An engineer is someone who solves problems. To solve problems, engineers use a technique known as the engineering design process to perform experiments with objects that represent other things. This way they can visualize what will happen in the real scenario. To visualize how Biogen engineers were able to develop a container to transport drug-filled vials, students will use the steps in the engineering design process and a modification of the Egg Drop experiment to develop a solution to Biogens’ drug transport problem.
|8||CTE – Technology, Engineering and Design||Jacqueline Brown|
How do students find solutions to technological problems through the use of experimentation?
Time needed to gather or prepare materials
- 15 minutes
Time needed to facilitate activity
- 60 minutes
Time needed to wrap up/review activity
- 15 minutes
Standard TE01.1.04 Find solutions through use of experimentation to solve technological problems which has often been an essential useful strategy in scientific research.
What is an engineer? Simply put, an engineer is someone who solves problems. To help them solve problems, engineers use a problem-solving technique known as the Engineering Design Process. The Engineering Design Process is similar to other techniques you already use to solve problems in your daily life. It can be used to solve any type of problem. Watch the video, “Engineering a TACO Party!” to see how everyday problems can be solved using the Engineering Design Process.
Since its founding in 1978 as one of the world’s first global biotechnology companies, Biogen has led innovative scientific research. Biogen makes medication and vaccines to defeat devastating neurological diseases like Parkinson’s disease. Biogen technology and engineering capabilities have created novel ways to seamlessly move products from development to manufacturing with the intent of bringing its high-quality medicines to market faster. Recently, much has been written concerning what it has taken pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer and Moderna, to move vaccines for COVID-19 from development to manufacturing and ultimately to distribution sites within local communities. In order to move their product from one stage to the next, Biogen had to overcome several obstacles similar to the ones that have been overcome by Pfizer and Moderna. One obstacle that Biogen encountered when transporting their medications was the need to keep the medications in extremely cold and precise temperatures. If the medication is not stored in extremely cold temperatures, the medication will degrade and no longer be viable to give to the patient.
Another major consideration is the cost to transport drugs at various stages in the production process. Biogen was able to ship the liquid form of their drug particles at very low temperatures using RoSS Shippers, rigid stainless steel boxes that hold and protect bags of liquid drug substance during the shipping/transporting process. The designers of the RoSS Shippers had to keep in mind the cost it takes to produce the container. Consideration of all costs involved in producing drugs are important because the costs may determine whether or not consumers are able to gain access to the drugs. Therefore, your task will be to build a container to transport an egg. The egg represents glass vials and the medication inside of them. You have no size restriction, but smaller containers allow you to fit more containers on the truck and move more eggs (medication) for less money. Hence, a cost is also associated with the size of the container.
Materials needed for this activity per class
Materials needed for this activity per team
- 60 centimeters of clear tape or masking tape
- 5 rubber bands of any size
- 10 paper clips
- 1 sheet of card stock
- 60 centimeters of twine
- 1 plastic egg (to be used as a substitute for the real egg during construction)
- 30 straws (flexible preferred, any diameter)
- 2 small (4 gallon) garbage bags
- 1 large egg (purchased near the Egg Drop test date)
- 2 foam cups (minimum 8.5 ounces)
- 1 foam bowl
- 1 meter of toilet paper
- 25 cotton balls
- Filler to make the plastic egg weigh 60 grams (marble, sand, salt, sugar, etc.)
- Scale to weigh plastic egg with filler
Worksheets and technology
- Group students in pairs or small groups of 2-3 students for best engagement.
- Students must be able to take out the plastic egg and insert the real egg without causing any change to their vessel design. They must think about accessibility when designing their vessels.
- Feel free to add any materials to the list for the students to use. This assignment is not restricted to the materials listed above.
- The prices (page 4) are arbitrary; feel free to adjust as needed.
- On page 6, for question 2, encourage students when brainstorming possible solutions to use internet searches to identify what others have done before.
- Guide the students in choosing their final design. Do not choose for them, but help them think through their pros & cons and how to combine aspects of the different ideas.
- Encourage students to build and modify their vessels so they have 10 – 15 minutes to test their vessels.
- Teams that finish faster than other teams should be encouraged to think of and possibly build a better vessel.
Part 1: Set Up
- Print out worksheets or give students access to a digital version of the worksheet.
- Place materials and supplies on a table(s) in a way that students can “purchase” supplies when ready to build.
Part 2: Make the Connection (15 minutes)
- Lead a discussion on engineers and types of engineers. For more information about engineers, watch the YouTube video What’s an Engineer? Crash Course Kids #12.1
- Let students know that engineers solve problems using the Engineering Design Process.
To explain and introduce students to the Engineering Design Process, watch the YouTube video Engineering a TACO Party! After watching the video, briefly discuss other problems that can be solved using the Engineering Design Process.
Part 3: Executing the Engineering Design Process (60 minutes)
- Create teams of 2 – 3 students, but do not break into teams yet.
- Have students guess the project before providing the worksheet.
- Read and discuss as a class pages 1 – 5 of the worksheet. Answer questions on pages 2 & 5.
- Give students 10 minutes to break up into their teams and answer questions on page 6 using information from pages 4 and 5. Spend 5 minutes discussing their responses.
- Next, students will have 10 minutes to brainstorm possible solutions and draw/upload pictures of possible solutions. Students should also write at least one good thing about each possible solution (pro) and at least one thing that might not be good about their possible solution (con)
- Students should pick a solution, determine the cost of the supplies they will need, and “purchase” supplies using their $100 budget.
- Provide students 15 – 20 minutes to build and test their vessel, using a plastic egg.
- If time permits and students still have money, students may modify or re-build their solution.
- Each team will then test their vessel using a real egg and document the results in question number 8.
Wrap Up and Action
Students will complete the Egg Transport Debrief Student Form and use it as a guide to share their thoughts about their team’s design as well as how they could improve the design. Below are questions they will complete.
- Describe how your device protected the egg from cracking.
- What material was most important in your design? What material that you used was least effective?
- Knowing what you know now, how would you improve upon your design to make it work better on the next try?
- What material would you use in another design that you did not use today, and WHY? It can be a material that was not available
If teams did not use all of their $100 allotment, have students modify their design using suggestions they wrote in the form above.
Another activity is to have students create and design a marketing flier to communicate and sell their design. The flier would include a picture of the design, the sale price, and three (3) reasons a consumer should buy this vessel.
STEM Apply: Egg Drop, 2019 Cyber Innovation Center, www.NICERC.org
Egg Drop Student Worksheet, www.sciencebuddies.org
Egg Drop Activity, Northeastern University, Center for STEM Education (Source for the Egg Transport Debrief Student Form questions.)
The Engineering Design Process: A Taco Party, KQED QUEST, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MAhpfFt_mWM
Biogen, About Biogen, https://www.biogen.com/en_us/about-us.html
About the Author
Jaqueline Brown is a 2020-21 Kenan Fellow who has a BSE in Mechanical Engineering and an MBA in Finance from Duke University. Ms. Brown teaches Technology, Engineering and Design (TED) in the Career and Technical Education Department (CTE) at Githens Middle School.
About the Fellowship
For the fellowship, Biogen provided a virtual opportunity to learn about all aspects of the organization’s business. As an innovator in the field of biotechnology, Biogen has solved several problems that have allowed them to transition their product from development, to manufacturing and to distribution. Throughout the evolution of their products, when problems arrived, they utilized the engineering design process to solve those problems. A problem that the logistics’ group solved using the engineering design process was the inspiration for this lesson.