STEM Challenge Bucket Tower

Grade Levels
3rd - 5th
Formats Included
  • Zip
25 pages
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A STEM Activity featuring a bucket has turned out to be one of our favorites and your students will love it, too! This challenge is to build a tower (although not a very tall one) that will hold weight. Students engineer a suspending “bucket” within the tower and the bucket must hold weight. The best part is listening to groups explain why their towers need a bucket. Imaginative answers are one of the high points of this challenge- along with seeing those creative bucket towers!

Note: This challenge is available in money-saving bundles!

What is the challenge?

Students will find a way to use the straws to hold the bucket aloft and then test it with weight. As it gets heavier and heavier they will make on-the-spot adjustments as they see weak points of the tower buckle or collapse. It’s engineering at its best! You can opt to add a requirement that their design must include a functional reason for a tower having a bucket.

What is your prep?

You will need supplies in addition to this package. This includes straws, string, masking tape, hole punchers, small cups, and scissors. You will need to set up bins with materials for each group and copy the lab sheets for each student.

The package specifically includes:

  • Cover
  • Teacher background
  • Materials and preparation page
  • 6 pages of teacher directions
  • 2 versions of the constraints list
  • 3 pages of photographs
  • 2 versions of the lab sheet
  • Terms of Use page
  • Sample student answer sheets are not included, but samples of student work are included in the teacher direction pages.
  • In addition, the challenge includes a scoring rubric and an editable file. The pages that can be edited are the constraints posters, the lab sheets, and the rubric.
  • The page count listed for this package includes everything.

This proved to be a challenging task, but the kids loved it! They very cleverly found ways to make the materials work!

What are teachers saying?

  • "This is probably one of my favorite STEM lessons. My students loved the competitive nature of the lesson and loved the possibilities. This is a perfect lesson for students to understand the engineering and design process."
  • "I use this as an intro activity with my science enrichment class. The kids love it and it's a great way for them to get to know each other and work together to solve this problem. It is very well put together. I will continue to use this resource in the future!
  • "...this exactly what I want in a TPT resource! Clear and detailed instructions, REAL student samples, possible trouble areas and how to deal with them, editable files to allow some flexibility from class to class, and attractive handouts without unnecessary and twee graphics."

This challenge works perfectly with two others that use straws as the main material:

Or purchase all three challenges in money-saving bundles:

You might also like this bundle that uses straws!

This challenge can be found in a modified format for use by one student:


You might also like these STEM Challenges:


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Total Pages
25 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.
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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