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ITEEA's Elementary STEM Council Innovative Design Challenge Now Accepting Submissions

October 03, 2018

ITEEA's Elementary STEM Council's Innovative Grand Design Challenge! 

The winning Challenge earns a one-year I-STEM Education Group Membership as well as one free hotel night in Kansas City, AND a spot in ITEEA's STEM Showcase!

In 2008, the U.S. National Academy of Engineering (NAE) identified 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st Century. The Grand Challenges were designed to cause students and educators to think about solutions to the big challenges affecting all of our lives. It’s now time for elementary-aged students to get in on the action and show the world that they can solve big STEM design problems as well. ITEEA's Elementary STEM Council is sponsoring the Global Design Challenge for Elementary STEM (GDC) to provide students with a chance to solve a real problem and show the world that everyone can help find solutions to these global challenges.

The Process

Elementary STEM students from around the world will work in small design teams to solve the GDC outlined below. As students attempt to solve the GDC, the elementary classroom teacher will document the process with a simple portfolio that describes the problem-solving process, the products developed, results of product testing, as well as the final product presentations. Photos and descriptions of proposed solutions will be posted on the ITEEA Elementary STEM Council Facebook page and ultimately, the team with the most elegant solution to the GDC will be provided an opportunity to present their solution at the STEM Showcase at ITEEA's 81st Conference in Kansas City, MO, March 27-30, 2019. This team will also be featured in the May 2019 issue of The Elementary STEM Journal (formerly Children’s Technology and Engineering).

The Global Design Challenge

Two of the original Grand Challenges (NAE, 2008), called for engineers to 1) design new tools for scientific discovery; and, 2) engineer better medicines. Just type the words “grand challenges” into your Internet browser for more information about these challenges. This Global Design Challenge calls on you and your team to develop a product that might partially solve both of these grand challenges.

Most doctors and parents agree that getting kids to take necessary medicine can be a real challenge. If the child doesn’t like the way the medicine is administered, is uncomfortable, or doesn’t like the taste of the medicine, giving required medicine can be a daily struggle for parents and children. Anthony de Mello tells a story about a man who began to give large doses of cod-liver oil to his dog because he had been told that it was good for it. Each day he would hold the head of the protesting dog between his knees, force its jaws open, and pour the liquid down its throat. One day the dog broke loose and spilled the oil on the floor. Then to the man's great surprise, the dog licked the oil from the floor and the spoon. That’s when he discovered that what the dog had been fighting was not the oil, but his method of administering it.

Design Challenge Outline:

“Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down,” according to the beloved nanny Mary Poppins! Have your students work in small design teams to solve the innovative challenge of how to administer liquid medicine for young children.  

Can you work as a member of a small design team to develop a better product or tool that can be used to give small children doses of liquid medicine?


  • STL #14: Students will develop an understanding of and be able to select and use medical technologies.
  • NGSS 3-5-ETS1-1 Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want.

Big Ideas:

  • Medicine helps sick people get better.
  • Some products are designed to help people take care of themselves.
  • Many special tools and devices are used to help people.


  1. Develop a product, not a method—many methods are available online.
  2. Use low-cost or free materials to develop your prototype.
  3. Make sure that the product does not require a common language—could be used anywhere.
  4. Test your product with fruit juice—don’t use real medicine.
  5. Challenge Deadline: December 30, 2018. The winning project will be notified no later than January 15, 2019.

To the Teacher:

  1. Encourage your students to use the engineering design loop (K-2) (3-5) and document the process with a design journal.
  2. Take lots of pictures throughout the design activity.
  3. Require the students to present and defend their product in a formal presentation.
  4. Submit the results to Katie de la Paz at no later than December 31, 2018. The final submission should be in the form of an electronic (scans are acceptable) engineering design journal that outlines the students efforts to solve the problem using the engineering design loop. Photographs of students working to solve the problem are strongly encouraged.
  5. You and your team will be notified of the winning project no later than January 15, 2019.


Anthony de Mello. Dog and the Cod Liver Oil short- story-372-Dog+and+the+Cod+Liver+Oil.html#sthash.QnqL94N2. dpuf. Downloaded on March 14, 2016.

U.S. National Academy of Engineering. Grand Challenges. GrandChallengeScholarsP rogram.aspx. Downloaded on March 14, 2016. 

The Winning Team's Teacher Will Receive:

  • Elementary School I-STEM education Group membership (for all the staff at your school)

Includes Principal (or Designee) and all teachers/staff within each building, each of whom will each receive on a regular basis throughout the year:

  • A complimentary electronic subscription (8 issues) to Technology and Engineering Teacher (TET), ITEEA’s flagship publication, delivered to your organization’s staff and a print version for the library.
  • Complimentary electronic subscription (four issues per year) to The Elementary STEM Journal (ESJ)an ASAE Gold Circle Award-winning and theme-based journal geared towards the K-6 classroom teacher; provides hands-on challenges, feature articles, resources, and more.

Entire Faculty Membership Benefits include:

  • Eligibility for individual and program/school recognition and awards.
  • ITEEA Conference registration discount.
  • Eligibility to present at the Annual ITEEA Conference and join the ITEEA STEM Showcase.
  • Access to the online IdeaGarden - A teacher-to-teacher format for those wanting to learn more about teaching Integrative STEM Education at the elementary, middle, and high school grades.
  • Access to helpful classroom tips and lessons to integrate STEM into your teaching.
  • Member access to an extensive Library of STEM Resources for every level including ITEEA publications, product, and Engineering byDesign™ course and unit discounts.
  • One-night Complimentary lodging (one room) at the ITEEA headquarter hotel for the 2019 Kansas City conference (March 27-30, 2019).
  • A spot in in ITEEA's 2018 STEM Showcase to share your winning design project!

Questions can be directed to Michael Daugherty,, Virginia Jones,, or Thomas Roberts,