Central Middle School of Science STEM Challenge


September 25, 2017


Think. Figure out. Do. That’s the message of the challenge for students. Principal Joel Roylance invited parents, community members, and ASD staff to volunteer or visit Central Middle School classrooms during the Challenge. All classrooms participated, with students and teachers grouped in ways that placed them in new groups outside of their normal classes.


The Challenge consisted of three tower-building projects—one constructed using 15 pipe cleaners, the second, constructed from differing size cups, tongue depressors, all on an index card base, and the final challenge, building the largest tower possible from given materials on a peg board. Structured to create new collaborative work, students were also faced with the challenges of moving and changing environments, such as, “You are now loosing half of your workforce and must manage your project with half your resources.” For students, that meant, as an example, working with their non-dominant hand only with their dominant hand behind their backs or in a pocket.


Continuing the intensity of the challenge, students were told, “As engineers, we work in a global marketplace. This means being able to community with people from many different cultures and countries.” Students were given a make-believe country and language in which cultural to communicate. Simulating the difficulty, students were instructed, “You may no longer talk to your team. Anyone who speaks will be eliminated from the tower activity.” Emulating the difficulties of shifting resources and uncertain conditions, projects were still to be completed on time and within the constraints presented.


Recording their thoughts, what worked and what did not work in their personal Design Journal, one volunteer architect in one classroom reminded students, “The most important part of my work is planning. Without careful and correct plans, no structure ever gets built.” “Big takeaway” questions facilitated discussion and a takeaway about planning is that having a plan allows everyone in the group to know what is happening and how to proceed to make a building successful.


Thank you to the parent and community volunteers who made this month’s STEM challenge interesting and successful for our students.

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