Design Challenge: Iggy Peck, Architect

A little background knowledge from the story:
Iggy Peck began building at the early age of two, when he built a tower from dirty diapers! As he grows, Iggy continues to build things like the St. Louis Arch out of pancakes and a castle made entirely out of chalk. When he gets to second grade, his teacher forbids him to build anything more. However, when the class goes on a field trip, it’s up to Iggy to rescue his friends (and teacher) from trouble.

The STEM Design Challenge:
Inspired by Iggy Peck, we put our engineering skills to the test by working together in small groups to create a building…at least two feet tall and sturdy enough to hold the weight of 100 pennies in a cup.

Wonder about it:
What kind of building will we make? What will it look like? What materials will we use?

After our inquiry, the children were given the opportunity to sketch their designs on chart size graph paper to create large blueprints. This process took a little longer than I expected—15 minutes the first afternoon and approximately 5-10 minutes the second afternoon. Clearly, we have some budding engineers in our school family! What was noticed:

  • One group picked a single leader to record their design concepts and ideas to make a blueprint.
  • A different group chose to pass their blueprint around the table so that each child could add individual details.
  • There was attention to details: I observed one child drawing squares on their blueprint. A child from the same group noticed and offered a correction: “The brick blocks are shaped like rectangles not squares. We should draw like this.” (child demonstrates how to draw a rectangle)
  • Lastly, another group was curious about the weight of the pennies when planning their design. Question: “How do the pennies feel?” Answer: The pennies feel “heavy” and “not light.” Hmmm…

Build it:
How can we arrange the blocks to help make our building strong? Tall? Does the building stand up on its own?

We gathered our materials and set to work constructing our buildings. Groups chose brick blocks, foam blocks, and wooden blocks. Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures of the construction phase–there was such a flurry of activity and thinking at this point, there really was no time! What was noticed:

  • Even though we had our blueprints, it took us a moment to commence the building of individual structures and shift our focus toward building one large structure collaboratively.
  • Our buildings could support 100 pennies but were not nearly tall enough. (We need to “build up.”)
  • Our buildings were tall enough but could not support 100 pennies. (We need a stronger “base” or foundation.)
  • We might need some other material (tape?) to hold our structure together.

Revise it:
If our building doesn’t work, how can we change it to make it more sturdy, taller, or both?

  • We learned that brick blocks are the easiest to build with because they were the biggest and widest building material. Because they were the widest, we also needed to use fewer.
  • Foam blocks were the most challenging to build with because they are so light and easily fall over from the weight of the pennies.
  • Although the wooden blocks are heavier compared to the foam blocks, they are smaller in size, therefore we needed to use more of them. Also, small blocks shaped like triangles, semi-circles, and ramps are not helpful when creating tall structures especially if they are positioned at the top—the pennies will not balance on them.

A note from Mrs. Ludwig…

Design Challenge: Iggy Peck
Design Challenge: Iggy Peck

I hope that you enjoyed the summary of our first literature-inspired, STEM design challenge that we explored during Discovery the third week of school. If you are at all curious about what children can learn from this type of activity here are a few skills that we honed over the course of the two days we worked on this particular challenge:

  • Following directions
  • Working with others
  • Sharing materials
  • Problem solving
  • Creativeness


Content Learning:

  • Jobs in the community (architect)
  • Vocabulary development
  • Spatial sense
  • Visual arts (sketching blueprints)
  • Tool use (rulers, measuring tapes)
  • Math concepts (comparing and measuring)

…and most important, having fun with our school family! 🙂




Text:  Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty

Design Challenge: Iggy Peck