The very first STEM Challenge we tried in fifth grade was a real-life dilemma. My idea was that a student group was camping in a desert and needed to elevate their food while they slept. They could only build the elevation device using the materials in their camping gear.
It was fun and certainly a learning experience. And it led to more real-life challenges because we loved the scenario of solving a problem that we might face one day.
Our Rescue Device Challenge was another real-life event that we loved! This challenge also has a very interesting twist!
A Unique Twist
The idea of this challenge is one we have enjoyed so much. Each table gets a bin of materials- all the same items. The twist is that the first table builds half of the structure and the second table builds the other half. At some point, the two tables have to join the structures together.
It’s the ultimate in teamwork! In the Rescue Device Challenge, one half of the team builds a cranking mechanism and the other half of the team builds a passenger carrier. The story is that a hiking group must rescue a person that has fallen over a cliffside. They have to build the structures using only items found in nature or items in their backpacks.
The Cranking Mechanism
The cranking device has to be sturdy enough to wind up and lift the passenger carrier. To make this even more challenging the rules include that the winding part must have a handle.
The two in the above-left photos are made a lot alike and the kids used the bendy part of the straws very effectively. On the right are two more that have the winding parts oriented in a different direction. Take a close look at the top photo. That team threaded the straw winder through a craft stick frame to help hold everything in place.
To the left, the team in the top photo used a frame of straws to hold together the winding pole.
Look closely at the bottom photo. This team made a loop of tape that had a straw threaded through it. They folded the piece of tape in half and made the loop so that none of the sticky part was touching the straw. So clever!
What about the passenger carrier?
The other half of the team had to build something that would attach to the winding mechanism and hold fragile cargo. It could not be too heavy and it had to stay stable while being lifted.
This is trickier than you would think!
We had a lot of flat sled-like carriers and some that resembled hot air balloon baskets. Kids also had to determine how to attach the carriers to the string.
How did they do?
Aren’t these spectacular?
This challenge is one of my favorites because it is a real-life event, but I LOVE pairing two teams together that have to join their structures. It is just amazing to watch the collaboration between the two teams as they tackle this fabulous challenge!
Click on any of the images to see this resource!
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