Advanced Manufacturing and Materials
Design a Backpack
Grade Levels: 5th, 6th, & 8th
Academic Content Area: Mathematics, Technology, &
Topics: Measurement and Geometry & Spatial Sense
Design and build a backpack in the shape of a prism using only the available materials.
Backpacks are designed based on what they will be used to carry. Hikers want a backpack
that will hold a sleeping bag, eating utensils, and water. Students want a backpack that will
hold books, pens and pencils, a calculator, and possibly a computer. In all cases, the
backpack needs to be as compact and lightweight as possible. Sometimes the design
engineers are constrained by the materials that are available; Apollo XIII is an excellent
example of this. In this activity, students will be given a specific set of materials to use as they
apply their knowledge of surface area and volume to design a net for a prism that could
function like a small backpack.
The surface area of a prism can be determined by finding the sum of the areas of each face of
The volume of a prism can be determined by multiplying the area of the base of the prism by
the height of the prism.
Engineering is designing a product and building a prototype; students will have the opportunity
to develop engineering skills.
1. How do I create a net for a prism? Sketch the prism including all three dimensions. Label
the dimensions. Sketch the base of the prism with the correct corresponding side
measures. Sketch the attached sides to the base using the correct corresponding side
measures. Sketch the top face of the prism attached to one of the side faces using the
correct corresponding side measures.
2. How do I determine the surface area of a prism? Find the sum of the areas of each face of
3. How do I determine the volume of a prism? Determine the area of the base of the prism and
multiply that value times the height of the prism.
Draft - 11/19