STEM Space Lander Math & Engineering Activity

Vivify STEM
Grade Levels
6th - 9th, Homeschool
Formats Included
  • PDF (57 pages)
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Vivify STEM
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Updated for distance learning! Click here for an instructional video and digital and printed STEM journals.

The combination of marshmallows (or ping pong balls) and aliens makes this a winning STEM challenge! With the Space Lander Challenge, student teams build a lander using the Engineering Design Process to keep two marshmallow "aliens" or "astronauts" inside a cup as it is dropped from various heights. Using straws, index cards, and mini marshmallows or cotton balls, students apply concepts of shock-absorption, drag forces, and stability, to create and test designs. A surprise ending challenge helps students learn from their failures too! The included Common Core aligned math extension problems help students analyze solutions and connect the challenge to real-world scenarios.

Read overview of activity here.

Find K-5 version of the activity here.

Update: This product now has 3 options that connect students to real world STEM! Follow the story line by choosing between aliens, the Moon, or Mars as a theme. This product includes handouts describing the Apollo and Artemis missions to the Moon as well as the exploration and future of humans on Mars! This is the perfect way to connect to current events in space exploration.

As with many STEM activities that are student-driven, this challenge can be tailored to students of various skill levels and abilities. As one of our go-to STEM challenges, we have used the STEM Space Lander Challenge in elementary through high school levels with great success!

Included in this product:

  • Detailed teachers guide with links to resources
  • STEM Career Connections
  • Real-world STEM history and science handouts
  • Student handouts to guide them through the engineering design process
  • Student recording sheet for each step of the process
  • Math connection problems including angles, ratios, geometry, and graphing

Looking for more STEM lessons? Find the Vivify resource guide here:

About STEM Challenges: Click here to learn more about the 3 Stages of STEM. STEM challenges are an engaging way to incorporate the engineering design process into your classroom or afterschool program! These hands-on activities allow students to work in teams, apply the engineering design process, and connect science topics to real-world applications. The teacher will provide the structure to the project, but students will take an active role in designing and building their own device.

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Total Pages
57 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
3 hours
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.
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 the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.
Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.
Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.


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