I know you use cardboard tubes for STEM projects and I have some ideas for challenges you can try. But, first, why is a cardboard tube so great?
- Tubes are flexible. They bend easily and can be used as a springboard.
- Tubes are easy to cut or make holes in.
- Tubes are lightweight and come in many heights.
- Tubes can be reused. I have boxes of gently used or cut tubes and we use them over and over!
- Cardboard tubes are FREE! Yes, I know we have to buy the tissue or paper towels, but we use those items and throw away the tube. SAVE THEM!
- Better yet, ask parents to save them for you. You will soon have hundreds of tubes!
Cardboard Tube Projects
When I started looking for cardboard tube projects to mention for this post I literally found about 20. Don’t worry I am sharing only 6 – but these are the really good ones! (Well, all of our projects are good ones, but these are the ones students beg to do again and again.)
- Water Slides
- Wind Cars
- Animal Adaptations
- Marble Runs
Without a doubt this is the challenge my third graders love the most. They create a water slide using that tube as the slide part.
The dilemma for them is to protect the slide since cardboard is paper and water is not good with it. They must choose a material that will waterproof the slide.
We test these by pouring water down the slide and we watch Lego man zip down!
This challenge is really a lot more challenging than you would think! It has so many parts- the car body, the axle and wheels, and the sail.
The dilemma is getting the wheels to roll well enough for the sail to catch the wind and make the car move.
Most teams go through several iterations of the sail before they find the best position and size.
The task is to build a cranking platform that will lift a heavy object from the floor to the tabletop. We use this challenge in October and lift tiny pumpkins. You can also use this in April and lift plastic eggs.
The dilemma is the cranking system. Students must have a crank with a handle to help turn the device so the string winds up correctly. They must also build the platform for the weighted object.
Another favorite of my third graders. They love making robots! the tube is the body of the robot and we use scrap paper and gently used craft items to decorate the robot.
The dilemma is to create a realistic purpose for the robot and decorate it appropriately. This one is a doggy poop scooper- you might be able to see a round brown pom-pom that is the ‘poop’! It is decorated like a garbage can.
A favorite of fourth graders! The task is to build an animal model and make sure its adaptation is showing – so we can identify it.
The dilemma is creating a model that has a visible adaptation. The animal is the photo is a tiger that is showing its ability to camouflage itself into the background.
Fourth graders have built turtles, hedgehogs, penguins, and lizards. So fun and a great way to culminate a study of adaptations.
Fifth graders love this one- it’s basically a cardboard tube roller coaster. Tubes are used for everything!
The dilemma is making turns with the tubes, but we know how to create a flange to make the tube curve.
The best part of this challenge is sharing the finished models and cheering when marbles make it all the way to the bottom.
Here is one more tip for cardboard tube projects: Ask a large store (like Home Depot) to save the industrial tubes for you. The tubes for those giant rolls of tissue in restrooms are smaller, heavyweight cardboard. We use those in projects in many ways. They cannot be cut or have a hole made in them, but we find ways to use them!
The most versatile of materials is the amazing Cardboard tube! Click on the images to see more details!
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