Teen backpack

Design a 21st Century Backpack

What do you need to carry with you to learn?

Most backpacks are big, bulky, and heavy.  Backpacks aren't designed for students today. In fact, the design of backpacks really hasn't changed since the days of your grandparents!

But in the School of the Future things could be different.  You have computers and other devices that could help you learn, design, and create artifacts in your classes.

Let's get started on the challenge to redesign your backpack to fit the needs of the 21st century student! 


Re-imagine the design of a 21st century backpack you would need as a 21st century student and creator . You will design a backpack you could use to keep all of your stuff for completing your classwork and traveling to/from school!

Collect Info

Gather more information about your existing backpacks by taking photos, sketching, conducting interviews, or doing additional research.

Think About

  • What is the purpose of a backpack?
  • How has the way you use a backpack changed since you first started school in kindergarten, for example?
  • How many times do you get things from your backpacks each day?
  • Do teachers or school administrators have any safety or security concerns about backpacks? What are they?
  • What types of materials is your backpacks constructed from?
  • What do you wish your backpack could do that it currently cannot do?
  • How could your backpack become more functional outside of school (like when you are traveling to/from school)?

Try This

  • Take photos of a backpack. Open your own backpack and take a photo of what's stored inside.
  • Make a list of all the features your backpack currently has. (Examples: pockets, slots, etc.)
  • Make a list of all the items you currently keep in your backpack on a typical day.
  • Next to each item, make notes about what 'needs' that item has. (Examples: my sweaty gym clothes need to kept away from my other things; my iPod needs electricity to be charged; my winter boots need a place to drip dry)
  • Make a list of all the items you wish you could store in your backpack, but don't have room for.
  • Measure the length, height, and depth of your current backpack.
  • Measure the length, height, and depth of your books, coat / shoes, and other large objects you typically keep inside your backpack.
  • Read this article to learn more about some of the complaints students have with their backpacks today.
  • Visit the websites of a few manufacturers to see various types of backpacks currently made. What do you like or dislike about these examples?

Brainstorm Ideas

Create sketches or models to help you think through new ideas and solutions.

Think About

  • Make a list of all the things you like about your current backpack. Ask several friends for their opinions.
  • Make a list of all the things you dislike about your current backpack. Ask several friends for their opinions.
  • Think about your backpack as a type of container. What other types of containers do you use each day to store stuff? (Examples: containers for food, clothing, household items)
  • Many animals, insects, and plants use containers to store things (Example: bees use honeycombs). Check out some of the images in the Inspiration Gallery for other ideas of strorage units.

Try This

Based on the information you collected above, brainstorm a list of special features you'd like your new backpack to have. Consider what materials the backpack will be made from. What materials will be durable against the wear and tear of student use over the years?

Develop Solutions

Now's the time to take what you've learned from the steps above and develop your own solution for a new backpack.

Try This

Use recycled cardboard to make a full-scale or half-scale prototype model of your backpack. You can't really understand if the backpack will hold all your stuff, until you make a quick study model. Don't worry about making a fancy finished model at this time. Instead, use cardstock, scissors, and tape to quickly create the large 3D form. See how it looks. Break off different sections, add new pieces, and try new ideas. Take photos of your model.

Final Design

Backpack styles

The final step of the design process is to create a more finished model that communicates your ideas to others.

Try This

  • What color or colors will your bookbag be? What colors have inspired you? Add colors to the digital model of your bookbag
  • What materials will your bookbag be made of? Choose materials and details to add to your digital model.
  • Include a human figure in your final bookbag model, so we can see how big your bookbag really is.
  • Upload additional images of your finished bookbag model to the slides for your project. Write short captions explaining your ideas.
  • Congratulations on solving this design challenge!