The Best STEM Challenge EVER - momgineer

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Best STEM Challenge EVER


The Best STEM Challenge for Grades 3-6

The Best STEM Challenge EVER! Design and create a cargo ship with the engineering design process. Build a boat and test it out while learning about density, buoyancy, and Archimedes' Principle. Read the post for 8 more amazing STEM challenges!  | Meredith Anderson -  Momgineer

Improve Student Learning with a STEM Challenge

If you are learning about density, buoyancy, or Archimedes' principle, this is a the perfect STEM challenge to learn about what density really means in a hands-on way. This is also a great activity to tie into social studies concepts, whether you are learning about explorers, The Mayflower, or the history of transportation.


Students need to use their findings from an aluminum foil science experiment and apply what they learn to their boat design.


Top 3 Reasons Students LOVE this STEM Challenge

The Best STEM Challenge EVER! Design and create a cargo ship with the engineering design process. Build a boat and test it out while learning about density, buoyancy, and Archimedes' Principle. Read the post for 8 more amazing STEM challenges!  | Meredith Anderson -  Momgineer

As you can tell from the image above, this group of students decided to try out additional materials to see if they could increase the buoyancy of their cargo ships. Some fun ideas I observed were using straws and balloons. I love their creativity!

Because you can succeed at this challenge with just aluminum foil, it leaves a lot of room for improvement and modification ideas. This is a challenge that works great outdoors, because testing boats in water is just easier to do when clean up is a snap. Kids love to be outside and don't mind getting wet. They are also always amazed at just how many pennies a boat can hold. They will test and re-test their ships as long as you let them, tweaking the design here and there to see if they can make it even stronger.

Why Teachers LOVE this STEM Challenge

It's not just about the hands-on fun part. Any kid who has used a pool noodle or flotation device will have a pretty good idea about density and what will float, but what about materials that don't seem buoyant? How does a huge cruise ship float? Can a concrete canoe float?

The Best STEM Challenge EVER! Design and create a cargo ship with the engineering design process. Build a boat and test it out while learning about density, buoyancy, and Archimedes' Principle. Read the post for 8 more amazing STEM challenges!  | Meredith Anderson -  Momgineer

Use Higher-Order Thinking and Soft Skills

Students need to use HOTS to solve this engineering challenge, but they will also gain important soft skills practice, like perseverance and working in a team. Growth mindset and STEM challenges go hand in hand, too. Why? Failure is bound to happen. Improving the initial design is a vital part of any STEM challenge.

Here's what some teachers are saying about this challenge:

"The warm up activity was phenomenal! I told the kids (high school resource room) that it would be a challenge to make the tin foil ball small enough to sink and they ate it up! They found creative ways to squished the tinfoil down (Stepping on it was the most successful)"

Great resource! Very thorough and provided excellent extensions. Thank you very much!"

"I love how thorough it is! It takes you step by step over the fundamentals and it's easy to use. Thank you!"

Dig Deeper with the Best STEM Challenge EVER

In addition to the warm up science activity and text, I have included math extension activities as a follow-up. These come in two levels so they can be used for different age ranges or to differentiate.


This is one of my favorite STEM challenges to do with students. They are always surprised just how many pennies their cargo ships can hold. They also realize that stability plays an important part in their ship's design. If they add all of the pennies to one spot, will their boat tip over?

Get the challenge on Teachers pay Teachers, or save money with a bundle of great engineering challenges:

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/STEM-Activity-Boat-Design-Challenge-1348728?utm_source=Momgineer%20Blog&utm_campaign=BEST%20STEM%20Challenge%20EVER%20
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/STEM-Activities-Engineering-Design-Challenge-BUNDLE-3148356?utm_source=Momgineer%20blog&utm_campaign=Best%20STEM%20challenge%20ever


Pin this challenge to save it for later!
The Best STEM Challenge EVER! Design and create a cargo ship with the engineering design process. Build a boat and test it out while learning about density, buoyancy, and Archimedes' Principle. Read the post for 8 more amazing STEM challenges!  | Meredith Anderson -  Momgineer

More Amazing STEM Challenges Your Students Will LOVE

Click on any of the images below to read about more STEM challenges from other STEM educators.
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Graphics and Font Credits: KG Fonts and PhotoClipz

momgineer Meredith Anderson

STEM education is my passion!

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