Free STEM Challenges
These
challenges in a box are free to download and use to help school pupils enjoy
STEM subjects.
There
are separate pages for primary and secondary education.
Derrick
Willer MBE
Volunteer
IET Schools Liaison Officer and STEM Ambassador
The IET Coventry and Warwickshire Network has developed
the following Challenges In A Box for school teachers
to use to assist in educating pupils of various ages. We are keen to have
feedback and new ideas for these challenges. Each challenge has teachers
guides, visual aids and, where relevant, pupil guides. Challenges In A Box are copyright. However you
are free to copy for use in schools and for instructing children of school age
and for use by children of school age. Please feedback to: Derrick Willer, derrick.willer@ietvolunteer.com
3 
Description 
Click the pictures to download 

Arithmetic
Bricks 
Sum Fun
with Arithmetic Bricks. Learn addition, subtraction, multiplication,
division, squares, pythagoras and Pi using bricks.
Suitable for ages 58. 

Sum
More Fun 
Sum Pi to
Chew Over. Sum Prime Numbers. Suitable for ages 58. 

Flight 
A paper based exercise helping 513 year olds to understand
flight. There are different planes to be made and different wing arrangements
demonstrate how lift affects flight – canard versus tailplane, etc. (30
mins) 

Why
Lag Your House? 
A simple card based exercise for younger pupils to learn how
insulating your home can improve heating and save on energy. Suitable for
pupils aged 513. (60 mins) 

Bridges 
A paper based exercise suitable for 713 year old pupils. Pupils
make a bridge
out of paper into a U"
shape and find out how much
weight (pennies or model cars) it will take with different depths of the
"U" versus the remaining area for the bridge. They graph the
results. The project is then extended to bridge the gap between
two chairs with
paper, sticky tape, etc. costing
them "money" – e.g. cheapest to hold a 100gm weight wins. (30 mins) 

Burglar
Alarm Primary 
An
introduction to electrical circuits for Primary School pupils, KS2, using low
cost materials. About 3060 minutes as individuals or small teams. 

House
Of Gadgets 
For 9  13 year olds. An exercise to understand sustainability and
conservation. Pupils imagine what will happen if rubbish is not collected.
Then there is a short story about conservation. The pupils decide on a gadget
to make and are given recycled materials to make a mockup of it. (2½3
hours) 

Singing
Maths 
Suitable
for 58 year olds, these include Sum Fun with Jack
And Jill, Grand Old Duke of York, and Contrary Mary 

Sail A
Matchbox 
Make a boat
out of a matchbox and pencils and sail it with a handheld fan 

Spectroscopy 
Make a
spectroscope out of cardboard box and a CD. Approx. 30 minutes. Suitable for
Primary Schools 

Towers
and Bridges Out Of Sweeties 
Primary challenge, approx. 2040
minutes. Make a Tower or Bridge out of either Marsh Mallows and Straws or Jelly Beans and Toothpicks 

Paper
Towers And Bridges 
Versions
for Primary and Secondary Schools. Approx. 30 – 60 minutes. Secondary school
pupils in teams are judged on design, budgets, actual spend, and
presentations. 

STEM
Quiz 
24
questions to tease the pupils, teachers and STEM Ambassadors complete with
"Wrong" with explanation and the correct answers 

Paper
Catapult Primary 
A version
of the secondary school challenge for primary school pupils where the design
is limited and a recommended design is used. 

Primary
Quick Challenges 
Five sets
of 13 (Baker’s Dozen) challenges each taking 510 minutes. 

Table
Tennis Ball Launcher 
An IET
Education challenge. We have 12 kits available for use in schools in Coventry
and Warwickshire. (30 mins for basic launcher kit – up to 1½ hours for loader
for the launcher made from recycled materials provided by the school) Email
Derrick Willer dwiller@theiet.org for availability. 

Lets
Crumble 
Learn how
to programme the Crumble computer. Then make a nightlight or automated moneybox using the Crumble kit and recycled materials.
There are further challenges for traffic lights, car and maze, robot.
Developed by DATA with grant aid from IET, IMencE
and RAE 

Polyalphabetic
Coding 
How
to Code and Decode using your Birthdate so you can send secret messages. KS2 and
KS3. About 3060 minutes as individuals or small teams. 

BBC
Microbit Traffic Lights 
Using the
new BBC Microbit and Python code to manage a single traffic light, then a Cross Roads set, finally to make the traffic lights using
recycled materials. The problem to solve (with an answer) is that there are
four states for the Cross Road Traffic Lights and only
three outputs from the BBC Microbit. The example uses a relay to turn off
green lights when the yellow ones are on. 

Gravity
Egg Drop 
Using raw
eggs the teams have to make a cradle to hold the egg
and protect the egg when it is dropped from height. For younger ones you may
want to use boiled eggs. Teams should consider safety, strength, crumple
zone, what happens if the cradle turns upsidedown, etc. 

Levers
and Pulleys 
Levers
with up to ten to one mechanical advantage, and visa
versa. One to four pulleys with up to fourtoone mechanical advantage. 

Density 
Several
samples to weigh and measure their volume using a graduated testtube or jug.
Plus you can add your own samples – maybe pebble,
concrete, plastic, potato, carrot, cheese 

Car
Crash 
An
exercise to discover that cars have crumple zones to keep passengers safe
from crashes. The
pupils are asked to construct a car from available materials and work out how
to protect the passengers and also have crumple
zones front and back. 

Make
a Thermometer 
Make a thermometer out of a drinks bottle, a straw, alcohol
and water. 

Animals in Danger 
Ten examples of endangered animals. What are they? Where do they live?
What do the eat? And What is the danger? 

Make a Barometer 
Make a barometer using a jam jar and a record on graph paper 

Measure Wind Speed 
Make an anemometer and measure wind speed. Compare to weather
forecasts to obtain a conversion factor between revolutions per minute and
published wind speed. 

The Water Cycle 
An experiment to show the water cycle – evaporation and condensation. 

Gaia 
Gaia is the idea that living organisms on a planet will affect the
nature of their environment. Can the pupils list some of the problems and
their possible solutions? 

Vinegar Rocket 
Make a rocket from a plastic bottle using vinegar and baking soda. 

Compressed Air Car 
Make a model car from recycled materials and use compressed air to
race it cross the playground 

The
IET Coventry and Warwickshire Network has developed the following
Challenges In A Box for school teachers to use to
assist in educating pupils of various ages. We are keen to have feedback and
new ideas for these challenges. Each challenge has teachers guides, visual aids
and, where relevant, pupil guides. Challenges In A Box
are copyright. However you are free to copy for use in
schools and for instructing children of school age and for use by children of
school age. Please feedback to: Derrick Willer, derrick.willer@ietvolunteer.com
Project 
Description 
Click the pictures to download 

Burglar
Alarm Secondary 
An
introduction to electrical circuits using low cost materials. About 3060 minutes
as individuals or small teams. I used this for a KS3 STEM Club (1214 year olds) giving them a set of the same materials
and challenging them to make the burglar alarm without any guidance
whatsoever. Not even the concept of a trip wire. 

Paper
Catapult 
Pupils in
small teams are asked to design, budget and then
make a catapult out of recycled paper. Recycled materials are free but nuts,
bolts, elastic bands, stickytape, etc. cost money. They catapult a ball at a
set of skittles three times, scoring a maximum of 89 points. Additional
scores depend upon the accuracy of their budget and the innovative nature of their
design. Suitable for pupils aged 1015. (2½ hours) 

Replacing
The Family Car 
Pupils
should investigate the wholelife carbon footprint of a car using the
internet. They should draw graphs piecharts, etc. comparing buying a new car
versus keeping the old one. Internet research, spreadsheets, etc. can be used
and make this relevant to the challenge subject. Suitable for pupils aged
1216. (Homework, 4+ hours) 

Hydrogen
As A Fuel 
Hydrogen
powered cars, etc. are already working at Birmingham and other universities.
Pupils make hydrogen and oxygen and test them. They are then asked to work
out the best place to make hydrogen using sunlight. They should work out the
costs of transporting from source to point of use  including
compressing/liquefying the gas. Internet research, graphs, spreadsheets,
etc. can be used and make this relevant to the challenge subject. Suitable
for pupils aged 1216. (Inschool experiment, 30 mins, Homework 4+ hours) 

Fan or
Turbine Efficiency 
Pupils
should make a fan and work out its efficiency at various blade angles and
numbers. A Design Council Project finalist utilised a boat propelled by the fan pulling
against a weight
suspended over a pulley.
But pupils can use any other method. Project report with
graphs, etc is required. Graphs,
spreadsheets, etc. can be used and make this
relevant to the challenge subject. Suitable
for pupils aged 1216. (12+ hours) 

Card
Tricks 
What are the maths behind these three card tricks? Pupils can
work alone or in small groups to discover how these card tricks work.
Suitable for homework or for 4560 minutes sessions. Suitable for pupils aged
1216. (4560 mins) 

Secondary
School Quick Challenges 
Sets of
13 (Baker’s Dozen) challenges each taking 510 minutes. 

Robot
Challenge 
This
project challenges teams to build a model robot from K’nex
kits. Meccano or other construction kits. It is aimed
at pupils ages 10 to 14 (years 5 to 9). The project could also be used to
introduce primary school pupils to their secondary school with
"mentors" for each team from the secondary school. It was
first developed and run at Jaguar Cars Visitor’s facility at Castle Vale,
Birmingham, with some 150 thirteen year old school
pupils in teams of six. (1½ hours +) In the lunch period we were entertained
by Prof. Carl Chinn MBE, the famous Birmingham local radio celebrity with
some of the pupils and some teachers being interviewed on BBC West Midlands
Radio. We are
indebted to Jaguar Cars and BBC
West Midlands Radio and Prof. Carl Chinn MBE for their valued assistance. 


Introduction
To Computer Programming 
Utilising
the Basic programming language, pupils learn now to
write and test a program initially to add, then to subtract, multiply and
divide two numbers. Suitable for pupils aged 1216. (1 hour +) 

Code
and Decode 
This
project is aimed at learning more about programming by developing a computer
program to code and decode a message. Pupils will be able secretly to send a
coded text document attached to an email to a friend who, when given the
correct key, will be able to decode the message in the text document. Alternatively they can save secret data in coded format.
Suitable for pupils aged 1216. (1½ hours +) 

Prime
Numbers 
This
project is aimed at learning about programming by developing a computer
program to test if a number is prime and then to extend this to list all
prime numbers up to a given number. Suitable for pupils aged 1216. (1 hour + ) 

Pythagorean
Triangles 
We all
know that a 3,4,5 triangle is a right angled
triangle, a Pythagorean Triangle. In this project pupils write a computer
program to discover other wholenumber Pythagorean Triangles up to a given
length of the shortest side. Suitable for pupils aged 1216. 


Fun With Phiziks and Che Mystery 
Ten
activities including Fizzy Chemistry, Make a
Thermometer, Magnifying Glass, Bending Water, Speed even though you are
sitting still, Oxygenetics, Mento®
Fountain, Why is Statue of Liberty Blue, Acceleration, Plastic Milk 

BBC Micro:bit Traffic Lights 
Using the
new BBC Microbit and Python code to manage a single traffic light, then a Cross Roads set, finally to make the traffic lights using
recycled materials. The problem to solve (with an answer) is that there are
four states for the Cross Road Traffic Lights and
only three outputs from the BBC Microbit. The example uses a relay to turn
off green lights when the yellow ones are on. 


The
Safety Deposit Vault 
This project is based on a real spreadsheet
for a company in Birmingham. The spreadsheet is
complex and must be mail merged with invoices and overdue letters in a
wordprocessor. Suitable for pupils aged 1418. There is a model answer. An
extension is to utilise a database such as MS Access  this is very relevant to the challenge subject. (1 hour + ) 

Microsoft
Access Tutorial My Holiday Home 
This tutorial provides detailed
instructions on creating a Microsoft Access database using an example that
manages the lettings of a holiday villa in France or Spain. It will provide students with an
indepth understanding of MS Acess and an ability
to design and construct their own databases to benefit themselves and their
employers. Each stage is detailed in minute detail to guide the student
through to a completed database. The tutorial starts
with creating the database, adding
Tables for customer Names and Bookings.
Then Queries to enable us to combine tables and sort into sequence. Students can proceed at their own pace
but the typical minimum time for the entire tutorial is of the order of six
to eight hours, however some can be completed as "homework". The
tutorial requires downloading Microsoft Access 2013 or later versions. 

Tricky
Mathematics 
20 Maths
questions to confuse the pupils, teachers and STEM
Ambassadors 

Careers
Presentation 
Derrick
Willer MBE summarises his career working as an engineer in many countries
across the world. He then leads the pupils to prepare a bid for funding for
his son’s IET Award winning project Track Safe, using the animation at www.smartrailroad.com to describe the project which involves
sensors, radar, RFID, software and computer systems. (3060 mins). 


Gravity
Egg Drop 
Using
raw eggs the teams have to make a cradle to hold the
egg and protect the egg when it is dropped from height. For younger ones you
may want to use boiled eggs. Teams should consider safety, strength, crumple
zone, what happens if the cradle turns upsidedown, etc. 

Levers
and Pulleys 
Levers
with up to ten to one mechanical advantage, and visa
versa. One to four pulleys with up to fourtoone mechanical advantage. 

Density 
Several
samples to weigh and measure their volume using a graduated testtube or jug.
Plus you can add your own samples – maybe pebble,
concrete, plastic, potato, carrot, cheese 

Car
Crash 
An
exercise to discover that cars have crumple zones to keep passengers safe
from crashes. The
pupils are asked to construct a car from available materials and work out how
to protect the passengers and also have crumple
zones front and back. 

STEM
Quiz 
24
questions to tease the pupils, teachers and STEM Ambassadors complete with
"Wrong" with explanation and the correct answers 

More
Tricky Maths 
More
Maths questions to confuse the pupils, teachers and
STEM Ambassadors 

Compressed Air Car 
Make a model car from recycled materials and use compressed air to
race it cross the playground 

Solve
an XXX Division Sum 
You have
a division sum where crosses represent numbers and just a few actual numbers
are shown. Can you solve the sum? 