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Age Range: 11-14
Duration: 0-29 mins
  • D&T
  • Engineering

Programmable systems of the future

Designing a future programmable system to meet user needs

In this activity students will look to the future and consider what they know about programmable systems to design something that meets a specific user need.

As technology progresses, programmable systems are being increasingly used at home and in industry. What will the programmable systems of the future be like and how will we use them? In this fun task, students will explore this possibility by designing their own programmable system of the future.

Ideally students will have completed Applications of programmable systems as this will give them the necessary background for this lesson.

This is one of a set of resources developed to aid the class teaching of the secondary national curriculum, particularly KS3. It has been designed to support the delivery of key topics within design and technology (D&T) and engineering.

Activity: Designing a future programmable system to meet user needs

Students will reflect on existing programmable systems, discussing how they can save time and make life easier and safer. They’ll work in groups to identify current problems or needs that might be solved with a new programmable system.

Each group will then choose a problem (which might be either fun or serious) and design a programmable system to meet the user need by solving the problem. They must annotate their designs, (e.g. how their system works and how it meets users’ needs). Finally, groups must present their designs to the class for collective feedback. If there’s time, students can also vote for their favourite design!

Download our activity overview for a detailed lesson plan (including answers) for teaching students about programmable systems.

The engineering context

Engineering is all about solving problems and shaping the future. Programmable systems are the core of how engineers interact with and control our increasingly automated technology. Today programmable systems help to create industry robots, drive our smartphones, computers, and even our televisions. They also power sophisticated machinery like aeroplanes, cars, robotic surgery systems, wearable tech, and space stations. Who knows what programmable systems will be able to do in the future?

Suggested learning outcomes

By the end of this lesson students will be able to recognise user needs and also be able to use an annotated sketch to design a programmable system that will meet this specific need.

Download our activity sheet and other teaching resources

The activity sheet includes teachers’ notes, useful web links, and links (where appropriate) to the national curriculum in each of the four devolved nations; England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

All activity sheets and supporting resources are free to download (including the video), and all the documents are fully editable, so you can tailor them to your class’s and your schools’ needs.

You can download our classroom lesson plan below.

Please do share your highlights with us @IETeducation. 


Applications of programmable systems

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