On Target

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In this design challenge activity, learners modify a cup so it can carry a marble down a zip line and also drop it onto a target. Learners are encouraged to brainstorm answers to design questions, build a prototype using simple materials, and test, evaluate, and redesign their structure. The activity guide includes troubleshooting tips. The related Leader's Notes guide contains information on how to connect this to NASA and aerospace engineering.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per student

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 18

Resource Type:


Materials List (per student)

  • 9 feet (3m) of smooth line (e.g., fishing line or kite string)
  • index card
  • marble
  • masking tape
  • paper clip
  • 1 medium-sized paper cup
  • scissors
  • target drawn on a piece of paper


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Aerospace Engineering
      • Civil Engineering
  • Physical Sciences
    • Motion and Forces
      • Gravity
      • Momentum and Velocity
      • Acceleration
      • Newton's Laws
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Invention and Innovation
      • Problem Solving
      • Troubleshooting and Maintenance


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


Source Collection

  • Design Squad Nation


Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation, 0810996