STEM/STEAM has become hugely popular in recent years as educators and parents have realized the importance of incorporating each of these disciplines (science, technology, engineering, art, mathematics) into a child's education. The best part of this is all the hands-on learning that can occur as students prepare for future STEM careers and realize how much they use each area in everyday life. Below is a list of engineering projects for 8th graders to try. Most (if not all) include multiple elements of STEM that will help you build a more fun, collaborative, and interactive science curriculum.
1. Build a robot that can see light
2. Reach further with a mechanical hand
Use primarily materials that you have around the house, such as straws, rubber bands, and masking tape, to create this mechanical hand. Students will design, build, and troubleshoot to make sure the hand opens and closes properly.
Learn More: Mechanical Hand
3. Save the aliens by building them a space lander
A twist on the classic egg drop experiment, the Space Lander uses cups, tape, paper, and more to protect the alien marshmallows. Eighth graders can design their space landers, then compete to see who can drop theirs the furthest while keeping the aliens safe.
Learn More: Space Lander
4. Create your own Ferris Wheel
Problem solving and persistence are key in this STEM activity. Students will use craft sticks to build their own turning Ferris wheels. It might take a few tries, but the results are epic!
Learn More: ABCmouse.com Early Learning Academy
5. Send marbles on the ride of their lives
This might be my favorite project on this list. Give your eighth-grade science students a chance to design and construct their own roller coasters using paper, tape, and printable templates for each piece.
Learn More: Rileyman256
6. Launch your paper airplane to new heights
Students can use wood, cardboard, or posterboard to design and construct their own paper airplane launchers. They will have to test angles and plane modifications to see how far they can send their planes.
Learn More: Airplane Launcher
7. Create a structure that will balance cups
8. Race your balloon car to the finish line
This classic science experiment can be adapted for any grade level by providing different or fewer materials, making students create their own wheels, or having them research car design before they build.
Learn More: BrainSTEM
9. Challenge your friends with your JudoBot
10. Make your own Newton's Cradle
Instructions are given at the link above, but you can make this more of an 8th grade science experiment by having students test out different materials for the balls in the middle and using different-sized structures.
Learn More: Newton's Cradle
11. See how far you can throw items with a handmade catapult
This hands-on project has students using engineering design to build catapults. You can provide materials from around the house for students to select from, then test the catapults on accuracy, power, and ability to knock down a set of items.
Learn More: Eureka
12. Incorporate fidget spinners
Even 8th graders love using toys in class. Use fidget spinners and attach lights or other small anchors to see how the extra weight affects the toy's ability to spin.
Learn More: Christina Saludares
13. Let your artsy side show
Do you have any budding architects in your science class? Give them some Legos and have them build a tower from which to swing a cup of paint. Students will experiment with angles, height, and weight to make beautiful designs.
Learn More: Lego Pendulum Painting
14. Channel your inner Da Vinci
Have students work in teams to build a model of the Da Vinci Bridge, giving options for materials and testing each one to see how much weight it will hold. This activity will have them using the engineering design process like pros!
Learn More: Da Vinci Bridge
15. Build a boat
Another great middle grades science project is the foil boat project. Students will design a boat, then test its buoyancy by slowly adding weights to see if it will stay afloat.
Learn More: What Floats Your Boat?
16. Play some pinball
Have students test out their engineering skills by creating a pinball machine with working, moving parts. Test their ability to think through obstacles and show creativity in their designs.
Learn More: Creativity Buzz
17. Blast off into space
This STEM curriculum provides several weeks of science activities focusing on teamwork, engineering, and mathematics as students design and constructs rockets, landing devices, and other space-themed devices.
Learn More: Mission to Mars
18. Save a life with biomedical engineering
Engineering covers a massive range of fields and disciplines. Students will learn about heart processes in this project before working to create a prosthetic heart valve and explain why it works.
Learn More: No Valve in Vain
19. Connect engineering to real life with this hydraulic bridge
Real bridges use hydraulic systems to move parts when necessary. Bridge design and construction will get your students' engineering minds going as they create bridges, test their strength, and try to build an appropriate lift.
Learn More: STEM Inventions
20. Find a new way to power your school
Focus more on the data analysis side of engineering by having your students evaluate different ways to keep the school running using renewable energy sources. Lesson plans and data from around the country are provided.
Learn More: Power Your School
21. Construct an infinity mirror
Infinity mirrors use multiple mirrors and LED lights to create an optical illusion. This requires students to plan and does require a few more materials than other projects, but the results will be worth it!
Learn More: Science Buddies
22. Create tools for those who cannot speak
Connect engineering to the real world by having students create a communication board for someone who can't speak for themselves. It includes coding, construction, and the engineering design process.
Learn More: Jen Leban
23. Use cups to hold up a human
Inspire your budding architects to see if they can build a structure that will support the weight of a human using only paper cups and cardboard. See if they can build a tower with more than one level.
Learn More: Paper Cup Challenge
24. Test a plant's smarts
Plants will seek out light to grow. Can they grow through a maze by reaching toward the light? Have students engineer different mazes to see what effect it has on the plants.
Learn More: Plant Light Maze
25. Elevate your science class to new heights
Students can design an elevator that will lift and lower using popsicle sticks, rubber tubing, and a few nails. Add a challenge by seeing whose elevator can lift the most weight.
Learn More: Hydraulic Elevator
26. Build your own furniture
Need to redecorate your classroom? Have students use the engineering design process to build life-size furniture out of cardboard, paper, and simple adhesives. Have them build prototypes beforehand to test out the functionality of their designs.
Learn More: Design and Engineer Furniture
27. Balance heavy items on eggshells
Eggshells are stronger than most people think. Students can test this by putting eggshells in different ways and planning how to space them out before balancing items on top of them.
Learn More: Fallen Arches
28. Save a friend during the zombie apocalypse
Draw students into this engineering challenge by creating a silly scenario (zombies!) and having them use their engineering skills to build a prosthetic leg for a friend. They can test out their weight-bearing abilities with their teammates.
Learn More: A Zombie Got My Leg
29. Create your own version of the Golden Gate Bridge
Remind students of the value of recycling and test their building abilities with this bridge engineering project. Level this project by providing directions or having students try to design it themselves after looking at real-life suspension bridges.
Learn More: DIY Recycled Suspension Bridge
30. Keep things cool
Here is another challenge that focuses on student choice and the engineering process. Students must choose the right materials to insulate a water bottle and keep it cold for as long as possible.
Learn More: Design a Cooler Challenge
31. Kick their brains into gear with foosball
Foosball is not just for break times! STEM Education brings it straight into the classroom as students plan and construct their own working foosball tables that they can use to play against each other.
Learn More: Foosball Table Challenge
32. Design a mousetrap car that can zoom
This classic project will have your eighth grade students engaged from the start. They will have to use math, physics, and design processes to create a vehicle that can move with just one snap of a trap.
Learn More: Mousetrap Car
33. Take a trip to Italy
Pasta is an inexpensive, classic building material for STEM projects. Combine it with marshmallows for students to construct a tower that will hold large amounts of weight.
Learn More: Leaning Tower of Pasta
34. Feel the effects of friction
Friction is critical to everyday life. 8th Grade Science Students can test its effects by launching items across different surfaces to see how far they travel. How they launch things will also test their engineering prowess.
Learn More: Effects of Friction
35. Take a trip to Egypt
Most students have learned about the pyramids at some point, but have they built one that will stand on its own? The variations here are many- use different size toothpicks, provide a variety of choices for "mortar," or time the activity.
Learn More: Pyramid Building STEM Challenge
36. Slip into summer with a homemade water slide
What could be more fun than a paper towel tube waterslide? Challenge students to not only build the water slide but to find materials to make it waterproof so it can be used again and again.
Learn More: Having Fun Repairs
37. Blast a bottle into space
For a twist on the classic coke and mentos activity, have students create bottle rockets. Combine exploring chemical reactions with engineering to see whose rocket can launch a bottle the highest.
Learn More: The Sci Guys
38. Cook up some gingerbread fun
While this could work well for younger students as well, turn this Christmas activity into an eighth grade project by having students experiment with and bake the gingerbread themselves before building their own Christmas scene or historical monument.
Learn More: Gingerbread Nativity
39. Tell time with a water clock
Use this water clock activity to help your eighth grade students begin engineering more complex systems. This project uses robotics and household materials for students to try and create a water clock that will accurately tell time for 2 hours.
Learn More: Simple Steps
40. Build a classroom aquarium
More accurately, this 8th grace science project will have students building an aquaponics system, complete with plants AND animals that rely on each other to survive. Make it the appropriate level for your students by purchasing a pre-made kit or letting them create the pieces independently.
Learn More: Aquaponics Project
41. Go back to medieval times
Can your students build a modern-day battering ram? Provide materials, then let them try to create the most efficient design so the wheels and the battering ram both move effectively. Extra points for making it look cool!
Learn More: Battering Ram Challenge
42. Get Rube Goldberg to help you with simple tasks
One of the most common engineering science fair projects is probably the Rube Goldberg machine. These machines follow a series of procedures to make a simple task happen, such as switching on a light or feeding a fish. There's no end to the possibilities!
Learn More: Build our Own Rube Goldberg Machines
43. Make marbles jump
Again testing students' building design abilities, this STEM challenge has them making a trampoline that a marble (or other small items) can bounce off of. You could give awards for the highest bounce or greatest number of bounces.
Learn More: Trampoline Challenge
44. Take your paper airplanes to the next level
Paper airplanes in middle school? Absolutely! Students will not only design and make more complex airplanes, but they will also track and graph data to go along with it.
Learn More: Dragon Paper Airplanes
45. Construct a working water wheel
What materials could be used to make a working water mill? This piece of technology from the past can still challenge students today as they test their design and building plans.
Learn More: Water Mill Stem Challenge
These are just some of the options out there for helping your 8th grade science students use the engineering design process and learn more concretely. You can level these based on your students' needs, the materials you have available, and the amount of time you have to spend on experiments and projects. No matter how many or which ones you choose, your students will enjoy the experiential learning and use their brains in new and better ways!
Frequently Asked Questions
What topics are covered in 8th grade science?
This will depend on your location and curriculum, but most 8th grade science classes focus on physical science, with a blend of chemistry, physics, and life science.
What are some simple science experiments?
The great thing about is this list is that most of these projects can be tailored to be as simple as you would like. Many have options where you can purchase kits and lesson plans or prepare materials ahead of time to cut down on time used in class.