Two teams working together, you say? Some of you might say it is hard enough to get one team to work together! Well, I have some STEM challenges that are perfect for this.
And, they work!
This idea was something I mulled over for quite a while. My first thought was to have every team with the same materials and with each building something different. But I decided to try something a little calmer first!
Here’s the premise: Every team has the same materials. Two teams work together. One team builds part of the structure. The other team builds the other part. They must join the two parts together- successfully.
For this to work each team must do its job. There are important measurement criteria to follow and a few other things to think about. Could we do it?
I divided the test class into sets of two teams. We had a total of six teams- so three pairs. I explained what was going to happen and then stood back to watch!
Eventually, I tried three versions of this scenario.
- Bridge Towers
- Launchers and Targets
- Rescue Devices
This was completed by third graders. One team built the bridge and the second team built the tower that sits on the bridge.
Problems to solve- the bridge crew had to make the bridge wide enough to hold the tower and the span had to reach both sides of the gap. The tower crew had to make a tower that could be easily moved to the bridge and remain standing upright.
TIP: For younger students make the span area of the bridge a small distance. Twelve inches is what I used for this challenge. It was just far enough apart to make the challenge problematic (since none of the materials would reach all the way across without being connected).
TIP: You can see play-dough in the photo. Don’t use it! It is much heavier than you think and causes all sorts of problems since it softens as students play with it. I used it with the test class and then tossed it!
Launchers and Targets
In this challenge for fourth -graders, one team built the catapulting device and the other team built the target. The two teams were able to take turns attempting to hit the target which made this challenge even more fun.
Problems to solve- The catapulting device needs to stay together when it is used. Too many of them fly apart because they are poorly made. The target team must make a large target or they can never hit it!
TIP: Use pom-poms for your projectile since they cannot hurt if one is accidentally launched at a person. Large pom-poms or cotton balls work well. Also, have some launching rules to prevent hitting students!
This is one of my favorite challenges and was completed by fifth-graders. One team makes the cranking device and the other makes the rescue carrier. The story is that there is something that must be retrieved from the bottom of a canyon. The cranking device will turn and lift the passenger carrier to safety.
Problems to solve- The cranking device must have a handle and a way to wind up the string. The carrier must stay stable is it is lifted.
TIP: Students must realize that turning something heavy enough to support the weight of a passenger and the carrier is difficult. Merely winding a straw with your fingertips is not realistic. Imagine doing that with something as large as a tree trunk. That is why the challenge has the rule about having a handle to use to turn the crank. I show students a reel measuring tape to demonstrate how the crank might work. A fishing pole reel would also be good.
TIP: To convince students that a large pole would be too heavy to move easily I have them pick up a 3-foot tree limb that we have in our lab. It is remarkably heavy and quite eye-opening. If three feet (about a 6-inch diameter) is that heavy how heavy would a 6-foot pole weigh? This is one way to convince them that the cranking device needs a handle!
These three challenges each have a remarkable lesson!
One team builds half of the structure and the other builds the second half. The two teams must communicate throughout the design and building time to coordinate the parts of the project.
This was a wonder to watch, folks. Team members sketched ideas and then the two teams all converged at one work space to talk about which ideas would work best together. As they built the parts they constantly took pieces from one work space to the other to test them together.
But, here is the best part. They were all so diligent to work together and they were excited about it! It is an amazing challenge for building the concept of teamwork!
Which one of these Two Teams Working Together challenges will you try first?
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