Student Competitions » 2023 STEM Design Challenge (Grades 4 to 8)

2023 STEM Design Challenge (Grades 4 to 8)


Wednesday, March 29, 2023


Students in grades 4-8 are challenged to build an object with a certain theme and with Knex.  Teams design and build the required object for this year’s challenge using a blueprint. At the challenge, they will present a narrative report, submit blueprints/cost sheets, and build their object within a certain time limit. This event will be held at NCC Monroe Campus, 2411 PA 715, Tannersville, PA 18372 on March 29, 2023.
2023 Challenge
Major environmental issues including climate change and pollution are currently facing our world.  Your team is being tasked to research environmental issues, identify one that your team would like to address, and create a solution to that issue.  Build a prototype out of K’Nex that supports your solution.  Be creative!
Teams competing in the grades 6-8 division will also be asked to present a budget for their project. They will need to inventory each K’Nex piece they use and list a price for each piece. They will need to present their inventory and the overall cost of their project.


Parts of the Competition

Design Notebook

  • This should be a journal of the team’s progress from start to finish.
  • The Notebook should include elements of the Engineering Design Process.


  • A blueprint is a technical drawing or design plan for a project.  It is used to represent the final product.
  • Blueprints for the STEM Design Challenge can be a drawing, cad drawing, online sketch, etc. Pictures may not be used.


  • Teams will answer the challenge by creating a prototype of their idea using K’Nex pieces.
  • The prototype will be a representation of their solution.  They may expand on their solution during the presentation.
  • Teams may include a backdrop or artwork, but judges will not consider this in their scoring.


  • Teams are asked to share their ideas in a presentation for the judges.
  • Each presentation will be 2 minutes or less.
  • Every student on the team should participate in the presentation.
  • Judges may ask questions of the team after the presentation.
Who Can Participate?
Students in grades 4 - 8.  
  • There are two grade categories: Grades 4 - 5 and Grades 6 - 8.
  • 4 students per team 
  • Limited to 4 teams (total) per school district / non-pub school.
  • If your district / non-pub school has more than 4 teams that wish to participate, you may still register the names of the additional teams.  These teams will be placed on a waitlist. After registration closes, teams on the waitlist will be addressed in the order they were received. 
  • For student monitoring purposes, a maximum of 8 students per teacher is acceptable, however, we encourage one teacher per team.
  • Team Registration must be done by your specified District Contact.  If you do not know your District Contact, please ask Christiana Davey - [email protected].
  • Will open January 9, 2023 at 8:30 a.m. and will close on January 20, 2023 at 12 p.m. 
  • If you don't have your student names in time to submit during the registration process, please e-mail the student names to Christiana Davey - [email protected] by February 10, 2023.
Judging Criteria  (Rubric)
  • Creativity
  • Teamwork
  • Challenge Success
  • Design
  • Presentation
  • Inventory / Budget (Grades 6 - 8 only) 
State Competition
The top team in each division (grades 4-5 and grades 6-8) from the Colonial IU 20 regional competition will be invited to compete in the state competition at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, PA on Friday, May 12, 2023.
Important Information - Please Review
  • A 3 ft. x 6 ft. table will be provided for each team to build their project at the competition.
  • Lunch will not be provided.  Participants may bring a lunch and / or snack to the event to consume during down time or when the competition is over. There is a large area with tables and chairs. 
  • All students must complete our Photo Release Form: Photo Release Form. Please fax completed forms BEFORE the event to 610-515-6496 or scan and e-mail to [email protected].
  • Parents are not permitted at the event.  As much as we would love to welcome parents, our capacity at the STEM competition cannot accommodate that many people.
  • Teams must bring their own batteries.
  • Tentative Schedule
    • 8:00 - 8:30 a.m. - Team Arrival and Registration
    • 8:30 a.m. - Welcome & Competition Overview
    • 8:45 - 10:45 a.m. - Student Competition
    • 10:45 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. - Intermission / Final Judging of Projects
    • 11:30 a.m.. - Awards ceremony
    • 11:45 a.m. - Clean up and dismiss

Frequently Asked Questions 
  1. Is there an opportunity to receive a free K'Nex kit?  Not this year.
  2. Can we use water? No water or other live objects may be used.
  3. Can we bring technology devices to show blueprint?  Yes, students may bring technology devices to display blueprints. Please make sure all devices are charged.
  4. Are parents allowed to come? Parents are not permitted to attend the STEM Design Challenge. As much as we would love to welcome all parents, our capacity at the event location simply cannot accommodate that many people
  5. Can the projects be judged before the 2 hour limit? Yes, students may have their project judged when they are finished, and do not need to wait until the end of the 2 hour limit.  However, projects will be judged only once.
  6. What if our project gets judged before the end of the 2 hour limit? Projects may be judged early, but please make sure your students have something to occupy their time.  There will be tables and lounge areas available.
  7. Is the price of the structure for middle school category judged?  Yes.  This facet of the competition is designed to showcase the students' math skills. 
  8. What type of signage / backdrops / other artwork is permitted? Teams may use a backdrop, or posterboard, but they are not required nor are they judged differently.  Teams will have a 3 ft. x 6 ft. table for their project and any other sort of signage / backdrop / other artwork.  Projects must be kept on the table.
  9. As for the Design Notebook in the rubric, is this to be a typed document and is there a specific required format for the narrative?  It does not have to be typed and there is no required format, although typed may be easier for judges to read.  
  10. Can we use more than one motor?  More than one motor can be used.  You can use wire to connect several motors but only as long as it does not interfere in the project in any other way. 
  11. Can we use light bulbs, fans, copper tape and switches.  Lightbulbs, fans, copper tape or switches cannot be used unless they come with a K'nex Kit.  
Other Questions?
Please email Christiana Davey: [email protected].  We would like to have all questions in writing so that we can appropriately update the "Frequently Asked Questions" for all participants.