20 STEM Projects That Are Great for Middle School
Middle school is such an exciting time for exploration! Check out the following middle school STEM projects and pick which ones you want to try first with your students.
Simply click the title of each lesson in the list to get the full lesson plan for these great STEM challenges that align with lessons for middle school science, technology, engineering, and math objectives.
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STEM Activities for Middle School Students
1. I Breathe What?
Students explore pollen, dust, and other particulates in the air with their created “pollution detectors” placed in various spots and compare the captured air particles from the different locations. They will hypothesize what causes the differences and explain why engineers look at the particulate matter when they observe air quality.
2. Design a Bridge
With various material options, students design bridges with enough structural integrity to hold 100 pennies for 30 seconds without collapse. Review engineering concepts such as load and force with your classes before they get started.
3. Spaghetti Soapbox Derby
In pairs, students design, build and test their model vehicles of dry pasta and hot glue, with the goal of rolling along a ramp and coasting as far as possible. This STEM activity focuses on using somewhat challenging materials in the best ways possible.
4. Trail Planning Using Topographic Quadrangle Maps
This earth science activity first calls for familiarity with US Geological Survey quadrangle maps. Working within set guideline requirements, students then use these maps to design a good route for a new recreational trail.
5. Bikini Bottom Genetics
Students apply an understanding of genetics in an analysis of sea creature genotypes that live in SpongeBob SquarePants’ neighborhood. They predict traits of offspring with the use of Punnett squares.
6. Design a Wristwatch for the Visually Impaired
Help your students review the engineering design process. They will then research, model, test and evaluate wristwatches for individuals with visual impairments as an exercise in applying engineering skills in the areas of bioengineering and biomedical engineering.
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7. Use Your Shoe!
Teachers collect shoe size data from the class. As a group, they use the data to determine the mean, median, and mode. Students then use that information to make inferences about average shoe size and broader populations. This activity provides a review of how to calculate mean, median, and mode, along with methods to make inferences based on the sample.
8. Mission to Mars
Following a storyline, task your students with completing various STEM challenges, such as engineering straw rockets, designing landing devices, and completing a Coke and Mentos experiment as part of a Mars emergency. Teamwork, engineering design, and the use of science topics in real life are all addressed.
9. Snack Time!
Using nutritional information labels from various packaged foods, students will organize and describe that info to show the data in a box-and-whisker plot, bar graph, and pie chart. This activity touches on both math and science standards.
10. No Valve in Vain
Teams of students employ the engineering design process to use tape and plastic tubing to create heart valve models. For this activity, the class reviews the engineering design process and the workings of a one-way valve.
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11. Marble Speed Traps with Lego Mindstorms
Students review the formula for velocity. Using drag and drop programming, they code the speed traps to measure the distance between the sensors and time it takes the marble to travel between them. They design the course, write the code, convert units, evaluate, and make changes as needed.
12. The Million Dollar Project
Students imagine inheriting and spending 1 million dollars with specific guidelines of how they may use that money. They research on the internet, record all purchases, learn to write checks, and track all their spending, which reinforces various mathematical concepts.
13. Explore the Law of Inertia using a Fidget Spinner
Review the equations for torque and inertia with students. By removing lights (weight) from spinners, they can explore how the amount of time the device will continue spinning is affected by the mass.
14. Backyard Weather Stations
Working in groups, students describe the current weather and predict future conditions by observing cloud formations. They design backyard weather stations that could gather data for actual forecasting. Technologies for forecasting would be explored, along with weather basics.
15. Leaning Tower of Pasta
Review compression and tension in structure stability with your class. Students use math and engineering concepts to design and build structures with long, dry spaghetti and marshmallows, to find which ones can withstand the largest amount of load.
16. Cleaning the Great Lakes
With choices from limited materials, students discover how to filter pollutants from dirty water. Teachers may use this challenge activity along with earth science units about water pollution or those concerning local lakes.
17. Soil Biosolarization: Sustainable Weed Killer
Serving as agricultural engineers, students explore the effectiveness of this sustainable weed control technique that uses organic waste instead of poisons. By using seed starter pots, they plant “weeds” and test the use of organic matter, like oatmeal, to see if it kills the weeds, assessing the impact of products and systems.
18. Renewable Energy: Power Your School
In pairs, students use real data to assess the possible use of solar or wind power generation at their school. Using science, math, and engineering concepts, they explore the differences between these two methods, use maps for an analysis of potential, and look at factors related to the feasibility of renewable energy at their location.
19. Generate Your Own Ocean Currents!
Have your students design and construct models of an ocean with islands to observe and document how currents driven by winds move the water and interact with the land. Through this challenge project, they will explore circulation patterns, the Coriolis effect, and the transfer of heat from the global ocean convection cycle.
20. Scaling Up Candy Wrappers
Students bring in their favorite candy bar wrappers, choose a scale factor (larger than 5), and enlarge their wrappers to that scale in a drawing on grid paper. This is a fun way to have kids use the math concept of scale factor. They can then color and display their finished projects!
How to Make the Most of These Middle School STEM Projects
Rather you do these STEM projects at home or in the classroom, be sure to ask discussion questions throughout the activity.
We rounded up these projects specifically because they align with learning objectives and lessons for 6th to 8th-grade students. Ask how this applies to what they’re currently learning in class? What did the project demonstrate?
Let us know in the comments what your favorite Middle School STEM projects! We’d love to hear them.
Susan GreksoPosted at 22:43h, 29 December
I taught bridge building to sixth grade students. The only thing I taught them was information and diagrams about trusses. They had to take notes for their own use during construction. Gave them the materials, formed groups and gave them them help without interfering with their own ideas. The amount of enthusiasm I have seldom seen in middle school. They were so excited they told their other teachers about the project. The bridges were beautiful and so strong. It was great to see the application of the trusses! I am all for STEM activities!
shannon colcloughPosted at 16:09h, 19 July
These are some great activities thanks for sharing and I’ll use them at my school.