Lesson Engineering Brainstorming

Quick Look

Grade Level: 11 (9-12)

Time Required: 45 minutes

Lesson Dependency:

Subject Areas: Science and Technology

NGSS Performance Expectations:

NGSS Three Dimensional Triangle

Graphic shows a light bulb with rays coming from it.
An important part of the engineering design process is generating ideas.
Copyright © Wikimedia Commons http://sayitaintsoalready.com/category/the-liberal-media/page/2/


Students act as an engineering consulting firm with the task to design and sell their idea for a new vehicle power system. During the brainstorming activity (Generate Ideas), students determine and comprehend what type of information is important to learn in order to accomplish the task. Then they watch several video clips as part of the Multiple Perspectives phase. The new input contributes to changing and focusing their original ideas.
This engineering curriculum aligns to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Engineering Connection

The growing field of alternative energy is rich with engineers, especially chemical and environmental engineers. To begin the engineering design process, engineers brainstorm to generate ideas. Drawing information from many sources is an important practice for engineers, as the more people that contribute to the design, the better it will be.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students should be able to:

  • Describe what type of information is necessary to know in order to understand the design of a hybrid power system.
  • Explain why it is important to study the conservation of energy.

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

HS-ETS1-1. Analyze a major global challenge to specify qualitative and quantitative criteria and constraints for solutions that account for societal needs and wants. (Grades 9 - 12)

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This lesson focuses on the following Three Dimensional Learning aspects of NGSS:
Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Analyze complex real-world problems by specifying criteria and constraints for successful solutions.

Alignment agreement:

Criteria and constraints also include satisfying any requirements set by society, such as taking issues of risk mitigation into account, and they should be quantified to the extent possible and stated in such a way that one can tell if a given design meets them.

Alignment agreement:

Humanity faces major global challenges today, such as the need for supplies of clean water and food or for energy sources that minimize pollution, which can be addressed through engineering. These global challenges also may have manifestations in local communities.

Alignment agreement:

New technologies can have deep impacts on society and the environment, including some that were not anticipated. Analysis of costs and benefits is a critical aspect of decisions about technology.

Alignment agreement:

  • Identify the design problem to solve and decide whether or not to address it. (Grades 9 - 12) More Details

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  • Optimize a design by addressing desired qualities within criteria and constraints. (Grades 9 - 12) More Details

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Worksheets and Attachments

Visit [www.teachengineering.org/lessons/view/van_hybrid_design_less1] to print or download.


We will be learning about hybrid cars and forms of energy and energy conservation and transfer. We will be using the Legacy Cycle. We will start with a Challenge Question, which I will explain in a moment. Then we will brainstorm, hear from some experts, and further our ideas with some background information. Finally you will "Go Public" and present the information you have learned. Here is your challenge:

The price of gasoline and its effects are working wonders on the US economy. Also, the environmental aspects implications are causing irreversible effects that cause us to consume even more fuel, which then ties back into the economic impact. This was a major issue in the 2008 presidential election. Currently, various hybrid vehicles are already on the road. You have been contracted as by an engineering firm to help out with the design of a physical energy storage system to be used on a new hybrid vehicle for a local automaker. How would you go about solving this problem? What are all the options for hybrid vehicles? What information would you consider to be important to know? You will make a sales pitch with a small prototype and pamphlet with your idea at the end of the unit.

Now that you have gotten your assignment from Nissan, you need to put your initial ideas on paper. I am passing out a brainstorming sheet. You will answer the questions by yourself first and then we will talk in your groups. Then each group will share their best ideas with the class. Don't worry if you don't feel you know enough to answer these questions, over the next few weeks, you will be learning more about hybrid cars and forms of energy and how they are transformed.

Give students 10 minutes for brainstorming, and then write individual comments from each person on the board or on an overhead transparency. It is important that the teacher not correct misconceptions at this point as to close off open discussion. However, these misconceptions must be addressed. It is often the case that other students correct the mistake for you before you even get to any correction. Only if need be, guide the students into the thought process of energy. This stage usually lasts ~20 minutes. Afterwards, put these comments into categories or groups. Let students devise the groupings and put the comments into the groups or categories. At that point, it should be obvious to the students, though the teacher may need to point it out, what topics need to be addressed in the learning of this unit (Possible answers: Energy transfer, heat capture, breaking and loss of energy, kinetic energy, etc.).

Lesson Background and Concepts for Teachers

Students begin by Generating Ideas in a journal, answering questions such as, "How does the internal combustion engine currently work?" and "How do current hybrids work?" and "What other forms of energy are available?"

At the end of brainstorming, or the next day, show one of the short video clips below:



After each movie, ask students to add to or change their ideas. This accomplishes the Multiple Perspectives portion of the Legacy Cycle.


Worksheets: Collect worksheets and use them to assess students' brainstorming and how much they added to their learning from the class discussion. Each student's contribution to the class brainstorming session may also be recorded and graded. You might want to call on every student so that each contributes to the class ideas.

Journal Questions:

  1. What do you know about energy storage? Do you know what these terms refer to?
  2. What do you know how a hybrid vehicle works? Do you know of the types of hybrid vehicles currently in use?
  3. What can you tell me about the conservation of energy? What are the different types of energy?
  4. Can you think of various ways in which to store energy?
  5. Are there safety concerns in using different types of energy storage mechanisms?


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© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2006 Vanderbilt University


Joel Daniel (funded by the NSF-funded Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power at the University of Minnesota); Megan Johnston

Supporting Program

VU Bioengineering RET Program, School of Engineering, Vanderbilt University


The contents of this digital library curriculum were developed under National Science Foundation RET grant nos. 0338092 and 0742871. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the NSF, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

Last modified: October 19, 2017

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