Grab your Free Guide - 3 Steps to STEM Success

5 Best Challenges (According to the Students)

It should come as no surprise that students will vote for projects for very different reasons than I vote for them. I choose projects based on the back-story or the experimenting. I also love the challenges that involve multiple steps and teamwork.

Students vote for competitive, fun challenges. And, there is nothing wrong with that! This year students chose 4 new projects and one older one that was in the top five a few years back.

(If you don’t know, I posted many years ago about the top favorites of students and myself. This year I decided to repeat the posts – with new votes. I will link all the posts at the bottom!)

STEM Challenges- the five favorites for STEM according to the students votes. Five challenges are featured!

Index Card Towers

STEM Challenge- build the tallest tower using only index cards! This is a student-favorite!

The Index Card Tower works for many age groups. Each age will tackle this challenge differently. It becomes quite competitive to see which team will build the tallest tower.

For my older students I will add something that must be placed at the top of the tower -which means the tower must be very sturdy. During December we add a stuffed elf to the top of the tower!

Don’t be fooled! This tower is more challenging than it appears to be!

Earthquake Resistant Structures

The first time we tried this challenge we used trays of jello for our shake tray. Since then we have tried a different shake tray that I made from a plastic bin and a foam board suspended with elastic. Both types work well- the plastic bin is less messy!

Students must make a multi-level platform that withstands being shaken. They try their structure and make improvements based on how the structure failed.

We love this one- jello or not!

STEM Challenge - Build an earthquake resistant structure. The resource includes directions for making your own shake tray.

Roller Coasters

STEM Challenge- Build a roller coaster using foam tubes. The resource includes experimenting with hills and loops and then building a multi-looped structure!

This one is always in the top five when I ask students for their favorite. You just need foam tubes (these are insulation covers for pipes) and marbles and tape. We practice with different heights on the hills and learn how to make loops that work. Students string together 3-4 tubes and try to build the ultimate roller coaster.

The best part is sharing at the end of class. Each team names their coaster and demonstrates how it works! So fun!

Water Slides

From the simplest materials- cardboard tubes, plastic wrap and foil, and straws – we make water slides. Students pour water at the top of the slide to test it for leaks. When it finally works we place a plastic toy at the top and let it ride down the water slide.

The sharing is also fun in this one! I do require that each slide have a ladder to the top- so teams divide the work. One part builds the ladder and one part of the team builds the slide.

Have plenty of towels on hand for this one!

STEM Challenge- Build a working water slide that will transport a plastic toy to a splashdown at the bottom!

Basketball Goals

STEM Challenge- Build a basketball goal and a device that will launch the ball into the goal.

I suspect it’s the competition that makes this a favorite! Students build the goal – with netting- and a device to launch the ball to the goal. We use a ping pong ball as the basketball.

Sharing time for this one means every team gets to show off their shooting skills as they show us their goal.

We have another challenge similar to this one that involves a football launcher and a goalpost!

No matter which challenge you try your students will love these!

Links for you!

STEM Challenges- the five favorites for STEM according to the students votes. Five challenges are featured!

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