Way back in October, I had my students engage in a STEM Challenge. (These are honestly a lot of fun!) The one I decided to have them complete was one that I was presented at a workshop. I had tried it out last year with my students but we did not have much success.
Students must work in groups to create the highest freestanding structure that can hold the weight of a marshmallow. (Sounds easy right?) Students may only use the materials given to them and have 45 minutes to complete the challenge.
- 25 pieces of uncooked spaghetti
- 1 yard of string
- 1 yard of masking tape (I gave my students the whole roll as a modification)
I broke the challenge up into two days and used the challenge with our Engineering Process unit in science. After the students learned the process, they were ready for the challenge!
On the first day, the students independently sketched their own design of their structure. They made sure to include as many details as possible. The other half of the period I had them meet in groups to combine their ideas.
On the second day, we reviewed the steps of the engineering process and which steps we had already completed. I gave them 10 minutes to discuss their ideas and then I passed out the materials to each group. I gave them exactly 45 minutes to complete the challenge. I did not assist any groups and only answered questions based on the rules.
My students worked hard and were truly engaged.
Here are some of the end results… This year, I had a winner! One group was able to complete the challenge. Please excuse the stickers and smiley faces – I must protect my kiddies’ indentities. Eventually this happened… However, the structure still held the marshmallow and was the tallest structure. (YAY!)
After the students completed the challenge they answered some questions on a lab sheet.
- What could you have done to make your structure better?
- Would you have used any other materials if you were given the opportunity? If so, which materials would you use and why would you use them?
I challenge you to do this with your students or your family (especially if you want a laugh with the adults) and share your results here! I would love to hear about it.