I am currently going into my fourth month of teaching STEM courses online. There have been ups and downs. I find that the more open-ended the STEM challenges are the better results I see from the kids. I put together a shortlist of STEM challenges that focus on design and are open-ended. All of these STEM challenges can be done virtually.

In my course my STEM challenges are spilt into two parts. During part one we:

  1. Identify the problem,
  2. Look at existing solutions/examples
  3. Discuss constraints/materials
  4. Brainstorm and plan

Naturally the students begin working on their projects at home. When we meet for the second part of the challenge students bring whatever the have made and reimagine it to make it better.

Here are three STEM challenges that have worked for my virtual classes.

Design a Pair of Functional Shoes

During this STEM challenge students must create a pair of functional shoes. We discuss traction, comfort, waterproofing and durable materials to use. Materials they have used are:

  1. Craft sticks
  2. Latex gloves
  3. Sponges
  4. Glitter sheets
  5. Cotton Wool
  6. Straws
  7. Tape
  8. Canvas – A really good
  9. Cardboard

Here’s the results:

Design a Functional Piece of Furniture

This activity went better then I thought it would. The STEM challenge here is to design a functional piece of furniture. As a class we discuss form and function. We then looked at the work of the famous architect Frank Gehry. The students get a huge kick out of seeing such unique designs.

From there they identify what they would like to build and the only constraint is that it must work.

Students have made:

  1. Functional chairs with storage
  2. Rocking chairs
  3. Cabinets that lock

Cool Dog House

This STEM challenge require students to create a dog house that kept a dog cool. After discussing what materials could insulate and reflect light the students began building. We tested them by placing one small cup of ice inside the house and another small cup of ice outside the house. If they were built correctly the cup outside melted faster.

I even had a student add a motorized fan in their dog house! The plus side of working at home. The fan was in the large teepee doghouse you can see below.

You can find this lesson at my Tpt Store

Click on the image to check it out or here:

2 thoughts on “3 Virtual STEM Challenges for Elementary Students That Focus on Design”

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