STEM Family Challenge Night

Grade Level(s): K-8

Date(s): Monday - Thursday Evening

Location: Your School

Cost: Free to first 3 Schools (Pilot Stage)

Description: Family members are just one of the major influences on a young person’s career pathway. Hosting a STEM Family Challenge event provides a unique opportunity for schools to build and enhance relationships with family members and to engage and inspire young people to explore STEM in a fun way. Planning a STEM Family Challenge event is a BIG undertaking and requires a lot of resources and time to plan and execute effectively. Also, a STEM Family Challenge event ought to be fun, hands-on, accessible, cover different topics and interests, and give families opportunities to design, build, and compete! This is where we come in. We provide a turnkey kit that any school or club can pull off with even limited volunteers. Families will have a blast competing together in the following exciting activities:

Clear as Mud (Media Center, Cafeteria, or Several Classrooms)

Families learn about how well they communicate with one another. One family member views a constructed object (made of things like beads, Styrofoam, pipe cleaners, etc.) and clearly explains to another family member (who cannot see the object) how to build it in a certain amount of time with the raw materials. Best reconstruction of object wins!

Whatever Floats Your Boat (Media Center, Science Lab, Cafeteria, or Several Classrooms)

Families design a boat that will hold as much weight as possible without sinking. Most mass held without sinking wins!

No Bones About It (Cafeteria or Several Classrooms)

Families assemble a skeleton from cut out bones. Did you know humans have 206 bones? Most bones correctly placed wins!

On the Fly (Gym, Cafeteria, or Large Open Space)

Families make, trim and fly rubber-band powered monoplanes. Longest time aloft wins!

The STEM Family Challenge will serve about 120 people (or about 30 families) in its pilot stage. If you believe your event will host more than 30 families then we are happy to work with you to serve more. It will be important to have a general idea about how many people will attend. Send out invites and RSVPs at least 1 month ahead of time with a due date (at least 1 week before the event occurs). That way if you need any additional materials, you have time to adjust. These activities will keep your families engaged for about 90 minutes. On the Fly will take approximately 30 minutes (maybe up to 45 for some). No Bones About It will take approximately 30 minutes. Float Your Boat will take approximately 15 minutes. Clear as Mud will take approximately 15-45 minutes depending on interest. We suggest doing On the Fly in the Gym, No Bones About It in the cafeteria, and putting both Float Your Boat and Clear as Mud in the Media Center. If you don’t have these 3 spaces, then make plans with the spaces you do have. You could do 30-minute rotations where 1/3 of families start with On the Fly, 1/3 start with No Bones About It, and the final 1/3 starts with Float Your Boat and Clear as Mud. Families in the Float Your Boat / Clear as Mud should spend about 15 minutes on each challenge.

In this pilot stage, we will handle everything for you as long as you provide the space and about 10 volunteers.

This is done in partnership with the Center for Inquiry-Based Learning.

Contact(s): Jason Painter (

Application Deadline: Ongoing