Design Challenges for Kids That Solve Real-World Problems

Students (especially from middle grades up) can self-form global teams and create innovative, real solutions to global problems using technology as a platform to communicate, create and share. Designs can include 3D fabrication of real objects, which can then be tested and played with in remote locations, then improved and re-designed and shared again. Incentives for winning solutions can include technology (e.g. iPads, Mobile phones), money invested for future college (this is the best!), and as important, letters of recommendation and help and support to use the contest as a springboard to further inquiry, problem-solving and international cooperation among students. Global challenges are exciting for kids to tackle - and they have have no fear and lots of good ideas about them, which technology infuses and leverages!


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  1. Comment

    Since, 1988, we've supported hundreds of "real-world" learning projects for classrooms around the globe. It works! Why gives kids fake problems when real problems are both much more compelling AND need the attention of our youth. Here one example: The "(OF)2: Our Footprints, Our Future!" YouthCalculator which wasin conjunction with

    Hunger, malaria, bullying, solar cooking, breaking stereotypes-- any topic!

  2. Comment
    david.gibson ( Idea Submitter )

    I like the "problem finder" approach. I've also had some success using grand challenge lists such as the UN's Millennium Goals( and the National Academy of Sciences Engineering Grand Challenges ( to set very large "problem spaces" within which kids can then envision solution ideas. So the "finding activity" is guided but not constrained by an adult perspective - it's particularly important (I feel) to avoid having the teacher or parent over-guiding the search for problems as well as the creation of solutions. Peers and a clear objective rule system for judgment will do most of the guiding and student-team creativity will do most of the teaching, when empowered by technology and the global network of knowledge. Students do benefit from a helpful adult (who can be the parent, friend, and sometimes the teacher) who CARES (more than ACCOUNTS) for the team's success (IMHO).

  3. Comment

    As a teacher of 5th grade students I can honestly say that all to often students do not have a good understanding (if they have any at all) of what happens outside their own home or town. When I present "real life" problenms related to food or video games or even money it serves as a catalyst for helping them better understand the community and world around them. It is important that we provide connections to students at all ages that they can relate to and use to build on. In the book titled: The Big Picture by Dennis Littky it talks about changing the way we educate our students. We must provide opportunites for students that allow them to be creative thinkers and where we measure student success not on how they do on a standardized test but rather how they solve real world problems.

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