Activities

These design challenges and science experiments cover topics like physics, chemistry, engineering, the environment and more! Need help getting started? Check out our Parent Tips. 

Check out these activities in Spanish on our En Casa page. 

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10 Days of Design Challenges

The educators and scientists at The Tech Interactive have created 10 different design challenges for you to try. Some will make you think. Some are a little silly. But if you stick with us, in just 10 days we promise you’ll be a more confident builder! A more ingenious innovator! And a more creative ... creator!

Duration: 10+ minutes each day

Cabbage Inks

Can you make color-changing paint from a simple cabbage? No doubt, sauerkraut. This activity from the scientists behind our BioTinkering Lab brings together biology, chemistry and art for an experience that is all science, and a little bit of magic.

The cabbage inks activity was made possible by a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA), Grant Number R25 GM129220, from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Extract: 1½ hours
Mix & make colors: 30 min
Dry: 1-3 days
Create: 30 min

Subject: Biodesign, Chemistry, Art

Cupcake Delivery

In this design challenge, you will create wind-powered contraptions to transport a load. At The Tech, we use 3D-printed cupcakes as our load, but you can use just about any small object!

Duration: 20+ minutes

Subject: Design Thinking, Engineering

Engineering for Earthquakes

Build a structure to take on an earthquake. Our latest activity sizes up your seismic safety. You’ll make a simple shake table and then construct a building that can withstand your shakes, rattles and rolls. 

Duration: DIY Shake Table: 5-30 min
Earthquake-Safe Structure: 45+ min

Subject: Engineering Design Challenge

Get in the Game!

Do you enjoy playing board games? Ever wanted to create your own? Use computational thinking to break down the process into simpler steps and design a unique game!

Duration: 30+ minutes

Subject: Computational thinking

Inflatables

Ever seen those wacky waving tube dudes outside a car dealership or furniture store? Imagine a DIY version!

Duration: 30+ minutes

Subject: Design Thinking, Engineering

Making with Microbes

Ever wanted to grow your own paper or plastic? Or create leather that doesn’t use animals? All these can be done at home by collaborating with microbes — tiny microscopic organisms — to grow a custom biomaterial.

Duration: 30+ minutes to create; one week to grow

Subject: Biodesign

Paper Skyscraper

Create the tallest structure you can with just five pieces of paper! This fun building challenge is great for multiple ages and large groups. How high can you go?

Duration: 15+ minutes

Subject: Design Thinking, Engineering

Responsible Reservoirs

You’re the mayor of a growing town and you need to decide whether or not to build a new dam to generate electricity. What factors will you consider? Would thinking like a computer help you decide? Play Responsible Reservoirs to find out!

Duration: 20+ minutes

Subject: Environmental Science

Summer Unplugged Design Challenges

Things are heating up and we’ve created five summer-themed design challenges for you to try.

Algae String

Who needs boring old plastic? Get creative and use simple at-home chemistry to transform natural materials from living seaweed into flexible, colorful string! What will you create?

Duration: Make algae gel: 20 min
Let gel rest: 1 hr- overnight
Make calcium bath: 5 min
Make string: 30 min

Subject: Biodesign, Chemistry, Materials Science

Coloring Pages

Download one of our techtastic coloring pages, and then color at home or with your friends over video chat.

Decontamination Algorithm

We know that our hands carry a lot of germs, but seeing is believing! This fun, two-person activity has a friend use colored cornstarch to create a trail of evidence of things they’ve touched. Then, using computational thinking instead of looking, you’ll create a sequence of questions to help you figure out what surfaces are “contaminated.”

Duration: 20+ minutes

Subject: Computational thinking, algorithms, problem-solving

Face Masks for Friends Sponsored by Stanford Children's Health

In this activity, you will play the role of a product designer, identify a user (like a favorite stuffed animal or person!) and get to know their individual needs. You will create a design concept for a face mask, focusing on its fit and comfort.

Duration: 30 minutes

Subject: Design Thinking

Grabbers

Design a device that can pick up three different objects from at least three feet away. It’s a challenge for the social-distancing ages!

Duration: 45+ minutes

Subject: Design Thinking, Mechanics, Simple Machines

Linkages

A linkage is created by connecting two or more rigid parts to make a flexible hinge; you can keep it simple or develop complex mechanical motion by connecting multiple linkages to create all kinds of contraptions. (Think flapping wings, dancing robots, chomping sharks!) At The Tech we especially love how linkages inspire the creation of whimsical characters with surprising motions.

Duration: 20+ minutes

Subject: Design Thinking, Engineering

Materials Treasure Hunt

Some people may call it a junk drawer, but we like to think of it as a treasure chest. Our guide and video will show you how to repurpose your trash into treasured materials that you can use to design, build and create!

Puzzles

Try one of our jigsaw puzzles with some of our favorite sights around The Tech Interactive.

Roller Coasters

In this design challenge, you will create your own roller coaster, using a marble or small ball as your cart. This activity is a great introduction to hands-on engineering for children 6 and up, and it can be used to introduce connections of energy and friction for older children.

Duration: 20+ minutes

Subject: Engineering, Physics

Thaumatropes

Thaumatropes are old-fashioned optical illusions, or “tricks of the eye,” that date back to the 1820s. Here’s how to make one for yourself!

Building a Storm Drain

Create a storm drain cover that can keep trash out while letting water pass through in order to protect our waterways.

Duration: 45 minutes to one hour

Subject: Engineering, Earth science

Cooking with the Sun

Engineer a solar oven using some basic kitchen supplies, construction paper and a box. Then test it by making s’mores!

Duration: 40 minutes to build; one hour to “cook”

Subject: Solar radiation and energy, greenhouse effect

Energy Red Light, Green Light

This activity is a fun exploration of energy concepts for children 5 to 9, and can be used as their exercise/outside time for the day too!

Duration: 20 minutes

Subject: Potential/kinetic energy, PE

Games

Mazes, word searches and more!

Green Pennies

Can you make pennies turn green? And change them back? This activity is a great introduction to basic chemical reactions, experiments, and the scientific process.

Duration: 30 minutes of set-up; five days of observation

Subject: Chemistry

Maker May Design Challenges

The educators and scientists at The Tech Interactive have created five different design challenges for you to try at home! Each day has a different theme, starting with things you can wear and ending with things you can play!

Ninja Walk

Can you move as smoothly and silently as a ninja? In this experiment, you’ll use your stealthy ninja skills to move through a noisy obstacle course while holding a smartphone that is recording data on your performance.

Duration: 15+ minutes

Subject: Data Literacy, Physical Education

Puzzling Procedure

Have you ever tried to think like a computer? Guess what? You probably do it all the time without even knowing! In this fun activity you’ll apply your computational thinking skills to jigsaw puzzles. In addition to doing a puzzle, you’ll create an algorithm or set of instructions to help someone else solve jigsaw puzzles.

Duration: 30+ minutes

Subject: Computational thinking, algorithms, computer science

Solve the Fall

Design a device that will stop a ball from bouncing when dropped from a height of six feet!

Duration: 20+ minutes

Subject: Design Thinking, Engineering, Gravity, Force

Zipline

In this classic design challenge, you will be creating a vehicle to transport a passenger, such as a small toy, from one end of a zipline to the other.

Duration: 30+ minutes

Subject: Design Thinking, Engineering

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When The Tech Interactive closed, our team set out to bring as many activites found in our building to the home. If you’d like to support these efforts, please consider making a gift.

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