11. Cell Phone Throne

Students will design and produce a cell phone holder that serves, at a minimum, as a charging station for a smartphone of their choice.

This is a tough lesson to affix a specific standard to because it can be addressed in so many ways, but these are a few big ones.

Standards for Mathematical Practice
CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP1: Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP2: Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP3: Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP4: Model with mathematics.
CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP5: Use appropriate tools strategically.
CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP6: Attend to precision.
CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP7: Look for and make use of structure.

Learning Objectives

  • Students will design and produce a cell phone holder that serves, at a minimum, as a charging station for a smartphone of their choice.
  • Students will apply their knowledge of angles and research data for an optimal angle of a resting/charging cell phone.
  • Students will apply their knowledge of dimensions to accommodate a charging dock for a designated cell phone.
  • Students will apply their knowledge of acoustics to enhance the audio of a charging phone.
  • Students will market their product to a specific audience using any form of advertisement.

Group Size: 3 to 4 students, depending on how many variations you would like students to compare within the class setting. For a smaller class, groups of 3 would be ideal.

Class Size: up to 40 students

Materials Required

  • At least one computer per group, loaded with Google SketchUp
  • Paper and pencil for drafting
  • Airwolf 3D Printer
  • Protractor
  • Model charging stations for students to look at.  If none available, have cardboard and makerspace-style materials available for students to tinker with.
  • iThrone (SketchUp File)
  • iThrone (STL)

Assumptions being made:

  • Students have a good understanding of 3D modeling. Prior to incorporating this lesson into a unit, it is recommended that students have had training on Google SketchUp.
  • Students have a good understanding of SAE (Imperial) and/or Metric units.
  • Students have a good understanding of using a ruler.
  • Students have a good understanding of a protractor.

To begin the lesson, prime the students with the idea of creating a product that will allow a cell phone to rest, charge, and display audio and/or video for the user.  Many charging stations for smartphones are just that- charging stations.  We are looking for a product that allows a consumer to use the station as an experience enhancer.

Maybe this means better acoustics for audio, a better angle for video viewing, adjustable angles for horizontal/vertical viewing.

Whatever students create, it needs to be an upgrade over the existing models!

For more context, show students the various iPhone docking stations and Galaxy docking stations.

The Challenge
Create a smartphone charging station that enhancing the charging experience.

This is a very open task, but one that many students will have ideas for as they either have a smartphone or know someone who does.

Give students time to work in their small groups to design potential charging stations and provide justifications for the unique features involved.  Why would somebody want to use this design?  What advantage does it provide compared to some of the others in the class or ones that have been researched?  Where did the group get their inspiration?

After each group has come up with some brainstorm ideas, have them sketch their thoughts onto a piece of paper.  Visualization of a unique product is a difficult chore, so this step is essential.  Within a certain timeframe set by the instructor, students will need to commit to one specific design and work collectively to optimize its chances for success.

The Meat
Within Google SketchUp, groups will need to design their charging station that will be used to complete the challenge. All dimensions need to be included on the design prior to moving on.

When printing, it is advisable to print at least 2 perimeter layers thick, so take this into consideration during the design. Each perimeter layer is 0.3 mm thick.

To ensure that everything lines up accurately, groups will check their classmates’ designs prior to showing the instructor. The instructor will need to confirm the students’ designs as best as possible before sending it to print.

Once the design has been printed, students will clean it up and verify all measurements for accuracy with a ruler.


  • What were some of the challenges in designing the station?
  • What did you learn during the project?
  • What would happen if you used a different resting angle for the station?
  • After seeing the other groups, what would you do differently?

Each one of these questions can provoke thoughtful responses rich in mathematical, scientific, and logical reasoning.

Just like in a Research and Design lab for major companies, the feedback and reflection on these projects will be the best part. Give students an opportunity to talk within their group and among their classmates to seek advice on improvements or modifications to obtain the ideal design without compromising the uniqueness.

Desired Outcomes
A desired outcome is a charging station that can do all or some of the following: allow for a charging cord to easily fit and securely rest (mandatory), enhance the audio experience, enhance the video viewing experience, have a unique/fashionable design.

Some Possible Extensions/Modifications
Give students a template for their charging station and have them modify from it to meet their needs.  This may include the dimensions for either an iPhone or Galaxy charging cable and the dimensions of the phone(s).

Require students to model their designs after an existing station that they find online and check with the instructor prior to following through with the design and printing of it.

Create a charging station that has the ability to accommodate any smartphone charging cable, increase the audio AND video experience, and is adjustable.

Once You’ve Finished
Is there a holiday coming up?  These would make great gifts for kids to hand off to loved ones or friends at school.  While some may actually be marketable, the fun of these will be in students requesting them to be made for their classmates!


Content & Instruction Developed by:
John Stevens – Airwolf 3D STEM Consultant
Instructional Coach – Technology
Chaffey Joint Union High School District
CUE Rockstar Faculty & Organizer
Google Certified Teacher
TwitterBlogResourcesAuthor (Flipping 2.0)