STEM Challenge – Fast & Slow Sled
Winter STEM Activity – Sled Challenge
Yesterday in STEM class we attacked a challenge that kept all of the students engaged, so I am excited to share the details with you!
Initially the challenge is to make a sled slide down a slope, or ramp, as quickly as possible. First, the students chose a material for their sled (we had coffee filters, plastic sheeting, tablecloths, and felt squares:
Then they added weights to their egg carton sled bases (we used pennies). The students had to use at least 2 pennies but could distribute them any way they wanted in the egg holders.
After testing out their sled times with the help of a stopwatch and recording the times on their recording sheets, they tried to improve their sleds by changing one of the factors at a time (material or weight). The students quickly found that the plastic sheets, for example, made the sleds slide a lot faster than the felt squares! They also realized that more pennies could help, but too many pennies meant the sled could tip at the end and spill the pennies, so then they had to build a cover for the sled.
After all of the students experimented with their sled design, I announced the big change in design criteria. Instead of making the fastest sled, now we were going to make the slowest sled. This is slightly trickier, as the sled has to move the whole way down the slope, but take the longest time. If the sled just sits there, it doesn’t count. It has to make it the whole way down to the bottom. All of the students who were disappointed with their initial designs in the first part of the challenge knew exactly which materials to use. Here is our slope, and I apologize about the quality of the photo. I took a bunch of photos of the sleds in action but they came out too blurry! We used a giant sheet of plastic cardboard I found at Home Depot, which I chose for its portability and fairly smooth surface:
This sled STEM challenge is one of the challenges found in the resource listed below, which I have listed over at Teachers pay Teachers. In my class, I start off each STEM challenge with a brief introduction about the real world applications of the challenge, as well as the important STEM concepts we will be learning about. Each of the challenges has detailed instructions as well as vocabulary words so we can all “talk like an engineer.” If you are learning about force and motion, the sled STEM challenge is a great way to get a hands-on feel for those concepts. You can see all of the challenges included by visiting the listing:
or find it listed individually here:
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