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Design Challenges

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Design Challenges

Solving Problems with Ingenuity and Grit!

Prepare yourself for some challenging times in this exciting engineering series.

Overview - The Headless Horseman






The Headless Horseman is a fun Design Challenge intended to bring STEM, STEAM, and spooky thrills all together for lovers of Halloween Spook fests.  Enjoy!

The Scenario

In 1820 Washington Irving published a famous short story called “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” In this well known tale, a character known as the Headless Horseman is depicted as a Hessian Soldier who lost his head in a battle and rides through Sleepy Hollow at night in search of his missing head!  The inhabitants of Sleepy Hollow have dealt with this nightly terror for 200 years, but finally, some relief is in sight.

The missing head has been found (in the form of a pumpkin) and needs to be delivered to the Horseman with minimal danger to anyone.  A robotic delivery system is recommended to maintain a safe distance from the unpredictable horseman who is known to behave aggressively when confronted.  It is the hope of all the Sleepy Hollow inhabitants that the return of the head to this poor lost Horseman will quiet his spirit and let them finally get some rest at night.


The Challenge

Your mission is to safely deliver the Horseman’s head back to him with minimal danger to yourself, classmates, family members, and friends.  Here are the parameters of your challenge:

  1. Create a device capable of carrying the head, a pumpkin approximately 10″ in diameter, to the Horseman’s known hangout where he will pick it up.  You must be able to deliver the head remotely so that you get no closer than 10 meters at any time to the drop zone.  Remember, the Horseman is aggressive.
  2. Since the Horseman is missing his head it makes it a bit difficult for him to see and hear. To address this, use databot™ to draw the attention of the Horseman to the arrival of the head.  Use all of your imagination and problem solving skills to create a major display of light and sound.

Good luck in returning the lost head and restoring peace to the good citizens of Sleepy Hollow!  Contact us to submit pictures and descriptions of your solutions and we will publish them for all to enjoy.

Remember Your Engineering Design Process!

NASA has been kind enough to provide a detailed approach to the Engineering Design Process for creating solutions to the many problems our planet faces.  Here are the steps in detail for reference.  Go forth and design well!

  • Ask.   Ask questions to narrow the scope of the challenge at hand. Make sure you clearly understand the problem in full.
  • Imagine.  Brainstorm and imagine possible solutions to the challenge. This might involve researching existing solutions or previous attempts to solve similar problems.
  • Plan. From your list of brainstormed ideas,  narrow down the options and sketch or model the approach. Select what you consider to be the single best option that has the highest likelihood of success. This idea will be the single solution to prototype!
  • Create. Build a working prototype based on your design parameters.
  • Experiment. Time for testing! Experiment with your prototype and gather data to determine its strengths and weaknesses.
  • Improve. After gathering the data for analysis and identifying areas of improvement,  implement improvements to your design.

Follow the process and succeed!  Good luck engineers!

Design Challenge Gallery & Posts

Following are videos, images and notes related to this challenge.   If you have completed a challenge, please send over your pictures and notes and we will share them for all to enjoy and learn from!  

Explore More Design Challenges in the Left Hand Menu!

Educator Info

How We Breathe, Molly Kampf. 2018.

UC Colorado Boulder, Teach Engineering. Lesson: Breathe In, Breathe Out

UC Colorado Boulder, Teach Engineering. Hands-on Activity: Create Model Working Lungs: Just Breathe.

Serendip Studio. Homeostasis and Negative Feedback – Concepts and Breathing Experiments

Serendip Studio. Homeostasis and Negative Feedback – Teacher Prep Notes

Khan Academy Video: The carbon cycle

Khan Academy Video: Meet the lungs

Khan Academy Video: Oxygen movement from alveoli to capillaries

Khan Academy Video: Inhaling and Exhaling

Design Challenge Gear Image from the incomparable Image by MustangJoe on Pixabay!

Engineering Design Process and image courtesy of NASA, public domain.

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NASA Engineering Design Process Resources can be found at their BEST website. 

Stanford’s K12 Lab has some remarkable resources for Design Challenges as well as comprehensive PD programs.  Check them out!

databot™ Cave of Dogs curriculum module has additional background information on the cave as well as examples of how to create a simulated cave.