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Hands-on with the Follow the Flow Engineering Challenge

The Fluor Engineering Challenge activities provide engaging in-class engineering all year long and inspire students to brainstorm, prototype, and iterate solutions!

Success story! Students in Columbia get hands-on with Follow the Flow engineering challenge activity

The K-12 Fluor Engineering Challenge is an annual challenge designed to encourage students in classrooms around the world to try a hands-on engineering activity. Each year, the challenge is based on a challenge that Fluor engineers previously did as a company-wide competition. Science Buddies adapts the challenge for use in K-12 classrooms around the world. In the first four years of the K-12 Fluor Engineering Challenge, students in all grades have jumped in to build their own balloon cars, marble sorters, ball launchers, and water flow systems.

The K-12 Fluor Engineering Challenge takes place each year in February-March, with the submission window opening during DiscoverE's Engineers Week. Once the official challenge window is over, the projects remain available at Science Buddies and can be used at any time by students doing independent science projects or by educators teaching the engineering design process.

Warming Up for the 2019 Fluor Engineering Challenge

Katie Smith, a middle school teacher in Colegio Bolivar in Cali, Colombia teaches a Design Squad STEM elective for students in grades 6-8. "The Design Squad course is new this year, and I am constantly on the lookout for interesting engineering challenges," says Katie. In the past, she has used Science Buddies with her students for science fair projects, so when she started planning activities for her Design Squad classes, she returned to Science Buddies and discovered the Follow the Flow—and the full series of Fluor Engineering Challenge projects.

"The free resources that Science Buddies provides are incredibly helpful and meaningful. I love being able to find ideas and then develop them for the specific needs of my classroom."
Katie Smith, middle school teacher

Follow the Flow was the 2017 Fluor Engineering Challenge and challenges students to construct a terraced water flow system (inspired by the Banaue Rice Terraces) using plastic cups, popsicle sticks, aluminum foil, and tape. Follow the Flow is the wettest of the Fluor Engineering Challenge projects so far, but Katie says the project was a hit with her students.

"The students really enjoyed this project! The biggest challenge for them was understanding all of the constraints, but once they began building, the enthusiasm was off the charts," says Katie. "My favorite aspect to observe was their prototyping. In many projects, they like to build an entire structure and hope for the best. With Follow the Flow, however, they were constantly testing and using their results to inform the next steps in their process."

Katie did the Follow the Flow activity with four classes, two groups of 6th-grade students and two groups of 7th- and 8th-grade students. Within each group, students worked on the water flow challenge in pairs, a focus on collaboration and team problem solving that the challenge encourages.

"Design Squad is entirely hands-on STEM," says Katie, "which is so much fun." She says the Follow the Flow project aligns nicely with NGSS standards used at her school, making it a win-win in terms of engaging students and meeting curriculum needs. Enthusiasm for Follow the Flow was so high with her Design Squad students that Katie is planning to work through the three other previous Fluor Challenges, too, in advance of the launch of the 2019 Fluor Engineering Challenge.

"We are definitely planning to compete in the 2019 Fluor Challenge! We hope to represent Colombia well!"

Follow the Flow engineering project example from students
Above: Engineering projects like Follow the Flow encourage students to brainstorm and come up with their own innovative solutions and designs using the materials allowed. This example is from one of Katie's classes. You can see that it differs from the design shown at the top of the page, which is also from one of Katie's classes.

The 2019 Fluor Challenge is Coming!

The 2019 K-12 Fluor Engineering Challenge will be announced in January 2019. The 2019 challenge marks the 5th anniversary of the Fluor Engineering Challenge, so it is going to be exciting! To be among the first to know about the new challenge, make sure you are signed up for a Science Buddies account and have indicated you want to receive the monthly newsletter.

Share Your Science Buddies Story!

Have you used a science project, STEM activity, or Lesson Plan from Science Buddies in your class or program? We would love to hear your story! Email us at and tell us how you use Science Buddies with students.

"My favorite aspect to observe was their prototyping. In many projects, they like to build an entire structure and hope for the best. With Follow the Flow, however, they were constantly testing and using their results to inform the next steps in their process."
Katie Smith, middle school teacher

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