Shipping for Survival

This lesson packaging engineering and how many products, from eggs to organs intended for transplant require special packaging to assure they arrive at their destination in perfect condition. Students work in teams to design a shipping container and system to safely ship a flower in water so that the flower is still fresh upon delivery.

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

Age Levels: 8-18

Build Materials (For each team)

Required Materials

  • Water
  • Cotton balls
  • Plastic
  • paper towels
  • Rubber band
  • String
  • Paper clips
  • Cardboard
  • Newspaper
  • Plastic wrap
  • Aluminum foil
  • Wood dowels
  • Popsicle sticks

Testing Materials

A fresh flower with a stem cut to about 7cm (must be consistent between all teams)

Materials

  • A fresh flower with a stem cut to about 7cm (must be consistent between all teams)

Process

Teams test their designs using the shipping system created in your classroom. This may entail simply storing the boxes for 24 hours, or shipping them to the school from a local post office.

Once all packages have sat for 24 hours or arrived at the school, students should  work in teams to evaluate the packages and determine the condition of the arriving flower.

  • The following scores must be made for each incoming package. The box with the smallest overall volume gains a bonus 2 points.
    • Availability of Water: 0 = no water/1 = a little water/2 = lots of water
    • Freshness of Flower: 0 = droopy/1 = a little wilted/2 = fresh as new
    • Dryness of Box Interior: 0 = wet inside/1 = damp/2 = dry

Teams should document their total score.

Design Challenge

You are a team of manufacturing engineers given the challenge of designing a package that can safely ship a fresh flower. The flower must be sealed in a box with access to water — and not be opened for 24 hours.  The flower must be alive, fresh and not wilted when you reopen the package and the inside of the box must be dry.

Criteria

  • Consider how much water is needed to ensure the flower will survive.
  • Box cannot be wet upon opening.
  • The goal is to design the smallest box that can safely transport the flower.

Constraints

  • Use only the materials provided.
  • Teams may trade unlimited materials.
  1. Break class into teams of 2-3.
  2. Hand out the Shipping for Survival worksheet, as well as some sheets of paper for sketching designs.
  3. Discuss the topics in the Background Concepts Section. To introduce the lesson, discuss how engineers design packaging differently for different items and that when the items must remain fresh (such as flowers) or alive (such as an organ scheduled for transplant) the packaging requires planning and engineering to make sure the product survives.
  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 packaging system that will allow a fresh flower to be shipped safely and arrive at a destination still fresh and not wilted. Student teams with the smallest package to achieve the goal receive extra points in the activity.
    Note, you can either keep the sealed boxes in the classroom for 24 hours, or bring all the boxes to the local post office and ship them back to the school.
  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. Students meet and develop a plan for their packaging system. 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.
  10. Teams build their designs. Instruct students to mark their package so it can be easily identified after testing.
  11. Teams test their designs using the shipping system created in your classroom. This may entail simply storing the boxes for 24 hours, or shipping them to the school from a local post office.
  12. Once all packages have sat for 24 hours or arrived at the school, students should work in teams to evaluate the packages and determine the condition of the arriving flower.
    The following scores must be made for each incoming package. The box with the smallest overall volume gains a bonus 2 points.
    ○ Availability of Water: 0 = no water/1 = a little water/2 = lots of water
    ○ Freshness of Flower: 0 = droopy/1 = a little wilted/2 = fresh as new
    ○ Dryness of Box Interior: 0 = wet inside/1 = damp/2 = dry
  13. Teams should document their total score.
  14. As a class, discuss the student reflection questions.
  15. For more content on the topic, see the “Digging Deeper” section.

Student Reflection (engineering notebook)

  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 your team decided to make revisions.
  3. Do you think that packaging engineers often change their original plans during the manufacturing or construction process?
  4. What aspect of the design of the package that had the best overall score do you think lead to its success?
  5. If you had a chance to do this project again, what would your team have done differently?
  6. How do you think your design would have worked if the package had to be shipped in 100 degree temperatures? Below zero temperatures?
  7. Do you think that this activity was more rewarding to do as a team, or would you have preferred to work alone on it? Why?
  8. What other considerations would you have had to factor into a design if instead of shipping a flower you were shipping a human heart for an emergency transplant operation?
  9. What other considerations would you have had to factor into a design if instead of shipping a flower you were shipping food that must remain frozen?

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

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Packaging Engineering and Care of Flowers

Many items, from eggs in the local market, to organs rushed to a hospital, require special packaging to ensure they arrive safely and in good condition at their destination.

Packaging Options

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.

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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.

Caring for Flowers

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Flowers usually need a continuous source of water to remain fresh and hydrated. Cutting the stem of a flower at an angle instead of straight across increases the surface area exposed to the water and therefore boosts the flowers ability to absorb water. Removing leaves that are close to the cut on the stem can help the flower because water absorbed by the cut stem can go to the flower instead of to the leaves. Warm water can be absorbed more quickly by flowers than cold water. There is an exception to the warm water rule: Cold weather flowers like daffodils and tulips should be kept in cold water. Some people believe you can extend the life of a flower by using a mixture instead of just water. Recipes vary, but some say to combine 1 quart of warm water, 1 tsp. sugar, and 2 tbsp. of lemon or lime juice and mix well. Some florists believe that before selling or shipping flowers, that one inch of stem should be cut off under water. When flower stems are exposed to air – even for a short period of time — they will begin to seal up which prevents or slows the absorption of much needed nutrients.

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 how organs are shipped for transplant operations. What conditions do the engineers have to ensure will be consistent during transportation of the organ? Has the procedure for shipping this item changed over the past ten years?

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 B: Physical Science

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

  • Properties of objects and materials 

CONTENT STANDARD C: Life Science

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

  • The characteristics of organisms 
  • Organisms and environments 

CONTENT STANDARD E: Science and Technology 

As a result of activities, all students should develop

  • Abilities of technological design 
  • Abilities to distinguish between natural objects and objects made by humans 

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 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 C: Life Science

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

  • Structure and function in living systems 

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 

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 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 

CONTENT STANDARD C: Life Science

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

  • Behavior of organisms 

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 

Next Generation Science Standards Grades 2-5 (Ages 7-11)

Matter and its Interactions 

Students who demonstrate understanding can:

  • 2-PS1-2.  Analyze data obtained from testing different materials to determine which materials have the properties that are best suited for an intended purpose.

From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes

Students who demonstrate understanding can:

  • 5-LS1-1.  Support an argument that plants get the materials they need for growth chiefly from air and water.

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.

Standards for Technological Literacy – All Ages

The Nature of Technology

  • Standard 1: Students will develop an understanding of the characteristics and scope of technology.

Technology and Society

  • Standard 5: Students will develop an understanding of the effects of technology on the environment.

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.

The Designed World

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

Engineering Teamwork and Planning

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You are a team of manufacturing engineers given the challenge of designing a package that can safely ship a fresh flower.  The flower must be sealed in a box with access to water — and not be reopened for 24 hours.  Your teacher may elect to ship the class packages to the school from your local post office, or simply put them away for a day.  Either way, when you reopen your package, the flower must still be alive, fresh, and not wilted. In addition, any water included in the box must only be exposed to the flower stem – upon opening the box, the rest of the contents should be dry not wet or moist. Student teams with the smallest package to achieve the goal receive extra points in the activity.


Planning and Design Phase

Your 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 how you will ensure that your flower has enough water to survive in the box for a day.  Also, think about what might happen to the flower if the box were tossed about at the post office, or was stacked with heavier boxes above it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Construction Phase

Build your package, and be sure to put your team’s name or number on the box for easy identification.  Then, answer the questions below:

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. If you found you needed to make changes during the construction phase, describe why your team decided to make revisions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Do you think that packaging engineers often change their original plans during the manufacturing or construction process?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shipping Phase

Your teacher will devise a shipping system for all the packages created in your classroom.  This may entail simply storing the boxes for 24 hours, or shipping them to your school from a local post office.


Evaluation Phase

Once all packages have arrived at your school, you will work in teams to evaluate the packages and determine the condition of the arriving flower.


Scoring

The following scores must be made for each incoming package.  The box with the smallest overall volume gains a bonus 2 points.

Package Number

 

 

 

Availability of Water

0 – no water

1 – a little water

2 – lots of water

Freshness of Flower

0 – droopy

1 – a little wilted

2 – fresh as new

Dryness of Box Interior

0 – wet inside

1 – damp

2 – dry

Total Score
 

 

 


Evaluation

Complete the evaluation questions below:

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

  1. How do you think your design would have worked if the package had to be shipped in 100 degree temperatures? Below zero temperatures?

 

 

 

 

  1. Do you think that this activity was more rewarding to do as a team, or would you have preferred to work alone on it? Why?

 

 

 

 

  1. What other considerations would you have had to factor into a design if instead of shipping a flower you were shipping a human heart for an emergency transplant operation?

 

 

 

 

  1. What other considerations would you have had to factor into a design if instead of shipping a flower you were shipping food that must remain frozen?

 

 

 

Lesson Plan Translation

Additional Translation Resources

Downloadable Student Certificate of Completion