5 More STEM Challenges


Last year, I posted 5 STEM Activities that could be completed easily in the classroom. I often get positive feedback regarding this post, and requests for more STEM challenges.

Without further adieu, I give you 5 more easy STEM challenges to promote collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving with your students.

Build a Paper Table. In this design activity, students work in groups and use newspaper, masking tape and cardboard to build a table to support a textbook. Build in competitive features like asking students to support the textbook at least 10 inches off of a table for at least 60 seconds. Design and redesign, asking students to think about design details that made some tables better or worse than others.

Make Cantilever Spans. Cantilevers are bridges that are supported only on one side. Students can easily use metal washers and paint sticks to design and create cantilevers using the edge of a table or desk. The beauty of this activity is that students must constantly reconsider their thinking in design to ensure a fully supported cantilever. Challenge students to build as long of a span as possible. Special thanks to Dr. Wesley Fryer for sharing this activity! Check out other design challenges at his website.


Build a Hot Air Balloon. This activity from the University of Arkansas Integrated STEM Education program is designed for students in Grades 1-4. Students will use a variety of materials to create and test their own hot air balloons. Students will read about a hot air balloon adventure with Curious George, then try to design and create their own models that will fly for at least 15 seconds. Think your students are up for a challenge? After they are successful with one design, challenge them to fly for distance rather than time.

Make Boats that Float. This activity also from the University of Arkansas Integrated STEM Education program is designed for students in the primary grades. Students use several materials including styrofoam cups, straws and aluminum foil to create boats that would support a “cupcake.” The plan ties in a literacy connection to the book Little Mouse and the Big Cupcake by Thomas Taylor. Students will have a great time testing their Boats that Float, tinkering to make changes, and retesting.

Create Rube Goldberg Projects. The ultimate in design challenges! Students can use any materials lying around the classroom or bring in recycled materials from home to create Rube Goldberg machines based on the famous cartoons. Have students create elaborate models for doing very simple activities, such as turning on the classroom lights. All of the resources you can possibly need are found at the Rube Goldberg website including contest information where your class design can be entered to compete with other classes around the world. Truly authentic design work for your students!


There you have it! 5 more activities to engage your students all year long. Let us know if you try any of these activities with your students by sharing in the comments section below.

Rich (@RACzyz)



3 thoughts on “5 More STEM Challenges

  1. Hi Rich
    I love your Blog and am a subscriber to your posts. What I love most about them is your succinctness at talking to creativity, the creative process and the arts. You choose your words carefully to deliver the greatest impact.
    I was surprised therefore to see that this post was entitled ‘STEM’ instead of STEAM. As an advocate for STEAM learning and arts integration, I urge you to consider the use of STEAM instead of STEM… Because words matter.

    1. Agree. Just connected to a post I did last year which is why I kept the STEM title! My district is actually opening STEAM labs in each of our buildings next year. Creativity and arts integration are critical to our students’ success!

  2. Marshmallow Challenge Handout. A great team building activity for the first days of school! Watched it in action, all types of students get involved! Love it!

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