With many companies shifting to remote work after the COVID-19 pandemic, working from home is becoming a part of the “new normal”. For many parents, however, this translates to a multitude of challenges.  Under one roof, how do you juggle the demands of your career while still nurturing your child’s education? The answer is simple: Give them a project that is both fun and educational (and that keeps them entertained for hours).

Below, I have outlined an awesome list of 30 5th Grade engineering projects that are easy and affordable but, most importantly, teach your child important STEM-related concepts covering topics in both science and engineering. Who knows? In the process, you too might have fun and learn something new. 

STEM projects that explore kinetic energy

1. Air-powered car

With materials you can easily find around the house, why not get your child to create their very own air-powered car? This teaches them how potential energy stored in an inflated balloon is converted into kinetic energy (or motion).

Learn more: sciencebuddies.org

2. Popsicle stick catapult

Using a simple combination of elastic bands and popsicle sticks, create your very own catapult. This will not only teach your child about the laws of motion and gravity, but it will also result in hours of fun catapulting competitions. 

Learn more: science-sparks.com

3. Popsicle stick chain reaction

If you have any popsicle sticks left after creating your catapult, use the rest to create a burst of kinetic energy in this exhilarating chain reaction science experiment.

Learn more: stevespanglerscience.com

4. Paper rollercoaster

This project is for those thrill-seeking children who have an affinity for speed. Create a paper rollercoaster and explore how what goes up must always come down. To begin, watch this great video from Exploration Place with your child.

Learn more: Exploration Place

5. Paper plane launcher

Build a simple paper plane launcher and teach your child how the energy stored in a rubber band is transferred to the paper plane, launching it into motion and hours of fun.

Learn more: frugalfun4boys.com

STEM projects that explore friction

6. Find the hockey puck winner

If you have any avid hockey fans under your roof, test how different hockey puck materials glide over ice, showcasing the role that friction plays in determining movement and speed. 

Learn more: creativefamilyfun.net

7. Testing different road surfaces

Get your budding 5th grade engineer to construct roads coated with different surface materials and ask them which one they believe will be the easiest for a car to travel over. Test their assumptions with a toy car.

Learn more: jdaniel4smom.com

STEM projects that explore water science

8. LEGO water wheel

Explore fluid dynamics with this fun LEGO experiment. Test how differences in water pressure impact the movement of the water wheel. 

Learn more: frugalfun4boys.com

9. Lift an object with hydropower

After exploring how the water wheel works, why not use this concept to build something useful, such as a hydro-powered device that can lift a small load? This teaches your child about mechanical energy, hydropower, and gravity.

Learn more: education.com

10. Use water to explore sound vibrations

Combine music and science to explore how sound waves (or vibrations) travel through water, resulting in a range of different pitches. Change the amount of water in each glass jar to fine-tune your next musical solo. 

Learn more: Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library

11. Soil erosion with plants

If your child is interested in environmental conservation, use this science experiment to explore the importance of vegetation in preventing soil erosion. 

Learn more: lifeisagarden.co.za

12. Test whether water can conduct electricity

We are always told not to operate electrical appliances near water, for fear of electrocution. Has your child ever asked you why? Set up this simple science experiment to help answer that question.

Learn more: rookieparenting.com

13. Have fun with hydrophobicity

Learn about the difference between hydrophilic (water-loving) and hydrophobic (water-repelling) molecules with magic sand. This experiment is sure to blow your 5th grader’s mind!

Learn more: teachingmama.org

14. Dive into density

Did you know that if you placed a can of regular Pepsi and a can of Diet Pepsi into the water, one would sink while the other floats? In this simple but fun experiment, learn how the density of liquids impacts their ability to induce displacement. 

Learn more: steampoweredfamily.com

15. Create instant ice

Would you believe me if I told you that it’s possible to create ice in a matter of seconds? Dazzle your 5th graders with this fun experiment that will make them think you’re a magician, but is actually rooted in the science of nucleation.

Learn more: steamsational.com

16. Rising waters

If the instant ice wasn’t enough to convince your children you’re a magician, maybe try this next science experiment, which will teach them about the wonders of air pressure and vacuums.

Learn more: stevespanglerscience.com

17. Make your own slime (or oobleck)

Teach your children about different phases by creating a slime that has some very weird behavior. By simply adding a little pressure, the slime turns from a liquid to a solid and dissolves back into a liquid when the pressure is removed. 

Learn more: steampoweredfamily.com

18. Build an Archimedes screw

Have you ever wondered how early civilization created pumps that could move water from low-lying areas to higher ground? Introduce your children to Archimedes screw, an almost magic-like machine that can pump water with a few turns of the wrist. 

Learn more: sciencebuddies.org

19. Create a hydraulic lift

Hydraulics is an important component in machines such as wheelchair platform lifts and forklifts. However, have you ever wondered how they work? This experiment will teach your child about Pascal’s law and is impressive enough to potentially win them the school science fair project of the year. 

Learn more: schoolscienceexperiments.com

20. Build a water clock (with an alarm)

Construct one of the oldest time-measuring machines, a water clock, that has been used by ancient civilizations dating back to as far as 4000 BC. 

Learn more: steampoweredfamily.com

STEM projects that explore chemistry

Project 21: Create a volcano

Explore how an acid-base reaction between baking soda and vinegar creates carbon dioxide and a resultant volcanic eruption. 

Learn more: thoughtco.com

22. Write magic letters with invisible ink

If you have some baking soda left over after your volcanic fun, use it to create invisible ink and write magic letters whose words can only be revealed by science.

Learn more: thoughtco.com

23. Use cabbage for an acid-base science project

Did you know that red cabbage contains a pigment (called anthocyanin) that changes color when mixed with acids or bases? Leverage this chemistry to create a pH indicator that will teach your child about the difference between acidic and basic materials. 

Learn more: steampoweredfamily.com

STEM projects that explore the power of heat and solar energy

24. Create a solar oven

By harnessing solar energy, refraction of light, and a little time, use the sun to create your very own solar oven – all while teaching your child some important scientific and engineering principles.  

Learn more: desertchica.com

25. Create a candle carousel 

We all know that hot air rises, but it’s virtually impossible to see with the naked eye. Teach your children this science concept with a candle-powered carousel. 

Learn more: sciencebuddies.org

STEM projects that explore other interesting engineering principles

26. Create your own compass

Teach the concepts of magnetism, how opposites attract, and why a compass always points towards the North Pole by building your own compass. 

Learn more: rookieparenting.com

27. Create a slingshot rocket launcher

If you want to upgrade the paper plane launcher we covered earlier, why not do so by building a slingshot rocker launcher. Depending on how taut you make the rubber band (in other words, how much potential energy is stored), you could shoot your rocket as far as 50 feet. 

Learn more: STEM Inventions

28. Construct a crane

Design and build a crane that practically demonstrates how a lever, a pulley, and a wheel and axle all work simultaneously to lift a heavy load. 

Learn more: pbskids.org

29. Build a hovercraft

While it might sound like something out of a futuristic novel, this STEM activity uses air pressure from deflating balloons to create a hovercraft that seamlessly glides over a surface. 

Learn more: Martha Stewart

30. Build a truss bridge

Due to their embedded and interconnected triangular lattice, truss bridges are one of the most effective examples of strong structural engineering. Build your own truss bridge and test the weight-bearing limits of your creation. 

Learn more: instructables.com

Final thoughts

Working from home should not mean you have to choose between your children and your career. Rather, using this awesome list of 30 science and engineering projects, keep your children busy for hours while still imparting a 5th grade STEM education. Every parent can (and should) demonstrate this superpower, especially since I suspect that your child’s favorite superhero lives right under your roof: it’s you.