Why Have a Problem Bank?

The purpose of the Problem Bank is twofold.

  1. Allows students to create “human centered” design solutions for authentic needs and problems in the Shrewsbury community
  2. Provides opportunities for students to learn prototyping skills: 3D modeling, 3D printing, vector graphic design, laser cutting, and LittleBits circuitry.

Whose Problem Can it Be?

Short answer: Anyone in the Shrewsbury

Long answer: You can submit problems and needs to be solved at your own school or office, but you are also encouraged to consider other needs that may exist in the community.

If you have a meaningful problem or need that could potentially be resolved by middle school students, we would like to hear from you! We will add your problem to our problem bank and will contact you for more information once it has been assigned to one our student design teams.

Students will use a variety of tools to design, test, and fabricate a solution for you, including: 3D printers, laser cutter, vinyl cutter, LittleBits, and woodworking tools.

Empathy is an important part of the “human centered” design process. Student design teams will do some initial “need finding” work with you and check in with you for feedback throughout the process to make sure we they are meeting your needs. This may include live interviews, observations, video chat, and email.

What Makes a Great Problem?

1. Urgency and Authenticity

  • Meets an authentic need but is not urgent
  • Ranges from small needs (replacement for a missing game piece) to large problems (helping a student with a disability) and everything in between
  • Involves measuring and designing; lends itself to iteration (creating multiple prototypes that can be tested and revised)
  • Any type of “assistive device” that lets a person do something more easily. This could range from something to help you open a bottle, something to let you reach an object (pull down the projector screen for example), or something that lets a person/animal with a physical disability do something they couldn’t do before.

2. Time Constraints

  • Does not have to be solved immediately
  • Requires short fabrication/building time so that multiple prototype iterations can be created, tested, and evaluated within 30 day cycle

3. Physical Constraints – (Materials, size, etc.)

  • Is solvable using available classroom materials:
    • Plastic (3D Printer)
    • Plywood, acrylic, or another safe material (Laser cutter)
    • Electrical components (LittleBits)
    • Or a combination of these materials
  • Is solvable using a product that is smaller than:
    • 8″ x 8″ x 8″ (3D printer)
    • 1-2 piece of plywood or acrylic (12″ x 18″ sheets) (laser cutter)

What Makes a Poor Need/Problem?

Based on prior experiences, we are trying to stay clear of of these types of requests:

  • Anything on the 3D printer that is larger than 5″ x 5″ x 5″. Smaller is better because longer print times = less iteration
  • Any project that requires woodworking tools and materials to be used. We just don’t have the materials or time to design a high quality solution.
  • Even though teachers love door stops, it’s very difficult to make a creative solution for keeping a door open that works better than a traditional door stop. Students are not allowed to permanently attach anything to the door, ceiling, floor, or surrounding walls.

Problem Bank Submission Form

The OMS Problem Bank is inspired by Rich Lehrer’s Brookwood’s 3D Design Problem Bank Project