There's nothing like a good STEM challenge created by my friend, Kerry Tracy, to motivate students and engage them in problem solving and engineering design.
Aligned with the NGSS, this activity challenged students to create headgear (using limited materials) to hold an apple during a relay race. Student used pipe cleaners, tape, rubberbands, cardboard, tape, and string. These challenges always amaze me at how readily students jump in and start exploring with materials.
Some of their headgear were very creative! However, not only did the apple have to stay balanced on the child's head, but it had to be easily passed to the next team member.
This student got very creative: while he was running, his apple started to slip out of his holder, so he kept readjusting the tilt of his head to balance the apple!
After a couple relay rounds in teams, students discussed and revised their designs. These revised headgear were definitely much more sturdy! This was a great introduction to the engineering cycle; we plan to do many more STEM challenges this year! Each challenge comes with planning & recording sheets, as well as discussion questions. You can find Apples-a-Head & more fantastic STEM challenges here.