May 2, 2017

Summer STEM Challenge: Wicked-Fast Water Slide

This one is definitely a fan-favorite. Before your students head off to their summer break, give them a memory that will have them lamenting that last bell!

 Summer STEM Challenge: In Wicked-Fast Water Slide, students must design a water slide built for speed, thrills, and safety, of course! Includes modifications for grades 2-8.


Working against a criteria & constraints list in groups, students must design a water slide built for speed, thrills, and safety, of course!

Where Can I Find Out More?

If you're familiar with my work, you know I've been switching over to using video to explain the bulk of my challenges. It seems to be the best/fastest way to explain the important details: materials, set-up, tips, modifications, extensions, demonstrations, and more!  Who has time to read all that?! However, if you prefer to read, you'll find the video transcribed at the end of this post.

Check out the video below to see Wicked-Fast Water Slide in action:

Are There Other Challenges Like This?

Of course! I can't help myself! I have created 5 challenges for summer/the end of the school year! You can find the overview of each on this blog post. Each challenge is described in the post linked above, so be sure to check it out! 

Please reach out with any questions and tag me in photos of your students' work on Facebook & Instagram.

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


 Summer STEM Challenge: In Wicked-Fast Water Slide, students must design a water slide built for speed, thrills, and safety, of course! Includes modifications for grades 2-8.

Video Transcription

Hi there, welcome to the very best day of the week, STEM Challenge Day. If your students are getting a little squirrely and it's hard to keep them engaged, check out Wicked Fast Water Slide. In this challenge, students are going to be making a water slide built for speed, thrills and safety of course.

Let's take just a second to check out the materials and the STEM Challenge Cycle. 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. Just a couple quick notes about materials, if you have any spare cardboard or foam board around, it's great to let students build on top of that. That way their slides are transportable and you can do the testing, and keep all the watery mess outside of your classroom.

Represent the people riding the slides, I like to use little beads or marbles, and I do also like to add blue food coloring to the water just to make it look a little bit more like a waterpark. The base criteria and constraints are as follows. The students need to get six riders down the slide as quickly as possible. They need a way for the riders to get from the ground to the top of the slide. There must be a collection pool. The riders may not be ejected off the ride, and they should not collide with other riders. I don't count collisions in the collection pool, because if they were actually people, they'd be able to swim out of the way.

I ask older students to give at least three twists or turns, but for younger students, you can reduce that to just one or two. I like to set the maximum height at 18 inches. Now, for younger students, if you want to keep this a little bit more relaxed, you can have them focus more on the safety elements. So, they need to focused mostly on keeping the riders on the slide, and prevent them from colliding with each other, at least until they hit the collection pool. You can require that they build one or two turns, but maybe you aren't so focused on how quickly they can get those six people down the slide.

If you have older students, you might be looking to increase the difficulty. One thing you can do, is require more twists or turns, or you could be specific about the angles of those turns. Perhaps you require that one angle be between 30 and 60 degrees, while another is 120 degrees or greater. I wouldn't recommend dictating every angle of every turn, because you do want there to be some variety in their end slide designs.

You could add a criterion for water conservation. The students will be aiming to get their six riders down the slide as quickly as possible using as little water as possible. You can also eliminate the cardboard tubes. If you do that, make sure you supplement with additional cups or foil, or other materials to make up for it.

When it comes time to measure results, you're going to want to let students have a little bit of practice time before you do an official measurement round. This is part of why the collection pool is so important because you're going to want them to be able to take the water, put it back in the bottle so that they can retest their design several times.

The students will record three measurements here. The time it takes to get all six riders down the slide, how many riders stayed on the slide, and the number of collisions, if any. Quick note, if you did decide to have younger focus more on safety, rather than doing the total time it takes to get six riders down the slide, perhaps have them focus on the time they need to wait in between riders to ensure safety.

For everyone else, the timer starts when the first rider hits the slide. Teams might decide that they want to start pouring a little bit of water ahead of that, and that's fine, but the timer starts when the first rider hits the slide. The timer stops when the sixth rider lands in the collection pool.

Give teams lots of time to do their measurements so that the team members can switch roles, so it's not always the same person pouring the water, putting the riders on the slide, keeping the time, and so forth. Everyone should have an opportunity to try to do as many jobs as possible.

To extend on this, students should look into the science of water slides. Now, of course they can look into computer programs and monitor materials that engineers use today, but I'm thinking more along the lines of friction, gravity, potential energy and kinetic energy. Once they've done a little bit of learning and research on those topics, even if you don't have time for a full second iteration, have the teams go back into their groups, and talk about how they would make some modification to their slide and what the justification is for those changes.

You can also have students look into waterpark sustainability and how do they keep the water clean. You could also pose the question to students, in times of drought, is it ethical for water parks to remain open? You could have students discuss, debate, do some research and even persuasive writing on the topic.

You now have all the basics you need to do Wicked Fast Water Slide in your class on your own, but of course, I've always got extra goodies for you in the resource, so take a second to check it out. This time saving resource contains everything you need including modifications for use with second through eighth graders. You'll still need to gather the simple materials of course, but the rest is ready and waiting.

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 Wicked Fast Water Slide Materials list. In Teacher Tips, you'll find premise and set-up, how to increase or decrease difficulty through the Criteria and Constraints list, measuring results and cross-curricular extension suggestions.

You'll find an editable Criteria and Constraints list so you can tailor the challenge to your students. There are two versions of design analysis handouts. 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 a forces research log and design application handout as well as math extension and process flow templates. This resource is available individually and is part of the discounted Summer and Mega STEM Challenge Bundles. Links can be found in the description below the video.

I know you and your students are going to have such a great time with Wicked Fast Water Slide. Make sure that you are following my store on Teachers Pay Teachers, or subscribed on YouTube. I'll be back next time with a final Summer STEM Challenge Amphibious Phone. Have a fabulous week I will see next time.

No comments:

Post a Comment