Rainbow STEM Challenge


Have you ever had a Pinterest fail? I know I have!​​ Sometimes a STEM challenge seems like unicorns and rainbows in theory and then you try doing it in your own classroom and everything turns into chaos.

Kids are off task…The project flops…​​​​That’s why I love having my go-to resources like The Plato Pack where I *KNOW* the lessons will always be a success. It’s such a huge time-saver!​
Speaking of Pinterest WINS, I wanted to pass along this simple STEM activity so you can print it out and add it to your lesson plans.

Getting Ready

Prepping the project was really as simple as gathering together supplies for each group:

  • 15 pipe cleaners (including one of each color in the rainbow if possible)
  • A small container of playdough
  • Scissors
  • One record sheet for each child

And then, for testing later, I grabbed a small plastic cup filled with 50 pennies.

Rainbow STEM Challenge

Each group had the same goal: building the strongest rainbow.

To successfully complete the challenge, however, I set out some extra rules. The rainbows had to:

  • Stand on their own
  • Use 15 or fewer pipe cleaners each
  • Not use any other material like tape or staples to bind the pipe cleaners together.
  • Stand at least 4 inches (10 cm) tall

Since a big piece of STEM learning is design, teamwork and problem solving, I had students first work with their groups to create a plan on their record sheet.

Then they set out to actually build their rainbow!

After all of the groups had finished creating, it was time to test the strength of the arcs. This is where the real STEM challenge came in!

Working on one rainbow at a time, we placed the plastic cup at the center of the arc and slowly added one coin to the cup at a time until the arc collapsed.

The kids were so excited to see what design was the strongest!

To stretch students’ thinking, we talked about what worked well and what needed to be tweaked next time.

Then kids set off to adjust their designs before we tested them again to see if there was any improvement.

Rainbow STEM Challenge Extension Activity

A simple way to build students’ creativity is having them use leftover pipe cleaners to make their own design: trees, animals – just about anything!

I’m including an extension record sheet in the download (below) for you, too.

Grab Your Download

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