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 visual aids and, where relevant, pupil guides and teacher guides.

Challenges In A Box are copyright © Derrick Willer.

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,


However, I suggest that you give a small donation (e.g. £25, $30) to the Memusi Schools in remote Kenya so that they can install electricity and then get computers. Thank you.




Primary Schools


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Arithmetic Bricks

Sum Fun with Arithmetic Bricks. Learn addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, squares, pythagoras and Pi using bricks. Suitable for ages 5-8.

Sum Pi to

Chew Over

Sum Prime Numbers. Suitable for ages 5-8.


A paper based exercise helping 5-13 year olds to understand flight. There are different planes to be made and different wing arrangements demonstrate how lift affects flight – canard versus tail-plane, 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 5-13. (60 mins)


A paper based exercise suitable for 7-13 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 30-60 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 mock-up of it. (2½-3 hours)

Singing Maths

Pictures and rhymes leading to simple arithmetic

Suitable for 5-8 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 hand-held fan

Some More Fun With Jack and Gill

More pictures leading to simple arithmetic


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

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Towers and Bridges Out Of Sweeties

Primary challenge, approx. 20-40 minutes. Make a Tower or Bridge out of either Marsh Mallows and Straws or Jelly Beans and Toothpicks

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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.

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

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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 5-10 minutes.

Set 1 2 3 & 4

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 for availability.

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Lets Crumble

Learn how to programme the Crumble computer. Then make a night-light or automated money-box 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

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Polyalphabetic Coding

How to Code and Decode using your Birthdate so you can send secret messages. KS2 and KS3. About 30-60 minutes as individuals or small teams.

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BBC Micro-bit Traffic Lights

Using the new BBC Micro-bit 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 Micro-bit. 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 upside-down, etc.

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Levers and Pulleys

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

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

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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.

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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.

Funny Maths

Exploring some unusual arithmetic, geometry, etc. used by ourselves and, maybe, aliens. Including Thales Theorem, Hippocrates of Chios, Mesolabe Compass, multiplying using your hands and unusual multiplication by some earlier humans. Years 5 and 6.


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?

More Funny Maths

Triangles, marbles, weighing, always 1089, letters represent numbers, odd x even = ? and more

Vinegar Rocket

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

Even More Funny Maths

Apples and bags, twins? Ladder and tide, Hare and tortoise, Polar Bear. Alien money, and more

Tricky Logic

Ten questions where the logic may not be obvious.

More Tricky Logic

Ten more questions where the logic may not be obvious.

Compressed Air Car

Make a model car from recycled materials and use compressed air to race it across the playground

Compressed Air Plane

Make a model plane from recycled materials and use compressed air to fly it across the playground