Marble Modules: an Engineering Activity for Kids

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About: Hi! I'm Isaac Santos. I'm a 13 year old maker and entrepreneur who can't keep my hands still. I aspire to show all other young people out there that you can be a great maker, no matter how old you are.

I've been looking around online lately at marble run activities for kids from parenting blogs, Pinterest and basically anywhere the internet allows, but what I noticed is that none of them let kids create individual marble runs (the majority of the projects were one huge marble run), and didn't give each child a chance to contribute in their own way. I switched this around for my siblings by letting each of them create a section of the marble run, and we put them together to make this marble run! This project helps kids work together, solve problem and basicaally get better at engineering! (Your wall also gets an amazing marble run.) This instructable will set the guidelines and give tips for this activity.
Ages: 9+, if you don't want to be helping a lot. This was made with the help of a 9 year old who could do it himself, plus a 7 and 5 year old who needed help.
Time needed: 2 hours and possibly more.

Supplies:

-popsicle sticks
-cardboard
-marbles
- Kids (I did this with 3 kids plus myself, you can do this activity with probably 20 or more, depending on how much wall space you have.
- A wall (it can have corners!)
-Hot glue guns with hot glue
-any other supplies you need to make a marble run like thumbtacks, skewers, straws, balloons, rubber bands, etc...

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Step 1: Getting Ready

All you need to do to set up is cut out cardboard squares. Cut one out for each of the participants and poss extra if someone messes their square up. Since there were 4 of us making sections I cut out 4 12x12 inch squares, but this size can be modified to your needs.

Step 2: Start to Finish

The guidelines? There's only one rule, which is you have to start the marble run in one of the top corners and end in one of the bottom corners. I guess you could make the marble drop out the bottom or out the sides, but this makes it easier to connect all of the modules together, and as a bonus replicates restraints engineers face in the real world, like building a bridge that can be squiggly but has to start and end in specific spots (education bonus!)

Step 3: Build!

Start building! Duct tape the squares of cardboard to the wall. The squares can be taken off the wall and be moved around, so it doesn't really matter where you put them. Give everyone the supplies and they're good to go! If something goes wrong don't be afraid to rip it off and fix it. There's bound to be a few problems! Warning! Marbles can gather a lot of speed! Make sure to use shallow slopes unless you have a design that keeps the marble in, or marbles will be flying off the walls!

Step 4: Cutting Corners

Run out of wall space? No worries! If you have a corner (which can be inverted or vice versa) you can place two modules at an angle to go around the corner, as shown in the 2 videos at the start of this instructable.

Step 5: Assemble

After everyone has a working module, move the modules on the wall, connecting them start to exit to create a marble run. This part is where mistakes will happen, so keep some glue guns handy and some scrap supplies to fix things up here and there.

Step 6: Done!

Enjoy the sound of marbles plunking down the wall!

Things you could do to expand on this activity are:

Using a DC motor to help the marble make its way up to the start again

Make things like trampolines, cannons and catapults

I hope you enjoyed this instructable and hope it helps you!

If you liked it, consider pressing that button that says "vote"!

Thanks :D

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    4 Discussions

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    sciencerocks4

    4 weeks ago

    Love your marble runs! Love the collaborative aspect to this one! Keep up the good work!

    1 reply
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    seamster

    6 weeks ago

    I've always been a huge fan of marble runs (having made them both when I was a kid and also as an adult). This modular, collaborative idea is quite brilliant. Very well done!

    1 reply