2017 READesign with FMBGC – Part 2: Daisy Dawson on the Farm

The READesign program was introduced in the Wood Buffalo region at the Fort McMurray Boys and Girls Club (FMBGC). This program is based on the Novel Engineering program by Tuft’s University Center for Engineering Education Outreach and was sponsored by the Canadian Red Cross, the APEGA Education Foundation and the Alberta Women’s Science Network (AWSN).

This session ran for 4 weeks from March 18th to April 8th and hosted a total of 10 students aged 12-15, four girls and six boys. The students were tasked to read a book, identify the problems the characters in the book encounter, and use engineering design to come up with solutions to those problems. The students had the choice of two book options; A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket and Daisy Dawson on the Farm by Steve Voake.

This post is about Daisy Dawson on the Farm. To see the blog post summarizing The Bad Beginning, see Part 1.

Daisy Dawson on the Farm is one in a series of books about a young girl named Daisy Dawson who can communicate with animals. In this particular book, Daisy visits a farm and tries to help the animals with some problems they are having.

Problem #1

In Chapters 1-3, Daisy is introduced to the animals on the farm, who are quite irritable because the weather is extremely hot.

Challenge: Design a better barn to keep the animals cool on this very hot day.

Constraints: All of the farm animals (toy animals) must fit inside the barn.

Materials: Craft supplies, LittleBits

Solution: Researched insulating materials and used foam, bubble wrap, cotton balls, and foil in a cardboard box to build a barn with working ceiling fans.


  • There was no door on the barn, so the opening would let hot air in and cool air out. Redesign: A door was added made with straws and wooden skewers for hinges so that the animals can go in and out, and with an elastic band lock to keep the door airtight.

Problem #2

In chapters 4-5, the ducks and newts are upset because the pond has dried up in the heat.

Challenge: Design a solution to transport water from the river (bucket) to the pond (mini-pool)

Constraints: Must move the water 5 feet.

Materials: K’nex levers and pulleys, craft materials (string, cups, tape)

Solution: Used a pulley system made from K’Nex kits to transport the water


  • The towers holding up the pulley system kept falling over due to the weight of the water. Redesign: Tension wires were added with string and tape to hold the towers up against the weight of the water.

Problem #3

In chapter 6, the animals try to host a ‘Farm Afternoon’ event with games and entertainment, in the hopes that it might get rained on and the weather wouldn’t be as hot.

Challenge: Design a better ‘Farm Afternoon’ event

Materials: LittleBits STEAM student pack, littlebits Synth Kit

Solution: Students used the little bits servo to make a tomato thrower as a part of the game to hit Conkers the squirrel with tomatoes.


  • The tomato thrower was not fast enough. Redesign: an extension was added to the servo arm to increase the torque.
  • The ‘Farm Afternoon’ needed some entertainment. Redesign: Students used the LittleBits Synthkit to make entertainment music for the event.

Problem #4

At the end of the book, it finally starts to rain and all the animals get wet and muddy, tracking mud all over the barn.

Challenge: Design a device to prevent the barn from getting muddy in the rain.

Solution: We ran out of time and were not able to design a solution, but some ideas that were discussed included making their own soap, a ‘car wash’ contraption to clean the animals using K’Nex gears and LittleBits Fans, or a mopping device using LittleBits or K’Nex to clean the barn floors.

Lots of great ideas for next time!!

Keep up with all the READesign programming on the main READesign page!

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