Calculated multiplying length by width by height of an object.

Internet Connections

Recommended Reading

  • Structural Package Designs (ISBN: 9057680440)
  • Successful Food Packaging Design (ISBN: 2940361339)
  • Special Packaging Designs (ISBN: 9057680548)

Writing Activity

Write an essay or a paragraph about a packaging design that you think could be improved to either reduce the amount of plastic or other materials used, or take up less space on store shelves.

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 K-4 (ages 4 – 9)

CONTENT STANDARD A: Science as Inquiry

As a result of activities, all students should develop

  • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry 
  • Understanding about scientific inquiry 

CONTENT STANDARD B: Physical Science

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

  • Properties of objects and materials 
  • Position and motion of objects 

CONTENT STANDARD E: Science and Technology 

As a result of activities, all students should develop

  • Abilities of technological design 
  • Understanding 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 challenges 

CONTENT STANDARD G: History and Nature of Science

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

  • Science as a human endeavor 

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

  • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry 
  • Understandings about scientific inquiry 

CONTENT STANDARD B: Physical Science

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

  • Properties and changes of properties in matter 

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

  • Science and technology in society    

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

  • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry 
  • 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

  • Science as a human endeavor 

Principles and Standards for School Mathematics

Understand meanings of operations and how they relate to one another

  • understand the effects of multiplying and dividing whole numbers;
  • identify and use relationships between operations

Problem Solving

  • Solve problems that arise in mathematics and in other contexts

Connections

  • Recognize and apply mathematics in contexts outside of mathematics

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.

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.

The Designed World

  • Standard 19: Students will develop an understanding of and be able to select and use manufacturing technologies.

Engineering Teamwork and Planning 

You are a team of manufacturing engineers given the challenge of designing the smallest, lightest package of all the engineering teams in your classroom that will protect a single potato chip shipped through the mail from a remote location to your school.

Planning and Design Phase

Each team has been provided with a set of materials.  Review these as a group and draw your packaging design in the box below or use another page.  Think about package strength, size, and weight as you design your package. You might want to consider how well your package will survive if it finds itself at the bottom of a stack of heavy boxes during shipping! There are also several rules you must follow, which your teacher will review with you so your package is not disqualified.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Construction Phase

Build your package, and then complete the questions below:

1) How similar was your design to the actual package you built.

 

 

 

2) If you found you needed to make changes during the construction phase, describe why you made revisions.

 

 

 

 

Shipping Phase

Your teacher will devise a shipping system for all the packages created in your classroom.

Evaluation Phase

Once all packages have arrived at your school, you will work in teams to evaluate the packages.

Scoring

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The following three measurements must be made for each incoming package:

  • Mass of the package in Kg’s to at least 3 significant figures.
  • Volume of the package in cubic centimeters to at least 3 significant figures.
  • Intactness score of the chip on the following scale:

100 Points: like new, perfect

50 Points: slightly damaged; cracked but still in one piece

10 Points: broken in 2-5 pieces

5 Points: broken in 6-20 pieces

1 Point: broken into more than 20 pieces; crumbled

Determine the overall score for each package to determine the top scoring “engineering team.”  Use the following equation:

 

Intactness score (c)

Overall Score = _________________________

[mass in Kg (a) x volume in cc (b)]

Example: a. mass = 0.145 kg  b. volume = 240 cc  c. intactness score = 100

Overall Score:  (c) 100 / [(a) 0.145 kg x (b) 240 cc]   =  2.87

Make a chart to keep track of the packages for each engineering team in your class and see who has the best overall score.

 

Package ID # Mass (KG) Volume (CC) Intactness Score Overall Score

Reflection

1) What aspect of the design of the package that had the best overall score do you think lead to its success?

 

 

2) If you had a chance to do this project again, what would your team have done differently?

 

 

 

Presentation

As a group, make a presentation to the class about what you learned during this activity.

Lesson Plan Translation