From Woodpeckers to Water

From Woodpeckers to Water Woodpecker. Photo Credit: by Charles de Mille-Isles (CC BY 2.0) via flickr.


In this lesson, you will discover the value and roles played by modeling and rapid prototyping in sparking innovation and informing design and make models as a means of understanding how to turn ideas into solutions by creating designs and fabricating prototypes. Use the resources on this sheet to help you learn more about models and how to design them.


Day 1 Built to Peck
Watch all eight parts of Built to Peck: How Woodpeckers Avoid Brain Injury. As you watch the video, answer the questions on the From Woodpeckers to Water student sheet. You'll discuss the questions with your class after the video is over.

Day 1 Homework
First go to What is Engineering Problem Solving? Study the steps involved in the problem-solving cycle graphic. Start at the upper left with Original Problem Statement then follow the arrows around the graphic. You can modify the steps to suit your own problem-solving style.

To discover the value and roles played by modeling and rapid prototyping in sparking innovation and informing design, watch, reflect on, and make notes on the following examples of inspiration for ingenious designs. You should use these examples to help you prepare a slide show or Power Point presentation about the value of inspiration from nature in engineering and design. Directions for creating the presentation are on your Case Study Homework student sheet.

a. One natural design is for protection: caddisfly cases:

b. This natural design is for water storage: tank bromeliads:

c. This natural design inspired NASA’s Mars rover planetary transport vehicle

d. Or, research the Web to find your own case study from nature to engineering problems. For example, stories like this are common:

Day 2 Homework
For your homework, you’ll explore rapid prototyping. You can use these resources to explore this concept:

Now go to Curiosity Machine to do the lab Build a 3-D Object Out of Tetrahedra. You will need to create a free student account in order to access this activity. Follow the lab instructions to use pipe cleaners to make a tetrahedron as big as you.

Day 3 Tinkercad and Day 3 Homework
Now go to and create a free account on Tinkercad, which is a powerful software used in modeling geometric solids that are useful to 3D printing of rapid prototypes.

Choose and complete at least three lessons from the project gallery. Perhaps start with an introductory project on basic shapes and the Making of Star Wars.

Progress at your own pace by choosing other projects in the gallery. Continue exploring the site and what it can do as homework. Perhaps introduce yourself to breaking down complex shapes into simpler shapes with a lesson such as Creating a Beaked Whale.

Day 4 Mind Meld
Study the online Problem-Solving Matrix example. With your classmates, draw a problem-solving matrix on this sheet to record evaluations and score points for each other's models. Add rows as needed to accommodate all of your classmates’ models. The Totals column ranks designs based on how well each meets specifications (Specs). Make sure a blank copy of this document is included in your class Discovery Diary.

Day 4 Homework
On Tinkercad, work with your partner to develop the preliminary design you sketched in class to create a final design for a water transportation system. Print out a copy of your design. This will be evaluated in class on Day 5 in preparation for building a prototype for an upcoming design challenge.

Day 5 Problem-Solving Cycle
Create your own problem-solving cycle like the one you saw on the What is Engineering Problem Solving? page. Use this model to demonstrate your personal process for your own designs. Fill in the blanks with the design and problem-solving process steps you followed—innovating by adding, deleting, or modifying steps as needed. You should work to integrate and review the basic approach of engineering problem solving used through brainstorming, rapid prototyping, and designing solutions through models.

This esheet is a part of the From Woodpeckers to Water: Designing Models to Ease Freshwater Access Crisis lesson.

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Esheet Details

Grades Project 2061 Benchmarks National Science Standards