Science & Technology Challenges

Week of November 9, 2020

The goal of the NEWESD 101 Science Kit Cooperative is to send out bi-weekly science challenges to our members. The challenges will sometimes be tailored to a grade level, or a more general challenge which can be adjusted or added to based on the grade level you are teaching.

If you are needing additional support, please reach out so that we may assist you. I would love to hear what you think about the challenges!

Thank you,


Grades K-2: Make it Move Challenge (Physical Science)

The Challenge:

Race your car from one end of the table to the other. This can be a head to head race or simply who can make it to the end.


  • Matchbox cars
  • A level table
  • Tinker supplies (magnets, straws, tape, balloons, string, paper, etc.)
  • An imagination!

The Rules:

You may not touch your car or alter the track. You also can not lift the table.

When we started, the first ideas to come up were building a ramp or lifting the table, so it was important that they understood those were against the rules. Building the ramp would alter the track.

Once they understood those rules, the creativity really started. Of course we had to convert our homeschool table into a race track, complete with cheering crowds!

We had one car altered with magnets. By strapping a magnet to the bottom of the car, the kids were able to use another magnet or a magnet wand on the underside of the table to race it to the other end. The challenge here was finding a car with big enough tires and enough lift so the magnet didn’t rub against the table slowing it down. But once we found one, it worked great! This worked so well the kids kept doing it for hours.

They loved this idea so much they tried to was use the magnets backwards. This involved strapping the magnet to the back of the car, then reversing the wand so the magnets repelled each other, pushing the car forward. This worked, but it was insanely hard to keep the car straight. Having the magnet on the bottom made for a much faster race!

Next idea was to attach a sail to the top of a car and blow on it. We recently did our windpower challenge, so it was neat to see those lessons coming back into play again. This again worked really well.

Another idea they had was to create basically a zipline for the car by attaching a straw to the top and running a string through it. When one end of the string was lifted, it zipped along to the finish line.

Finally, they tried to amp up the windpower with a propulsion system using a balloon. When it worked this was SUPER fast, but getting the balloon blown up, attached and having everything angled just right so it raced took a lot of attention and focus. But when it worked… WOW! The biggest issue became keeping it on the track as it usually ended up flying across the room!

There are so many different ways kids could solve this STEM challenge. The only limit is supplies and imagination. How would you race your car down the track without touching it?

Grades 3-5: Hovercraft Experiment (Physical Science)

Before you get started, be certain to ask the kids what they think is going to happen during the experiment. Call it a hypothesis and talk about the expectations versus the outcome. See if they can accurately guess what is going to happen once the experiment gets started.

This fun science project works because the force of the air expelling from the balloon creates a cushion of air between the bottom of the cd and the surface it is on, allowing it to glide just barely resting above it.


  • A balloon
  • An old CD
  • Dish soap cap
  • Hot glue gun/stick


  1. Run a generous ring of hot glue around the bottom edge of your dish soap cap, quickly press it onto the center of the CD, over the hole.
  2. Watch your fingers so they don't get burnt from the hot glue.
  3. Let the glue cool until it has hardened.
  4. Slip the balloon over the cap. Your hovercraft is now ready to amaze the kids!
  5. With the balloon over it pull the cap upward.
  6. Then blow up the balloon through the hole on the other side of the CD.
  7. Press the cap down until you’re ready to let the hovercraft go.
  8. When you are ready to pull the cap up with the balloon still over it on a smooth flat surface, now watch it glide across the floor!

Grades 6-8: Catapult Trajectory (Physical Science)

Trajectory is the path a free-flying object (a projectile) follows through the air. A projectile has two forces working on it. The inertia that launches it into the air and the gravity that brings it back down to earth. So how do you study trajectory? By hurling things into the air!

A catapult is something you can use to launch something a far distance away, using the release of accumulated tension instead of explosives. I wanted to make simple catapults for the kids in our science co-op to use during our trajectory experiment.


  • A lever (could be pieces of wood, thick cardboard, cookie sheet, etc.)
  • A fulcrum (this is what sits under the level that allows it to move up and down like a see saw).
  • A small stuffed animal that is excited to try to fly!


  1. Ask the kids what they thought was going to happen, their hypothesis.
  2. First, we headed outside. Take one of the catapults and a small stuffed animal to launch. The kids put their animal on the end furthest away from the base and stepped down on the other one. The animals went straight up into the air and landed close to the catapult. None of them traveled too far.

    They decided to try again, this time increasing the force by stepping harder. Some of animals moved further, especially for the bigger kids. One of the kids stepped so hard, he broke his catapult in two!

    On the final attempt, the kids jumped or stepped onto the end of the catapult as hard as they could. This did send the animals the highest they had been, but it was still less than what everyone was expecting.

It was obvious through the three attempts that trajectory is only changed by two things; the speed at which you launch the projectile and its angle during launch. When you increase or decrease the speed or angle during takeoff, the trajectory of the projectile will change.

By increasing the speed at which they were launched (by stepping on the board harder) some kids were able to lengthen the distance they flew. If we had also increased the angle of the wood, we probably would have seen a bigger difference in the path.

Since we couldn’t change the angle of the catapult, we decided to try it with a lighter object, a marshmallow. The kids followed the same steps as before but had much better results. The decreased weight of the projectile was a much better match for the catapults we had.

Grades 6-8: Water Works on a Blue Planet (Earth Science)

Students will learn about Clousat!

Cloudsat is a space mission that will study clouds, taking 3-D images of them using advanced radar technology. Cloudsat will orbit Earth, flying in formation with other satellites that take cloud measurements using different kinds of instruments. Cloudsat will measure how much liquid water and ice are in the clouds at what heights, and how these measurements affect the clouds’ ability to reflect or trap the sun’s energy. Data collected by the satellites will be combined to give a better understanding than we have ever had before of how clouds work and how they affect climate all over Earth. Cloudsat will be launched in 2003. It is a joint project between Colorado State University, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Canadian Space Agency, the U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Department of Energy. To learn more about Cloudsat, see

See attached lesson that includes the documents needed.

Technology Challenge

CODE.ORG Computer Science Fundamentals Express Course

You'll learn the fundamentals of computer science with drag & drop blocks. Create your own drawings and games!

Grades K-2

Grades 3-5

Middle School (Grades 6-8)

Other Science & Technology Information to Pass On

Spokane Aquifer Joint Board (SAJB) Virtual Science Fair Extravaganza
This virtual science fair offers different "booths" that students can enter with different activities related to that booth's category.