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Grab your Free Guide - 3 sTEps to stem success

Foosball STEM Challenge

Are you ready for some foosball? Your students will love this STEM activity and you will, too. (It’s a free resource!)

I still remember playing foosball when I was a teenager. We lived overseas, in Germany. I was an Army kid! Yep, grew up in Germany where we lived on an Army base, went to American schools, and all of us were from the states. I could write a whole blog post on what it meant to grow up in that culture… but today we are talking all about foosball!  

This one was just amazingly fun! And, it’s going to be fun for you too- especially because there is a freebie involved! Take a look!

STEM Challenge Freebie - Students use simple materials to create a working mini-foosball table. Perfect for Elementary STEM and it’s FREE!

In this post, for your convenience, you may find Amazon Affiliate links to resources. This means that Amazon will pass on small percentages to me with your purchase of items. This will not create extra costs for you at all! It will help me keep this blog running!

How to Begin

First of all, you are going to need some boxes.  I asked the kids to bring in boxes and that turned out to be a mistake. Kid-sized shoeboxes are not wide enough for this project, so be sure you ask for dad’s shoe boxes! (Even some of my size seven ladies’ shoe boxes were too small!)  

So, plan ahead on this one and collect some nice-sized boxes. Even ask parents to send in the smaller Amazon boxes because those will work, too!  

Gather the Materials

You are going to need wide craft sticks, straws, dowels sticks, markers, scrap paper, and masking tape.   

You will also need tools to help you make the holes in the boxes. For most of the boxes, we were able to make holes using a hole puncher. For the thicker cardboard, I used a Phillip’s Head screwdriver set and a box cutter to do this. NOTE: I made the holes for the kids! Safety first!

Making the Holes for the Kickers

STEM Activity Freebie - Students use simple materials to create a working mini-foosball table. Perfect for Elementary STEM and it’s FREE!

We talked about what a foosball table looks like and my kids knew this already! Many of them had a set at home or told me they had played at the Boys and Girls Club. I limited them to two rows of players for both sides of their table.   The groups chose their boxes and then planned how to set up their players and where they would want their rods to be. (We called the sticks going across the box our Player Rods.)

The teams marked the spots on their boxes where the rods would go and brought them to me to make the holes. You can see this in the photos!

One problem we discovered very quickly is that straws alone were not always going to work. Teams that had a narrow box could use straws. But, the wider boxes meant we had to join straws together. This is easy to do! Just flatten one end and slide it into another straw. Wrap a piece of tape around the ends to hold it together.  

Now, I say this works, but it does cause the spot to be weak. Another weak part we groaned about was the flexible part of the straw! Those parts would open a little and cause the straws to sag.  

So, how did we solve this? (Here’s another quick note! When I say we I mean myself, too. I invent challenges all the time that have materials that don’t work the way I think they will. We do some on-the-spot adjusting and add materials as needed when this happens.) In this case, we added the dowel sticks!

Sticks or Straws… or Both

As soon as I saw the straws were causing problems I pulled out some dowel sticks. You can also use skewers. (Note: A skewer is a shish-ka-bob stick and you need to snap off the pointed end.)   We tried the dowel sticks alone and then slid them inside the straws to see what would happen.    A couple of things to think about with the sticks!  

  1. They did create more stability!
  2. They were longer so they worked perfectly with the wider boxes.
  3. Sometimes they were too long, but you can easily snap a piece off with wire cutters.

Alright, this is the first part of the challenge- getting those holes cut and sticks placed and aligned. We are almost ready for the players!   But, first, let’s talk about mistakes we made that might help you plan!  

Mistakes

STEM Project Freebie - Students use simple materials to create a working mini-foosball table. Perfect for Elementary STEM and it’s FREE!

In the top photo, you can see that the players are very short. This group attached their players so that the bottom of the craft stick dragged on the box. We snipped off the bottom with wire cutters.

Now, in the second photo, the players are attached low to the stick.  The sides of this box were not as high and we had to place the dowel sticks low. The team made the adjustment in how they attached the players and it worked!

TIP #1: Make sure the holes for the dowel sticks or straws line up!

TIP #2: Try to find longer straws or skip the straws completely and use dowel sticks.  

TIP #3: Dowel sticks are more costly than straws, but they can be reused for a long time. I use 3/16 inch diameter sticks more than other sizes. Try Wal-Mart or Hobby Lobby for these!

The Players

STEM Challenge Freebie - Students use simple materials to create a working mini-foosball table. Perfect for Elementary STEM and it’s FREE!

Wow, my students loved this! They decorated those craft sticks with great detail. They added facial expressions, uniform numbers, and bright colors.

TIP: Have students decide what their players will look like before they decide where to place the holes and rods. If they are using the entire length of the craft stick as their player then the holes will work better closer to the top of the box. 

Tape or Glue?

Now, a little more about how we test challenges before I tell you guys about them. I find that we make mistakes and that is why I leave tips here about everything we do. One thing we tried (well one among many) with this challenge is using hot glue guns to attach our craft sticks to the dowel rods. This did work, but we learned two things.  

  1. The glued sticks would not allow us to adjust easily. We found in testing our sets that we would have one wonky player that needed to be moved slightly, but it was not easy to do with the glue globs.
  2. After the glue cooled and we tried to use the players they would snap off more easily. Try to figure that one out!

So, we started using masking tape- which worked much better!

Constant Testing

STEM Activity Freebie - Students use simple materials to create a working mini-foosball table. Perfect for Elementary STEM and it’s FREE!

This challenge required a lot of testing and adjusting. Students would add a player and kick around a marble to see if the player was tall enough and could also reach the marble. If you raised the sticks up too tall then the player missed hitting the marble every time!

Another small tip- we tried lots of different objects to kick. Ping pong balls were too big, the rubber ball in the photo above was too heavy and hard to kick, and the marbles worked really well.

Competitions

STEM Challenge Freebie - Students use simple materials to create a working mini-foosball table. Perfect for Elementary STEM and it’s FREE!

Can you just hear us screaming and cheering over the competitions!?

We set up two competition tables. Two groups were chosen to compete at each table and the remaining groups gathered around and watched. We kept a scoreboard with the winners and rotated to different groups to take a turn. When every group had played on those two foosball models, we switched out for new ones. 

Well, that method took a long time! So, we tried something different in another class. We set up all the foosball models and had 6 tables going at the same time. That still left enough kids to gather around and watch at different tables. This made the competitions work faster!

FREEBIE!

So, I know you’d like to try this challenge. I have it listed as a freebie in my Teachers Pay Teachers store and you can click on any of the images to see it!

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STEM Project Freebie - Students use simple materials to create a working mini-foosball table. Perfect for Elementary STEM and it’s FREE!

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