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Sports Equipment Engineering Challenge


Grade Range
Group Size
2 students
Active Time
50 minutes
Total Time
50 minutes
Key Concepts
Engineering design, motion, push, pull
Ben Finio, PhD, Science Buddies
Two paper towel tubes duct taped to a plastic bottle to form a  mallet, next to a whiffle ball.


Give your students a chance to practice their engineering skills in this fun sports-themed activity! Your motivation: You want to play a game in which you use something to hit a ball (hockey, mini golf, whiffle ball, etc.)... but you don't have any equipment. The students will need to use recycled materials (and some creativity) to build their own!

Learning Objectives

NGSS Alignment

This lesson helps students prepare for these Next Generation Science Standards Performance Expectations:
This lesson focuses on these aspects of NGSS Three Dimensional Learning:

Science & Engineering Practices
Analyzing and Interpreting Data. Analyze data from tests of an object or tool to determine if it works as intended.
Disciplinary Core Ideas
PS2.A: Forces and Motion. Pushing or pulling on an object can change the speed or direction of its motion and can start or stop it.

ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems. A situation that people want to change or create can be approached as a problem to be solved through engineering.
Crosscutting Concepts
Structure and Function. The shape and stability of structures of natural and designed objects are related to their function(s).


Background Information for Teachers

This section contains a quick review for teachers of the science and concepts covered in this lesson.

People play many different sports, most of which use something like a bat, racquet, club, or stick to hit a ball or a puck (Figure 1). For example, in some sports, players hit a ball that is still (golf); in some, two people hit a ball back and forth (tennis); and in others, two teams compete to hit a ball into a goal (field hockey). In general, these objects are used to change the speed or direction of the ball by pushing it or hitting it. However, depending on the sport, they have different sizes and shapes. For example, a tennis racquet is short, wide, and held with one hand, while a baseball bat is long, skinny, and held with two hands.

a baseball bat a tennis racquet a hockey stick
Figure 1. Different types of sports equipment used to hit balls or pucks.

In this lesson, you will guide your students through the engineering design process as they design and build their own sports equipment, which they will use to hit a ball. Engineers solve real-world problems by designing and building new things or improving existing ones. Your students will think like engineers as they first discuss what problem they need to solve. Then, they will make sketches of their designs, and build and test them.

For more information about how pushes and pulls can change the motion of an object, and about the engineering design process, see the Additional Background section.

Prep Work (10 minutes)

Engage (5 minutes)

Explore (30 minutes)

Reflect (15 minutes)


Make Career Connections

Lesson Plan Variations

Free science fair projects.