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Red Cup STEM Challenge for Kids

Do you ever have an “Ah-ha” moment? They are super exciting! You can make those moments happen for your kids with STEM challenges! About two years ago I started teaching an integrated science course (Read about our other challenges: Building with Straws & Cargo Flying).

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 and challenges.

STEM Challenges to Make Kids Think

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.

Each team recieved a stack of plastic cups and we told them that they had to make a pyramid with the tools included. Then they had to put a Lego Character on the top of their tower. All without touching the cups or the figure with thier hands. Those were the ONLY rules given at the beginning!

STEM Learning Activity Idea

Tools the kids recieved:

  • 10 Red Plastic Cups
  • 2 Straws per person in the team
  • 1 – 2ft length of string per person in the team
  • 1 cotton ball per person in the team
  • 1 rubber band per kiddo
  • 1 Lego Figure per team
  • (optional: Crepe Papertape)

The kids need to work together to come up with a way to move the cups. Some kids might lift the cups with the straws, others tied the string to the cups and then liften the string ends to lift the cups. Another team stretched the rubberbands to place them around the cups, then lifted the cups as a team.

Make it harder!

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 a handicap and they had to re-think the challenge and re-do it.

So 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.

Do you have an especially gifted kiddo? Blind them with crepe paper! No eyebrows were harmed in this activity and this kiddo left to tell his mom that he LOVED STEM class!

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