In this activity, students learn about a deep sea expedition to explore the Mariana Trench and engineer an underwater vehicle that can withstand both heat and cold.


  • Students will design an engineering solution to a problem, using nature as an inspiration.
  • Students will construct a definition of an engineer and identify examples of biomimicry.
  • Students will identify the constraints and considerations of the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE Expedition.

In 2012, movie director James Cameron attempted a record-breaking 35,878-ft (10,908 m) solo dive in the Mariana Trench off the coast of Guam. During the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE Expedition, the manned submersible needed to survive the crushing pressure and cold temperatures at that depth.

This 13-step activity guides students to brainstorm challenges that the team faced, understand what engineers do, explore as a way to come up with solutions to some of those challenges, experiment, conduct research, propose solutions, develop designs, and build and test prototypes. This activity can be conducted over multiple class periods and it provides some modifications if needed.

Resources include the movie’s trailer, a video of Cameron talking about the project, five links, and five PDFs. Other resources referenced in the activity can be found by searching the Classroom Resources section of the website. Besides directions on how to do the activity, the website provides information on learning objectives, standards alignment, materials and technology needed, background information, and vocabulary.

As of January 2021, all links on the National Geographic education web page are functioning. However, if you try to access it or other resources from other web pages within the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE website, some links might not work.