Build a roller coaster for a ping pong ball out of straws, hot glue, and a cardboard box for a base. This STEM challenge for kids is awesome because the materials are so simple and inexpensive! The track is surprisingly sturdy, and kids will have a blast creating a path for their ball.  I would recommend this project for ages 8+, but younger kids will enjoy building it with help.  Our 2 and 4 year olds love playing with the track!

STEM Challenge for Kids: Build a Straw Roller Coaster!

The track has sets of two straws that hold the ball as it rolls.  Kids will need to experiment with each section before gluing it to make sure that it works.

Want to see it in action?

To build this straw roller coaster you will need:

  • A cardboard box or a piece of cardboard for the base
  • Straws – solid color ones are fun!
  • Scissors
  • A hot glue gun and glue sticks
  • A ping pong ball
  • A bowl to catch the ball at the bottom (optional)

Aidan and Gresham worked together to build the track.  I got them started with the first section, and then they got the idea and built the rest from there!  When we started, I honestly wasn’t sure if this would even work, but it did and it’s so cool!

Tip:  Hold the straws in place for several seconds until the glue dries.  It seemed to take longer for the hot glue to cool on the straws than it normally does, and we weren’t sure why.

We chose to start building at the top and work down to the bottom.  This worked well.

STEM Challenge for Kids: Build a Straw Coaster!

This is a great project for partners.  It’s helpful to have someone to help hold the straws in place.

Straw Coaster

Aidan cut small pieces of straw to help support the vertical straws that hold up the track.

Straw Coaster

This project can be as simple or complex as you want it to be!  This was the boys’ original track (with Jonathan testing it out!).  After they played with it awhile, Aidan decided that he could add more ramps and turns.

STEM Challenge for Kids: Build a Straw Coaster

Here is his final track design:

STEM Challenge for Kids: Build a Straw Coaster

So cool!  Here it is from another angle:

STEM Challenge for Kids: Build a Straw Roller Coaster!

Have fun building!  Need more STEM projects for kids?  You might enjoy these:

STEM Challenge for Kids: Build a Straw Roller Coaster

6 Comments

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  1. As He Grows Up Aug 15, 2016

    All I can say is, "what a brilliant idea. Awesome!"

    Reply
    1. Karla Oct 27, 2016

      Can masking tape be used instead of hot glue. I want the kids to completely build this on their own and i dont want them using a hot glue gun.

      Reply
      1. Sarah Nov 23, 2016

        I would definitely try it with the tape before doing this with a class just to be sure. I think that the tape would probably work, but I'm not sure!

        Reply
      2. Praju Jun 21, 2017

        Thanks! Will try with my daughter.

        Reply
        1. Stacy Jul 26, 2017

          I work at a Library and we did this at one of our MakerSpace events and it was a huge success! We used tape instead of hot glue and it worked perfectly. Thank you for the great idea!

          Reply
          1. Sarah Jul 27, 2017

            That's fantastic! Thanks for letting me know!

            Reply
          2. Mish May 12, 2019

            This is such a great idea! Are the straws you used a thicker kind of any kind of straws should work?

            Reply
            1. Sarah May 18, 2019

              Any kind of straws will work!

              Reply
            2. Clint Aug 1, 2019

              I can see that being something that keeps kid occupied and stretches the brain as they get more creative. Not sure if there are moves to ban straws where you are, but if so, then I reckon skewers would be good too.

              Reply

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