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engineering activity

Engineering Fun: The Big Ball Challenge

Friday, March 20, 2020

Science Museum of Minnesota and Twin Cities Public Television

Every young person is a potential engineer!

Ask, imagine, plan, create, test, improve...then try again! It’s about being curious, creative and wanting to play!

WATCH THIS GREAT VIDEO: ENGINEERING IN ACTION

In the video, you saw the young engineering trying to move that big red beach ball from one basket (Here) to another (There). They couldn’t get up close to the ball, they only had certain materials they could use, and they had to move the ball without dropping it—in just 2 minutes. Whew! That’s a challenge!

When we do this activity in schools, EVERYONE wants to try it. So, here’s your chance to do it, with a little creativity on your part for materials.


Let’s Make It!

Find these materials:

  • A ball or balloon that’s between 10–14 inches wide (diameter)
  • Two containers to set the ball on—big yogurt containers, plastic cups, soup cans (not someone’s glass flower vases)
  • Things for picking up the ball—paper towel tubes, wrapping paper tubes cut shorter, long-handled spoons or spatulas; yarn or string or rope cut to a length you decide to use; clothespins or binder clips and twist ties; ring-shaped things—teething toy, canning jar lids, rubber bands
  • A team of engineers!
Set up the challenge together
  • Where will you put the ball?
  • How far away should the “Here” and “There” be?
  • How far do you need to stay away from the ball?

Now you’re ready to be an engineer!

Take a few moments and let each person quietly imagine what they’d use and what they’d do with it. Give everyone a chance to explain their idea. Decide as a group what to do it could be one person’s idea or a combination of ideas. Try it!

Super Challenge: Try moving the ball in a certain amount of time.

Let’s Talk About It

What went well? What were your challenges?

  • How did the idea work?
  • Were there parts of what the team tried that worked well?
  • What were some of the difficulties you had working with the materials?
  • And how did the team work — did they talk and share ideas while they were working on the challenge?

Let’s Figure It Out

After talking about what did or didn’t work, improve on the original idea! Or, try it with different materials. Look around the house and find other things you could use. How about this—try moving something that’s not a ball, like pillows, stuffed animals, or a garbage bag filled with crushed newspapers!


How Did Your Engineering Experience Go?

No matter how your engineering experience turned out, we hope you and your family had fun doing them! We want to see your creations and hear your feedback. Share your results on social media using #ShareYourDiscovery and let us know how things went!