Lesson: Creating Engineered Habitats

Jim Bruner | Mezzacello Creating engineered habitats

In this Lesson: Creating engineered habitats students will study both engineering and documentation basics. The lesson incorporates three design challenges for building structures that are designed to introduce young students to problem solving, group work, and interpreting language and open communication. The instruction sets for each design challenge is all in either “Piglatin” or in Haiku form.

The goal of this design challenge is teamwork, communication and applying logarithmic ideas to simple challenges. Most young people have never had direct experience with logarithms; They know what they are – in theory – but they have never interacted with them. Using Piglatin and writing Haiku require the application of specific patterns to communication and it is a trip watching students navigate this paradox.

There are two strategies that can be deployed here. You can be the instruction provider, or you can appoint students to be the instruction provider. The sequence is that the engineering students can ask questions on how to put the design challenge together, but the instructions can ONLY be answered in Piglatin or Haiku. It is up to the students to work together to figure out how to translate the specific instructions through the ALGORITHM of the Piglatin or Haiku structure.


  • Materials List (It doesn’t matter what, just that it requires at least four steps)
  • Timer
  • Instruction lists


  1. Provide all of the materials and tools to complete the design challenge.
  2. Set the timer, and GO!
  3. The students will be building the structure according to the algorithmic instruction set.
  4. When the timer ends, the systems MUST be disassembled and returned to their original state.
  5. The students will be building and collaborating in the same space.
  6. Once the timer goes off, each group will move to the next deign challenge.
  7. It is a very human thing to be focused on the project at hand AND seeing what others are doing.
  8. The goal of this lesson is to force students to focus on learning the algorithm and NOT trying to feel their way through it.
  9. Once the students understand that if they embrace the obvious structure of the algoritm, they get exponentially faster.
  10. This is the power of logic and observation skills.
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