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Chain Reaction!

STEM In The Community

2020 STEM Engineering Design Challenge is ON!

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The Cape Cod Regional STEM Network is excited to launch our annual 2020 Engineering Design Challenge! This year’s challenge is called Chain Reaction! and invites Cape & Islands students in grades 3-12 to build a Handshake Machine using household items, a series of chain reactions, and simple machines to shake hands (or high five) with someone at least six feet away.

Chain Reaction! will engage children and siblings in grades 3-12 from all over Cape Cod and the Islands in STEM-based creative play. Students will use the Engineering Design Process to design and build a multi-step chain reaction using simple machines(sometimes called a Rube Goldberg machine). See video examples of the design process, simple machines, Rube Goldberg machines, and chain reactions in the Resources Box to the right.

Entries will be scored using a scoring rubric giving points for: Functionality, Number of steps, Creativity, Innovation, and entry form responses. STEM professionals will score entries, and 3 Grand Prize Winners will receive a prize for the winning entry in each group(grades 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12). Prizes will be announced soon! Siblings can participate together and should submit one entry under the oldest sibling's name and grade. Family entries will be evaluated in the age group of the oldest child. Materials submitted as entries may be used for promotional purposes. To opt out, or with any questions, email

The year's challenge requirements are:

1. Design a machine that gives a handshake (or a high-five) to someone at least six feet away. Entries must include at least as many chain reaction steps as the student's (or oldest sibling's grade level). In other words...a 7th grader must build a machine that has at least 7 steps in the chain reaction. Extra points will be given for additional steps.

2. Machines must be original creations by students in grades 3-12 in Cape & Islands school districts (including Plymouth and Wareham). Youngest students competing alone, and students with disabilities needing extra help, can receive help with building, video recording and entry form as needed.

3. Handshake Machines must be made out of any safe to use household items and other basic materials--such as stuffed animals, kitchen utensils, toys, cardboard, tape, string, balls, wheels, paper, Legos, etc...any materials they find at home!

4. Complete the Entry Form using the link in the Resources Box to the right and email a video of your machine working from start to finish to by 5pm June 15th, 2020. Begin the video with a piece of paper with your name, school, and grade level on we know which machine is yours!

5. Have fun, stay safe, and wash your hands!