Buck Institute for Education

Design It Clean

Author: New York Hall of Science

What will my students be doing?

In the Design It Clean project, students work in teams to develop water filters that are dependable, affordable, and can provide clean water for specific communities in the real world.

What's Included:

  • Project Overview
  • 8 Essential Elements of PBL
  • Sequence of the Project
  • Step-By-Step Teaching Guide
  • Student Handouts
  • Teacher Materials

Current Version: January 10, 2018

Think of the water you used today to shower, cook, or brush your teeth. Although most people in developed nations like the U.S. simply turn on the faucet, approximately three quarters of a billion people worldwide lack access to clean water and millions die each year from causes directly related to this problem.

In Design It Clean: The Water Filter Challenge, students work in teams to develop water filters that are dependable, affordable, and can provide clean water for specific communities in the real world. Students are challenged to learn about a region where people lack access to clean water, and to design and build a working solution. They must ensure that their solutions align with the needs of the community, culture, environment, and local government. They will also present their water filtration prototypes, along with relevant data, to adults playing the roles of local end users, government officials, aid workers, venture capitalists, and other key stakeholders.

Project Notes

  • Subjects: Engineering, Science
  • Grade Level: 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
  • Time Required: 15-30 Hours

Sponsored By


"Ask students what humans need to survive, and most will say 'water.' Few, however, have considered the complex set of factors that affect access to clean, healthy water, both in the U.S. and abroad. The New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) was thus inspired to create this project to provide students with an opportunity to explore not only the science behind our water systems and water filtration, but to make personal connections to a resource we all share. We also wanted to empower students to design real-world solutions that address a real-world problem. By creating a project that requires students to integrate not only STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) concepts, but also human factors, we hope that students, teachers, parents, and communities will gain a new way of thinking about sustainability on both a local and global scale." -- Michaela Labriole, New York Hall of Science

Project Documents

Project Author

New York Hall of Science presents 450 exhibits, demonstrations, workshops and participatory activities that explain science, technology, engineering, and math.

A visit to NYSCI is a hands-on, energetic educational experience where you can indulge your curiosity and nurture your creativity. NYSCI offers professional development for teachers, produces curricula and resources for classrooms, and studies how technology, gaming and play affect how we learn.

NYSCI was founded at the 1964–65 World’s Fair and has evolved into New York’s center for interactive science, serving a half million students, teachers, and families each year.