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Basketball STEM Challenge – Highly Engaging Projects


This STEM event is just perfection! Students love it, it is engaging, it is challenging, it is fun, and it is competitive. Plus I have fabulous tasks to pair with the STEM Activity!

The first time we tried the basketball challenge I had so much fun watching students use the materials. I also enjoyed how excited they were about the project! Let’s look at each part of the project and ways to add more fun to the event!

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The Nitty-Gritty About Basketball Goals

The task for students is to use the materials to make a standing basketball goal with netting.

And…they must also design a catapulting device to throw the ball.

The materials are easy to gather and probably things you already have. Except for the netting- (we will get to that later!)

The finished goal create a super display for your STEM Lab at the end of this challenge (photo).

The Netting for Basketball Goals

Basketball goals have netting around them so I thought students would love creating that in their miniature versions.

TIP: I buy the netting in the fabric department of Wal-Mart or Hobby Lobby. I buy it by the yard and it is not expensive. Students get a small piece so a yard of netting will go a long way.

What is interesting is how they cut it and attach it to the rim of the goal. Most rims are made of a pipe cleaner and then the netting is taped to the pipe cleaner. I have also seen teams thread a pipe cleaner through the netting.

It is tricky because the ball must fit through the netting and the hoop!

TIP: For the ball, we use ping pong balls. They are the perfect size, low weight, and inexpensive (get them at a dollar store, not a sporting goods store!)

The Backboard of the Basketball Goalpost

We use cardboard for the backboard and this does seem very simple to use.

But the backboard must be a specific height off the tabletop and it must be just the right size.

If it is too heavy the goalpost will not stand up. If it is too small it is not helpful when shooting the ball.

TIP: Expect students to need ways to add support or tie-downs for their goalpost. You can offer string for this if needed.

Catapulting Devices for The Basketball Challenge

Students will need to create a way to launch the ball. The materials give them several options.

Building a typical catapult is one option and that is what you can see in the photo on the bottom. For this device, we used mini-cupcake liners to hold the ball on the catapult. You can also use bottle caps.

The catapult in the top photo uses the flexible nature of the cardboard tube to launch the ball. These do work but can get too flattened after a lot of use!

Tasks to Pair with the Basketball Challenge

I have the perfect resource to use before the STEM Challenge! It is my No Locks Escape Room called Escape the Game! Teams complete 4 tasks with a basketball theme and earn basketballs (paper) for completing each task correctly. Collect 4 basketballs and you escape.

And for those early finishers of the basketball challenge, I have a follow-up idea! My Sports Color-by-Number set has a basketball page!

So, start with the Basketball Game Escape, then the STEM Challenge, and finish with a math activity and a basketball page to color as you find the right answers!

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