6+ Classic STEM challenges for middle school

These classic STEM challenges for middle school are a great way to engage students in the classroom and help them discover the wonders of science, technology, engineering, and math. If you’re looking for some fun and educational activities to keep your middle schoolers engaged, I’ve collected just what you need!

Here are my top six STEM challenges for middle school. 

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1: The Marshmallow Challenge 

This is a classic team-building exercise that requires students to work together and use the resources they have available to create the tallest structure. Each group of students will be given 20 sticks of uncooked spaghetti noodles, one yard of string or yarn, one yard of masking tape, one marshmallow, and 15 minutes of time. The challenge is to build the tallest freestanding structure out of the materials given using only their hands—no additional tools or materials—within the allotted 15 minutes. The marshmallow should be placed on top of the structure as the finishing touch. This challenge tests problem solving skills while also teaching teamwork and collaboration. 

2: The Egg Drop Challenge 

The egg drop challenge is another classic activity that involves engineering concepts while also being lots of fun! Students will need to construct an egg container that will protect their raw egg from cracking when it’s dropped from a height (usually around 10 feet). The catch is that each student can only use up to five common household items — such as straws, rubber bands, paper towels —to create their egg container. This challenge will require them to think critically about which materials would provide the best protection for their egg and how best to combine those materials into an effective design. 

3. Milk Jug Boats

This is an easy yet fun STEM challenges for middle school that will teach your students about buoyancy, displacement, and other concepts related to boat design. Students can design boats using milk jugs or other household items and then race them against each other on a pool or lake. It’s a great way to get kids thinking creatively while also learning important lessons about physics. 

4. DIY Kites

Creating kites is an exciting activity that will teach your students about air pressure, aerodynamics, and mechanical engineering principles. With some simple materials like bamboo sticks, paper or fabric sheets, string, and tape, students can create their own unique kites and take them out for a spin! 

5. Straw Rockets

 These rockets are both fun to make and fly! Students can use plastic straws as rocket bodies with fins made from paper or cardboard. They can then experiment with different designs to see which ones fly the farthest or the quickest! This challenge is a great way for students to explore concepts related to aerodynamics such as lift forces and thrust. This one would require this rocket launcher. (I spent a month 3D printing a homemade version. It wasn’t as good as the real thing!) Many STEM challenges for middle school students aren’t cheap nor free.

6. Egg Drop Challenge

 In this classic STEM challenge, teams of students must use various materials such as bubble wrap and cardboard boxes to protect an egg from breaking when it’s dropped from a height of several feet (or more!). This activity will help your students understand force transfer principles while also practicing problem solving skills in order to design the most effective protection system possible. 

Three more STEM challenges for middle school ideas:

Teaching middle schoolers can be challenging but these five STEM activities are surefire ways to get your students excited about science and engineering! Whether they’re making boats out of milk jugs or designing protective systems for eggs—these challenges will help them understand key concepts while having tons of fun at the same time! Don’t forget – there are plenty of other exciting ways you can incorporate STEM into your lesson plans too! Have fun!

I am creating this site to advance student creativity and help students to take ownership of their learning. The resources on this site are intentionally open-ended and a part of my Innovative Arts curriculum.

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