3 Amazing Newspaper STEM Challenges
Do you have a ton of newspapers and in need of some newspaper STEM challenges? Read below for three easy newspaper STEM challenges you can do right away!
As a STEM educator, I tend to hoard a lot of materials. Craft sticks, cardboard, paper towel tubes…almost anything can become part of a challenge! My husband recently started ordering the newspaper, and with a pile forming in our recycling bin, it was time to make them useful. Besides using them for paper mache or gift wrapping, newspapers make awesome STEM materials. My middle school students loved the following newspaper STEM challenges.
Newspaper STEM Challenge 1: Build a Tower
As a warm-up, I want students to appreciate the challenges of building with newspaper. Towers are a classic of the newspaper STEM challenges, as they build communication, teamwork, and problem solving skills. The purpose of this challenge is to help students learn how to best manipulate a newspaper for ultimate strength that would set a foundation for harder challenges.
Challenge: Build the tallest freestanding tower with only 2 sheets of newspaper and 12 inches of tape. No wedging or taping to the table or floor! Students can manipulate the newspaper in any way they wish.
Time: 8 – 12 minutes (8 minutes recommended for middle school)
This challenge is actually doable with no tape if you really want to challenge students, but there is a limit to the achievable height. A small amount of tape and newspaper forces teams to wisely use resources and plan ahead. Students (and you) will be amazed at the height only 2 sheets of newspaper can reach! At the end of the challenge, walk around measuring heights and discussing the various designs.
Newspaper STEM Challenge 2: Hold Weight
Time to really test the limits of the newspaper! After the first newspaper STEM challenge warm-up, teams should re-group for a longer and more complex challenge.
Challenge: Using 10 sheets of newspaper and 18 inches of tape, build a tower that holds a textbook 6 inches above the table for at least 3 seconds. The tower be free-standing, which means no taping or holding to the table.
Time: 20 minutes (including testing)
For this challenge, I have a couple copies of the same weighted textbook for testing. As students complete their design, I have a student place the text book on top of the tower. If the book is not at least 6 inches above the table or collapses within 3 seconds, they continue re-designing. If the tower holds, they continue to add other textbooks until failure. This way, everyone is aiming to at least hold the first textbook, but a competition keeps the teams working and designing. I was impressed at all the different designs and approaches to this challenge! Note: depending on group size, you may decide to limit the building phase to 10 minutes, stop the time to test all the designs, and then allow another 10 minutes for re-design following by a second round of testing.
Newspaper STEM Challenge 3: Make a Chair
For this final STEM newspaper challenge, you are really going to need to save up supplies! Students will have a chance to use creativity for this challenge in addition to the engineering constraints.
Challenge: Using newspaper, masking tape, and scissors, build a chair to hold one member of your team at least 2 inches above the ground for 5 seconds. No body part may touch the ground during this time.
Time: 20 minutes
In addition to newspaper, magazines can be an added material. When the challenge is presented, students will have many questions. Inform the class that questions can only be asked once the challenge begins. At this time, only one member per team can come to you with a question. Part of this challenge is to ask the right questions to correctly define the constraints. Examples: Does it need to be comfortable? Have you ever sat in an uncomfortable chair? (Probably) Can it be a beanbag? Is that a chair? (Yes)
At the end of the design phase, have each group present their design to the class and conduct the testing. In addition to applauding teams that successfully complete the challenge, you can also recognize teams with most creative designs.
For more details on these newspaper STEM challenges along with two other popular Vivify STEM challenges, download our STEM Icebreakers & Engineering Challenges product from the TeachersPayTeachers store!