Summer STEM Challenge Events

Testing is over and as we inch closer to the end of the school year, summer is on the brain!  It can be so difficult to keep kids engaged in ANYTHING, let alone meaningful and rigorous lessons/activities!  You don’t want to waste instructional time, but you’re a little burned out from fighting the good fight all year long!  We have all been there. Every. Single. Year.

Solution: End the school year joyfully AND academically with summer STEM Challenges! They’re collaborative, hands-on, brain-busting work (disguised as fun)!

Watch this brief video above for an overview of the challenges, and to see what comes with the resource.

As you scroll through this post, you’ll find a brief overview and photos of each challenge; more details can be found by clicking on the challenge titles.  Each challenge has a video walk-through and comes in printable and paperless resources.

Note: You can make do without the resources, though I think we all know that you really deserve to treat yourself; read on for details.  🙂

Video Walk-Throughs Include:

* An overview of how to conduct the challenge

* Basic criteria & constraints

* Ways to make the challenge easier or harder for your students

* How to extend with cross-curricular lessons/activities

* Demonstrations & examples

* Materials tips & more!

5 summer STEM Challenges - finish the school year strong with collaborative, hands-on, brain-busting work (disguised as fun)! Modifications included for grades 2 - 8.Challenge Blog/Vlogs:
Drippin’ Dash: posted
Pick & Pack: posted
Keep it Cool / Make it Melt: posted
Wicked Fast Water Slide: posted
Amphibious Phone: posted
Make sure you pin the image at the left so you can easily make your way back!


As always, materials
for all challenges are modifiable and most, if not all, can be picked up from a Target or Dollar Tree.


Each challenge will take about 60-90 minutes, depending on your students’ age and experience with STEM challenges. You might also choose to do some post-design extensions, which are not accounted for in this estimate.

I recommend one challenge per day or week leading up to summer break, or even all challenges in one day-long 5-event pentathlon!  A reminder: STEM challenges are always most beneficial when done in multiple iterations, but they can be treated as one-off activities as well.


Summer STEM Challenge 1: Pick & Pack


Four Trunk Options
Basic Premise: Individually or in partners, students will select items to pack for a road trip. In this 2-D simulation of a 3-D task, students arrange items with different point values into pre-defined car trunk spaces. They can’t have it all, though! They’ll use a criteria & constraints list to bring all of what they need and some of what they want, as they aim for the highest point value.

Special notes: This one is deceptively simple, but there are many ways to amp it up. For example, require the perimeter to be comprised of alternating prime and composite number items or entirely of powers of two — that’s just the beginning of what this challenge has to offer!  Also note, this challenge focuses hard on the “M” in STEM! 

Summer STEM Challenge 2: Amphibious Phone


Basic Premise: Individually or in partners/groups, students will design and build a summer-proof* case for a smart phone.(No actual smart phones will be harmed in this activity; they’ll create weighted test phones!)

= waterproof & retrievable when dropped in a body of water


Special notes: This one is very challenging! Waterproofing is tough! It’s not for the faint of heart! Remember: productive failure is an important goal of STEM challenges. The first iteration may not go well, but give it a second shot and let your students amaze you! Ideas to make the challenge easier will be included in the video walk through. 

Summer STEM Challenge 3: Keep it Cool– Make it Melt


Basic Premise: In partners or groups, students will design and build two devices: one to slow the melting process (Keep it Cool) and one to speed it up (Make it Melt).
Special notes: This is one of my favorites, but it incorporates observation, which can be time consuming. My recommendation is to have students run the Drippin’ Dash Relay Race in between observation intervals! See below! 

Summer STEM Challenge 4: Drippin’ Dash

Basic Premise: Individually or in partners/groups, students will design and build a water scoop purpose-built for volume and stability to be used in a relay race: The Drippin’ Dash.

If students work in groups, it is recommended that they make at least two designs so they have a back up available if one fails during the race.
Special notes: I usually ask partners/groups to produce more than one design in the given time frame. I let them choose which one(s) to use in the race. There are a few options for running the race included in my product, but you can make up your own rules as you see fit.  One thing I recommend is that the students bring back-up designs with them to the race to sub-out for another that might break mid-race.


Summer STEM Challenge 5: Wicked-Fast Water Slide

Basic Premise:
In partners/groups, students will design and build a water slide built for speed, thrills, and safety.

Special notes: Who doesn’t love a good water slide?!  Everyone focuses on height, twists, and turns! Younger students focus on safety (the beads don’t fly off the slide); older kids focus on safety & max speed!  Pro-tip: add a little blue food coloring to the water!



For more details, or to purchase the activity set with modifications, handouts, and more, click the printable or paperless bundle image below.




All the information you need to do these challenges is available in the video walk-throughs on the individual challenge posts, but there are a ton of time-saving goodies in the resources you’ll want to check out!

Here’s a taste of what you’ll get in each challenge resource!

  • NGSS standards
  • Teacher notes/guide
  • Criteria & Constraints Lists (editable)
  • Modifications to increase the difficulty for older students
  • Data recording & analysis handouts (two sets for younger/older students)
  • Extension ideas, bonus handouts, and more!
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