Designing Solutions to a Global Health Crisis in the MakerEd Classroom

Challenge your students to design a solution to a health crisis in this simulation of a global health initiative. Students are asked to collect data to determine the scope of the problem, design and then plan and implement a solution. This is the second year of this design challenge, teachers should feel free to adapt and expand the challenge to fit the needs of their classes and the available tools.

“Every year millions of pumpkins around the world are the victims of tooth loss due to physical trauma, decay and improper ‘carving’. The Pumpkin Tooth Replacement Project seeks to provide low cost 3D printed replacement teeth as a means of addressing this global problem.”

The Pumpkin Tooth Replacement Project is an idea for a classroom global health initiative simulation. Global action and change can be difficult to model in the classroom. The scale and scope of health problems can be especially difficult. The Pumpkin Tooth Replacement Project allows students to be actively involved in every step of a global health initiative.

Determining the Scope of the Problem

How many pumpkins are there with carved faces? How many pumpkins have tooth loss?
Depending on the level and type of class these questions could take a few minutes to estimate or could be the basis for a long term statistics project.  For example, students could use data on number of households in city/state/country/world, estimate percentage of those households that participate in pumpkin carving activities then estimate the percentage of carved pumpkins that will experience tooth loss. There are an overwhelming number of methods that students could use to determine the answer to those questions.

The great thing about this simulation is that students can directly collect data in their neighborhoods and then use that data for the basis of their calculation. Students can look in their neighborhood and count number of dwelling units, total number of pumpkins and total number of pumpkins with tooth loss. Unlike a real health issue where students could not reasonably collect personal medical data, students can collect pumpkin dental health data from the sidewalk. For older students, it might be possible to use flickr/instagram/google image searches to search for pumpkin photos and determine a percentage of carved pumpkins with tooth loss. (Teachers should always be careful with projects involving image search.)

Designing a Solution

Design a solution for pumpkin tooth loss. Design a global solution for pumpkin tooth loss.

Asking students to make a pumpkin replacement tooth should result in a number of quick solutions. Asking students to scale the solution up globally becomes a creative challenge. Will students suggest manufacturing and then physically distributing replacement teeth or will they suggest an information based solution.

As an example, I designed a 3D printable replacement tooth at and made the STL file available at The idea is that by publishing an open source implant that teeth could be 3D printed and distributed locally. There are a number of recent articles that suggest similar strategies for areas with limited medical supplies due to economic and social reasons.

Pre and post Pumpkin Tooth Replacement

Students can quickly create and test their solutions and if they don’t work they can use an iterative design process to make improvements. Will students go with implants, dentures, stickers or something else? Bonus points for posting a solution on Thingiverse and listing thing:169144 as a source.

Implementing the Solution

The real work for students is actually implementing the solution. Can they convince fellow students, neighbors or the world to take action on Pumpkin Tooth Loss and implement the student solution? Students can engage in persuasive writing through flyers, blogs, social media, etc. to encourage others to take action. This step, just in real life, will probably be most challenging.

One of the advantages of Pumpkin Tooth Replacement Project is that due to the seasonal nature it is a short duration project. It allows students to quickly work through the scenario and see the full arc of the project. Students can then use the lessons learned to work on other more meaningful global action projects.

If you have suggestions for educators simulating global health initiatives or global action projects, please post in the comments or contact me on Twitter @designmaketeach.