Learning objective: for students to analyze a problem, and test and refine solutions. This will demonstrate a key skill needed in engineering and scientific disciplines. 

Materials Needed
  • Dixie cups
  • Marbles
  • Fishing line or fine string 
  • Masking tape 
  • Index cards 
  • Paper clips 
  • Bull’s-eye target

Printable PDF instructions can be downloaded here.


  • Students form teams 
  • Each team receives 1 Dixie cup, 1 marble, a length of string about 4 feet long, a roll of masking tape, a couple index cards and about 10 paper clips. You can group the materials in advance. 
  • Teams tape the string to the wall, then to a lower point so it forms an incline. You can use a desk or chair back. 
  • Set the bull’s-eye paper target on the floor about halfway between the wall and the chair. 
  • Challenge the teams to come up with a way to transport the marble from the top point of the string, and then have it drop so it hits the target. 
  • Go! You can circulate around the room, watching the kids’ progress, giving hints if needed. They may ask about different ways they can proceed—you are free to make up your own “rules” depending on the age of the kids. The objective is simply to engage them in an engineering problem-solving exercise. 
  • When there is about 10 minutes left, get the class’ attention and ask each team to present its results. Ask them to select a speaker to present their findings, talk about what they learned and demonstrate results. The other teams may move around the room to see what their classmates did. Tell them that this is what scientists and engineers do at a conference—they get together to share what they’ve learned and compare results.