Welcome to Make It Move STEM challenges! These engineering projects for STEM are all about things that go, move, fly, bounce, spin, and more. Use the materials you have on hand to invent your own simple machines designed to move in some way, shape, or form. Get ready to design, engineer, test, and re-test your things that move with the following STEM activities for kids.

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Build A Self-Propelled Car For STEM

Get ready to raid your recycling bin, check out the junk drawers, and even break out your LEGO stash if you haven’t already from for our LEGO building ideas.

Our STEM projects are designed with you, the parent or teacher, in mind!  Easy to set up, quick to do, most activities will take only 15 to 30 minutes to complete and are heaps of fun!  Plus, our supplies lists usually contain only free or cheap materials you can source from home!

Here you can make your own car from a combination of simple household items.  Come up with your own car designs, or try ours below! 

From balloons, rubber bands, gravity and more, these self-propelled vehicle STEM activities will be tons of fun for elementary and older. Lets get started!  

But first, what is STEM?

What Is STEM For Kids?

So you might ask, what does STEM actually stand for? STEM is science, technology, engineering, and math. The most important thing you can take away from this, is that STEM is for everyone!

Yes, kids of all ages can work on STEM projects and enjoy STEM lessons.  STEM activities are great for group work, too!

STEM is everywhere! Just look around.  The simple fact that STEM surrounds us is why it’s so important for kids to be a part of, use, and understand STEM.

Interested in STEM plus ART? Check out all our STEAM Activities!

From the buildings you see in town, the bridges that connect places, the computers we use, the software programs that go with them, and compasses for navigation, STEM is what makes it all possible.

Helpful STEM Resources To Get You Started

Here are a few resources that will help you introduce STEM more effectively to your kiddos or students and feel confident yourself when presenting materials. You’ll find helpful free printables throughout.

Turn It Into A Science Project

Science projects are an excellent tool for older kiddos to show what they know about science! Plus, they can be used in all sorts of environments including classrooms, homeschool, and groups.

Kids can take everything they have learned about using the scientific method, stating a hypothesis, choosing variables, making observations and analyzing and presenting data.

Want to turn one of these experiments into an awesome science fair project? Check out these helpful resources.

Get your FREE printable balloon car project!

5 Tips For Kids To Design A Self-Propelled Vehicle

Designing a self-propelled car can be a fun project for kids. Here are five tips to help kids design their own STEM car:

TIP 1: Gather Materials

Collect materials like cardboard, plastic bottles, rubber bands, straws, paper clips, and small wheels. Look for items that can be recycled or repurposed to reduce waste and encourage eco-friendly design. See our STEM supplies list for more ideas!

TIP 2: Understand Basic Physics

Explain the basic principles of propulsion to kids, such as the idea that energy from a source (like a rubber band) can be transferred to the wheels to make the car move. Encourage kids to think about how different mechanisms can transfer energy efficiently.

TIP 3: Plan and Sketch

Have kids sketch their car design on paper before building it. This helps them visualize their ideas and make a plan. Ask them to label key components like the wheels, axles, and the mechanism they will use to make it move.

TIP 4: Experiment and Improve

Emphasize the importance of trial and error. Kids may need to try different designs and make adjustments to improve their car’s performance. Encourage them to test their car multiple times and make changes based on what they observe. This is all about the engineering design process!

TIP 5: Encourage Creativity

Allow kids to be creative in their designs. They can paint and decorate their cars to make them unique and visually appealing.

Bonus Tip: Consider organizing a self-propelled car design competition among kids, where they can showcase their creations and test them in races or challenges. This can add an element of excitement and friendly competition to the project.

Amazing Self-Propelled Vehicles To Make

Click on the links below to learn more about each STEM car idea, including step by step instructions and full supply list.

Balloon Powered Car

There are I am sure many ways for you to come up with a balloon car of your very own. One way is to make a balloon car from cardboard.

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LEGO Balloon Car

This Lego balloon car is easy to build and super fun to play with for all ages!

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LEGO Rubber Band Car

How about making it move with a rubber band?  Can a rubber band really make a car go fast? Find out how fast it can go with this fun rubber band car STEM challenge!

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LEGO Rubber Band Car

Rubber Band Car

We also created a rubber band car with simple household items.

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Rubber Band Car

DIY Paddle Boat

Make a paddle boat that actually moves through the water! This is an awesome STEM challenge for young kids and older ones too. Explore forces in motion with this simple DIY paddle boat activity.

Wind Powered Car

You can also harness the power of the wind (or a floor fan) to make something move. How can you design and build a car that will move with the breeze created by a fan?

  • Don’t have a fan? Make a paper fan or blow through a straw. However, you make “wind” is up to you.
  • What is needed on the car to take advantage of your “wind”?
  • What materials will make a sturdy but light enough car to move without you pushing it?

Magnet Powered Car

Can you drive a car with a magnet? Give it a try! We had great fun building these simple LEGO cars that we could drive around with magnets while figuring out how magnets work! All you need is a car design and bar magnets.

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Robot Car

Robot kits are awesome to play and learn with! Find out how to make a robot car for a fun engineering project for all ages. It’s easier than you think!

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More Fun Things That Move

You can think even simpler with easy STEM ideas!  Make a boat that floats, a car that moves when pushed, or a plane that flies the farthest. Things that go don’t have to be complicated! Set a challenge for the day and you will have awesome STEM activities to keep your kids busy!

Hovercraft

A hovercraft is also known as an air cushion vehicle or AVC because it can glide over a smooth surface by hovering on an air cushion. Can you make a homemade hovercraft that actually hovers? Learn about how the hovercraft works and build your own mini hovercraft at home or in the classroom from simple supplies.

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Build A Hovercraft

Rockets

Do you have kids who love things that go pop, fizz, and bang? Take a simple chemical reaction and turn it into something that moves!

You could try…

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Bottle Rocket

Zip Line

Set up a fun toy zip line that moves with gravity and create a vehicle for a mini-figure to ride along it in!

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Printable STEM Activities Pack for Kids

80+ Doable Engineering Projects in one convenient pack!

  • Full instructions with sample images
  • Activity-specific instruction sheets
  • Data Collection Sheets
  • Questions for Reflection
  • Architecture Building Cards: Try the tallest tower challenge
  • Bridge Building Cards: Explore different types of bridges to build your own.
  • Paper Chain STEM Challenge: Who can make the longest chain? Great icebreaker or quick challenge!
  • 3 Little Pigs Architectural Pack: Design a house that won’t blow away!
  • Great marshmallow challenge: A classic challenge kids love!
  • Real-world STEM challenge lesson but don’t know where to start? Our easy-to-follow template shows the steps!
  • What’s the difference between a scientist and an engineer?
  • Crossword and word search with engineering vocabulary.
  • Engineering vocabulary cards
  • Design a one-of-a-kind invention and write about it with this 5-page activity!

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