Challenges: Science, Engineering, Math, and Logic

  1. Use 10 centimeter square piece of aluminum foil and create a boat that will hold the greatest amount of weight. Use pennies to test for weight.
  2. Soundproof a cardboard box. Materials: cardboard box (may want to put size restrictions), alarm clock or radio with a fine volume control or remote control which can be controlled from outside the box.
  3. Design three ways to measure the strength of a sheet of paper.
  4. Create a pendulum that swings sixty times in one minute.
  5. Use a piece of paper (8.5 X 11 inches), 15 cm of string, one rubber band, and 5 cm of masking tape and make a link for a chain. Use clothesline to tie each link to a tug-of-war line and pull until one breaks, record, pull till another breaks, record, and so on until all have broken.
  6. Use a birthday candle to heat water 10 degrees. How can the same amount of water be heated 50 degrees by using less candle? Materials: birthday candles, matches, test tubes, test tube holders, and thermometers.
  7. Use a toothpaste pump and make it pump something. Materials: wire or stick to push plunger from toothpaste tube (coat hanger or dowel rod the diameter of a coat hanger), toothpaste pumps, water, buckets, and flour.
  8. Create and/or solve circuit puzzle boxes. Materials: small boxes, wire, brass fasteners or small nuts and bolts, battery and bulbs to test the circuits.
  9. Paste or tape a magnet or magnets into a box. Seal and challenge students to guess what is inside. Older students can be challenged to find the shape of the magnet and the orientation of the magnetic field.
  10. Put objects into paper bags, socks, or legs containers. The students an be challenged to identify the objects. Could have pairs of objects and challenge the students to match the pairs by sound.
  11. Use dice to play ring around the roses.

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  12. Aunt Molly likes yellow but she doesn’t like blue. Aunt Molly likes green but she doesn’t like orange. Aunt Molly likes the moon but she doesn’t like Mars.
  13. Nine squares. Make a 3x3 grid of squares for a total of nine, then put numbers in each square so that the total sum of three numbers horizontally, vertically, and diagnonally is equal. For example place one of the numbers 1-9 in each square so the sums are equal to fifteen. Also available are puzzles with nine square pieces to assemble. Also nine dots in a 3x3 grid and challenge to connect all nine dots with four straight lines.
  14. Five square group challenge teams are challenged to build five different squares of the same size from the provided puzzle pieces without talking or taking.
  15. Can you use a syringe to remove water from a glass inverted in a container of water.

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  16. Hand out a sheet of paper and ask the student to walk through it.
  17. Give the students a picture of some objects like planets and moons and ask if they can calculate the size of one from the other. Or a picture of Michael Jordan dunking a basketball and ask them to calculate how high he jumped.
  18. Can you drop an egg from the top of the school and have it not crack-up.
  19. Have students build a car with an egg as the passenger. Release it at the top of a ramp and run it into a brick wall. Can they design safety feature so the egg will survive the crash? Safety belts or straps, air bags, break away cars.
  20. Build an electric circuit with two switches so that one switch will turn on an electric light if the other is off, one will turn off the light if the other is off, and neither will turn off the light if the other is on.
  21. Build an electric circuit so that either switch will turn on or off the electric light no matter what the position of the other switch.
  22. Build a sturdy bridge. Provide students with a limited amount of materials. Example 100 plastic straws, 10 yards of thread, 100 staples or 100 pins, one sheet 12x18 oak tag. The group that builds a bridge that spans 12 inches between two desks and holds the most weight is the winner.
  23. Build a sturdy tower. Give each group 50 straws and 100 pins (or 50 cm masking tape) and which ever group builds a tower at least 12 inches tall and holds the most weight is the winner.
  24. Build a tall tower. Give each group 50 straws and 100 pins (or 50 cm masking tape). Which group that builds the tallest tower wins. Probably need to go to a gym or other place with high ceilings.
  25. Solar box challenge. Have students build a box that will be placed out doors during the day for the designated time during a sunny afternoon. Provide each student with a thermometer and have them place it into their box. The box with the highest temperature reading is the winner. Or the winner could be the one that stays above room temperature the longest after they are returned to the classroom.
  26. Ice cube melt. Give each student a plastic bag and an ice cube. The student with the most water in the bag at the end of 10 minutes is the winner.
  27. What is the greatest weight you can support with a 4X6 index card?
  28. Can you lift your teacher?
  29. Can you make a thermometer?
  30. Can you make an alarm system that will be set-off when a person breaks into a container?
  31. Balance a nickel on a table with a paper match balanced on top of it. Then place a plastic cup over both of these. Can you knock the match off the nickel without knocking the nickel over.
  32. Can you float a cork in a glass of water so that it does not float to the side of the glass?
  33. What is the tallest free standing structure you can make using only playing cards and masking tape?
  34. Build as complicated a structure inside a clear plastic two liter bottle without cutting the bottle or altering the bottle in any manner. Entry is only allowed through the original hole at the top of the bottle.
  35. Ice preservation challenge. Have each student make a device that will preserve ice. Limit the materials and resources they may use. At the start of the challenge provide student with a plastic vial of ice. Have them place the vial into their device. The student that has the most ice left at the end of the designated time is the winner.
  36. Use two Popsicle sticks and make a bird’s beak which will get seed from the food source? Food source and seed is a plastic vial with a marble in it. Or more complicated use the following materials to make a beak to harvest a variety of foods from different locations. Materials: 2 paper clips, 2 Popsicle sticks, 1 clothes pin, 2-15 cm strips of masking tape. Food sources: 1. 5 cm piece of plastic straw or coffee stir set flat on a table. 2. Large marble on the top of a table able to roll. 3. Penny flat on the table. 4. 7 cm piece of string flat on the table. 5. Large marble at the bottom of a plastic medicine vial.
  37. Hot water keeper. Give each person 100 ml of 100 degree water, place it into their container, time for 15 minutes, hottest winner, or put thermometers in each, record the temperature every minute for 15 minutes, and the winner is the one with a graph that has the smallest slope.
  38. Make an object that when put into a container of water, it will sink, stay sunk for at least 10 seconds, then rise to the top, and float there a minute.
  39. Airplane flying challenge. All students are given the same design and the furthest flight wins, or longest in air. Or the students are given the same design and are allowed to add any number of paper clips they desire. Or they are allowed to use any design they choose for their plane, but limit the materials.
  40. Balloon race. Put a string across the room and each person gets a straw, balloon, 3x5 cards, and tape. The rocket that moves the furthest on the string wins.
  41. One hundred gram motorized lift challenge. Give each student or group an electric motor and allow them to design and bring materials for a device to lift 100 grams.
  42. Parachute. Make a parachute that is less than 24 inches in diameter. Add 5 grams, drop from a high place, time, the one that takes the longest to hit the ground wins.
  43. Tin can derby. Use a coffee can, washers, lids, rubber band, and washers to make an object that can roll across the floor by itself. The furthest roll wins, or the straightest.

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  44. Seed to seed. The first person to grow a plant from a seed, plant a seed from that plant, and have it germinate wins.
  45. Grow the tallest plant in 10 days.
  46. Plants alive. The person(s) that can keep a plant alive all year wins.
  47. Locust tree germinator. The first person to germinate a Locust tree seed wins.
  48. Water filter. Construct a filter that cleans dirty water. May want to limit materials and size of filter. Give each person one cup of dirty water, the water with the best clarity wins.
  49. Design a creature that could live on another planet.
  50. Catapult. Build a catapult. The one that launches the teacher’s rock the farthest wins.
  51. Bubble contest. Make the largest, smallest, most, fewest, different shapes, (JOY). Use an overhead projector and a needle to find where on the surface of a bubble is the weakest.
  52. Design a way to measure the brightness of light bulbs.
  53. Density of liquids. Make a hydrometer from straws, clay, and BB’s. Use it to order liquids of different densities.
  54. Strongest electromagnet. Give each student the same amount of materials: wire, battery, and metals. Use paper clips or other objects to test the strength.
  55. Use a pan balance to arrange x amount of objects in order by mass.
  56. Use a pan balance and 12 objects with all but one having the same mass. Determine which one is different in three weighings or less. Make up mass problems of your own.
  57. Using a five and four liter bucket how can you measure two liters? Using a four and three liters bucket how can you measure two liters? Make up others of your own.
  58. Get a grow toy and challenge students to find how much it grows or how much water it will absorb.
  59. Balance 6 common nails on a pencil.
  60. Paper towel sucker-up contest. Design a paper towel to soak-up the most water. Must be smaller than 10 cm X 10 cm X 2 cm.
  61. Use a candle, a block of wood, and copper tubing to build a steam engine boat.
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  63. Use the materials to lift the student? Materials: Plastic bag, air pump, duct tape, board, chair, student.
  64. 63. Make a trap to capture a particular kind of insect (fly, cricket, cockroach) alive.
  65. Build a machine that counts.
  66. Select a food label and make a report that describes every word on the label.
  67. Make a list of simple machines. Identify ten of the most common tools in a shop and describe how each includes a simple machine.
  68. Create a magic demonstration that changes the color of a liquid and perform your act.

Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes &