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12 Engineering Design Challenges Perfect for Remote Learning

Now, while students are working from home and educators are providing STEM content via remote learning tools, may be a perfect time to spark student attention with an engineering design challenge. Engineering design challenges encourage students to brainstorm, design, build, test, problem solve, troubleshoot, tinker, innovate, and iterate. Try one of these free challenges to get kids started on an engineering design project.

Images of 12 student Engineering Design Challenges Perfect for Remote Learning (described and linked below)

Engineering Challenges are Great for Home or the Classroom!

Remote learning doesn't have to mean kids miss out on all of the fun, hands-on instruction they would have gotten in the classroom! Engineering design challenges are a great way to spark interest in STEM with students at home. With a "build it" theme running throughout, design challenges like the ones listed below encourage students to use the engineering design process to brainstorm, design, prototype, test, and then make changes to continue a cycle of improvement and iteration.

Students doing engineering design challenges have the opportunity to create and innovate as they work on projects that often have real-world significance or context. As part of the process of designing, testing, and iterating, design challenges enable and encourage students to practice problem solving and troubleshooting, too.

Most of these design challenges use simple materials (like paper and recycled cardboard), which makes them good choices during school closures.

  1. Teaching Engineering Design with an Egg Drop: learn about Newton's laws of motion and potential and kinetic energy while designing and testing a device to protect an egg from breaking when dropped from a certain height. The physics is there, but the engineering challenge involves building and iterating a solution.
  2. Build an Earthquake-Resistant House: learn more about structural engineering and build model earthquake-resistant buildings. Students can test their buildings with a simulated earthquake and Google's Science Journal app. The challenge is in using common materials to improve the design of the house to make it more stable during an earthquake.
  3. Balloon Car Lesson Plan: explore kinetic and potential energy by designing and racing balloon-powered cars. The challenge is to improve the design to make the car travel as far as possible.
  4. Paper Roller Coasters: Kinetic and Potential Energy: build roller coasters from simple paper materials to experiment with potential and kinetic energy. The challenge is to successfully add loops to the design.
  5. Engineering Car Crash Safety with Newton's Third Law: learn about Newton's third law of motion and the role of equal and opposite reaction forces in a car bumper system. The challenge is to design a bumper to protect a toy car from a crash.
  6. Design a Paper Airplane Launcher: use principles of kinetic and potential energy to design and build a paper airplane launcher. The challenge is to create a design that can launch a plane the farthest distance.
  7. Building Junkbots—Robots from Recycled Materials: use recycled and craft materials to design the bodies and appendages of simple robots. The challenge is to come up with a design for the fastest robot.
  8. Build a Recycling-Sorting Machine: use magnetism as one approach to tackling a real-world problem of separating various materials that get combined in single-stream recycling programs. The challenge is to design a machine that can successfully separate different kinds of materials.
  9. Ball Launcher Challenge: design a device that can launch a ball and another one that can catch the ball. The challenge is to launch the ball the greatest distance with accuracy (into the receiver).
  10. Aluminum Foil Boat Design: Surviving the Stormy Seas: experiment with aluminum foil boats to see how weight relates to a boat's ability to stay upright in turbulent water. The challenge is to improve a boat's design to improve stability and reduce the risk of capsizing.
  11. Build a Machine to Lift Water: students tackle a hypothetical real-world problem and build a device that can manually pump water during an emergency. (This lesson connects with Season 1 of Global Problem Solvers: The Series.)
  12. Plant Seed Design Challenge: explore plant biology and how plants reproduce. The challenge is to design a seed structure that could be dispersed by an animal.

Additional Engineering Activities

For additional insight into the importance of teaching engineering design and problem-solving skills as part of your remote learning curriculum, see Why the Engineering Design Process Is More Important Than Ever. and from DiscoverE.

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