GYSTC STEM Challenges


STEM Challenges are centered around the engineering design process. They immerse students in a hands-on inquiry focused on a phenomena (observable event) that aligns with the key concepts under study.  Each also comes with literacy connections, close reads, visual vocabulary and a short video that highlights key aspects of the challenge. 

Kids absolutely love doing them and they generally use materials that are cheap and easy to find.  You gotta try some of these!


Simple Machine STEM Challenge

Simple machines are tools that help us do work. The invention of these tools have helped humans to become very successful as a species. Simple machines allow us to do tasks that would be impossible using our bodies alone.
In this STEM Challenge, the student’s task is to build a pair of pliers that grab and hold an object of their choice. In doing so, the pliers should carry out some sort of useful function.
Key Concepts: simple machines, forces, work, lever, tools.


Desert Microbe STEM Challenge

In this STEM Challenge, your job is to calculate how much water a newly discovered desert microbe can ingest. As part of this challenge, you will also have to decide when the microbe has become saturated and can no longer absorb additional water.

​Key Concepts: conservation, environmental changes, water, climate change.


Harnessing the Wind STEM Challenge

Wind is moving air and we can use the energy in the wind to do useful things. For example, tools called windmills have used for centuries to grind grain into flour for baking and pump water from one place to another. 
In this STEM Challenge, the student's tack is to build a model of a windmill that lift an object in a useful manner.
Key Concepts: wind, green energy, forces, motion, air, energy transformation.


Earthquake Engineering S.C.

While most building designs need not consider the stresses produced when the ground shakes, building in areas that are earthquake prone need to be designed to withstand such pressures.
The task in this challenge is for students to design an earth-quake resistant structure using two or more design strategies.
Key Concepts: constructive and destructive forces, earthquakes, engineering.


Binary Code STEM Challenge

This STEM Challenge provides an excellent introduction to binary code. Although students are now learning more and doing more with computer programming (coding), they often have little idea of how computers communicate. After learning about binary code, the initial task in this challenge is for students to use their emerging understanding of binary code to construct a name bracelet.
Key Concepts: coding, patterns, sequencing, programming.


Robotic Hand STEM Challenge

The science of developing robotic hands, along with other artificial limbs, is called prosthetics. Prosthetics are intended to restore as many normal functions as possible for a missing body part. In this STEM Challenge, your task is to design a simple robotic hand that can grasp and pick up a small object. Along the way you are likely to gain an appreciation for the amazing abilities of the human hand.
Key Concepts: forces, tendons, hands, body systems, robotics, prosthetics,.


Awesome Arches STEM Challenge

​Arches are amazing structures. As curved symmetrical structures that span various openings, they are designed to support the weight the bridge, wall, or roof that are above it. In this STEM Challenge, your task is to measure and compare the strength of two simple bridges.

In each case, you will actively investigate how the design acts to disperse forces and, in doing so, adds (or fails to add) to the strength of the structure.
Key Concepts: force, mass, gravity, engineering


Spider Web STEM Challenge

One of the coolest adaptations of spiders is their ability to use webs to capture prey. The webs help spiders because they allow them to catch prey without having to run them down.  
In this STEM Challenge, your job is to create and test a model of a spider web needed for the best hunting possible.  In designing your web, you should engineer like a spider who starts with the foundational strand, adds the outward ones and then ties things together. 
Key Concepts: adaptations, habitats, animals, natural selection 


Homemade Projector STEM Challenge

In this STEM Challenge, students create a homemade projector using a simple magnifying glass to project a cartoon from their Smart Phone.  The light from the Smart Phone is refracted inward by the convex lens provided by the magnifying glass.   

This STEM Challenge provides an excellent chance for students to apply what they have been learning about light and lenses.
Key Concepts: light, refraction, lenses. 


Elevator STEM Challenge

When designed well, elevators are super useful machines.  They lift people (and other things) up and down in tall buildings where it would be difficult to move up using a just stairway or a ramp.  In order to move people up, elevators must pull with a force strong enough to overcome the force of gravity that pulls down on both the elevator and the things inside it. 
In this STEM Challenge, the student’s task is to build a model of an elevator that uses a cranking device to move an object to the top.  
Key Concepts: forces, pushes, pulls, motion, gravity.  


Cool Catapult STEM Challenge

A  catapult is a device used to launch an object a great distance without the aid of an explosive bang. Catapults work by storing force either in twisted ropes, stretched bands, or flexed pieces of an object.  The force stored in these bent items is used to push other objects of choice into the air and toward a target.  
In this STEM Challenge, the student's task is to to build a catapult that can shoot a marshmallow over a protective wall.  
Key Concepts: forces, pushes, pulls, motion, gravity.  


Scooter Bot STEM Challenge

In this STEM, the task is for students to use the mechanical energy produced by a small motor to move the whole Scooter Bot.  This is a challenge because, initially, the smooth motion of the motor shaft may not produce enough force to to overcome the frictional forces keeping the Scooter Bot in place.  The Scooter Bot must be engineered so that it pushes more through the air around it. 

Key Concepts: forces, pushes, pulls, motion, energy changes.  ​


Polluted Water STEM Challenge

In the STEM Challenge,the students’ task is to build a filtration system that can be used by a the people in a small town with a polluted water supply. Students begin by testing and evaluating a variety of materials that they think might work as effective filters. Once their analysis is complete, they use their results to design a filter that will remove as much pollution as possible.

Key Concepts: pollution, water, environmental changes, climate change


Smart Shower STEM Challenge

One of the places where we waste the most water is at home in the shower. Showering accounts for almost 17 percent of our daily indoor water use.  The question to answer in this STEM challenge is: 
Which type of showerhead uses less water and is more energy efficient?  
Key Concepts: conservation, environmental changes, water, climate change.


Magnetic Car STEM Challenge

Magnets are objects that have the ability to attract and repel certain materials. Magnets have two poles that are called the north pole and the south pole. The poles are areas near the opposite ends of a magnet where the magnetic force is the strongest.
In this STEM Challenge, your task is to build a car that is powered only by the attractive pull or repulsive push of a pair of simple magnets. 
Key Concepts: magnets, magnetism, forces, pushes, pulls.


Marvelous Maze STEM Challenge

A maze is a network of paths. Mazes are usually designed as a puzzle through which something has to find their way. The borders of a maze can form a variety of different shapes. While rectangles are the most common, mazes often contain other shapes like squares and triangles, and hexagons.
In this STEM Challenge, your task is to build a maze for a marble that includes at least one square, rectangle, and triangle.
Key Concepts: pollution, water, environmental changes, climate change.


Lava Lamp STEM Challenge

The Lava Lamp is still cool after over half a century.  Invented by Edward Craven Walker in 1963, these now famous relics became a 60’s symbol of anything mind-altering or psychedelic.
In this STEM Challlenge, your task is to design and build a mini-lava lamp that uses Alka-Seltzer, rather than a light bulb, to power the motion of the lamp.
​Key Concepts: solids, liquids, gases, chemical and physical changes, density. 


Bird Nest STEM Challenge

Birds are expert nest engineers and they make their nests with lots of different materials. Their ability to build nests that support and protect their eggs and chicks is an adaptation that has helped them to survive within their habitats.
In this STEM Challenge, your task is to build a model nest that can protect and support at least 2 bird eggs. Just like real birds, you can use a combination of natural and man-made materials to build your nest.
​Key Concepts: solids, liquids, gases, chemical and physical changes, density.


Bubble Bottle, Bubble Trampoline STEM Challenge

Bubbles are an interesting mixture of materials. They are usually made out of a blend of soap, water, and air.  The soap and water form the outside surface of the bubble and the air is trapped on the inside. Bubbles are very delicate and they don’t last very long before they pop.  

In this STEM Challenge, your first task is to make a bottle bubble using just the top and bottom of a two-liter bottle.  Your second task, is to make bubble trampoline that can bounce back and forth. 
Key Concepts: materials, mixtures, bubbles, water, engineering. 


Smooth Cruise STEM Challenge

Forces are the pushes and pulls in our world. By providing pushes and pulls, forces help to get and keep things moving. As you would expect, it also takes energy to provide the forces needed to move stuff.
The aerodynamics of a car depends on how much air the car has to move out of the way as it travels. The more air it has to move, the more drag, or resistance, there is to the forward motion of the car.
In this STEM Challenge, your task is to build an aerodynamic car that can move down a track as smoothly and quickly as possible.
Key Concepts: forces, energy, pushes, pulls, aerodynamics, drag. ​


Sleek Slime STEM Challenge

Slime is an interesting mixture of materials that, when blended, makes super thick stuff that sticks together strongly. While the key parts of the mixture usually include glue and a thickener, you can also add other things like glitter, color, and scents.  In this STEM Challenge, your task is to make a super cool batch of slime. You will also observe, experiment and test your slime to determine a few of its features. Next, you will try to improve your slime and then test to see if your improvement was helpful.

Key Concepts: matter, materials, mixtures, properties, liquids, solids.


Potential to Kinetic Energy S.C.

While matter is the stuff of the universe of which all things are made, energy provides the ability to move or change matter.  In other words, energy provides the ability to do work on the stuff of the universe.   While energy comes in many different forms, the two fundamental types of energy are potential energy and kinetic energy.
In this STEM Challenge, your first task it to build a system that is high in stored elastic potential energy.  Your second task is to initiate a change so that the stored energy can be converted into kinetic energy is a demonstrable manner.  

Key Concepts: matter, energy, potential energy, kinetic energy. 


The Fake Snow STEM Challenge

We all know that real snow is made of water – the frozen kind. While most of us love snow, the frozen stuff is hard to come by in warmer climates like Georgia. But, if we can’t get the real snow, could we at least mess around with some fake stuff?

So in this STEM Challenge, you have two tasks to tackle. First, you have to test and evaluate the quality of the fake snow and determine if it is good enough to use. Second, you have to improve the quality of the fake snow by changing it in some way that makes sense to you.

Key Concepts: matter, solids, liquids, water, engineering.


How Wet Can a Diaper Get S.C.

It wasn’t until the invention of Waterlock, made from a chemical called sodium polyacrylate, that disposable diapers became popular. As an engineered polymer molecule, Waterlock can absorb an amazing 700 times its own weight in water. 
In this STEM Challenge, your task is to determine the volume of water a diaper can absorb. While this capacity is quite incredible and unlike any natural substance on the planet, it can be determined if you are careful and detailed in your calculations.

Key Concepts: molecules, polymers, liquids, solids, saturation, substances. 


Rocks Rock at Building Stuff ​STEM Challenge

Rocks are natural objects that are composed of solid crystals. Rocks are made of a mixture of minerals. Rocks have different attributes (features) that are used to describe them including their color texture, luster, and hardness.
Rocks are often used to build things like walls, floors, chimneys, walkways, and fences. In this STEM Challenge, your task is to design and build something useful using rocks and cement.

Key Concepts: rocks, minerals, color, texture, luster, hardness, engineering. 


Sight Word Slime STEM Challenge

Slime is an interesting mixture of materials that, when blended, makes a super thick liquid that sticks together. The slime turns out well if you mix each of the parts in the correct order.  After making their slime, students should observe it and test its properties.  Let them stretch, roll, and gently bounce their slime.  Finally, words are an interesting mix of letters that, when stuck together, can make sense and have meaning. You just have to put them together in the correct order.  Students "stick together" each word from their sight word list using their slime as the source of their letters.  

Key Concepts: mixture, materials, solids, liquids, words.  


Chain Reaction STEM Challenge

chemical reaction, or chemical change, occurs when two or more substances combine to form new substances.
Sometimes, a chemical reaction can be facilitated by a chemical chain reaction. During a chain reaction, the products of the reaction themselves promote and spread the reaction. This speeds up the reaction so that it can happen very quickly. 

In this STEM Challenge, your task is to design, create and test a model of a chemical chain reaction.

Key Concepts: chemical reactions, reactants, products, chain reactions.