Cool Puppy Doghouse

Project Overview

Students are given the engineering challenge to design and build doghouses that shelter a (toy) puppy from the heat—and to create them within material, size and cost constraints. This requires them to apply what they know (or research) about light energy and how it does (or does not) travel through various materials, as well as how a material’s color affects its light absorption and reflection properties. Students build doghouse designs and test them by taking thermometer readings under hot lamps, and then think of ways to improve their designs through iteration.

Project Submitters

Cynthia Dickman; Brett Doudican; Raseena Jacob; Linda Gillum

Collaborative RET Program - Universities of Central State, Dayton, and Wright State in Ohio

Appropriate Education Levels

Elementary School

Middle School/Junior High

High School

Equipment Used and/or Required

Power Tools

Hand Tools

General Fabrication Lab Equipment

Time Required

120 Minutes (dependent upon level, scale, constraints)

Scenario, Criteria, & Constraints

One day after school, you went for a walk around your neighborhood and found a lost puppy! The puppy had no collar or tag, so you decided to take matters into your own hands. You rescued this lost puppy from the side of the road, but your mom is not willing to have your puppy in the house. The weather prediction is for a record-setting heat wave and you are worried about your puppy being outside in the heat, so you decide to build a doghouse to Choose what materials you want to use to design and build the coolest doghouse for your puppy! From your saved allowances, you have $12 to spend. (Teacher: Adjust the amount and material, as appropriate.) Now you must carefully spend your savings to buy materials to create this doghouse!


For this project...

  • All supplies used must be purchased within your $12 budget.

  • A budget tracking report must be provided prior to testing.

  • The doghouse must protect the puppy from the outside heat.

  • The dog must fit completely inside the doghouse.

  • The doghouse temperature must stay under 32 ℃ (90 ℉) when out in the “sun” for 30 minutes.

  • The dog must be able to exit doghouse for access to a water dish!

  • The doghouse must be a self-supporting structure.


  • 1 toy dog that represents the “found puppy” for the class, such as a 6 x 6-inch stuffed or plastic toy, to which students refer when designing, measuring, “buying” supplies, constructing the doghouse; note that a bigger “puppy” size increases the amount of project supplies needed

  • markers, crayons, colored pencils, colored paper

  • assortment of building supplies, such as Styrofoam, aluminum foil, paper, saran wrap, plastic bottles, cardboard, construction paper, straws, bubble wrap, felt squares, toilet paper rolls, foam plates and cups, foam squares, foam board, newspaper, craft sticks, mylar, etc.

  • assortment of adhesives and tools, such as white glue, hot glue, tape, scissors

  • light/heat sources for testing, one for each doghouse, such as a 250-watt full spectrum heat lamp that is UL approved; example $2 bulb:

  • (optional) bigger boxes, into which the doghouses are placed, to help concentrate the heat

  • numerous room thermometers; each doghouse test requires 2 thermometers (inside/outside doghouse)

  • timer, to time 30 minutes

Learning Outcomes

While completing this activity, students will learn about light and heat, including:

  • energy transfer

  • absorption

  • insulation and material properties

Related Files

Forum Discussion

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