In this tower building STEM Challenge, students work against a criteria and constraints list to build a tower designed for height and/or stability.
This tower-building STEM / STEAM Challenges is perfect for summer – or any time of the year! It brings the joy back to your classroom with collaborative, hands-on, brain-busting work (disguised as fun)!
If you have spare index cards, at least 30 minutes, and a class to inspire, run this challenge as a fun, quick task for a rainy day, or select from multiple options provided to add depth and rigor to extend this activity to days or weeks of active learning!
The basic premise:
Individually, or in partners/groups, students work against a criteria and constraints list to build a tower designed for height and/or stability. You can choose to run the challenge as a single 20-30 minute fun building task, or select from multiple options to add layers of depth and rigor. (Please see the video preview to get an idea of your options.)
Note: Included in this resource is the regular “anytime” version and the Valentine’s Day Cards in the Clouds version.
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:
- Planning Pages
- Criteria & Constraints List (in color and B&W; editable version provided)
- Results and Design Analysis (2-page regular spacing and 4-page expanded) spacing for primary students included in color and and B&W)
- Discussion Questions (color and B&W)
- Extension templates
- Class-wide Data Analysis Activity (editable)
- Graph Class Data (editable)
- Design Your Own Tower Experiment (editable & with sample answers)
- Design Report
- Create Your Own Word Problems
- Process Flow Maps
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.
- 20 or more 3×5 index cards (or substitute business cards, card stock, or poster board)
- Tape (constrain to 12 in. or less)
- Rulers/measuring tapes (tip: pick up paper measuring tapes from Ikea)
- Copies of data recording & analyzing handouts
- Pipe cleaners
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 also available in paperless format (coming soon) and in the Mega Bundle.
If you prefer to purchase on TpT, click here.
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Preview Music Credit:
“Carefree” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License