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Picture of Earbud Buddies
front headphone buddies.jpg

Technology and Engineering, Grades 3 - 8

Lesson Overview

In this activity, students practice the Engineering Design Process on a challenge that is relevant to them, while learning 3D modeling on Tinkercad. The Earbud “Buddy” is a fun creation that helps keep an earbud cord from getting tangled when storing the earbuds. The earbuds could be a simple set provided by the teacher, or the student’s own set.

Students will combine art, math, and technical concepts as they create a design that is meaningful to them while dimensioning it to fit the physical objects they have measured. The designs are likely to be quick to print (less than 15 min) allowing for multiple iterations while students improve and refine their designs.

This project is structured to follow the Engineering Design Process (EDP), a process that helps designers in any discipline create solutions to problems. While there are many ways that people solve problems, designers often use the EDP because it offers a clear roadmap for them to follow as they work towards a solution.

First, designers Define the challenge they are facing, then Learn more about the problem and Explore existing solutions. It’s tempting to skip these first few steps and head straight into brainstorming, but don’t! When designers take the time to understand the problem clearly, they come up with much better solutions. The Design phase is where brainstorming happens. Designers brainstorm multiple possible solutions, then develop a few of them into more detailed plans. Encourage your students to plan at least 3 of their potential ideas before choosing a design direction and starting to Create a product based on their design. If they hit any roadblocks trying to create their first design choice, they’ll be able to revisit their alternate design plans and choose a new direction - without starting from scratch. Designers then take time to Observe their design and see how they can Improve it. We strongly recommend that students have an opportunity for at least 2 Create-Observe-Improve cycles. When students feel they have to “get it right the first time,” they are less willing to take risks and be creative. By repeating the cycle, they have a chance to fix flaws and adopt successful ideas from classmates, and in fact, they’re practicing what professional designers really do. A good design cycle builds in time for the designer to Reflect on their product and the process of making it, looking for learning habits and insights that will help in future challenges. When the work is complete, designers are ready to Share. They bring their work into the real world, by posting, publishing, presenting, or exhibiting - or giving or selling if appropriate! - what they’ve made. For students working through a design process, a real audience helps students connect their learning and work experiences to the world outside the classroom. For Makerspaces and Maker projects, in particular, this is hugely important for building confidence in every student and a sense of community among Makers. To help students work through this process, be sure to build in planned “stops” at each step for students to record their thoughts and progress as they work through product iteration cycles.

Essential Question(s)

How can the Engineering Design Process be used to help students be effective and creative inventors?

How are measuring and math skills important in product design?

Skills Practiced:

  • Measuring with a ruler or caliper
  • Calculating Area and Volume
  • The Engineering Design Process
  • 3D modeling in Tinkercad

Time Required: 2-3 Hours design time

Materials Needed:

  • Sketch paper and pencils
  • Tinkercad
  • Miscellaneous prototyping materials (paper, cardstock, foam sheets, markers, etc.)
  • 3D Printer and filament

Step 1: Define


It is likely that students have had contact with audio “earbud” headphones, and experienced the problem of a tangled cord. What if they could solve this problem for their own earbuds, and create a device that is fun and useful? The Engineering Design Process and 3D modeling are both very useful tools for designers and problem-solvers. This activity is simple, fun, and also includes measuring and calculating area and volume.

The problem/challenge

Definition: students use Tinkercad to design Earbud Buddies with custom features. IN this activity, the designs are expected to be relatively flat, unless otherwise specified by the teacher.


Students choose 3 of the following to include in their Earbud Buddy

  • Fit a specified set of earbuds and hold the cord for storage
  • Keep the cord from unraveling when stored in a backpack/bag
  • Include a motif that is personal to the designer, such as a character, object, or shape
  • Optional: be usable for a variety of earbud designs


Overall Earbud Buddy size and print time

  • Overall area must be no more than 5 square inches
  • Overall volume must be no more than 1 cubic inch
  • Print time varies with the level of detail. A large earbud buddy with text and cutouts could take 30 minutes to print. A simple buddy with few cutouts will take less time, about 20 minutes or less.
  • If the students have access to the slicer software, then they can use it to check the print time for their designs, and a print time limit can be set.

Learning /product Goals

Students will make Earbud Buddies for their own use, for a specific need defined in the classroom, or for sharing in the classroom.

I love this lesson! It's such a fun way for students to design and produce a product for personal use or for a broader audience while exploring some concepts of entrepreneurship in the classroom. :)