Save the Penguins!

Make sure you have plenty of "penguin" ice cubes frozen before the activity. I used penguin shaped ice cube trays, but regular ice cubes will work just as good. It is a good idea to create a sample ice cube for them to use to practice while building their design. I made clay ice cubes and allowed them to harden. 
For sunlight, you can use a heat lamp. I created a "hot box" for all the structures to fit into to test simultaneously. The hot box was a large plastic box with black construction paper on the bottom and aluminum foil on all sides. I then attached one heat lamp to each side to try to ensure equal heating. 
Try to be as quick as you can when removing cubes to measure. I used a cup to hold the "penguin" an zeroed out my scale in between each group. Identifying a couple of students who can assist you will make it move smoother. 

Save the Penguins![1] Challenge

Team Name:  __________________________                        Team Number: ______

Team Members:        ____________________________________          Job:   _______________________

                        ____________________________________                        ___________________________

                        ____________________________________                        ___________________________

                        ____________________________________                        ___________________________

                        ____________________________________                        ___________________________

Save the Penguins! Challenge  - Team Jobs

        Challenge Captain

  • Keep the team on task
  • Make sure everyone’s ideas are heard
  • Get everyone to come to a decision
  • Record ALL information on the data sheet for the team
  • See the teacher or contact other teams, if needed
  • Get involved!  Talk, do AND listen!

        Materials Master

  • Gather materials for the team – purchase supplies from head contractor
  • Make sure supplies and resources are kept tidy and are put away
  • Make sure project and supplies are stored properly at the end of each class so that they are safe until the next day
  • Get involved!  Talk, do AND listen!

        Testing Coordinator

  • Coordinate tests needed to check success for the team
  • Decide when tests of ideas are needed during the challenge
  • Run the tests on Test Day
  • Make sure Challenge Captain knows what data to record during Test Day
  • Get involved!  Talk, do AND listen!

        Chief Architect

  • Coordinates building for the team
  • Decides which ideas to build during the challenge
  • Suggest to the Testing Coordinator when a test might be needed during a challenge
  • Make sure the team is building safely at all times and according to the design plans.
  • Get involved!  Talk, do AND listen!

        Rapid Reporter / Time Keeper

  • Share the ideas used by team when presenting to the entire group
  • Explain the solution the team used to solve the challenge
  • Explain challenges faced by the team during the challenge
  • Answer any questions from teacher/classmates about the challenge
  • Follow the time constraints provided in the challenge
  • Make sure team is using time wisely
  • Get involved! Talk, do AND listen!


  • Should help with cleaning up your work space
  • Is a Trouble-Shooter
  • Read Instructions
  • Suggest ways of solving problems
  • Think of resources the team could use to solve problems.

Save the Penguins! Challenge

Requirements, Limits, and Constraints

  • Create a Penguin Home out of only the supplies available.
  • You have a budget of 100 Credits.  If you go over your budget, your Penguin Home will be disqualified.
  • The abilities of each design will be tested in direct “sunlight”.
  • A design model must be drawn and approved by the Engineering Specialists (AKA: teachers) before any supplies are purchased.                
  • The Penguin Home must be able to fit a “Penguin” within its structure.                                                        
  • The Penguin home must protect their “Penguin” for 10 minutes from direct sunlight.
  • The Penguin home can have either zero, one, or two doors. The penguin must have a way to get in and out.
  •  “Penguins” will then be removed from their home and weighed on a scale. The goal is to have the heaviest “Penguin” in the end.
  • No wrapping the “Penguins” in any materials!

Save the Penguins! Challenge

Record and Scoring Sheet

Budget is 100 Credits

SuppliesCredits (Cost) per ItemQuantity WANT – (Student Record/Tally Here)Quantity USED – (Teacher Record/Tally Here)Total Credits Used per Supply (TOTAL AT END)
1 Small ContainerFree1Free
Cotton Balls (each)10
Wood Stick (each)20
4”X4” Construction Paper (each)5
4”X4” Foam Sheet (each)40
4”X4” Square of Felt (each)40
Bubble Wrap (piece)10
4”X4” Square of Aluminum Foil (each)5
4”X4” Square of Mylar (each)5
Total Credits Used =
Score for the Home is:100 – Total Credits Used =

Save the Penguins! SCORECARD

Did your “Penguin” survive the heat?    Y    N

CriteriaCalculationsPoints Awarded
Unused Budget100 – Total Credits Used= + (plus)
Mass of PenguinInitial Penguin Mass – Final Penguin Mass=- (subtract)
Survival Points200 pts. = The “Penguin” is unmelted (SURVIVED) = no melting/change in the penguin, what-so-ever.   100 pts. = The “Penguin” has some melting but the shape of the “Penguin” is still distinguishable50 pts. = The “Penguin” is barely there0 pts = The “Penguin” becomes a liquid bird= +(plus)

  1. Analyze the igloos that prevented the most heat transfer (which igloos has the greatest amount of ice penguin remaining).
  1. Which design features were the most effective at preventing heat transfer?
  1. Why were these design features effective at preventing heat transfer?
  1. Which types of heat transfer were reduced in each design?

LABELED Design Model

Two-View Design of Penguin Home:  Be sure to label all materials used.

Description of Penguin Home:  Be sure to identify amounts of all materials used.

Modified from the original activity presented by: Developed through funding from NSF ITEST award # 10-29724 and #12-47287. ©2009 Christine G. Schnittka, Ph.D. in cooperation with the Virginia Middle School Engineering Education Initiative (updated version 4-6-14)
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