The Bicycle Project: A Three-Course Collaboration

Students from 3 high school courses that share almost no students (Engineering, AP Physics, and Algebra 2) work to improve bicycle design.

Photo of Zach Strother
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Imagine the discipline silos in a traditional high school as departments within a corporation.  This is the model for collaboration we decided on in order facilitate work between students in different grade levels.

The project began with students in an engineering class, who used the design thinking process (including research and interviews) to identify shortfalls in bicycle design and prototype potential solutions.  The engineering students articulated their prototypes in design briefs which were then sent to AP physics students, who were asked to design laboratory procedures to produce informative data about the effects and/or efficacy of engineering designs.

After executing their procedures, they passed their raw data on to the Algebra 2 students, who did the number crunching to turn the data into meaningful conclusions.  Those conclusions were returned to the engineering students, which begins a second iteration of the prototyping (engineering), testing (physics) and analysis (math) process.

Side by side with this, the math and physics classes also collaborated on smaller structured inquiries designed to provide insights on the physics and mechanics of bicycle functioning, using the same division of labor (physics student spearhead experimental design, math students spearhead data analytics).

How does this idea help to spark student curiosity?

1. It connects pre-existing learning objectives form multiple courses with real practical and professional applications (either as users or designers of bicycles). 2. It helps students connect their work in individual courses to learning they have already experienced (AP Physics) or that they will experience in the future (engineering and algebra). 3. It sparks questions and curiosity by encouraging ideation and collaboration meaningfully connected to each discipline.

What grade level is this idea most appropriate for?

  • High School (9-12)
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Attachments (2)


Rubrics used for assessing AP Physics students' work on the bicycle project. It includes evaluations of physics content, science practices, and collaboration with students in other classes.

Bike Project - UbD Template Physics.jpg

A Unit Plan for the execution of the bicycle project in the AP Physics course; it includes identified learning outcomes, as well as assessment tools used during the projects.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Cole Godvin

Great idea! At my former school there was a teacher who mentored students in building bicycles out of bamboo. Have you considered sustainability at all in your approach to bicycle Design?
The Nueva School

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