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Design Challenge in KISLAND

By Darryl Anderson
Design Challenge in KISLAND

Students at KIS International School Bangkok get to grips with their design briefs during Design Cycle Challenge Week (photos: KIS).
Imagine a middle school where the curriculum involves designing airplanes, catapults, remote-control cars, Rube Goldberg machines, and water rockets. Sounds like a budding engineer’s dream! However it is not just engineering skills that are needed to be successful, but also marketing, creativity and collaboration.
Every year at KIS International School, MYP students take part in an interdisciplinary, cross-grade level event known as Design Cycle Challenge Week. For five days each year, students put away their schoolbooks, group themselves into teams of four to six students, and are given a challenging task.
It started back in 2006 when students utilized their knowledge from different subjects to design and create battery-operated racing cars. In 2008, students not only investigated the mathematics and science of catapults, but also the historical context behind the different uses and types of catapults.
Then they pitched the design of their catapults to a panel of medieval lords (role-playing teachers) seeking protection for their castles.
The next year, KISLAND was born: a mythical, independent empire that unfortunately had a coastline littered with rubbish. Environmental engineering experts (our KIS students) were called in to design boats made from recycled materials.
The year after that, with KISLAND’s growing economy and population, bridges were soon needed, so the “Ministry of Transportation” put out a call for engineering-minded students to create sturdy bridges made from popsicle sticks.
Following KISLAND’s increasing development, in the next year cars were required, and finally planes, made from light-weight balsa wood.
KIS Students are known for thinking outside of the box. After all, the name of our school stands for Knowledge, Inspiration, and Spirit. KIS students are smart, but they are also motivated and truly inventive.
Following the Design Cycle, they investigate the context of the challenge, create different designs, test out their plans, evaluate their success, and every day, start the whole cycle again. In addition, they use their critical thinking skills to create persuasive explanations that “sell their product” in the form of short video or written advertisements.
The Design Cycle Challenge week truly is a challenge. Students need to collaborate with other students they may have never worked with before, and also come up with a product that is successful, creative and unique. This year the challenge was even greater as students had to create a Rube Goldberg machine that connected to others.
Check out the different teams’ products, video journals and final design reports at A video of the final machine can be found on KIS’ YouTube channel (KISBangkok), or at
Mr. Anderson is MYP Coordinator at KIS International School Bangkok, Thailand.

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