Top 10 Design Challenges for Grade 5 using Makers Empire 3D Printing

At Makers Empire we see so many great ideas for design challenges that get kids thinking like designers.

Here are our top 10 ideas for 5th Grade students.

3D Grand Prix

We love this cross-curricular design challenge! Students were asked to apply their recent learning about animal adaptations to the new context of their design challenge. They were asked to design a vehicle to compete in the class ‘3D Grand Prix’. The vehicle’s design had to be inspired by physical features that enable animals to move quickly and efficiently. The vehicles were printed out, assembled and of course tested out on the Grand Prix race track.


The same students from the 3D Grand Prix challenge above were then asked to design a garage for their vehicle. They designed their garages using cardboard and junk materials but were challenged to design a 3D printed mechanism for maneuvering their vehicle in and out of the garage. We saw some great use of Makers Empire Cogger Module to solve this challenge.

1 to 1 Devices

One school we know has adopted a 1 to 1 device program for their 5th grade students. This meant the purchase of 75 identical devices with identical covers and it wasn’t long before the mix-ups began! 3D design came to the rescue when students were asked to 3D design and print an identifying charm to attach to their device’s cover. No more mistaken identity!

Group up

Always looking for innovative ways to organise students into random (or not so random) groups to work on a range of tasks, one teacher had groups solve her problem with a design challenge. As a group, the students were asked to come up with a concept for a group name. This might be an animal, symbol or object. They needed to make sure that the group name was something all class members would be happy with. The group then designed a 3D figure to represent the group name. Multiple copies of these figures were then 3D printed. In this example the class printed out 6 apples, 6 eagles, 6 pyramids, 6 thumbs up signs and 6 happy faces. These were then stored in a bucket and used as a ‘lucky dip’ to organise students into random groupings.


Makers Empire’s Blocker Module can be a creative space for students to solve number problems, show their thinking and communicate their solutions. What does 46 x 33 look like as a block creation? Use blocker to find out what 3/5 of 1500 is.


Design an animal that would be able to survive in a particular habitat. Think about the concept of ‘rewilding’ e.g. Design a kangaroo with adaptations that would enable it to survive in Antarctica.

Where in the world?

We know a class who were learning about different countries around the world with a particular focus on housing and shelter. The students were challenged to design a dwelling that represented what they had learnt about a particular country. Students then swapped designs and asked questions to try and work out which country the dwelling represented. This was a great way for students to give each other feedback, not only about their designs, but also about how well they communicated their ideas.


We’ve seen an art class learning about totems from different cultures around the world (see first image). They researched the history and function of totems and then designed their own totem to represent their families.



There’s nothing like the idea of inventing something new to get creative thinking fired up. An open-ended challenge to come up with a brand new invention can be an exciting design thinking project for students. This design challenge can be refined by adding criteria such as : must have moving parts; must solve a problem or help somebody, must be something that can be 3D printed …

Muddy problem

It is fantastic to see students involved in authentic design challenges that solve problems that are important and relevant to them.

One school we work with is responsible for monitoring and looking after the health of a local wetlands. The students are required to collect regular water samples for testing. The area is quite muddy and swampy which caused issues with collecting the water samples- imagine mud caked shoes and buckets dropped in mud out of reach! The students set to work to design a 3D printed solution for collecting the water samples. There were lots of great designs but a simple device that extended the reach of the students ended up solving the issue!


Mandi Dimitriadis, DipT. is an experienced classroom teacher who recognises the power of technology to enhance teaching and improve educational outcomes. Mandi has extensive experience with curriculum development and learning, having previously developed programs for the Australian Government’s Department of Education. She is passionate about Design Thinking and how best to prepare today’s students for the future.

Makers Empire helps K-8 teachers teach Design Thinking, STEM and 21st-century learning skills using 3D printing. Our pioneering 3D solutions for schools include 3D modelling software, over 150 lesson plans aligned with international standards and professional development. With Makers Empire, engaged students learn how to solve real-world problems and make their world better.

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