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Basic STEM Challenges

We have several basic STEM challenges for all ages, designed as challenge play and discovery with simple materials suitable from pre-school on-up. Design and build challenges include topics in architecture, engineering, and electricity. Each challenge presents a design problem and set of materials for its solution.

Challenges are open-ended; there is no “correct” solution. Each challenge offers opportunity to explore how design,  materials, and creative choice combine to solve problems.

  • Architecture / Buildings
    • Cell Tower Design Challenge – design the tallest self-standing tower with limited materials. 
    • Bridge Building: Three Challenges – design and build a bridge from simple materials, and test its strength.  
    • Hurricane Challenge – “A Place for a Pig”– Design and build from limited materials a “Place for a Pig” strong enough to withstand a huffing-and-puffing wolf … or a hurricane. 
    • She-Shed/He-Shed – Here’s your chance to design your own special space and model what goes into it. Whether you become a professional architect or builder, or use what they produce, thinking about what you want in the space around you is an exercise for a lifetime. 
    • Marble Rollercoaster – popular and surprisingly instructive play exercise that develops intuitive understanding of potential and kinetic energy, conversion between the two, and the energy losses that come from friction and rolling resistance. A marble, a set of foam tubes cut lengthwise to make a track, tape, a launch tower, and the end-cup to catch the marble …and these challenges for the roller coaster: a hill, a loop, a spiral drop, and any combination of two or more! Lots of fun … and captivatingly hard! 
  • Transport
    • Paper Airplanes – who doesn’t love paper airplanes?! But do you have any idea how many designs there are? 
    • Puff Mobiles
  • Robots
    • BristleBots
  • Ciphers and Codes
    • Cyclic Shift / Transposition (Caesar Cipher)
    • Substitution
    • Code Books
  • Electricity
    • Switches
    • Logic Circuits – Design logic circuits for basic computer operations, using simple Do-It-Yourself switches, or in TinkerCAD Circuits, a Computer-Aided-Design tool with simulation.