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NSW Syllabuses

STEM Stage 2 - Activity 7


Description of activity

The students design a building for their local area, using computer-aided drawing to visualise their plans and build a model of their design.
This activity will take approximately 2 to 3 hours:

  • discussion and planning
  • design, using the computer-based program (if possible)
  • construct a 3D model of their design.


As part of the History Stage 2 syllabus, students look at how the local area/community has changed over time. They consider how people interact with buildings in their area. What buildings exist, how they are used and how they might be designed to fit their purpose, eg a childcare centre will have a different structure to a fire station.
In this activity, students consider what the local area might look like in 20 years time. They will design a building for the local area that would still be useful in 20 years.



ST2-5WT applies a design process and uses a range of tools, equipment, materials and techniques to produce solutions that address specific design criteria
ST2-4WS investigates their questions and predictions by analysing collected data, suggesting explanations for their findings, and communicating and reflecting on the processes undertaken
MA2-2WM selects and uses appropriate mental or written strategies, or technology, to solve problems

Knowledge and understanding

HT2-2 describes and explains how significant individuals, groups and events contributed to changes in the local community over time
GE2-1 examines features and characteristics of places and environments
ST2-14BE describes how people interact within built environments and the factors considered in their design and construction
MA2-14MG makes, compares, sketches and names three-dimensional objects, including prisms, pyramids, cylinders, cones and spheres, and describes their features


  • Series of images of local area over time showing change and continuity
  • Timeline of how this change has occurred
  • Computers with access to the internet
  • Range of construction materials

Work, health and safety

Check relevant Work, health and safety guidelines.

Evidence of work for assessment purposes

  • plan of the building
  • flowchart showing the design process used
  • model of the building.

STEM teaching and learning activities

  • Students recall what they already know about their local area (this could be confined to the school and its buildings). Discuss the main uses/character of the local area.
  • Identify how the local area has changed over time.
  • Identify reasons why certain buildings may be in specific locations.
  • Suggest to students that they have access to a time machine that travels 20 years into the future:
    • What do they imagine we might see in our local area?
    • How might it have changed and why?
    • What would people be using the buildings for?
    • Why might this use have changed over time?
  • Develop with students a set of design criteria that their building must incorporate. This should be linked to the local area and how buildings are used. For example, your local area might currently have insufficient day care for small children and this could be something that needs to be addressed in the future. Criteria for this type of building might include:
    • an outdoor play area
    • at least three separate rooms
    • use of natural materials, etc.
  • Students discuss the types of buildings in their area, and their uses.
  • Students consider how this mix might change in the future They justify their reasons based on what is known about how the local area is currently used and consider why this might change.
  • Students observe buildings to recognise, name and describe the three-dimensional objects that can be used to construct buildings.
  • Students draw rough labelled diagrams showing their design for a building and write a paragraph to explain their choice of building and design.
  • Students may be introduced to the web-based computer-aided design (CAD) program Tinkercad. Give them time to experiment with the program. Explain that they are to use this program to create a design for their building. It must represent the design criteria established.
  • Discuss with students the effective use of digital technologies and applications to organise and communicate information for a specific task.
  • Students name and describe the three-dimensional objects they have used in their design.
  • Students create a three-dimensional model of their building using a selection of materials.
  • They recall the process used to produce an existing product by creating a flowchart from design to producing the finished product.
  • Students evaluate their design and model based on the established design criteria.

Vocabulary list

Computer-assisted drawing – the process of creating a technical drawing with the aid of computer software
Continuity and change – aspects of the past that have remained the same over a period of time, or have changed over time
Design – a plan or drawing produced to show the look and function or workings of a building before it is made
Purpose – the reason for which something is done, created or exists

Key inquiry questions

Which features of your building relate directly to its use?
Remind students that there is a design brief and the buildings should not be focused on aesthetics but must meet the decided criteria.

Why use CAD programs?
The idea of 3D design on the computer based program will need constant clarification. Remind students to look at all angles of the building and to consider what they can see from different angles.

Additional information

The following statement outlines some common preconceived ideas that many students hold, which are inaccurate and may impede student understanding.
If a design doesn’t work, give up and start again

There is great value in modifying a design plan rather than discarding it and starting again. An annotated design plan allows both students and teachers to track and appreciate the thought processes required to solve a problem.

Students will often change their design purely because they want to make it look pretty, not because the design or materials do not achieve the design criteria. Requiring students to justify or explain their changes makes them focus on the design criteria.

Support materials

Adjustments for the diversity of learners

Integrate with English through the study of a text like My Place by Nadia Wheatley.

Study local artists who have depicted buildings/landscapes over time.

Use a 3D printer (if available) to build student designs.


By completing this STEM activity you have provided your students with the opportunity to develop an understanding that built environments are systems where people create, construct, modify and adapt structures and spaces for a wide range of purposes.

Students devise and implement a design process to create and develop a building. This process is essential for, and will be reinforced in, Technology (Mandatory) Stage 4.