Black History Month STEM Challenge: Functional Furniture

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Kerry Tracy Feel-Good Teaching
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  1. Super-charge your STEM class with 52 high-engagement, critical thinking, problem-solving, NGSS-aligned challenges to take you through the entire year! Modifications are included to make these activities engaging and challenging for students in grades 2 - 8. The basic premise: Students work in partne
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  3. This challenge was created as a way to celebrate Black History Month and/or Women’s History Month in science class. The premise is inspired by Sarah E. Goode’s 1885 invention of the folding cabinet bed. She was one of the first African-American women to obtain a patent for her invention!The basic pr
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This challenge was created as a way to celebrate Black History Month and/or Women’s History Month in science class. The premise is inspired by Sarah E. Goode’s 1885 invention of the folding cabinet bed. She was one of the first African-American women to obtain a patent for her invention!

The basic premise:

Working against a criteria/constraints list in groups, students will design and build multi-functional furniture, or furnish an entire apartment.




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 my 5-part video series on getting started with STEM challenges

- Materials and timing

- Criteria & Constraints (including modifications to increase difficulty for older students)

- Measuring results

- Universal STEM Challenge Notes & How to Use Student Handouts Post-design extension activities list

- Link to a video walk-through of the challenge

Student Handouts

- Criteria & Constraints List (two levels of difficulty provided in color and black & white; editable version included)

- Design Analysis Handouts (2-page regular spacing and 4-page expanded spacing for primary students included) (editable; in color and black & white)

- Necessities vs. Niceties for Apartments (editable)

- Sample furniture /appliances measurements (in., cm, & blank -- editable)

- Furniture information sheet (editable; record details of design for presentation)

- Discussion Questions (editable; in color and B&W)

Extension templates

- Inventor Research Notes Template (editable)

- Studio Apartment Floor Plan (editable)

- Investor Pitch Planning (editable)

- Pitch Audience Notes Template (editable)

- Pitch Investor Checkbook (editable)

- Process Flow Map

- Math Extension



This is one of five challenges available in the Late Winter STEM Challenge bundle at a 30% discount!

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.)

– Card stock or index cards

– Cardboard scraps

– String (12 – 24 in.)

– Craft sticks (4-8)

– Pipe cleaners (5-10)

– Masking tape (12 – 24 in.)

– Scissors

– Ruler

– Optional

• Cereal/tissue boxes

• Construction paper

• Rubber bands

• Single hole punch

• Paperclips, binder clips, and/or brass brads

• Straws


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:

STEM Challenges & Bundles (grades 2 – 8):


Christmas/Winter STEM Design Challenge: 5-in-1 Bundle

Snow Scoop

Frosted Forest

Valentine’s Day STEM Challenge 5-in-1 Bundle

MLK Writing Prompts

Analyze and Interpret Data Unit

Getting Started with STEM Challenges FREEBIE


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

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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 carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.


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