Pilot - U1L01 - Intro to Problem Solving



I finally began U1L1 last Tuesday and finished it on Thursday.(I have 43 minute periods every other day) Although I wanted to place the students in groups of threes, I had them do themselves instead. To my surprise, this worked out great. Every student was engaged in the activity from the very beginning. When it came to the testing out the boat, all the groups circled around 1 table (with kids standing behind) and we tested the boats using one container since there’s only one table in the back of the rows of computers. Groups were critiquing as they tested and were already brainstorming how they could make it better. Although three of the students said they did this activity in previous years, they had room for growth.


I’m glad to hear the activity was so engaging for your class! Did you need to make any modifications of adjustments to make it work with individual students? The bottleneck of testing stands out as a potential challenge if everyone is making their own boats, but it sounds like your kids used it as an opportunity to critique and plan for revisions, which is awesome!


I’m sorry I didn’t write the sentence correctly. I let the students pick their groups. They worked together developing a plan, testing and evaluating their boat. We had a total of 6 boats to test, It went by quickly and were ready to make plans for the 2nd boat.


I teach in Bronxville, NY which is a 30 minute train ride north of NYC. The entire district is in one building K-12 and I teach 9-12 grade in 80 minute blocks. I started with 15, but have dropped to 13 and might be losing another. The high school is only about 550 students, so electives are spread thin. Students are competitive and typically want to do well, mainly with the goal in mind rather than the journey (and knowledge acquired) to get there.

U1L1 - Aluminum boats:
This lesson went really well. It was the first day of an 80 minute block, so the first 15-20 minutes was the intro day stuff (going over syllabus, Google Classroom, grading policies, etc…) and then jumping into a hands-on activity. This was good for the class as an icebreaker which they had to get up and move around and work together (not utilized in my school nearly as often as should be). Students were competitive and actively discussed others designs and requested more 5x5 aluminum sheets to try to modify their designs to beat the highest in the class (61 pennies).
The only negative is the cleanup. I had a towel down and two tubs full of water for the students to test out, but it still was wet. But not much you could do about that (I’m a nomad so it’s not my classroom).
Since this was the first day, I just “graded” them on participation and stepping outside of their comfort zone which everyone did.
No deviations made, I had groups of 2 (one group of 3) and they completed the worksheet online (I created Google Docs and shared them through Google Classroom).


Slideshow for presentation:


Presentation of the lesson

•Display slideshow to utilize dual learning modalities - oral & written - instructions are clear for reinforcement throughout the lesson for staying on track - the ideal continues through all my lessons

•Targets are read orally from text daily with student participation reading their part aloud - clear objectives for the daily task

•Introduction of new vocabulary - unclear words are discussed and are practiced for word usage and meaning

•Brief videos to motivate students toward a purpose, goal and role of CS in their lives

•Establishment of group roles and setting parameters for effective discourse and classroom management

•Continual reinforcement of using resources such as a Google search - if you’re not sure how to proceed, seek advice and research

•Shared process of how (Google Docs) to record definition, strategies, implementation and reflection


•More pennies were needed than the guide suggests. My students had 6 X 6 inch pieces of foil and my ‘top’ group were able to float 98 pennies.

•Set up numerous stations with water containers - this allows more room for a large class rather than having to wait.

•Think about allowing for more than just 2 tries of their boats. My kids were so pumped that they wanted to keep iteratively re-designing.


I am including the slide deck I used to help deliver the lesson

The links to the documents go to my Google Drive so that I can assign them on Google Classroom. You may need to recreate the links or link them to the original document on Code Studio

Two modifications:

  • Individual design before meeting the group, and before making modifications for the second design in order to avoid extroverts overpowering the process
  • Materials only given when the group presented a complete proposal with sketches and instructions for both the first and second design

Worked well. No other adjustments


Thanks for the tips and resources, everyone. It sounds like the kids are really getting into it, whether it’s being used as more of an icebreaker or expanded out to involve more research and iteration. It’s great to hear how the lesson is working in different classrooms.



This is just a re-post. The original had something wrong with the formatting that made it difficult to read.

I am piloting this with 2 of my classes. Both are combined 7th and 8th grade. We are a Title 1 school and there are approximately 40 students in each of the classes. For the first lesson I used 2 different ways of gathering the data from the students.

One class followed along and submitted their answers on a Nearpod lesson that I created. Like others have mentioned, I was apprehensive about having the computers out with water in the room. I solved this by making 2 areas in the front of the room for students to test their designs. That way, water was kept at the front of the room and not at their work spaces. Requiring students show their plan before receiving the foil ensured that they all went through the process. I would not recommend using Nearpod for this unless students are already used to working with the program. Mostly because of the limited amount of time for the activity. 30 minutes was not enough time for each team to complete the second trial. At least 10 minutes more would have been good. I also needed to allow for taking attendance and clean-up time. My classes are 90 minute blocks, but I used this on a Friday when the students are with me for 40 minutes.

The second class used paper copies of the activity sheet. They were more comfortable with this. I will try this with Google Classroom next time. Students were much better at describing their plan with words than they were by drawing a picture. It might be helpful to note that the students will need the information about their boats for Lesson 2.

I stressed that this was not a competition between the teams, but rather within their own groups. The problem was to design a boat that would hold more pennies than their first design. I wish we had more time to spend on the new plan. They needed process time to understand what had happened to their boats the first time in order to design an improvement.

The students really enjoyed the activity. I wouldn’t use it the first couple of times the class meets. I would want to have set up the groups and set the tone for how the class would work first.


I teach at a high school in SLC, Utah. My class is very diverse in that we have multiple languages in the class, English is not the native language of 95% of my students, I have pretty close to 50/50 boy girl ratio and the class is a good representation of students from the entire school ranging from grades 9-12.

Things that went well:
Students liked being able to design their own boats and trying it out in the pool, and then having a second opportunity to improve their boat design to increase the amount of pennies their boat could hold.

I brought in a fun kid pool to do the activity so multiple groups could try their boats out.

Definitely bring in more pennies that you’d think. One boat I think held over 60 pennies.

Things that could have gone better:
I tried cutting multiple aluminum sheets at one time to save time (I only have a few rulers and scissors), however, the aluminum ripped easy and the edges fused together so it made it hard to separate the sheets out.

closed #31