Lesson 2 – Design Process-Measuring Wind Speed

This is the second lesson of the Observing Beyond our Senses Module. This lesson contains an introductory activity where students quickly cycle through a complete design procedure centered on a measuring challenge. Specific aspects of a design procedure, such as defining criteria or evaluating trade-offs, will be practiced again in later instrumentation activities.


See the NGSS listed in the left-hand menu and below. When applicable, connections to 21st Century Learning Skills and other published standards are also included in the chart below. In addition, for this lesson, here is a breakdown of:

What Students Learn
  • Design is an iterative problem solving process.
  • Criteria are standards on which to judge success.
  • Constraints are limitations on possible solutions or problems.
  • Design solutions involve trade-offs.
  • Application should drive criteria for instrumentation design (precision, accuracy, sampling, etc.).
What Students Do
  • Define criteria & constraints for a wind speed measurement challenge.
  • Brainstorm possible solutions, weigh trade-offs, and carry out proposed methodology.
  • Choose an appropriate number of significant digits to reflect the uncertainty in their data.
  • Evaluate results and suggest improvements.
  • Evaluate their current design’s suitability for a proposed application.
  • Revise design criteria to meet the needs of the proposed application for a measurement.
Aligned Washington State Standards
Washington Science Standards (Next Generation Science Standards)

Performance expectation(s):
The bundle of performance expectations above focuses on the following elements from the
K-12 Science Education Framework:

HS-PS3-3 Design, build, and refine a device that works within given constraints to convert one form of energy into another form of energy.

HS-ETS1-2 Design a solution to a complex real-world problem by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable problems that can be solved through engineering.

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.

Highlighted Science and Engineering Practice(s)

Highlighted Disciplinary Core Idea(s) (All HS)

Highlighted Crosscutting Concept(s)

SEP-6: Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions PS3.A Definitions of Energy

PS3.D Energy in chemical processes

HS-ETS1.A Defining and Delimiting an Engineering Problem

ETS1.B Developing Possible Solutions

HS-ETS1.C Optimizing the Design Solution

CCC-5: Energy and Matter


This introductory activity has students quickly cycle through a complete design procedure centered on a measuring challenge. Specific aspects of a design procedure, such as defining criteria or evaluating trade-offs, will be practiced again in later instrumentation activities. Measuring wind speed has been chosen for the measuring challenge as it allows a variety of successful approaches, yet raises specific issues such as precision or inferences from proxy variables that are explored in more depth throughout the unit. Students should have some experience with measurement concepts such as precision, accuracy, uncertainty, & significant figures.

See Lesson 2 Teacher Tips for advanced prep (Word Doc | Google Doc).

MEASURING DESIGN CHALLENGE Introducing the Design Process(Powerpoint | Google Slides)This introduction to a design process should be linked to the problem of the case study—How would scientists design a measurement method for the microbial population they want to study? Using the Power Point, students are asked their current definition of design (slide 2). Students are then introduced to design as a problem solving approach balancing criteria & constraints. In slide 3, students are asked to identify possible criteria & constraints facing the designers for a familiar device-the iPod. Possible criteria include: portable, small, lightweight, capable of playing digital music files, easy to operate, etc. For constraints, students might identify that the device had to sell for a certain amount of money, be able to withstand rough handling, operate without a power connection, etc. Students can also be prompted to examine the social, economic, and environmental constraints in addition to technological constraints. Slide 4 gives an overview of steps in a generalized design procedure. Students should be made aware that design encompasses not only generating specific devices & objects but also processes. Students will follow this procedure & document each step during this lesson on the Wind Speed Design Student Sheet or in student notebooks.

  • Measuring Wind Speed (Powerpoint, Student Group Activity)
    • Introduce Design Challenge

      Slide 5 introduces the design challenge: Measuring Wind Speed. Ideally students will go outside to take measurements. A box fan, hair dryer, or similar device could be used in class as an alternate. The teacher should provide parameters such as available materials and time, but not explicitly identify these items as constraints.

    • Identify Criteria & Constraints

      Slide 6 prompts students to identify criteria & constraints. Students should work in groups throughout the procedure, discussing and then recording each step as assigned. The problem statement should be intentionally vague so that students need to grapple with clarifying criteria & constraints. It is anticipated that students will have a much easier time identifying constraints and will possibly identify “measure wind speed” as their only criteria. This is fine, setting the stage for criteria to be re-evaluated later in the lesson.

    • Brainstorm Possible Solutions

      Once the criteria & constraints are identified, students should be given some time to brainstorm possible approaches. Depending on the students, designate an amount of time and a number of possible solutions needed. They could record these ideas on whiteboards or on poster paper. Teachers should emphasize that at this point it is more important to generate options—no ideas should be dismissed. If they struggle, groups could share ideas in progress to help prompt more possibilities. Students must have at least two options (from within their own group or from the class overall) for the next step.

    • Weigh Tradeoffs, Carry Out Plan, & Evaluate

      Slide 7 prompts them to weigh tradeoffs to choose an approach to carry out. Next, a set time for actually measuring the wind speed should be given. While student groups are collecting & processing data, prompt them to record significant figures appropriate for the level of uncertainty in each step of their approach. If not previously covered in class, these concepts should be addressed explicitly prior to students evaluating their results & suggesting improvements. Upon completion, a focus of the whole class debrief should be to have students evaluate their designs in terms of their self-identified criteria. At this stage, students may recognize that the criteria need to be more explicit to appropriately judge success. The proposed application for the measurement in the next slide will help push along the conversation if necessary.

    • Refine Criteria for Instrumentation

      Slide 8 introduces a possible application for their wind speed measurement design. The intention is to reveal that the application for a measurement drives much of the design criteria to evaluate a success. Issues such as precision, accuracy, frequency of sampling, averaged vs. instantaneous readings, etc. should be the focus of the discussion. Teacher Note: The reliability of inferences from proxy variables will be addressed in more detail in the next lesson. The final evaluation piece is for students to identify criteria suitable for track & field wind assistance measurements. Students should explicitly reference ideas addressed in the discussion—ie the design will measure wind speed with an uncertainty of ± 0.05 m/s, etc. Teacher background: More information about wind speed and track & field records can be found under wind assistance on Wikipedia.

Career Connection

Based on how much time you have available, choose a career-connected activity below. In each case, recap what your students just learned in the lesson to the activity.Example interview questions for Chris:

  • You started with an interest in mechanical engineering, what made you want to combine fields and also study molecular biology?
  • What was your process for coming up with new ideas to for solving complex problems?
A homework/ outside of class B 5-10 minutes in class C half of class period (~25 minutes) D entire class period (~50 minutes)
Give handout for students to watch Chris’ video and answer questions at home as homework. A & Brainstorm on interview questions for Chris using a whiteboard or projector. A & Have students interview each other about their wind speed project in Lesson 2 (interview 3 minutes), with 1 minute presentation to class summarizing the interview In preparation for interviews, teach students how to interview by reviewing StoryCorps 10 point document with tips on how to conduct a good interview. Then model an interview for the entire class.
Then, B & C


How will I know they know
  • Students’ wind speed design procedure will reflect consideration of criteria and trade-offs.
  • Students will identify criteria for the track and field wind assistance measurements on the provided student sheets or in notebooks.



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