Grade 5-12 Sample Problems

Below are a six sample middle and high school Challenge 2013 problem sets that can be used as a ideas to form your challenge.

Edutopia along with the Buck Institute for Education offer excellent resources and ideas for project-based learning ideas - some
are already aligned with the 
Common Core State Standards. Note: The Buck Institute website requires a free login. 

In addition, offers an ever-growing source of project ideas as well.  

Theme: School Climate
Form of Outcome: Product Design

Unpacking the Back

PROBLEM: Nationwide every year thousands of students end up with injuries due to heavy backpacks

CHALLENGE: Gather and make sense of documented research as well input from students – then design an affordable lightweight backpack to accommodate required contents

CRITICAL QUESTION: Based on your findings, is the design of backpack the cause of the injuries or rather the form of the contents required?

Theme: Classroom Curriculum
Form of Outcome: Product Design

Redesigning the Future

PROBLEM: Due to many variables, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 killed hundreds of people and left over 100,000 homeless

CHALLENGE: Identify and make sense of contributing factors that led up to the fire – then design an effective product-based water delivery system that would have resulted in positive impact

CRITICAL QUESTION: Which variables of the fire could have been effectively addressed and what impact might your design have had on Chicago today?

Theme: Community Awareness
Form of Outcome: Communications Design

Bring It Home

PROBLEM: After years of population decline, your local community is now seeking ways to revitalize the downtown area

CHALLENGE: Explore causes of the decline and where people moved and why – then design a awareness campaign to motivate a renewed sense of community linked to growth opportunities

CRITICAL QUESTION: What type of motivators will most effectively raise awareness within current residents and business owners, as well as newcomers?

Theme: Neighborhood Improvement
Form of Outcome: Service Design

Transform Time and Space

PROBLEM: Teenagers in your neighborhood lack a safe place to gather and socialize with friends

CHALLENGE: Target 1-3 viable spaces that are underutilized and within walking distance – then generate a design proposal that serves the local community and is financially sound for the owner

CRITICAL QUESTION: What kind of transformation design would serve the local community as well as provide a compelling and long-term solution for teenagers and space owner?

Theme: School Climate
Form of Outcome: User Experience Design

Small Things Do Matter

PROBLEM: Currently your school cafeteria purchases Styrofoam serving trays that are unhealthy and not sustainable  

CHALLENGE: Research the use and costs associated with lunch trays – then redesign your lunchtime experience to become healthier and more sustainable

CRITICAL QUESTION: In addition to recommending an alternative tray, what impact might changes in student actions and behaviors have on the problem?

Theme: Classroom Curriculum
Form of Outcome: User Experience Design

Empty Bowls Now Filled

PROBLEM: Too many Americans go hungry everyday and it is difficult for food banks to keep up with demand

CHALLENGE: Building on the fundraiser “Empty Bowls Project,” create an event in which your class makes a powerful statement – the design of each bowl will integrate a special message to recipients

CRITICAL QUESTION: What criteria will the class use to develop the special messages, how might each statement impact the recipients of your bowls?