STEM Friday: Stacking Cups

This Week’s Challenge

Create a tool, using only the materials provided, that will allow your team to stack six cups in the shape of a pyramid and then un-stack the pyramid back to a pile.

Materials (per team)

  1. Six (6) plastics cup
  2. Five (5) pieces of string
  3. One (1) rubber band


  1. Design your tool using only the materials provided.
  2. Only the tool can touch the cups.
  3. Hands can only touch the string.
  4. Cups will be in a pile.  Stack the cups in a pyramid as fast as possible.

The main purpose of this activity was to learn how to cooperate within a group and use ALL members to complete the task.  It’s almost impossible to complete this task by touching only the string without everyone participating.  Many students struggled working together and sharing their ideas with members of their group.  This challenge was difficult, indeed!  That being said, I would like to give a special shoutout to Table 5 for being the first to get close to solving the challenge by tying a string to the rubber band.  In addition, I’d like to thank Table 2 for persevering and not giving up.

Great work, friends!


STEM Friday: Saving Sam!

This is our traditional beginning-of-year STEM Friday activity: Saving Sam! This activity not only promotes teamwork, but requires critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

This Week’s Challenge

Use the materials provided to put life jacket on Sam, the gummy worm, without him falling into the water.

Materials (per partner/group)

  1. One gummy worm
  2. One gummy lifesaver
  3. One clear, plastic cup
  4. Large paper clips (2-3)


  1. Students will be in pairs.
  2. Students may NOT touch “Sam,” the “life jacket,” or the “boat.”
  3. Students may only touch the paper clips. They are allowed to bend them.
  4. Students are NOT to poke “Sam” with the paper clips.
  5. Set up: Place gummy lifesaver under cup (the cup is flipped over) and place gummy worm on top.
  6. The goal: Students want to get the “life jacket” from under the “boat” and onto him using only the paperclips.

For our very first cooperative learning activity, teams worked really well together sharing ideas and not giving up.  Dylan and Maddie were the first to figure out how to get the life jacket on Sam, but struggled with actually getting him in.  After many unsuccessful trials, I decided to make it a little easier by letting the pairs work in table groups and giving the groups 2 more paperclips.  This was the result:


Great job, friends!