Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lesson Idea: Design the Next Cell Phone

A company called NVIDIA that develops Graphics Processing Units (GPUs), along with the Computer Graphics Society, has been presenting design challenges for several years that provide great lesson ideas that can be adapted for K-12 schools. This year (the sixth), NVART 06: Moving Innovation, the challenge is to design the next generation of cell phones.

We know that the current phones which require you to hold the device up to your ear is not only cumbersome but dangerous (right). The technology is getting smaller, thinner, and lighter every year. Developments in technology allow for a variety of alternatives - on your wrist like a watch or a bracelet; in your ear like ear buds or behind your ear like a Bluetooth; in glasses (left); in a pendant or necklace; in a ring; etc.

This is presented as a design problem rather than an engineering problem and assumes the technology can be created to fit whatever visual solution is designed but it still needs to be user-friendly and practical - not science fiction. It's always a good idea to create drawings plus prototypes to try out features and see how useable they really are.

There are many examples of possible solutions already submitted that can be used as motivation to start a lesson or part way through the lesson to spark more innovative ideas.

The NVART 06 artwork (left) is by Franz Steiner. Click on the heading above to see other examples of designs already submitted. Look back at the previous years for ideas about additional design challenges.

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