Individually, or in partners/groups, students work against a criteria and constraints list to build a boat that is designed for capacity and/or speed. You can choose to run the challenge as a single 20-30 minute fun building task to do on a rainy day, or select from multiple options to add layers of depth and rigor.
**Also available on Teachers Pay Teachers
When it’s the end of the school year, your summer activities need to be on-point to keep kids engaged! This summer STEM / STEAM Challenge brings the joy back to your classroom with collaborative, hands-on, brain-busting work (disguised as fun)!
The basic premise:
Individually, or in partners/groups, students work against a criteria and constraints list to build a boat that is designed for capacity and/or speed. You can choose to run the challenge as a single 20-30 minute fun building task to do on a rainy day, or select from multiple options to add layers of depth and rigor. (Please see the preview to get an idea of your options.)
Note: If you are in a 1:1 classroom, you may prefer the digital format, compatible with Google Slides ™.
- NGSS aligned standards, Grades 2 – 8
- Teacher Tips:
- Links to my 5-part video series on getting started with STEM challenges
- Materials and timing
- Criteria & Constraints (including modifications to increase difficulty for older students)
- Measuring results
- Universal STEM Challenge Notes & How to Use Student Handouts
- Post-design extension activities list
- Link to a video walk-through of the challenge
- Student Handouts:
- Criteria & Constraints List (in color and B&W; editable version provided)
- Results and Design Analysis (3-page regular spacing and 5-page expanded) spacing for primary students included in color and and B&W)
- Smartphone cut-outs (in color and B&W)
- Discussion Questions (color and B&W)
- Extension templates
- Class-wide Data Analysis Activity (editable)
- Graph Class Data (editable)
- Calculate Boat Speed (editable)
- Design Your Own Sailboat experiment (editable & with sample answers)
- Design Report
- Create Your Own Word Problems
- Process Flow Maps
- Detailed Teacher Guide
- The Thanksgiving MINI MAYFLOWER version of this challenge is included as part of this purchase!
Sample/suggested materials for each student or group:
Materials you’ll need to do the activity are easily modified. You don’t need to provide all of the following materials. Select a subset and/or add in your own ideas.
- Note: The links below are Amazon Affiliate links. Find out more on the disclosure page.
- At least one per class, if not one per student or group:
- Container filled with water to test the boats (be sure to choose a container with appropriate dimensions, or constrain students on length, width, height accordingly. For sailing tests, stream tables, under-bed-storage bins, or kiddie pools work well).
- Set of uniform objects to measure capacity (pennies, base-ten blocks, paperclips, balance weights, bouncy balls, etc.)
- For each student or group:
- Clay, foil and/or wax paper sheets
- 3×5 cards, paper, coffee filters, etc.
- Tape (masking tape or packing tape perform best, constrain to 12 in. or less)
Benefits of this STEM Design Challenge:
- Focus on critical thinking, problem solving, and application of learning
- Helps students develop growth mindset traits like persistence and resilience
- High levels of student engagement
- The potential to hit upon all NGSS ETS standards depending on the depth and number of iterations you choose to implement in your classroom (modifications included)
- Highly flexible and differentiated for materials, timing, grade levels, and rigor.
Each design iteration should be planned for ~60 min. if you are including data gathering and analysis rather than just building for fun. If you add extension activities, you will need to adjust timing accordingly.
This resource is available is also available in the Mega Bundle, as well as in a digital 1:1 format, compatible with Google Slides(TM).
If you prefer to purchase on TpT, click here.
Note: any coupon/promo codes for this site will only work on this site.
Preview Music Credit:
“Carefree” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License