Back to School STEM Challenge Activity - Apple Annihilator

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74 Ratings
Kerry Tracy Feel-Good Teaching
Grade Levels
2nd - 8th
Resource Type
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33 pages
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Kerry Tracy Feel-Good Teaching
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This back-to-school STEM / STEAM Challenge brings the joy back to your classroom with collaborative, hands-on, brain-busting work (disguised as fun)! Of course, this challenge is also great for any time in the fall when learning about apples and Johnny Appleseed!

It's also a great intro to Newton’s Third Law of Motion, which is part of 3rd and middle school NGSS standards! (3PS2-1, MS-PS2-1, and MS-PS2-2)

The basic premise:

Individually or in partners/groups, students will design and build an apple wrecking ball built for annihilation!

• Students will set up marker “bowling pins” and try to knock down as many as possible using their apple wrecking ball designs.


Note: This is the printable version. If you are in a 1:1 / paperless classroom, you will want to check out the digital option for use with GOOGLE SLIDES (TM) instead.

If you have questions about which version is right for you, please feel free to leave me a question using the product Q&A below.


Resource includes:

NGSS aligned standards, Grades 2 – 8

Teacher Tips

  • Links to STEM Challenge How-To videos
  • Materials and timing
  • Criteria & Constraints (including modifications to increase difficulty for older students)
  • Measuring results
  • Post-design extension activities list
  • Link to a video walk-through of the challenge

Student Handouts

  • Criteria & Constraints List (color and black & white; editable version provided)
  • Bowling pin guide sheets to help students set up markers for annihilation and accuracy tests.
  • Design Analysis Handouts (2-page regular spacing and 4-page expanded spacing for primary students included) (editable and in color and black & white)
  • >>>>>Two options provided: Test for annihilation only or annihilation & accuracy
  • Discussion Questions (editable and in color and black & white)

Extension templates

  • Process Flow Map
  • Create Math Problems Based on Designs


This is one of five challenges available at a discount in the

Back-to-School STEM Challenge Bundle

This resource is also available in the STEM CHALLENGE YEAR-ROUND MEGA-BUNDLE at an even greater discount!


Sample/suggested materials for each student or group:

Materials you’ll need to do the activity are easily modified.

  • Set of markers (10)
  • Markers will be used like bowling pins, so must stand on their own Crayola or broad highlighters work well
  • Apple (1)
  • Pocket folder with prongs (1)
  • >>>>>File folder or pocket folder without prongs may be substituted
  • Small or medium binder clips (1 – 2)
  • Unsharpened pencils (4 – 6)
  • Tape (24 – 36 in.)
  • String or yarn (36 – 48 in.)
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Design analysis handouts (included)
  • Marker “bowling pin” handouts (included)


• Cardboard boxes, tubes, or scraps (helpful in building a support structure and base for the wrecking ball rather than attaching to desk/table)

• Craft sticks

• Pipe cleaners

• Dowels

• Rubber bands


Benefits of this STEM Design Challenge:

- Focus on critical thinking, problem solving, and application of learning

- Helps students develop growth mindset traits like persistence and resilience

- High levels of student engagement

- The potential to hit upon all NGSS ETS standards depending on the depth and number of iterations you choose to implement in your classroom (modifications included)

- Highly flexible and differentiated for materials, timing, grade levels, and rigor.

Each design iteration should be planned for ~60 min. if you are including data gathering and analysis rather than just building for fun. If you add extension activities, you will need to adjust timing accordingly.


You might also like these resources:

Analyze and Interpret Data Unit

Back to School Ice Breaker Activity

Back to School STEM Challenge Activities: 1:1 PAPERLESS Version

Build a Boat STEM Challenge Mini Bundle

Card Tower STEM Challenge Mini Bundle

Halloween STEM Challenge Bundle

Oral and Written Communication Skills Task Cards

STEM Challenges: Year-Round Mega Bundle

Summer / End of the Year STEM Challenge 5-in-1 Bundle


Please check out the video preview to see the challenge, and don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions!


Video preview music credit:

"Carefree" Kevin MacLeod (

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

Total Pages
33 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
90 minutes
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Develop a simple sketch, drawing, or physical model to illustrate how the shape of an object helps it function as needed to solve a given problem.
Analyze data from tests of two objects designed to solve the same problem to compare the strengths and weaknesses of how each performs.
Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
Ask questions, make observations, and gather information about a situation people want to change to define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool.
Plan and conduct an investigation to provide evidence of the effects of balanced and unbalanced forces on the motion of an object. Examples could include an unbalanced force on one side of a ball can make it start moving; and, balanced forces pushing on a box from both sides will not produce any motion at all. Assessment is limited to one variable at a time: number, size, or direction of forces. Assessment does not include quantitative force size, only qualitative and relative. Assessment is limited to gravity being addressed as a force that pulls objects down.


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