STEM Challenges for Older Kids

September 9, 2021

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Are you looking for STEM challenges for your older kids? They can be hard to find! Here’s a round-up of awesome projects for your kids ages 12 and older to try. They will learn about motion and mechanics in an immersed, hands-on way – and they’ll be more likely to remember the content!

A woman sitting at a table

STEM Projects with Magnetism

First, have your older kids experiment with magnetism using these fun challenges.

Your teens are ready to learn about polymers and how molecules are joined together in Magnetic Slime. This chemistry activity takes slime to a whole new level for your older kids. This jet-black magnetic version will be able to move as you bring magnets close to it. Your kids can experiment with the recipe by varying the ratio of ingredients and creating thicker or thinner slime. How will the different slimes react with the magnets? Get ready for some messy STEM fun with your older kids. You might not have all the ingredients on hand for this. Make note that you’ll need liquic startch, glue, and iron oxide powder for this STEM project. Find the complete tutorial at KiwiCo.


Your older kids may not know how a magnetic compass works. Using this hands-on STEM project tutorial, they can find out. Here’s what you need to make a Floating Magnetic Compass:

  • sewing needle
  • neodymium magnet
  • cork
  • bowl & water

Once your teens magnetize the sewing needle, it will point to the geographic north. You can check the accuracy of it with a compass app or real compass. Why does this work? Your older kids can deep dive into the details of how magnets and the poles of the Earth’s magnetic field work together in a compass. KiwiCo has a complete explanation with the tutorial.

Vehicle STEM Challenges

Older kids love vehicle projects! They can complete these STEM challenges while creating objects that move. From cars to rockets to a hovercraft, get started with these STEM challenges.

Your teens will exploring engineering principles as they build a wind powered car. The main materials include a plastic sandwich bag, straws, craft sticks, lollipop sticks, spools, and rubber bands. Finally, you’ll need an electric fan to power the vehicle.

This STEM challenge may take a while – plan on about 2 hours or more. You can even download an Experiments Log Printable to document the challenge for your homeschool portfolio.

Your teens will learn that in engineering, there can be more than one solution to a problem. So, encourage them to experiment with additional designs and prototypes as they try to create a wind powered car that goes as far and fast as possible. They can change out the design of the base, the sail, and the wheels to challenge themselves further. Run multiple trials and use the Experiments Log to keep track of data. This can be an ongoing STEM challenge that your older kids will love.

wind powered car

Instead of buying a STEM kit, encourage your older kids to use household materials to create a Balloon Hovercraft. All it takes is a balloon, CDs, a pop-up bottle cap and hot glue. Follow the tutorial from KiwiCo and see if your kids can explain what’s happening.

The Balloon Hovercraft STEM challenge is a fun way to experiment with friction. It’s the same forces at work that allow a puck on an air hockey table to glide effortlessly along.

Chemistry STEM for Older Kids

Here’s an exciting Chemistry project – the Carbon Sugar Snake! It looks like something from a sci-fi novel. You’ll want to supervise this challenge, as it involves some lighter fluid and fire in the kitchen. But with a few simple ingredients, your kids will see a carbon snake come to life from a burning mixture of baking soda and sugar.

carbon sugar snake

The complete tutorial on KiwiCo includes an explanation of the three chemical reactions in this challenge. All three reactions are dependent on heat and are sure to engage your older kids.

STEM with Motion & Energy

Finally, encourage your teens with this STEM challenge to learn about energy. They can create a Craft Stick Chain Reaction only using jumbo craft sticks.

Your older kids can see tension build up in a craft stick chain as they weave a design following the tutorial from KiwiCo. When they have a chain about two or three feet long, you kids can watch energy in motion as the chain reaction starts!

Want more fun STEM challenges for older kids? Check out the hundreds of ideas and tutorials you can find at KiwiCo.


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