Maker Challenges in the High School


When making happens in our classrooms, it usually occurs in a workspace where students create projects led by their curiosity or while applying something they have learned. This is an integral part of developing their maker skills. In addition, we wanted to push the boundaries of their knowledge and application of skills. To do these, we developed a series of different challenges that run periodically with our High School Students, called Maker Challenges.  

Check out our chapter, Maker Challenges in the High School, in Future Forwards Vol 5 here.

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Creating Successful Challenges in Making

A few weeks ago, we started hosting this year’s Maker Challenges during a 30-minute block of time in our high school student’s schedules. Upon preparing, we asked ourselves, “What makes a great maker challenge?” We came to the conclusion that to have a successful challenge in such a short amount of time, the activity should fit the following criteria:

  • Everyone can contribute by sharing in the thinking and making
  • The challenge enables students to succeed quickly.
  • There is not just one right answer.
  • It applies something “complicated” in a simple way.

Circuit Games Challenge
Last week, we ran a challenge designed around these criteria. The challenge was to “Create a game that makes a sound using the buzzer when a player wins or loses.” The inclusion of a piezo buzzer means the students will not only have to assemble a circuit but they must create it in such a way that it completes upon a game’s win or lose condition. The students were shown an example of a game that fulfills the challenge’s requirements, which assisted in removing some knowledge barriers (i.e. how to connect a circuit).

A two player Soccer shootout game created during the challenge.
A two player Soccer shootout game created during the challenge.

When we ran this activity, we noticed that students were engaged, collaborating, and excited about the prototypes they were creating. As we viewed students working, one group was figuring out how to create a moveable goalie, another worked on making a shoe that can complete a circuit, and a group of girls wondered how to make their maze more exciting. We’ve seen examples of whack a mole, fishing, field goal kicking, soccer, and ring toss.  Our favorite creation this time came from a group that attached one side of the circuit to a conductive hopscotch board with the other side to the player’s shoe. If the player touched the lines everyone would hear the piezo buzzing.

Students analyze their hopscotch game minutes before judging begins.

This challenge has had full engagement, collaboration, and excitement each time we’ve run it. It has set the bar for what we expect all of our maker challenges to look like. We’re now focused on finding more ways to apply some of the  “complicated” concepts students learn in simple ways. In addition, we hope to refine the criteria that we believe makes a perfect challenge. Stay tuned.

If you’re interested in making your own circuit game with a buzzer you can find a great how to from Instructables here and here.

Type: News