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10 STEM Activities with Cardboard Tubes

Don't throw those out! Save all the empty cardboard tubes! These simple materials can be put to use in fun hands-on science and engineering activities. This roundup highlights 10 free STEM activities you can do with empty cardboard tubes from toilet paper or paper towel tubes.

Photo collage of ten STEM activities that use cardboard tubes like toilet paper or power towel rolls

Recycled materials are great for many hands-on science and engineering activities. Paired with craft materials and some tape or glue, kids can turn recycled containers and cardboard into the basis of a fun and engaging science exploration.

These eight hands-on science activities all use simple cardboard tubes — like the ones you end up with when the toilet paper or paper towel roll is empty:

  1. Build Your Own Sports Equipment: use cardboard tubes (taped together if you need them longer) to make sports equipment like golf clubs or baseball bats — and then head outside to try them out!
  2. Build a Paper Airplane Launcher: you can use a range of materials to build your own paper airplane launcher, but toilet paper tubes work well!
  3. Build a Robot Hand: explore robotics (no electronics required!) when you use cardboard tubes and recycled or craft materials like modeling clay, straws, and rubber bands to design a robotic hand.
  4. Junkbots: Robots from Recycled Materials: use cardboard tubes to design and build robots from recycled materials. (A few specialty electronics parts, or the Bristlebot Kit, are also required.)
  5. Make Your Own Stethoscope: kids can explore heart beat science with a simple homemade stethoscope.
  6. Balloon Magic with Bernoulli's Principle: experiment to see what happens to two balloons when you blow air between them through a cardboard tube.
  7. Make a Cotton Ball Launcher: use a cardboard tube, a pencil, and a rubber band to make a fun launcher. How far can a cotton ball go?
  8. Make a Kazoo: use a cardboard tube to experiment with sound using a homemade kazoo.
  9. Build a Telescope: use a cardboard tube to make a DIY telescope or spy glass and explore the science of concave and convex lenses.
  10. Build A Wall Marble Run: use cardboard tubes to design and build a marble run and explore how it makes use of potential and kinetic energy.

Related Resources

For additional resources to explore science related to the projects highlighted above, see:

For other STEM activities that use simple, everyday materials, see:

Bookmark this STEM Resource!

Paper airplane launcher example made from toilet paper tubes and a rubber band, one of 10 suggested activities to do with recycled cardboard tubes

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