Here’s an applied engineering challenge in which—just like in the real world of engineering—a poor design means limited success or even failure.
In the Iditarod Sled Challenge, students apply their background knowledge of physical science and use logic and imagination to construct a miniature sled that will deliver “serum” to Nome, Alaska, just like Balto once did.
Use this challenge in conjunction with your study of the arctic or the Iditarod--or as a stand-alone engineering challenge for the regular or advanced classroom. I use this with my 3rd grade GATE students, but I have also challenged 6th graders with it as well.
You won’t need fancy materials to prepare you classroom for this one. Sleds can be built out of just about anything, and they are pulled along by string and gravity across desktops. Got some cardboard and tape, a stack of pennies, paper clips, an old plastic cup, desktops, and an action figure? If so, you’re ready to roll (or slide)!
This activity comes with instructions and sample pictures, ready-to-print scoring sheets, descriptions and rules, and a guide to a follow-up discussion which helps students think more about the relationship between design, weight, friction, and gravity.