Toxic Popcorn Design Challenge

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In this activity, learners explore the engineering design process (EDP)—the process engineers use to solve design challenges. Learners work in teams to solve the challenge by designing both a product and process to safely remove “toxic” popcorn and save the city.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 2 hours

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Simulation


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Student Resource Sheets
  • Student Worksheets
  • 2 containers (plastic containers with lips are great)- should be slightly different size than containers used for actual toxic zone
  • 100-200 pennies in a zip lock bag (represents the toxic popcorn)
  • 6-8 pieces of 7 1/2-foot rope (clothesline rope works great)
  • 1 bicycle tire tube 18 in. diameter
  • 2 hula-hoops 3'-4' diameter (or rope taped down or a circle cut from a paper table cloth)
  • 1 piece of large flip chart paper
  • 1 marker
  • 2 containers (plastic containers with lips are great)
  • Popcorn kernels (fill about 1/2 of the container)


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Environmental Engineering
      • Manufacturing Engineering
      • Metallurgy and Materials Engineering
    • Technology
      • Manufacturing
  • Physical Sciences
    • Motion and Forces
      • Gravity
      • Rotation Motion
      • Center of Gravity
  • The Nature of Science
    • Science and Society
      • Risks and Benefits
      • Ethics
    • Science as a Career
  • The Nature of Technology
    • Technology and Society
      • Impacts of Technology
      • Technology and the Environment
    • The Design Process
      • Research and Development
      • Invention and Innovation
      • Problem Solving
      • Troubleshooting and Maintenance

Informal Categories

  • Food and Cooking


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



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