Rising To the Challenge


Kindergarten and Grade 1 Young STEAM Inventors were recently asked to do a Tower Building Design Challenge. Setting up a design challenge is a great way to evaluate students’ understanding of different engineering concepts.

Candy Tower Design Challenge

If you have ever had a teacher have you build a bridge with marshmallows and toothpicks, I challenged my students to do a similar task building towers with soft candies and a variety of materials that would serve as beam or supports. Here were my instructions for the Candy Tower Design Challenge.

1) Build a tall tower with the following materials:

  • Interlocking popsicle sticks
  • Cups
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Marshmallows
  • Spaghetti
  • Gum drops
  • Toothpicks

2) Measure your towers, and add up the combined height to win!

The engineering came into play as the students had to develop an understanding of stable and unstable. There was also a lot of materials science involved; they had to test their ideas with different materials so that their could determine which materials were easiest to build with, and which materials were not.

Card Tower Design Challenge

Students also built towers using playing cards. They had to figure out what shape they could turn the card into to in order to build a stable structure. They thought it would be easy because they had the smaller wooden pieces. However, I gave them a design constraint by saying that they could only use five wooden pieces and that the rest had to be the cards. They then discovered how to bend the cards into different shapes in order to make their structures sound. You can view their structures in the slideshow below.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I think our Young STEAM Inventors’ towers are more impressive than this 2009 cover of Appleseed Magazine!


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