Building A Storm Drain

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In this design challenge, learners design a storm drain cover that catches litter to protect waterways to learn about how local actions can have system-level effects. Learners will test their covers using a model "drainage pipe system" with a waterproof container, a cover frame, and water-safe "litter" objects. Includes step-by-step instructions with pictures, extensions, and adaptations for younger engineers. A Spanish version of the activity is also available.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per student

Age Range:
Ages 6 - 14

Resource Type:

English, Spanish

Materials List (per student)

  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Hot glue (older engineers only)
  • Paper and pencil (to draw and plan)
  • (choose one) DIY Drainage Pipe System: Large bucket, Empty plastic storage/file box, Small trash can, or Yogurt container (32 oz or larger)
  • (choose one) DIY Drain Cover Frame: Plastic lid (that you can cut), or Cereal/cardboard box
  • Litter: Recycled items, Sticks and leaves, or Misc. waterproof items
  • Long items for design challenge, examples: Cooking and grilling skewers, Pencils, Bungee cords, Pipe cleaners, String
  • Items for filters, examples: Laminate or glossy paper, Yarn/string, Cloth, Cut up pieces of old tights or nylons, Plastic fruit container mesh
  • Connector items, examples: Binder clips, Rubber bands, Paper clips, Twist ties, Pipe cleaners (chenille stems)


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Structure
      • Oceans and Water
      • Biosphere
  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Invention and Innovation
      • Problem Solving

Informal Categories

  • Arts and Crafts
  • Nature and Environment


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Access Rights:

  • Free access



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