STEM challenge design a bridge science engineering physics

STEM challenge: Design a bridge



Hi! Future Ticia 2023 here, I originally did this design a bridge challenge as part of a review of a cool new book a friend had written, and now it no longer exists, but it’s still a cool science lesson, and a great at physic lesson (I still need to get a landing page for that), so I’m just removing any links to the ebook, I hopefully found them all. Now back to 2017 Ticia.

We have entered full summer funschooling mode here and that means I’m on the lookout for projects that I can use for some fun hands-on learning, and in this case, I wanted some fun science lessons.  Enter Kim from Learning Hypothesis.  She told me she had a new ebook coming out full of science challenges and STEM activites, and I knew this might be what I was looking for.

(Kim gave me a free copy of her ebook The Lab Bench, and links to it are affiliate links, and Amazon links are affiliates)

Let me tell you about The Lab Bench

Design a bridge STEM challenge to apply physics

I printed out a copy of the table of contents and told the kids, put your initials next to whatever projects you want to try.  They said, “Mom it’s easier to just say I want to do all of it.”

Good enough, STEM challenges for the summer planned.

The projects are divided up into Science Methods, Engineering, Life Science, Chemistry, Earth and Space Science, and Forensic Science.

I’m thinking each of these units could be a week of funschooling all by themselves.  Maybe I’ll upload them onto the kids’ Nooks to peruse on their own……

Our engineering challenge today: Design a bridge that can hold 100 pennies for at least 30 seconds

stem challenge design a bridge

First I left the kids to check out the links she included in the challenge to learn a bit more about bridge-building.  While I think they looked at the information, I’m pretty sure they didn’t really get it all down because at first, they didn’t use any of what they learned in their bridges.

Bridge Design Challenge supplies

STEM challenge design a bridge with household materials

I gave them a stack of straws both bendy and non-bendy (I just learned straws are expensive on Amazon), scotch tape (anyone else buy tape in 6 packs? it always disappears), paper clips (in pretty colors, because pretty), and index cards.  They immediately split up the non-bendy straws so everyone got 10 straws.  “Because that’s fair.”

How they built their bridges

They all had very firm plans in their heads and were not interested in the least bit in any advice.  So much so the boys were getting frustrated when their bridges were not maintaining structural integrity.

Design a bridge challenge

Eventually, I had all of the kids take a break because the boys were on the verge of a meltdown.  I think Princess’ experience at AHG this year with the engineering challenge gave her a bit of a leg-up because she’d already talked about some of these ideas.

But, the boys did get it together and finished their bridges.

results of design a bridge stem challenge

And not only did everyone’s bridge hold the 100 pennies for 30 seconds (with a bit of movement), but they held other things too…..

design a bridge challenge turned into play with bridge

Of course, shortly thereafter their bridges became toys.  I particularly was amused by the troll under the bridge. I did not manage to get a picture of Batman’s “how many things can I stack on my bridge?” partially because my phone was one of those things he stacked.

The troll did get me thinking about another potential bridge challenge with a collapsing bridge idea, but only at the right time.

Some more fun science and STEM ideas for your kiddos


5 responses to “STEM challenge: Design a bridge”

  1. I am having trouble finding the Lab Bench book – it is not available on amazon. Any ideas?

    1. I’m looking into that, it’s available on the author’s website, but it looks to be down right now.

  2. I would love to buy this book somehow…but the link isn’t working. Any ideas? What is the authors website?

    1. I’m messaging the author to find out if she still offers it, her website is Learning Hypothesis. I’ll update the post once I’ve heard back from her.

    2. All right, I heard back from the author, she’s got it pulled to update the book, but it will be available again mid-October she said.

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