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Landfills: Flinn STEM Design Challenge™

By: The Flinn Staff

The average person person in America generates almost 4.5 pounds of trash per day. In this STEM Design Challenge, students tackle the real-world problem of waste management.

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The average person in America generates almost 4.5 pounds of trash per day. Where does all that trash go? Much of it ends up in landfills. In this STEM Design Challenge, students tackle the real-world problem of waste management. First they construct a basic landfill model to understand how it functions. Students are then challenged to design their own unique landfill that prevents the contamination of the surrounding environment. This engaging activity models how the engineering design process is applied to solve human challenges in our world.

Complete for 30 students working in groups of 3.

Correlation to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Science & Engineering Practices

Asking questions and defining problems
Developing and using models
Planning and carrying out investigations
Constructing explanations and designing solutions
Obtaining, evaluation, and communicating information

Disciplinary Core Ideas

MS-ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems
MS-ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solution
HS-ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems
HS-ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solution

Crosscutting Concepts

Cause and effect
Scale, proportion, and quantity
Systems and system models
Structure and function

Performance Expectations

MS-ETS1-2. Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
MS-ETS1-1. Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.
MS-ETS1-4. Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.
HS-ETS1-1. Analyze a major global challenge to specify qualitative and quantitative criteria and constraints for solutions that account for societal needs and wants.
HS-ETS1-3. Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.