Who leaves the empty cardboard tube in the bathroom at your house? I bet every family has the main culprit, but now you can thank them for making sure to save all of those rolls for these awesome cardboard engineering activities! Next time you go to remove one of those empty rolls, stash it away for a cool STEM project to do with the kids.

Fun Things To Do With Cardboard Tubes

Cardboard tubes, paper towel rolls, TP rolls, toilet paper rolls, wrapping paper rolls, you name it! If it’s a tube-shaped piece of cardboard, it will work perfectly for these cardboard tube STEM activities.

Some of these STEM challenges will require a whole bunch of tubes, some just a few, and some just one! That means you can get started today because I am sure someone has left a tube laying around somewhere in the house. Better yet, make sure to save them in a bin along with other cool recycled items!

These cardboard roll STEM ideas do not require many extra supplies, and I am sure you will already have the other items necessary to try out the projects or improved with what you do have. That’s the best part about being an inventor, isn’t it?

What Is STEM For Kids?

So you might ask, what does STEM actually stand for? STEM stands for 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! You can read more about the valuable life lessons that STEM can provide kids here.

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, to use, and to understand STEM.

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

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

Engineering is an important part of STEM. What is engineering in kindergarten and elementary?  Well, it’s putting together simple structures and other items and learning about the science behind them in the process. Essentially, it’s a whole lot of doing! 

Helpful STEM Resources To Get You Started

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

Grab this FREE Engineering Challenge Calendar today!

 Awesome Cardboard Engineering Activities

Marble Run Wall

Design a marble run simple machine using a combination of inclined planes, ramps, and even pulleys. Challenge yourself to create intricate paths for the marbles. All you need is some tape, cardboard tubes, and marbles.


Check out how you can turn your cardboard tubes into an awesome catapult that will have the kids flinging objects around the room in no time!

Hand Crank Winch

Build a hand crank winch from cardboard tubes, and explore how you can use levers and wheel and axle to lift heavy objects.

Build a hand crank winch for an easy simple machine project.Pin

Tall Structures

Use cardboard tubes and straws to build your own structures for a fun afternoon activity. How tall can you build it?

Build A Bridge

Design and build a bridge from cardboard tubes and a flat piece of cardboard. How much weight will your bridge hold?

Toy Car Ramps

Cut your cardboard tubes in half and use them as ramps for toy cars. An easy way to explore gravity, friction and more through play!

Marble Roller Coaster

All you need are some recyclables and a handful of marbles. Make it as easy or complicated as your imagination wants.  It is so fun to build a marble roller coaster and it is a perfect example of a STEM activity using basic supplies.

Balloon Powered Car

Kids love building things that move! Plus, it’s even more fun if you can make a car go without pushing it or by adding a motor. Test out how far it can travel.

Also have fun with these pencil STEM projects!

Printable Engineering Projects Pack

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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