STEM challenges for kids are an easy way to work science, technology, engineering and mathematic principles into play. Today we are doing a red cup challenge that is one of our favorite STEM activities. In the red cup STEM challenge, kids will explore STEM planning, experimenting and implementation all within the framework of a fun game.
STEM Challenges for Kids
Do you ever have an “Ah-ha” moment? When a new STEM concept becomes obvious to kids, it can be exciting! Encourage learning through STEM activities by hosting your own STEM challenge! A STEM challenge can be independent study with one student challenging time, distance or height, or with multiple students including a whole classroom competing against each other.
STEM Challenge in the Classroom
About two years ago I started teaching an integrated science course. The Integrated Science Class is a large class of 39 kids, with mixed grades (3rd to 8th graders) and we strive to mix science, technology, engineering and math skills each week, learning by solving challenges.
Every week we break the kids up into teams randomly and give them a set of rules for their new STEM challenge. The red cup STEM challenge worked really well with a large group – this is how we implemented it in the classroom.
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Red Cup STEM Challenge for Kids
1. Break Into Teams for Red Cup Challenge
At the beginning of the class we broke the kids into teams. We typically run 35-40 kids a class period, breaking into teams makes the class more manageable. The teams are completely random, and each week the kids are paired with a new group and new challenges.
2. Each Team Receives the Same Supplies for STEM Challenge
In our red cup challenge, each team received these supplies. You can alter the number and type of supplies based on time and number of kids in the class.
Supplies Needed for Red Cup Challenge for Each Team
Directions for Red Cup STEM challenge
Our directions for the red cup challenge were intentionally brief and open-ended…
Goal of STEM Challenge:
The ultimate goal of the red cup STEM challenge was that teams needed to make a pyramid of red cups and place a LEGO minifigure on the top of the tower WITHOUT TOUCHING THE CUPS OR THE FIGURE WITH THEIR HANDS.
Working Toward the STEM Challenge Goal Together
The kids need to work together to come up with a way to move the cups. There were several good (and different) techniques experimented with in our classroom:
- Some kids lifted the cups with the straws.
- Other children tried tying the string to the cups and then lifting the string ends to lift the cups.
- Another team stretched rubber bands to place them around the cups, then lifted the cups as a team.
Winning the REd Cup Challenge
After a team “won” the challenge, I would ask them to tell me to show me how they did it… and then we would remove a tool or add an obstacle and they had to re-think the challenge and re-do it.
The STEM Challenge Didn’t Stop with First Win
Some of the additional challenges and obstacles we placed on teams for the second round:
- For the team that lifted the cups with the straws we took the straws away.
- For a team that had struggles communicating we made everyone silent except for the child who was the quietest.
- For a team who was super, super fast, we had them put their left hands into their back pockets.
- Another team had half of their members blind-folded with crepe paper blindfolds.
More STEM Activities for Kids
Looking For More STEM Fun?
What did your kids think about the red cup STEM challenge? How did they solve the building problems?