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Five Ways to Engineer Your Girl Scout Cookie Sale

Girls with cookiesIt’s Girl Scout cookie time in my community, is it in yours? As a lifetime member of Girl Scouts, I understand how critical the bottom line of a successful cookie sale is to a Girl Scout, her troop, her council, and the national organization. As an engineering educator at Techbridge, I also understand that the cookie sale is a prime opportunity to inject a little engineering fun into the work at hand. Here are five suggestions for putting an engineering “flavor” in your Girl Scout cookie sale.

Idea 1: Those colorful cookie packages are chock full of information about Girl Scouts: the benefits of membership and the mission of building girls of courage, confidence and character. When your peanut butter patties or samoas are devoured and you’re left holding the box, why not repurpose and redesign? The cookie boxes are perfect building blocks! Tape the empty box back up and construct a cookie castle like this or play cookie box ”Jenga” like the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles at their Cookie Rally.

Idea 2: If your troop is participating in booth sales, why not build out the ultimate cookie stand and include lots of simple machines? You might use screws to attach 2’x4’s for the “bones” of the booth. If the sides of your stand fold in, the hinges are levers. Add a display ramp (an inclined plane) to showcase your least popular cookie flavor and see its heightened visibility increase sales. Could you add a pulley and a rope to fly a flag or roll out a banner across your booth? What about adding wheels (and axles) for easy transport? You can find lots of booth designs online, like this.

Idea 3: Have you thought about the engineers who work on cookies? The two national bakeries exclusively chartered to make Girl Scout cookies employ packaging engineers who study just how the cookie crumbles. Those engineers develop all sorts of solutions for keeping our cookies in one piece. As Techbridge developed the “No Cookie Crumbles” design challenge in our Design Time program-in-a-box, we researched the factors packaging engineers take under consideration when developing the boxes, trays and sleeves that get those cookies from the factory oven to your mouth. Packaging engineers think about the cost, the environmental ramifications, the marketing appeal and, of course, the strength of the materials available. To learn more about a packaging engineer’s important (and fun!) work, check out this video from PBS’ Design Squad Nation.  

Idea 4: Want to try your hand at designing a cookie package? Simply look around your kitchen and your recycling bin for basic materials that may (or may not!) provide a safe and sturdy cocoon for your cookie. Keep a log and draw a sketch of just how much paper, plastic, tape and foil you use. Scientists always keep a detailed log of their experiment! Then put your cookie and package through a battery of tests. At Techbridge, we like dropping it from six feet, pouring a cup of water over it, throwing it against the wall and stacking a pile of heavy books on the cookie package, then opening it to see what damage has been done. You can think of other “stressors” for your package. Check out one of our council partners, the Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma, as they issued a “No Cookie Crumbles” challenge video last year and view some of their members’ results on posts from 1/19/13 or 2/22/13. How did your cookie package do?

Idea 5: The cookie sale in its entirety, from goal setting to reconciling the final total sales, speaks to the Engineering Design Process. Girls start with the same question, how are we going to reach our cookie sales goal? They brainstorm possibilities, and choose an approach, such as asking last year’s customers plus adding ten more new friends and neighbors. They design their marketing pitch, perfecting the “please and thank you’s” of good customer service. Girls test their approach by putting their ideas into action. That may involve a cookie walk-about in their neighborhood, or adding an extra shift at their booth. Girls show their test results by checking back in at a troop meeting to assess their progress toward the group’s goal. Girls may find they need to redesign their approach, or put a little more effort into their design, in order to reach that goal. As they reflect on the success of their sale at the end of cookie season, girls can be encouraged to think through each step of their Engineering Design Process and critically consider what went well and what didn’t. They become better problem-solvers (and cookie sellers!) the more they reflect and consider.

The Engineering Design Process is key to the five programs-in-a-box Techbridge developed with Girl Scout troops in mind. Whether girls are designing pencil pouches for a “customer” or soldering an electric game board to dazzle their friends, the problem-solving engineers do every day is woven throughout the icebreakers, hands-on and career exploration activities.

Stay tuned for more exciting connections between Girl Scout leadership programming and Techbridge’s engineering curriculum. I’m wishing Girl Scouts everywhere a successfully “engineered” cookie sale!

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