Engineering Activities for a Snowy Day!


Keep the kiddos busy, happy and
(shhhh...) learning,
with materials you have around the house!


Paper Tables


What You Need

  • 1 piece of cardboard (approximately 8 1/2 x 11 inches)

  • 1 heavy book

  • masking tape

  • 8 sheets of newspaper


Your Challenge

Design and build a table out of newspaper tubes. Make it at least eight inches tall and strong enough to hold a heavy book.


Questions to Jumpstart Your Work Period

  • How can you make a strong tube out of a piece of newspaper? (This challenge uses tubes because it takes more force to crumple paper when it's shaped as a tube.)

  • How can you arrange the tubes to make a strong, stable table?

  • How can you support the table legs to keep them from tilting or twisting?

  • How level and big does the table's top need to be to support a heavy book?


Build, Test, Observe, Revise

Build your table.  Test it by setting a heavy book on it.  Many designs do not work the first time so observe, learn, and try again!  Study the problems and revise.


Send Let's Build photos of your work and...  we'll post them!

Convenient Carrier


What Your Need

  • 1 armchair (representing a wheelchair)

  • 4 pieces of cardboard

  • paper or plastic cups

  • copy paper

  • rubber bands

  • string

  • duct or masking tape


Your Challenge

  • Invent a convenient way for someone using a wheelchair to carry small personal items.


Questions to Jumpstart Your Work Period

  • What kind of items do people carry with them in their daily lives?

  • What are some different types of carriers? What kinds of carriers do you use every day?

  • How can these carriers be adapted for use by people in wheelchairs?

  • How will you attach your carrier to the wheelchair?


Build, Test, Observe, Revise

Ready?  Remember, it should be easy to put things into and take things out of your carrier.  You may also want to design pockets for specific items, like a cell phone or a cup.  Try it out and revise as needed.


Send Let's Build photos of your work

and...  we'll post them!

High Rise


What You Need

  • Building surface (tray, cardboard, table, floor)

  • Electric fan or a partner willing to blow and fan

  • Paper (copier paper and/or newspaper)

  • Straws

  • String

  • Tape (masking or duct)

  • Tennis ball (or whatever you have on hand)

  • Wooden skewers or Popsicle sticks

  • (Don’t have some items?  Improvise!)


Your Challenge

  • Build a tower that can support a tennis ball at least 18 inches off the ground while withstanding the wind from a fan (or your sister!).


Questions to Jumpstart Your Work Period

  • How can we use our materials to make a tower at least 18 inches tall?

  • How can we use flexible materials, such as paper and string, to make a tower that is strong enough to hold up a tennis ball?

  • How can we keep our tower from tipping over?

  • How will we design our tower to resist the push of the wind and the pull of gravity?


Build, Test, Observe, Revise

Once you have a tower, put it one foot away from the fan (or your sibling!).  See how your tower responds when you turn the fan speed on low.  Figure out how to fix any problems with your tower and try again!


Send Let's Build photos of your work

and...  we'll post them!

Thanks to PBS' Design Squad Nation for these activities.


Paper Table Video