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Volleyball Machine Challenge for Grades 3-5

Grade Range
3rd-5th
Group Size
2-4 students
Active Time
2-3 hours
Total Time
2-3 hours
Area of Science
Physics
Key Concepts
Engineering design
Learning Objectives
  • Design and build "volleyball machines" based on specified criteria.
  • Iteratively test and modify the machines to improve their performance.

Overview

Teach your students about the engineering design process with this fun lesson plan. They will design and build two "volleyball machines" that launch a ping pong ball back and forth over a net. Optionally, they can enter their designs in the 2019 Fluor Engineering Challenge for a chance to win a cash prize for your school or nonprofit!

NGSS Alignment

This lesson helps students prepare for these Next Generation Science Standards Performance Expectations:
  • 3-5-ETS1-3. Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.
This lesson focuses on these aspects of NGSS Three Dimensional Learning:

Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Planning and Carrying Out Investigations. Make observations and/or measurements to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence for an explanation of a phenomenon or test a design solution.
ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions. Tests are often designed to identify failure points or difficulties, which suggest the elements of the design that need to be improved.
Cause and Effect. Cause and effect relationships are routinely identified, tested, and used to explain change.

Credits

Ben Finio, PhD, Science Buddies

This engineering project is based on the "Beach Volleyball" friendly competition designed by employees of Fluor Corporation located in Southern California.

Materials


Engineering Challenge.

Construction Materials
Item Maximum Quantity Point cost (each)
Corrugated cardboard (max size 12"x12" or 30x30 cm) 2 10
Large paper or plastic cups (16–18 oz, or about 450–500 mL) 10 5
Wooden craft sticks (4 ½" or 11.5 cm) 20 1
Paper (printer/copier paper, not construction paper or cardstock; letter or A4 size) 20 1
Wooden pencils (circular or hexagonal cross-section, approx. 7–8" or 18–20 cm length) 20 1
Rubber bands (size 32, 3" long unstretched and 1/8" wide) 10 2
Roll of clear adhesive tape (Scotch® tape or equivalent, 1/2" or 3/4" width, max length 500") 1 10
Tools and Testing Materials (no point cost)
ItemNotes
Paper and pencilFor sketching design ideas
Scissors For cutting construction materials
Sheets of paper (2) For making net
Tape For holding net to floor/table
Ruler For checking net dimensions
Ping pong ball  
Table 1. Materials allowed for building a volleyball machine for the 2019 Fluor Engineering Challenge.

Note: material costs are not pro-rated. For example, if you use any tape, it still costs the entire 10 points, even if you do not use the whole roll.

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Grade Range
3rd-5th
Group Size
2-4 students
Active Time
2-3 hours
Total Time
2-3 hours
Area of Science
Physics
Key Concepts
Engineering design
Learning Objectives
  • Design and build "volleyball machines" based on specified criteria.
  • Iteratively test and modify the machines to improve their performance.

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