Invent and Make a Personal Safety Device

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    Students identify and address a relevant need with impactful technology. They design and develop a personal safety device for themselves or others.


    • Students will be able to:
    • Identify user needs and translate them into design needs
    • Use and understand the design process
    • Design a device with both hardware and software
    • Choose methods for processing data, e.g. motion
    • Iterate and improve design solutions
    • Improve problem-solving and communication skills

    Required Prior Knowledge:

    Basic familiarity with the engineering design process is of help but not required.


    • STEMgem kit (with sensors for motion, temperature, heart rate, etc.)
    • Internet-capable device for programming (e.g. tablet, laptop, large enough phone)
    • Optional: more ribbon, scissors, markers, modeling clay




    Start with the need:
    Dangerous situations can occur in public, especially late at night (e.g. walking back to dorms after a long day in college) and in cities with large economic inequality (e.g. Latin American cities, but also big cities in the US). Often, attackers are men the victim already knows.  

    Ask students to brainstrorm possible scenarios (e.g. women walking home across city at night; or college student worried to go to study group with a guy she doesn't know well). In a second step, discuss needs for each scenario. If students are confident enough (have practiced the product design process before and/or are in high school), have them break out in groups and work on needs independently.

    Breakout Session / Design and Making

    Make sure at least 5 different ideas are discussed in class, then ask students to form groups of 2-4 to find more and brainstorm for solution ideas in their design notebook (if available).

    Make! Remind students it's an iterative process with intermediate testing and adjusting. Make sure they keep the user (and the impact of their creation) in mind and they work on the physical shape and appearance as well as technological concepts.


    Evaluate creation - does it satisfy the needs recorded earlier? Students select appropriate tools for capturing and sharing reflections, e.g. in writing, videos, images, sketches. Record next steps: what's still to do, how can the design be improved?


    Discuss in groups of 2-4, critique and encourage. Make clear that the goal is to receive helpful input and record bullet points in design notebook.

    Every student or group briefly presents to the class what they have made, what their vision was, and how they will add to it in the future.


    Students use worksheets to evaluate their progress towards relevant State standards or NGSS learning goals.

    Take-Home Assignment:

    Students document their design process and result in writing and using photos and videos they took in a digital design journal on


    SEPS.1 Posing questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering).
    SEPS.2 Developing and using models and tools.
    SEPS.3 Constructing and performing investigations.
    SEPS.4 Analyzing and interpreting data.
    SEPS.5 Using mathematics and computational thinking.
    SEPS.6 Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering).
    SEPS.7 Engaging in argument from evidence.
    SEPS.8 Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information.
    MS-ETS1 Engineering Design
    Data and Information
    Computing Devices and Systems
    Programs and Algorithms
    Impact and Culture
    Networking and Communication
    General Technological Concepts
    Developing / Engineering Technology
    Assessing Technological Actions
    Producing / Using Technology
    Crosscutting Concepts
    Influence of Engineering, Technology, and Science on Society and the Natural World

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