February 1, 2017

Valentine's Day STEM Challenge: Candy / Confection Container

Valentine's Day STEM Challenge: In Candy/Confection Container, students create a container that keeps its contents secure and is small, stackable, and eye-catching! Comes with modifications for grades 2-8.

This challenge is simple on the outside, but oh so sweet on the inside! The best part is that you can add in so many math activities to extend. Just think of all the math that goes into creating products for retail: price, margin, tax, shipping & delivery costs, fitting items on shelves...The list goes on and on, so you can get as deep in the weeds as you like!


In Candy/Confection Container, students create a container that keeps its contents secure and is small, stackable, and eye-catching!

Where Can I Find Out More?

As you may already be aware, I've found creating video walk-throughs of my STEM challenges is the best way to explain the important details: materials, set-up, tips, modifications, extensions, and more! Check out the video below to learn more about Candy/Confection Container. However, if you prefer to read, you'll find the video transcribed at the end of this post.

Are There Other Challenges Like This?

Of course! I have five Valentine's Day STEM Challenges ready to go! You can find an overview of each on this blog post.  Each individual challenge will get its own video walk through and blog post starting with Cupid's Quiver on January 19, 2017 and ending with Cards in the Clouds on February 12 (all but the last will post on Thursdays).

You can find even more STEM challenges in my Mega Bundle, on this blog, and on my YouTube channel!

Video Transcription

Hi there. Welcome to my favorite day, STEM Challenge Day. And today we're doing week three of the Valentine's Day STEM Challenges, Candy Container. Now you may choose to call this one Confection Container instead, that way you can use cupcakes or pastries or cookies, or whatever you've got on hand. 

Premise is simple. Students are designing a container for maybe four to eight pieces of candy, or one or more cupcakes or treats. Let's check out the materials in the STEM Challenge Cycle, then we'll get into it.

This is the STEM Challenge Cycle you should follow for every challenge. I've defined each step in another video. I've added a pop-in card to that video here as well as a link in the description. 

You're doing Candy Container, you're gonna give students a set of candies. And they should be different shapes. So, you can see in here I've got some lollipops, a Twix, two Hershey's Kisses, and in the center here we have a Peep heart. Whether you're doing the candy or the confection container, we're looking for a few similar things in the criteria and constraints. 

We want it to be the smallest package size possible. We want it to be stackable so that it can ship easily. We want it to keep the candy or cupcakes secure so they shouldn't move around a lot. If you're doing a cupcake, the frosting shouldn't transfer. And of course, we want it to be eye catching in a very pleasing way because these are gonna be sold in stores. 

Now, if you'd rather make this more of a steam challenge and add a little bit more art than just eye catching, you can ask the students to work in the style of a particular artist. Or to incorporate warm colors, cool colors, complimentary colors, analogous, and so forth. 

So there are a few different ways you can add some difficulty. The first is to consider your materials, and give students fewer rigid materials, or maybe even no rigid materials. As you know, I'm fond of sometimes giving students, particularly older, or STEM Challenge savvy students impossible challenges. So, asking them to create something that's stackable and will hold everything in place that doesn't require anything rigid is quite difficult. One idea I really like to add to this challenge is to have students consider the shelf in the store that this will be displayed upon, and give them a criterion that their designs must fit 10 identical units on a store shelf that is 12 inches by 6 inches by 6 inches. Now they don't need to actually make 10 of their units. They would just take the measurements of one and then obviously do the math.

You'll need to have students measure their results based on the criteria we set at the beginning of the challenge. So, we wanted the smallest box possible. Have students take their measurements at the longest point and the widest point of their designs. Now to check if the design is stackable, I would lay it down flat, and either stack novels on top of it, or tissue boxes, or even if you have at home an actual level, bring that in and see how the designs do. 

We also said the designs had to be secure. That they would keep the candy or cupcakes in place. So, in order to test that, I would have students invert the box and maybe shake the box, and then check to see that everything is still in place. Side note on this, I do allow students to use tape if the candy has a wrapper. 

We also said the designs had go be eye catching. Now, I would either have students within their groups give themselves a score out of 10, or you could have all of the students in the class give feedback. Now, if you do have students vote, you don't want to spend a ton of time on it, unless you want them to work on averaging, in which case, they could go around and distribute their votes within a paper bag perhaps. Another way you can do it is just have students come up with their designs and then count down from 10 and get a quick count of how many 10s, 9s, and so forth. It doesn't have to be that complicated. You can just let students grade their own. 

To extend on this one, you can have students consider different size shipping boxes and figure out how many of their individual units would fit in these boxes and how much wasted space there would be. You could even set this up in centers, where you have different size boxes. Don't buy anything, just use maybe an Amazon box that you have, or even like a storage bin. Put a different size one at a few different tables, and have students use their measurements of their individual container to figure out how many could fit within each box. In order to determine what is the best shipping box for their design.

Younger students, that might be pretty difficult. But, I would encourage you to consider doing a hands on version of this, where you have them trace basically the footprint of their design. They can use newspaper or butcher paper to measure out the bottom face of a box. Then determine by placing their foot prints of their containers on that, how many could fit on each layer. The next step would be to measure the height of their design and compare that the height of the shipping container. Again, they can create a newspaper or butcher paper of that face of the box, and mark lines all the way up. Then from there, they know what fits on one layer, they know how many layers are in the box. Now, maybe they're too young to do the multiplication, but surely they can draw the picture out, or even use manipulatives. 

I you want to take the exercise a step further, then you can start considering delivery truck sizes. Then match the boxes to the delivery trucks. You can even set prices for the shipping boxes and the delivery trucks, and then have students figure out what's the most cost effective way to ship 1,000 of their units. I've done that in my resource. And if you want to involve a little bit of ELA in this, I would have students create either a print ad or a viral video in order to sell their containers. 

So now you have all the basics in order to conduct this challenge in your classroom. But, I would urge you to check out the resource because there are a lot of time savers and extras in there.

You'll be asking this resource to be your Valentine. It contains everything you need including modifications for use with 2nd through 8th graders. You'll still need to gather the simple materials, of course, but the hard parts are done. You'll get Aligned Next Generation Science Standards, links to my STEM Challenge How-To Videos to help you get the most from each challenge, and the Candy Container Materials list. 

In Teacher Tips, you'll find premise and setup, how to increase or decrease difficulty through the Criteria and Constraints list, measuring results, and cross-curricular extension suggestions. You'll find two editable Criteria and Constraints lists so you can tailor the challenge to your students. 

For Student Handouts there are two versions. Four-page expanded room for response for younger students, and a two-page condensed space paper saver version. You'll also find a set of group discussion questions. In the Extension Handouts, you'll find editable shipping and delivery math exercises with Teacher Tips, as well as math extension and process flow templates. This resource is available individually and as part of the discounted Valentine's and Mega STEM Challenge Bundles. Links can be found in the description below the video. 

Make sure you do not forget to Like and Subscribe. I'm gonna be back next week with Challenge Four, which is Flower Frenzy. See you next time.

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