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10 MINT Challenges You Must Try – Teachers are great STEM

I have a few favorite challenges for a lot of reasons. The students have their favorites – which are always different from mine. And then there are the challenges she have to try.

I’m sharing 10 must-try challenges today and I’ll explain why for each one.

Ten STEM challenges that need to be featured in this blog post.  Reasons why everyone is a big challenge are included along with tips for using them!

There is a back story with inventing some of these challenges. Some have experiments that you will love. Some have a great science lesson. Some are just fun to watch. Wait a minute – let’s take a look at some of the STEM challenges you will need to address soon!

Here's another awesome STEM hammock challenge that you absolutely must try!  This one is just plain fun (and challenge!).  Students have to build a model of a hammock.  There are two versions of this challenge.  Both are challenging and full of problem solving!
Do you need a real STEM engineering task?  How about a model of a robotic hand?  Briefly discuss how the hand works, then design a model.  This is a STEM challenge that must be tried out.

Build a hammock – When we first tried this challenge, the students used the legs of their laboratory stool as trees to hang their hammocks from. The next time I tried, I decided to add some difficulty by asking the students to build their trees and the hammock. This turned out to be the perfect additional requirement. Attaching the hammock to its cylindrical trees proved difficult. We loved the colorful hammock beds too. TIP: We used paper towel cardboard tubes for our trees.

Robotic hands – I love this challenge so much! The science lesson you can include is about how muscles, tendons, and ligaments work together. Knowing this will make it much easier for students to learn how to move their robotic hands. We tried these models with plastic gloves filled with tissues and flexible cardboard. TIP: Use these neon straws – this will make a living model.

Here is a STEM challenge that you must definitely try at the end of your animal adaptation study.  The students create a three-dimensional model of an animal of their choice and show how it has been adapted.  This is a great learning experience for everyone.
STEM and reading are a perfect combination.  This is a fabulous STEM must-try challenge, inspired by a pirate book.  Students build a treasure chest where they can keep any treasure of their choice.  The rules of the task are daunting - as daunting as a pirate!

Animal adaptations – I love this model because of the creativity students can add to their models while decorating. Before they get to this point, they need to design and build an animal model that shows its adaptation. During our exchange time, students have to explain the fitting and show that it works. I love to take advantage of challenges like this when students teach us what they have learned! TIP: You will need some feathers – buy them on the dollar tree!

Treasure chests – Another one you have to try! I always start with a conversation about pirates or share a picture book about pirates. The requirements of the challenge can be adjusted based on the age of your students. For my oldest teams, the top of the treasure chest had to have a hinged lid and the lid had to be rounded. This is a big problem! TIP: Have a “treasure” ready to put in the boxes, or let students make their own.

It's the Popcorn STEM Challenge!  This is one of my all-time favorites for exploring volume.  It's a STEM challenge that you absolutely have to try!
Here is another amazing STEM challenge that needs to be based on a real world application!  It's a fabulous building event that dumps fragile cargo!  Your students will love the real aspect and scenario of this challenge and they will cheer out loud when their structures work!  You will too!

Popcorn Challenge– I always call this the Popcorn Challenge, but it’s really a volume challenge. Have the students build a container that will perfectly hold a certain amount of popcorn. They learn a lot about how objects fill a room and have aha moments when we test their containers. TIP: Popcorn pop and use fresh. Old popcorn breaks more easily. You have to count the pieces, but it only takes five minutes!

Cargo drop– I love the back story of this one. I looked at an old news report about the 2004 tsunami and saw planes delivering water bottle packages to stranded survivors. I wondered if we could build something similar. The task is to build a container that will hold the cargo securely and that is also fragile. This means it needs to be secured so it doesn’t jump around. The one in this photo above is why this challenge is amazing. The single piece of cardboard on the bottom lands flat every time it is dropped. The cargo is hung up and wrapped in bubble wrap and remains safe! Brilliant! TIP: Use something light for the cargo – we’ll use marshmallows.

Basketball goals!  The most fun challenge ever in the STEM lab - definitely a must for STEM challenges!  This challenge is perfect for fall sports, but don't forget the great basketball tournament in March!  Your students will love taking part in this basketball STEM challenge!
If you are ready for a highly interesting STEM project, this Airplane Challenge is for you!  They know children love to throw paper planes.  Use this energy with this STEM activity!  This is a must have STEM challenge!

Basketball goals– The task is to create a target with a mesh back board and a catapulting device for shooting the basketball. We use table tennis balls. This is a must do because students love it so much! They will have the best time building and trying these devices, and they will ask to do it again. Trust me! TIP: Buy ping pong balls from the Dollar Tree! I buy a net at the yard in the Hobby Lobby and one yard is enough for several classes.

Paper planes – So much fun and that’s one of the reasons it’s a STEM challenge that you absolutely have to try! It starts with a free session where you simply fly every plane the students build. Then we learn to build a level that all follows the same pattern. We experiment with these planes – plane, weighted plane, curved wings, etc. The test results of the experiment are used to inform the design of the final paper plane. And of course we end up with a flying competition. TIP: We measure flights in meters / centimeters. These numbers are easier to average.

If you have limited supplies, can you still build a tower?  Yes you can!  This is a must have STEM challenge!  Students have to build a very tall tower with only two materials.  This resource also includes a bonus challenge!
How tall can you stack 100 cups?  Can you use your data to calculate mean, median, mode, and range?  This is a perfect STEM challenge to practice those math skills and improve teamwork with your students.

12 straws – So interesting! We tried to do this in two different ways. One version is to build the tallest tower with 12 straws. The towers tend to look very similar – since 12 straws aren’t very different. The second version is my favorite version and will be yours too. Students must choose a famous tower structure (they will be given 4 to choose from) and build a model of the tower. This changes everything about the challenge. The towers are small and so creative. The photo shows the Leaning Tower of Pisa! TIP: Choosing between 4 towers is a good number. In choosing the tasks you want, this task is more difficult. It’s the best way to have a team agree on one of four towers.

Cup stacking – It’s all about math! Some of the mug stacking tasks are just fun, but after each stacking event we calculate the mean, median, mode, and reach of the cups we are using or the height our stacks have reached. Many 4th and 5th grade students are familiar with these math terms, but practicing how to use these skills adds practical application. TIP: Foam cups can be very static. Paper or plastic cups are better, but cost more. The best mugs I’ve used were the 3-ounce plastic cups. And we’ll be using them again!

I am very excited that you are facing one of these STEM challenges! Which will you try first?

You might also like these blog posts:

STEM challenges you must try soon!  This post has ten great STEM challenges and reasons why you will enjoy them.  Tips for everyone are also included!

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