Design & Pitch Challenges in STEM

Round 2

The world needs student’s ideas!

Design & Pitch Challenges in STEM asks students to examine significant problems in real-world circumstances and consider how they can create solutions. Students will meet inventors and entrepreneurs who share their insights into the process of creation, from concept to prototype, pitch, production, and distribution. They will encounter a selection of Challenges that can be approached from many angles, using different areas of knowledge, techniques, and technology. It is critical that students learn to recognize when to reach out and teach themselves something new about STEM, their clients, or the situation. Finally, it is their task to come up with an innovative solution to a Challenge and create a short, engaging pitch to convince a panel of investors that it’s worth funding. The world needs their big ideas!

Target Audience: 

Grades 8-12

Examples of Key Vocabulary/Concepts:

Entrepreneurship, business models, innovation, design thinking, prototype, pitch, technical brief, STEM Champion, math, technology, social justice

How to Navigate Design & Pitch Challenges in STEM:

Challenge - Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose

Many products that we use (often briefly) and dispose of are made of non-renewable resources. These freely available waste materials present an opportunity for savvy entrepreneurs. In this Challenge, students will design a product that brings new life to this waste.

Examples of Key Vocabulary/Concepts:

Design thinking, prototype, waste, minimize environmental impact

Challenge - Negate Noise

Although noise often provides helpful information about the world, constant exposure to noise pollution can lead to multiple negative health outcomes. Active Noise Canceling (ANC) technology alters the shape and amount of sound waves that enter our ears, and it can help mitigate this problem. In this Challenge, students will find an innovative way to apply ANC to make the world more accessible.

Examples of Key Vocabulary/Concepts:

Active Noise Canceling, trigonometric functions, frequency, prototype, entrepreneurship

Challenge - Routes Reimagined

When we plan out how to get somewhere, we might consult a navigation app or a map. Unfortunately, many navigation apps prioritize the fastest routes, and many maps leave out a community’s hidden gems. What if there were a navigation app that let people plan journeys based on criteria that they care about? By identifying the needs, interests, and values of the people who will use a navigation app, designers can find creative ways to help people get where they need to go, find joy in their journey, and still arrive on time.

Examples of Key Vocabulary/Concepts:

Linear functions, piecewise functions (for Math 3 and Math 4), rate of change, intercept

Challenge - Gaming for Change

Playing video games together can connect people when it is impossible to meet in person. Games based on projectile motion can appeal to experienced gamers and novices alike, but few video games capitalize on the power of projectile motion in a nonviolent way to encourage connectedness and well-being. In this Challenge, you will design an engaging, nonviolent, and accessible game that uses projectile motion to make a positive impact on the world.

Examples of Key Vocabulary/Concepts:

Quadratic functions, projectile motion, model

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This free material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 2048332 Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the National Science Foundation.

These free materials were authored by Dr. Erin Krupa, Dr. Robin Anderson, and Michael Belcher, and the research team in the Department of STEM Education at North Carolina State University and JASON Learning. Contact us at