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Hands-on Activity: Design Packing to Safely Mail Raw Spaghetti

Quick Look

Grade Level: 4 (3-5)

Time Required: 15 minutes

Plus discussion time.

Expendable Cost/Group: US $4.00

$20 to $30 per class.

Group Size: 3

Activity Dependency: None

Subject Areas: Physical Science, Science and Technology

Summary

Students use their creative skills to determine a way to safely mail raw (dry, uncooked) spaghetti using only the provided materials. To test the packing designs, the spaghetti is mailed through the postal system and evaluated after delivery.
This engineering curriculum aligns to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Photo shows a slivermailbox with the flag up.
Can you safely mail raw spaghetti?
copyright
Copyright © Microsoft Corporation, 1983-2001

Engineering Connection

Packaging engineers are responsible for creating packages for all types of products. They design cardboard boxes that are simply held together with glue and/or tape (or neither), boxes that have intricate folds to increase strength, and protective material used within the boxes. When designing packaging, they consider the size and shape of the object, whether it is fragile, and if it needs special temperature control.

Learning Objectives

After this activity, students should be able to:

  • Learn about design and packaging techniques.
  • Understands what happens to mail in the postal system.

Educational Standards

Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.

All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org).

In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.

NGSS Performance Expectation

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. (Grades 3 - 5)

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This activity focuses on the following Three Dimensional Learning aspects of NGSS:
Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Generate and compare multiple solutions to a problem based on how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the design problem.

Alignment agreement:

Research on a problem should be carried out before beginning to design a solution. Testing a solution involves investigating how well it performs under a range of likely conditions.

Alignment agreement:

At whatever stage, communicating with peers about proposed solutions is an important part of the design process, and shared ideas can lead to improved designs.

Alignment agreement:

Engineers improve existing technologies or develop new ones to increase their benefits, to decrease known risks, and to meet societal demands.

Alignment agreement:

NGSS Performance Expectation

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. (Grades 3 - 5)

Do you agree with this alignment?

Click to view other curriculum aligned to this Performance Expectation
This activity focuses on the following Three Dimensional Learning aspects of NGSS:
Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Define a simple design problem that can be solved through the development of an object, tool, process, or system and includes several criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.

Alignment agreement:

Possible solutions to a problem are limited by available materials and resources (constraints). The success of a designed solution is determined by considering the desired features of a solution (criteria). Different proposals for solutions can be compared on the basis of how well each one meets the specified criteria for success or how well each takes the constraints into account.

Alignment agreement:

People's needs and wants change over time, as do their demands for new and improved technologies.

Alignment agreement:

  • Students will develop an understanding of the attributes of design. (Grades K - 12) More Details

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  • Students will develop an understanding of engineering design. (Grades K - 12) More Details

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  • Tools, materials, and skills are used to make things and carry out tasks. (Grades 3 - 5) More Details

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  • The design process is a purposeful method of planning practical solutions to problems. (Grades 3 - 5) More Details

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  • Requirements for a design include such factors as the desired elements and features of a product or system or the limits that are placed on the design. (Grades 3 - 5) More Details

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  • When designing an object, it is important to be creative and consider all ideas. (Grades 3 - 5) More Details

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  • Models are used to communicate and test design ideas and processes. (Grades 3 - 5) More Details

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  • Identify and collect information about everyday problems that can be solved by technology, and generate ideas and requirements for solving a problem. (Grades 3 - 5) More Details

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  • Test and evaluate the solutions for the design problem. (Grades 3 - 5) More Details

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  • Define a simple design problem that reflects a need or a want. Include criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost that a potential solution must meet. (Grade 3) More Details

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  • Generate several possible solutions to a given design problem. Compare each solution based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the design problem. (Grade 3) More Details

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Suggest an alignment not listed above

Materials List

  • raw spaghetti (a handful per group)
    Photo shows jars of dry pasta, including spaghetti.
    copyright
    Copyright © Microsoft Corporation, 1983-2001
  • 8½ x 11-in envelopes, one per group
  • stamps
  • packaging materials, such as newspaper, tissue paper, packing foam, construction paper, bubble wrap
  • tape
  • pencils or pens

Introduction/Motivation

Accidents happen. Sometimes your packages are dropped, and letters get bent. How can you protect a special delivery from such unfortunate mishaps? Today you will act as engineers to design a package using only the materials available. 

Procedure

Background

Sending mail in the postal system is not always the safest. Mail can get bent or dropped, etc. It is up to the students to design safe packaging for the spaghetti.

Recommended Resources:

Postal history (explore all the links): https://about.usps.com/who-we-are/postal-history/welcome.htm

Postal museum history of "moving the mail": https://postalmuseum.si.edu/exhibits/current/moving-the-mail/index.html

USPS shipping suggestions, regulations and material descriptions: https://www.usps.com/ship/mail-shipping-services.htm?

Related activity: Designing a Package that Works

Instructions

Gather materials.

Talk with the students about what happens to the mail after it is placed in a post office mailbox. What might happen to a package as it travels through the mail?

  1. Divide the class into into small groups of students.
  2. Give each group a handful of raw spaghetti and an envelope.
  3. Using only the materials provided have teams package the spaghetti so that it is ready to be mailed.
  4. To test the packing approaches, have students mail the spaghetti back to the school. Make sure student teams include their names on the envelope (as the senders) so that when it comes back they will know which is which.
  5. Mail the envelopes.
  6. As a class, open the envelopes and examine the condition of the contents. Ask the Investigating Questions. Compare designs and results. Draw conclusions.

Assessment

Rubric for Performance Assessment (doc)

Rubric for Performance Assessment (pdf)

Investigating Questions

  • What packaging worked the best? Why?
  • What is important to keep in mind when packing the spaghetti?
  • What is the best way to pack it?
  • What happened to the spaghetti that did not make it through the mail safely?
  • How can this activity be applied to real-life situations?
  • How many students mailed their spaghetti safely?

Copyright

© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2004 Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Supporting Program

Center for Engineering Educational Outreach, Tufts University

Last modified: May 13, 2020

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