Kids Explore Real-World Engineering

[Editor’s Note: Be sure to check back one week from today for a very special, related announcement!]

This past December, National Geographic Education staff were invited to travel to Beijing, China to participate in the first-ever Destination Imagination Asia Pacific Beijing Invitational. Five countries and 26 Chinese provinces were represented at the event.

Forty teams, each made up of six to eight students, were challenged with a real-world National Geographic task: build a remotely operated camera system that can photograph an animal, with minimal impact to the animal and its environment.

Chinese students build their remote camera system during the Destination Imagination event in Beijing, China.  Photograph by Samantha Zuhlke, National Geographic Education

Chinese students build their remote camera system during the first ever Destination Imagination  international invitational in Beijing, China.
Photograph by Samantha Zuhlke, National Geographic Education

  • Teams were randomly assigned—and provided with information on—one of five Asian animals: a giant panda, a clouded leopard, an Asian elephant, a Siberian tiger, or a dugong.
  • Teams had one day to build their camera systems. Students presented their solutions the following day during a five-minute skit to a panel of appraisers. Skits needed to demonstrate how the animals act when humans are not present. Appraisers spoke the students’ native language.
  • Each team received a digital camera and a small set of materials, and had the ability to purchase additional materials from the “National Geographic store” using $6,000 of play money.
  • Scoring was based on technical design, innovation, creativity of the performance, and creative use of materials, including extra points for every $500 saved of their original $6,000.
  • The forty teams consisted of seven international teams from the United States, Canada, and Poland, and 33 Chinese teams. Elementary, middle, and high school level students participated in the challenge.

The results were amazing! Here are just some of the innovative, creative and inspiring solutions that participants were able to develop in such a short amount of time.

This camera system was designed to take a photo of a giant panda. When a panda removes a piece of bamboo, a ball is released. It rolls down the ramp and lands on a device that pushes down the camera's button.  Photograph by Samantha Zuhlke, National Geographic Education

This camera system was designed to take a photo of a giant panda. When a panda removes a piece of bamboo, a ball is released. It rolls down the ramp and lands on a device that pushes down the camera’s button.
Photograph by Samantha Zuhlke, National Geographic Education

This camera system was designed in the likeness of a fish. The fish's eye is the camera lens.  Photograph by Samantha Zuhlke, National Geographic Education

This camera system was designed in the likeness of a fish. The fish’s eye is the camera lens.
Photograph by Samantha Zuhlke, National Geographic Education

This team broke apart and reprogrammed their calculator to take advantage of the calculator's solar sensor. The camera system functioned by sensing light and dark.  Photograph by Samantha Zuhlke, National Geographic Education

This team broke apart and reprogrammed their calculator to take advantage of the calculator’s solar sensor. The camera system functioned by sensing light and dark.
Photograph by Samantha Zuhlke, National Geographic Education

This camera system was designed to take a picture of an Asian elephant. A pneumatic device, when the elephant stepped on a a balloon the air traveled through a tube and the pressure was enough to push down the camera button.  Photograph by Samantha Zuhlke, National Geographic Education

This camera system was designed to take a picture of an Asian elephant. A pneumatic device, when the elephant stepped on a a balloon the air traveled through a tube and the pressure was enough to push down the camera button.
Photograph by Samantha Zuhlke, National Geographic Education

Sad you didn’t get a chance to participate in the National Geographic real-world engineering challenge? You haven’t missed your chance! Be sure to visit our blog one week from today for a very special announcement. 

Written by Samantha Zuhlke, National Geographic Education

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