We will be sharing a STEM challenge children can do at home here every Friday. Complete the challenge and share your results on social media with @BramptonLibrary #kidsatBL! 

This week’s challenge: 

This week, we will learn how magnets work, and use this knowledge to create a magnetic character that can travel through a maze!

Supplies you will need:

  • A magnet- ask your parents if you can use one from the fridge!
  • Cardboard
  • Paper
  • Markers
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • A small metal object- something magnetic!

What are magnets? How do they work?

Have you ever made a magnet “jump” from your hand to the fridge?

A magnet is something that attracts certain metals toward it, with an invisible force called magnetism. Not every time of metal will work, but some that do are iron, nickel, and cobalt.

Search around your house for something magnetic, by holding up a fridge magnet to it: if the item is magnetic, it will “jump” toward it! Look for small metal objects, like paperclips. Try to find at least three different things that are magnetic.

Magnets are very useful for holding items together. Your refrigerator is magnetic, and so is your fridge magnet, so you can put a piece of paper between them to hold it up. That’s how we’re going to use our magnets to solve a maze!

Build your maze

Take a bit of time to plan a maze before you draw it on your cardboard- it can be tricky to get it right! Make sure that the maze is solvable and you can reach the end. Try drawing something interesting at the end of your maze- maybe a moon, or a flower?

If you’re stuck on how to design a maze, you can always print out one of our templates!

Create a character

Find your scrap paper, and draw yourself a character to solve the maze. They should be no bigger than 4 or 5 cm long. Not sure what your character should be? Think about the image that you drew in the centre of your maze- what might try to reach it? A rocket ship might try to travel to the moon, or a bee might fly to the flower.

Carefully cut out your character, and use some tape to stick it to your magnetic item- a coin, a paperclip, or whatever else you were able to find.

Solve your maze!

Time to test out your magnets and your maze! Hold the magnet on the back of your cardboard, and place your magnetized character on the front. The magnet should hold the character up through the cardboard!

Try to navigate your character through the maze, using the magnet in the back.

Good luck!

And don’t forget to share your creations with us, @BramptonLibrary #kidsatBL!

How can I find out more about magnets?

Here are some interesting facts about magnets:

  • All magnets have two ends, or poles: the north and the south. The north pole will attract, or pull, the south pole of another magnet. If you try to hold two of the same poles together, they will repel or push each other instead.
  • If you cut a magnet in half, you would get two magnets, and each would have their own north and south poles.
  • The attraction and repulsion are caused by an invisible magnetic field that surrounds the magnet.
  • The Earth has a north and south pole too- and it also has a huge magnetic field around it!
  • You can make a new magnet by taking a piece of magnetic material and rubbing it with a magnet a few times. If you pick up a paperclip with a magnet, another paperclip will attach to the first one- because it’s been magnetized!

Want to learn more? You might enjoy these free resources, from our digital library:

Amaze and Repel Book Cover

Attract and Repel: A Look at Magnets by Jennifer Boothroyd (non-fiction book/eBook, recommended for 8-12 years)

First How Things Work Encyclopedia Cover

First How Things Work Encyclopedia, by DK (non-fiction book/eBook, recommended for 6-12 years)

Fun and Easy Science Projects Book Cover

Fun & Easy Science Projects, Grade 5, by JB Concepts Media (electronic resource, recommended for 11-12 years)

Resources for grown-ups:

Video: Fun with Magnets

We will be sharing a STEM challenge children can do at home here every Friday. Complete the challenge and share your results on social media with @BramptonLibrary #kidsatBL! 

Image Source: Digital Trends

This week’s challenge: 

Build a Rube Goldberg Machine--or, a machine designed to complete a simple task in a very complex way using a series of chain reactions. 

Supplies you will need:

  • Objects that move (or have “kinetic energy”)
    • Examples: balls, roller skates, skateboards, fidget spinners, mechanical toys, etc.
  • Objects that could have stored energy based on their position (or have “potential energy”)
    • Examples: dominoes, elastic bands
  • Other supplies to control when and how the objects listed above move: cardboard, plastic cups, popsicle sticks, paper, tape, scissors, string

Tips to get started: 

Step One: Choose the task you want your machine to complete

Step Two: Set up your chain reactions

  • Choose whether you want to start at the beginning or with your end goal.
  • Build each step and test it along the way to make sure it will work when you try to put it all together.

Step Three: Try your machine! 

  • Even if you have tested each chain reaction along the way, your Rube Goldberg machine probably will not work on the first try. 
  • Learn from failed attempts to make small adjustments to your machine.

Helpful science terms:

Anytime something is in motion we say that it has kinetic energy.

  • This could be you when you run down the street, a bicycle when it is moving and even the wind or water in the ocean. Kinetic energy also includes anything that has rotation or vibrates.
  • When one object collides with another object, (like a baseball bat hitting a ball, for example) it transfers its kinetic energy to the second object. (The baseball bat transfers its kinetic energy to the ball and the ball then moves in a different direction, containing all of the kinetic energy.)

Potential energy is the stored energy an object has because of its position or state. 

  • A bicycle on top of a hill, a book held over your head, or a stretched rubber band all have potential energy.

If you liked this activity, you might enjoy these free resources from our digital library

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires (fiction picture book/ebook, recommended for 4-8 years)

Science Max: Rube Goldberg Machine (TV episode available on Kanopy, recommended for 4-12 years)

Many Ways to Move: A Look at Motion by Jennifer Boothroyd (non-fiction book/ebook, recommended for 6-8 years)

Resources for grown-ups:

We will be sharing a STEM challenge children can do at home here every Friday. Complete the challenge and share your results on social media with @BramptonLibrary #kidsatBL! 

This week’s challenge: 

This week we are challenging children to design a parachute that will create enough air resistance to slow a small toy’s journey down to the ground. 

For an extra challenge, try timing how long it takes for your parachute to reach the ground and see how slow you can make yours go!

Supplies you will need:

  • Selection of materials for parachute: garbage bag, tissue paper, paper napkins, old table covers, etc.
  • Selection of materials for suspension lines: string, plastic lace, ribbon, etc.
  • A small toy or weight to act as your parachuter (i.e. LEGO minifigures, miniature animals/dinosaurs, &/or weights) 
  • Tape, glue, scissors, hole puncher
  • Small cups or other assorted craft supplies
  • Stickers & markers for decorating
  • Ladder or stable chair to drop the parachutes from
  • Stop watch

Tips to get started: 

There are two science concepts that will help you build your parachute: gravity and air resistance

What is gravity?

  • Gravity is a force which tries to pull objects toward each other. Anything which has mass (weight) also has a gravitational pull. The more massive an object is, the stronger its gravitational pull is. 
  • Earth's gravity is what keeps you on the ground and what causes objects to fall. 
  • When a person or object is released in the air, gravity is the force that brings it back to the ground.

What is air resistance?

  • Why does a piece of paper fall more slowly than a marker or a stick of glue? The answer is air resistance! 
  • Air resistance (or drag) acts on all objects that fall in our atmosphere. 
  • The more surface area an object has, the more air resistance slows it down. 
  • Streamlining (decreasing surface area) helps decrease air resistance. Think about the smooth curved shapes of planes, modern cars, and high-speed trains, which greatly decrease the effect of air resistance and allow these vehicles to travel more efficiently. 

As with all engineering challenges, your parachute might not work the first time or right away. Here are some questions to help you think about what might need to be adjusted to make your parachute work better: 

  • Does the canopy of the parachute have enough surface area to counteract the effects of gravity?
  • Would a circular or square canopy make a difference?
  • What would happen if you shortened or lengthened the string lines? Added more, or removed some string lines? 
  • What would happen if you tried using a different toy for your parachuter?

If you liked this activity, you might enjoy these free resources from our digital library

Franklin & Friends: Franklin Flies His Kite (TV episode available on Kanopy, recommended for 3-7 years)

Science Max: Air Surfing (TV episode available on Kanopy, recommended for 4-12 years)

DK Eyewitness Books: Flight by Andrew Nahum (non-fiction, recommended for 8-12 years)

Resources for grown-ups:

We will be sharing a STEM challenge children can do at home here every Friday. Complete the challenge and share your results on social media with @BramptonLibrary #kidsatBL! 

This week’s challenge: 

This week, we will learn the science behind building paper planes, including concepts of force and gravity. We’ll build different types of paper planes and figure out which planes can fly furthest and how much weight they can carry!

Supplies you will need:

  • Paper
    • All types of paper! Printer paper, construction paper, cardstock, cardboard… maybe even paper towels, if you think they might work!
  • Tape
  • “Cargo”
    • This can be any small, not-too-heavy items around your house! Pom poms, paperclips, pens and pencils, hair ties, lip balms…

Build your plane

Let’s start simple! Build a paper plane. You can use any design you like!

If you’ve never built a plane before-- you’re in luck! Here are some simple instructions:

  1. Take one sheet of paper. Fold it in half, length wise. Unfold it and lay it flat again.
  1. Fold the two top corners to the centre line.
  1. Fold the top edges to the centre line.
  1. Fold the triangle in half, towards you, along the same line you folded in the beginning.
  1. Fold the wings down to meet the bottom edge of the planes body.

Well done! You’ve built a paper plane. (more detailed instructions and a video are available here!).

Test your plane

Can your plane go the distance? Test it out- throw it and see how far it can go! You might need to practice throwing it a few times first!

Try different designs

If it doesn’t quite fly, it might mean it’s time to try another design! There are dozens of different styles of paper planes- some easy to build, and some very tricky. Check out some different designs, and practice building a few different planes until you find one that flies fast and far! You might also want to try building with different types of paper- some might work better than others.

Add cargo

Time for the true challenge: can your plane transport cargo? Tape some cargo onto the back of your plane, and see if it still flies well.

  • The heavier the cargo, the harder it might be-- how much cargo can your plane carry?
  • If your plane won’t fly with cargo-- how can you make your plane stronger?

Bonus challenges

  • Set up a target. Can you aim well enough to hit the target? Do different designs of planes work better?
  • Time your flight. How long does your plane stay in the air for? How can you make it stay in the air for longer?
  • Measure the distance. Create a starting point, and throw your plane, then measure how far it travels! Practice a couple of times and with different designs, until it flies as far as it possibly can.

How does it work?

  • Paper planes are gliders. Their wings allow the plane to “sit” on the air by compressing air molecules beneath them, creating higher pressure below the wing than there is above the wing. The wings “rest” on the higher air pressure.
  • Features like rudders and tails, that you might see in fancier paper planes, can change the flight direction or performance:
    • Sturdy body = better control of the airplane
    • Rudder = stabilizes the flight
    • Flap = help turn the plane
    • Heavy front = nosedive
  • Objects in flight are acted upon by the opposing forces of lift, gravity, thrust, and drag. For more about how flight works, check out this video: How do planes get off the ground?

Have fun building your planes! And don’t forget to share your creations with us, @BramptonLibrary #kidsatBL!

If you liked this activity, you might enjoy these free resources from our digital library:

Origami Toys, by Paul Jackson (electronic resource, recommended for 8-12 years)

Flight, by Andrew Nahum (electronic resource, recommended for 6-12 years)

Airplanes, on World Book Kids (electronic resource, recommended for 8-12 years)

Resources for grown-ups:

We will be sharing a STEM challenge children can do at home here every Friday. Complete the challenge and share your results on social media with @BramptonLibrary #kidsatBL! 

This week’s challenge: 

This week we are challenging you to create multi-purpose building materials our of cardboard. Once you make your squares, use them for the following challenges...

  • Challenge #1: Build the tallest structure possible using 15 squares
  • Challenge #2: Build a bridge between 2 stacks of books using 15 squares
  • Challenge #3: Build a structure where every square connects to at least two other squares
  • Challenge #4: Build a structure that looks like a tree, or another shape

Supplies you will need:

  • Cardboard (had lots of deliveries to your home recently? Here’s something you can do with all that cardboard!)
  • Scissors or x-acto knife
  • Tape measure


*Make sure you get a grown up to supervise or do the cardboard cutting for you!*

  1. Cut your cardboard into at least 15 evenly sized squares (ours are about 10 cm2)
  2. Cut random notches into each side of the squares, try not to make all your squares identical
  3. Start fitting them together and see what you can build!

Challenge #1: Tallest Structure

Build the tallest free-standing structure you can build, using only 15 squares.

Challenge #2: Bridge

Build a structure that can connect across a gap between two stacks of books.

Challenge #3: Multiple Connections

Build a structure in which each square is connected to at least two others. 

Challenge #4: Tree

Build a structure that looks like a tree. What about a cactus? Or a pyramid? What else can you make? 

Learning Takeaways:

Building materials are the things people usually use to construct buildings -- wood, bricks, glass, metal

The story of the Three Little Pigs teaches us that some materials can create stronger buildings than others. But no matter what materials you use to build something, you must also make sure that the structure is strong enough to stand on its own. 

Architects often say, “form follows function.” This means that what a building will be used for, or what its purpose is, determines how it will be built. 

A school needs to have space for a gymnasium, classrooms, a library, so it must have a wide base for those rooms to fit and it doesn’t need to be very tall. A movie theatre must have tall ceilings and large rooms to fit the screens and seats. A skyscraper will be tall with lots of floors, but must also spread out its surface area at the bottom to supports the high height to allow for more stability and balance

Can you think of any other type of structure where the design is a result of its purpose? 

If you liked this activity, you might enjoy these free resources from our digital library

A Year at a Construction Site by Nina Laden (picture book, recommended for 3-8 years)


DK Eyewitness Books: Building by Philip Wilkinson (non-fiction ebook, recommended for 9-13 years)

York: The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby (mystery / fantasy ebook, recommended for 9-13 years)

Understanding the World’s Greatest Structures (documentary series, recommended for 10+ years)

Resources for grown-ups:

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