In this video segment from Cyberchase, the CyberSquad must figure out a way to sneak into a fort that Hacker has built around a pond in EcoHaven. They decide to build a giant "Trojan Ducky." After brainstorming ideas and sketching their design on paper, the CyberSquad creates a model of their invention. They are able to use their model to test the functioning of their invention and to make changes to the design before they build it.
When creating a new design or invention, it is important first to identify the goals or desired qualities for the invention and then to brainstorm or sketch out the possible solutions. These initial steps allow designers to represent their ideas visually and share their ideas with other members of their team. In many cases, once the brainstorming phase is complete, designers create and test a three-dimensional model of their design before constructing the object.
A scale model can be used to represent a larger object, such as a car or skyscraper, in order to save time and money while perfecting the design. It is much easier to make changes to a scale model than it would be to make a change to the large object in the middle of the construction phase. Perhaps something that looked good on paper will not work properly when constructed. For example, Auguste Bertholdi created many models of the Statue of Liberty before he built the actual statue, which stands at 152 feet tall. In fact, one of the models was only 21 inches tall. Scientists are also currently working on models of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, as they study the structure and devise ways to keep the tower from toppling over.
In some cases, there may be no need for a scale model, but there may be a need to construct a prototype before mass production begins. A prototype is a functional, full-scale model on which an object is patterned. Engineers can use prototypes to communicate their design ideas to other designers, as well as clients and consumers. The prototypes can be used to test the design and function of a product before it is sold on the market. For example, a prototype of a new running shoe can be sent out to runners who are willing to test the performance of the shoe. After completing the trial period, runners submit their feedback regarding the shoe's performance. In addition to testing the product's function, designers can use the prototype to evaluate the materials used. Perhaps the type of material that was initially chosen does not work well. It also is a chance to look at the size of the parts in relation to each other. Designers can use the information gathered to make changes to their design before sending a final version of the shoe to the factory for mass production.
To learn about how engineers are trying to stabilize the Leaning Tower of Pisa, check out The Leaning Tower: Where It Stands Today HTML Document.
To learn more about the design process, check out Kid Designer: A Comfortable Cardboard Chair QuickTime Video.
To learn about footwear design, check out Easy-Fit Design QuickTime Video.
MATT: What if we build a Trojan horse?
DIGIT: A Trojan what?
MATT: A Trojan horse. A long time ago there was a big war between Troy and Greece, and the Greeks were locked outside the city gates.
JACKIE: Just like we are.
MATT: So they built this huge wooden horse ...and they hid inside it...and left it outside the gates of Troy.
JACKIE: To fool the Trojans.
MATT: Right. The Trojans thought it was a present and wheeled it right inside the city. Then at night, the Greeks snuck out of the horse and surprised them! Pretty cool invention huh?
DIGIT: We can do the same thing!
JACKIE: Build a giant hollow horse?
MATT: Exactly! Then we jump out, surprise Hacker and stop him from stealing the ooze.
JACKIE: I don’t know, Matt. I mean, even if we could build something like that, why would Hacker take a giant horse inside the fort?
DIGIT: I got it! We build a giant ducky!
MATT/JACKIE: A what?
DIGIT: A ducky! Because I heard Delete wish he had a giant waddling ducky to give to Hacker.
MATT: Hmmm... a toy duck for Hacker. It might work.
DIGIT: Anyone got a better idea?
JACKIE: No, let’s see what we can come up with.
DIGIT: Now what are you doing?
JACKIE: Drawing really helps me think when I’m trying to invent something...
MATT: Me too...It helps me get my ideas out of my head and see what else I might need.
DIGIT: Well I think this invention is going to need to move somehow to get inside that fort.
JACKIE: Digit you’re a genius. Let’s add a platform with wheels. How’s this?
DIGIT: Looks like a toy ducky to me!
MATT: What kind of wheels should our invention have? How many? How big? We’ve got so much to figure out and so little time!
DIGIT: And what if it doesn’t work after we build it?
JACKIE: I have an idea! We’ll make a model from my drawing to see if it works.
MATT: Yeah, but let’s just do the wheel part - the part we don’t understand.
JACKIE: Good idea! That way we can make sure they work before we build the big one, not after. But what can we use to build the model? Didge, you’re amazing!
DIGIT: Was there ever any doubt?
MATT: We can use this box for the platform.
JACKIE: Cool. Here, these pencils can be the axles!
MATT: Axles in.
DIGIT: Ta da!
MATT: English muffins! You’ve got to be kidding.
DIGIT: Come on, they’re really stale; they should work well enough for the model.
MATT: Wheels in place.
JACKIE: Looks good to me.
MATT: Okay, time for the test. Give it a pull, Didge.
JACKIE: It works!
MATT: Let’s build it!
DIGIT: Wh-oh! I just remembered something. Delete needs a ducky that waddles!
MATT: Okay, let’s see, there’s got to be a way to make it waddle... The axles are smack in the center of the wheels. What would happen if we changed it so that the axle’s not in the center of the wheel?
DIGIT: Hey, it still turns, but it kind of goes up and down too. Weird.
JACKIE: Maybe if we change all the wheels so they’re off-center our ducky will look like it’s waddling.
MATT: Let’s try it.
MATT: Okay, all four wheels are now off center.
MATT: Pull it.
DIGIT: Yoikes! What happened?
MATT: Now the wheels are banging together.
JACKIE: Oh, man. This is getting really, REALLY frustrating! I don’t see how to fix it.
DIGIT: Well, maybe we moved too far off center.
DIGIT: Ok, let’s try this.
MATT: Okay, the holes are closer to the center now.
DIGIT: Let’s see what happens.
JACKIE: Yes! Our invention works!
MATT: Now we build it!
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