Fantastic Beasts Inspired Think Like An Engineer Journey

This was originally designed as a Cadette Think Like An Engineer by Laura Witte, Troop 1912, Girl Scouts of Gateway Council. Based on GSUSA journey plans. Our troop adapted the Think Like an Engineer journey for our Junior, Cadette and Senior troop. We are grateful for Laura’s inspiration and for her allowing us to share her original idea!

Our troop runs meetings for two hours so we were able to complete all but the Take Action portion during the initial meeting.

Introduce the Journey:

This evening, we’ll start the Think Like An Engineer Journey, but were going to put a fun Fantastic Beasts spin on it. First, though, let’s talk about what engineers do.

How would you describe an engineer’s work?


Everyday Solutions: Engineers solve everyday problems by inventing and building things to make life easier and more efficient: buildings, bridges, airplanes, roads, etc.

Agricultural Solutions: Working with farmers to design new farming equipment and irrigation systems for crops.

Manufacturing Solutions: Create machines that speed up the production process.

Energy Solutions: Create energy and light systems, like solar and wind power to generate electricity.

Solutions in Times of Disaster: Design structures with disaster in mind. Hurricane- strength infrastructures for cities.

Technological Solutions: Aerospace engineers design spaceships and satellites.

Engineering Design Process

Briefly go over the Design Thinking Process. (Put on white board beforehand, if available.)

Explain that these are the steps engineers go through to solve problems.

1. Identify the problem that needs to be solved and investigate what’s already been done.

2. Brainstorm to come up with different designs or solutions.

3. Pick one or more solutions.

4. Build the design.

5.Test the design and make improvements based on what they learned.

6. Share what they learned with other engineers.

7. If they need to, they redesign and start the process again.

Fantastic Beasts Tie-in

Ask who’s seen either of the Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them movies, to get a feel for the knowledge level on the theme.

Likely several of your girls have and can explain the mythical creatures. We also pulled up pictures of the creatures as well on our phones.

Design Challenge: Newt Scamander’s Suitcase

Ask if any girl would like to explain what Newt Scamander’s suitcase is like. Make sure to point out that it is designed to hold a LOT of beasts, large and small. Tell the girls that Newt has decided to upgrade his suitcase so that if it falls overboard the next time he crosses the ocean, it will stay afloat even with all the animals inside.


  • Bag of buttons, marbles or small toy animals
  • One sheet of aluminum foil of the same size for each girl. Note: Dollar Tree offers a box of 30 sheets, ~10”x15,” that works well.


Tell them to design a prototype case that will stay afloat. Remind them that

a prototype is a quick way to show an idea to others or try it out. It can be a drawing, or made from everyday objects like aluminum foil.
Be sure to tell the girls that because it’s a prototype, we’re testing the shape, not the appearance, so this design does NOT have to have a lid. It can be a flat open vessel for this phase.

Remind teams to go through the Design Process by identifying the problem (engineer a case that will stay afloat in water), brainstorming a design, then building their prototype. Tell the girls to ask questions before they start designing: what do they need to know before they start?

  • Are you limited by time or materials?
  • How long does the case need to float?
    What do you already know about floatation devices or boats that can help you with your design?

Discuss the difference between criteria and constraints:

Criteria: Things you or your design needs to accomplish.
Constraints: Ways that you or your design are limited.

When the girls have shaped their sheets of foil into a prototype design, one at a time, have each team test their design by placing it in a sink or bucket in of water. They can then add the “beasts” one at a time. (I used buttons, but it can also be marbles or metal bolt nuts.) See how many beasts the case can hold before it sinks to the bottom of the bin.

See how many beasts the case can hold before it sinks to the bottom of the bin.

Design Challenge: Erupent Prosthetic

Explain that an Erupent is an African creature that looks like a rhinoceros, but can actually be quite friendly, despite its intimidating form. While its hide can repel spells and charms, on the top of its head is a massive, glowing horn full of a lethal fluid. Anything the Erumpent pierces with its horn will explode.

This next design challenge requires you to become a biochemical engineer and design a prosthetic device. Biomechanical engineers use what they know about biology and mechanical engineering to solve problems related to health and safety. A prosthetic device is technology that’s designed to replace the function of a body part.

Today, the prosthetic device you’re designing is an erupent leg. That is your goal.

Your criteria is that the leg:

  • Must support the erupent’s weight

  • Attach to the model’s actual leg at the knee (*low priority, and only if time allows)

  • Stay together when used, and
  • Be comfortable to wear.

Biomechanical engineers sometimes use models to help engineer their prototypes. Since we don’t have the actual erupent here (good thing, because we don’t want the erumpent to become angry or uncomfortable and make us explode), someone from your team will have to model your prosthetic leg (or you can use a stuffed animal).

You have 15 minutes to design and test your prototype.


  • Cardboard tubes

  • Plastic cups

  • String

  • Masking tape

  • Rubber bands

  • Scissors

  • Pens/pencils
    Stuffed animal

When time is up, have one girl from each group demonstrate her prototype. Discuss the prototype and the process the girls used to come up with the design. Ask about challenges they encountered and what they did to overcome the challenges.

Design Challenge: Newt’s Niffler’s Home


  • Stuffed animal (like a penguin)
  • Cardboard
  • Water bottle
  • Fan
  • 2 sheets of construction paper

  • 2 plastic cups

  • 12 inches of masking tape

  • 12 inches of packing tape

  • Aluminum foil (no size/amount restrictions)

  • String

  • Scissors

Show the Niffler stuffed animal. Explain that though adorable, these guys can be pretty destructive. They are attracted to shiny objects. All of them like to collect jewels, coins, or anything else that tickles their fancy, and for that reason have been used by Goblins to dig for treasure. The animals have a magical pouch that allows them to store their treasures.

Today, you will be building this little guy a home in the wilderness, where he can be comfortable and safely hidden from Muggles. So your design should be based on, or inspired by, shelters created by animals that we usually see in the wilderness.

Going back to the Design Process, we need to first identify the problem we need to solve. (Allow the girls to answer…design a Niffler home inspired by shelters built by animals.)

What are some examples of animal shelters? (Bird nests, beehives, beaver lodge, den, burrow, etc.)

Keep in mind the features this Niffler needs, and think about how you can find inspiration from the materials and shapes of animal shelters, and the way they are put together.

Remember to ask questions and consider your criteria and constraints:

  • Work together to engineer a model of a Niffler home that is inspired by at least one animal shelter.

  • The model must be wind and water resistant.

  • The model must have at least one entrance the Niffler can use.

  • Groups have 10 minutes to brainstorm and plan, then 20 minutes to engineer their model cabins.

Allow girls to 10 minutes to brainstorm. If they need prompting, bring up the various elements of some common animal shelter designs (found in VTK):

  • Bird’s Nest: The structure is usually made of intertwined and woven twigs and leaves. Often, birds use mud to seal the woven pieces together.

  • Beaver Lodge: Made out of mud, stones, leaves, sticks, and bark to make a large and strong structure.

  • Termite Mound: Has many chambers and tunnels. Termites create a mixture of earth materials and saliva that makes a concrete-like, water- resistant material that surrounds their mound.

  • Wasp Nest: Wasps chew up and soften wood fibers in order to make a paper pulp they can use to construct a nest. The mixture of paper fiber and saliva they use creates a water-resistant building material.

Allow girls 20 minutes to design a prototype. When time is up, have them gather together to present and test their prototypes. Ask each group:

  • What part of the design was inspired by a shelter created by animals?
  • How do the different features of your cabin meet the criteria of the challenge?

  • Why will your design work well during testing?

After each group presents, for to the testing process, see if the Niffler can enter and exit the house. Then, each group places their prototype in front of a fan for 15 seconds and observe whether it is impacted by the wind.

To find out if the model is water resistant, spray the structure with water 15 times and observe whether a piece of the construction paper placed inside gets wet.

After testing, ask what worked and what didn’t, then ask the following:

  • Would the home your designed keep the Niffler dry?
  • How was your model impacted by the wind?

  • What part of the challenge did you find the most difficult?

  • How could you improve your model? Why do you think that idea will improve your design?

  • What steps of the Design Thinking Process did you use today?

Take Action Project:

Depending on the time available and size of troop, girls may need another meeting to complete their TAP. Laura’s troop made enrichment toys for “fantastic beasts” (dogs and cats) at their local shelter.

For our troop, as we’re approaching the holidays, we sent home a “take action” worksheet for girls to think through the process about service.