The series of STEM Challenges is an opportunity for high school and college students from across Australia to participate in fun weekly STEM challenges set by a collaboration between the College of Science, the College of Health and Medicine, and the College of Engineering and Computer Science at The Australian National University.

How it works

  • Students need to register to participate. Every Monday, the challenge will be released by email and be published on the website. Students will have one week to complete the challenge, with answers/photos due on Sunday of the same week.
  • Each challenges will draw on a different element of STEM, and may require you to take photos, answer questions or build/design something to complete the challenge.
  • Winners will be announced the Monday after the submission deadline, and will be notified by email and will appear on our Facebook.
  • All registrants who submit at least one challenge over the course of the 12 weeks of challenges will receive a Certificate of Participation from The Australian National University. The certificate of participation is not part of the AQF.
  • Winners will also receieve a Winners Certificate.
  • There will also be a prize for the participant who submits the most entries over the 12 weeks. Only one entry per week will be counted for each participant. 

Prizes

Each week, the entries will be judged by a panel and voted on. The winning entry will receive a $25 UberEats voucher sent to their email. If UberEats is not available in your area, we will contact you to work out an alternative.

Challenge dates

Challenge 1: Released on 14 April 2020 (Due to public holiday Monday)

Swipe right for Selenium

The first STEM Challenge involves one of the elements of the Period Table; Selenium.

Selenium is a chemical element with the symbol Se, atomic number 34 and is a member of the chalcogen family. Selenium is an essential trace mineral that is required for good cognitive function, a healthy immune system and fertility, as well as a range of other industrial and household uses.

Selenium occurs naturally in some foods, is used in some technologies, is an ingredient in some skin/hair care products and can be found in other places around the home.

Here is your challenge:

  1. Review the periodic table.
  2. Do some online research to find out where Selenium occurs and read the ingredient labels of products in your home to find 5 different items around the home that include Selenium in some form.
  3. Take a photo of yourself with those 5 items.
  4. Post your photo to Facebook/Instagram and tag @ScienceANU and then email it to science@anu.edu.au. Include which 5 items you have chosen in the caption. If you don't have Facebook/Instagram, then just email your photo and caption to science@anu.edu.au.
  5. Submit your photo and caption by 11.59pm on Sunday 19 April.
  6. The photos will be judged by a panel of ANU Staff and the winning entry will be announced on Monday 20 April. The winning photo will be posted to the @ScienceANU Facebook and Instagram account, and posted on the website. The winner will be notified by email.

Please observe all social distancing and other safety measures in place in your state or territory while completing this challenge.

Winner: Murphy

Challenge 2: Released on  20 April 2020

Geology Rocks 

Geodes are natural rock formations that often take millions of years to form, as minerals crystallise in cavities in the stone.

As we only have one week for this challenge, we’ve come up with a salty solution. 

For an extra challenge, make a Tiktok video of your experiement and tag @ScienceANU.

Materials you will need to complete this challenge.

  • salt (table salt, rock salt, Epsom salts, etc.)
  • boiling water
  • food colouring (optional for coloured crystals)
  • 1 egg 
  • small bowl

Here is your challenge:

  1. For the base for the geode, crack open an egg, remove the egg, and keep the shell. Rinse out the shell and let it dry.
  2. Boil enough water to fill a small bowl.
  3. Make a saturated salt solution by stirring salt into the boiling hot water until no more salt will dissolve and a few crystals remain at the bottom of the container.
  4. If you want coloured crystals, add a few drops of food colouring to the saturated salt solution at this stage.
  5. Place the egg shell in the small bowl and pour the salt solution into the shell. It will overflow the shell, which is fine. Pouring the solution into the shell keeps it from floating.
  6. Crystals will start to form as the solution cools and water evaporates out of the container. You may get good crystals overnight or it may take a couple of days to see good growth, depending how saturated your salt solution was.
  7. For an extra challenge, make a Tiktok video of your experiement and tag @ScienceANU.
  8. When you are pleased with the crystals, remove the geode from the liquid and place it on a paper towel to dry.
  9. Take a photo of you holding your salt crystal geode.
  10. Post your photo to Facebook/Instagram and tag @ScienceANU and then email them to science@anu.edu.au. Include the number of days it took to grow your geode in your caption. If you don't have Facebook/Instagram, then just email your photo and caption to science@anu.edu.au.
  11. Submit your photo and caption by 11.59pm on Sunday 26 April.
  12. The photos will be judged by a panel of ANU Staff and the winning entry will be announced on Tuesday 28 April due to the ANZAC Day Public Holiday. The winning photo will be posted to the @ScienceANU Facebook and Instagram account, and posted on the website. The winner will be notified by email. Other submissions may be included in an Instagram story.

Winner: Caitlin

Challenge 3: Released on 28 April 2020

Citizen Science for Cell Biology 

    The Zooniverse is the world’s largest and most popular platform for people-powered research, also known as citizen science. This research is made possible by volunteers — more than a million people around the world who come together to assist professional researchers.

    This week’s STEM Challenge involves studying and classifying cells affected by a neurological disorder – Huntington’s Disease.

    To understand how this disease affects the cells, scientists study their shape and structure by taking images of them in 3D. Citizen Scientists will then look at the images and localise the centre of organelles.

    Organelles are structures found inside cells. They serve many important biological functions and can vary a lot in size and appearance (don’t worry, you will see the examples in the tutorial before you get started!).

    This Challenge will help you to understand what is different between cells with versus those without disease, and you will get to contribute to real scientific research.

    You don’t need any specialised background, training, or expertise to participate in any this challenge.

    Here is your challenge:

    1. Visit the Zooniverse, and create a login using the same email you used to register for the STEM Challenges.
    2. Read about the Science Scribbler project and complete the tutorial.
    3. Make at least 100 classifications while logged in.
    4. Submit a screenshot of your profile page, showing how many classifications you have made: 
    5. Post your screenshot to Facebook/Instagram and tag @ScienceANU and then email it to science@anu.edu.au. Include a caption about what you have learned. If you don't have Facebook/Instagram, then just email your screenshot and caption to science@anu.edu.au
    6. Submit your screenshot and caption by 11.59pm on Sunday 3 May.
    7. The submissions will be judged by a panel of ANU Staff and the winning entry will be announced on Monday 4 May. The winning screenshot will be posted to the @ScienceANU Facebook and Instagram account, and posted on the website. The winner will be notified by email. Other submissions may be included in an Instagram story.

    Winner: Chloe

    Challenge 4: Released on 4 May 2020

    Pasta Bridge

    A bridge is a structure providing passage over an obstacle without closing the way beneath. There are four basic types of bridges; Beam bridges, Arch bridges, Cantilever bridges and Suspension bridges.
    When building a bridge, the structural load of traffic crossing the bridge and the length of the bridge needs to be considered.

    This is the basis of your Challenge for this week.

    For an extra challenge, make a Tiktok video of you building the bridge and tag @ScienceANU.

    Here is your challenge:

    1. Make a bridge out of dry pasta that bridges a 40cm gap, and can hold the weight of 5 tins of food. You can use any type of glue to hold your bridge together.
    2. For an extra challenge, make a Tiktok video of your bridge construction process and tag @ScienceANU.
    3. Take a photo of your bridge supporting the weight of 5 tins of food, with you standing behind it.
    4. Post your photo to Facebook/Instagram and tag @ScienceANU and then email them to science@anu.edu.au. Include which style of bridge construction and pasta type you have used in your caption. If you don't have Facebook/Instagram, then just email your photo and caption to science@anu.edu.au.
    5. Submit your photo and caption by 11.59pm on Sunday 10 May.
    6. The photos will be judged by a panel of ANU Staff and the winning entry will be announced on Monday 11 May. The winning photo will be posted to the @ScienceANU Facebook and Instagram account, and posted on the website. The winner will be notified by email. Other submissions may be included in an Instagram story.

    Winner: Charles 

    Challenge 5: Released on 11 May 2020

    Polyhedra & Icosahedra

    A polyhedron is a shape with many flat faces (from Greek poly- meaning "many" and -hedron meaning "face"). In geometry, an icosahedron is a polyhedron with exactly 20 faces.

    Your challenge this week is to fold an icosahedron or a polyhedron out of paper.

    Materials required:

    • Paper

    For an extra challenge, make a Tiktok video of you folding your icosahedron or polyhedron and tag @ScienceANU on Tiktok or Insta.

    Here is your challenge:

    1. Watch some videos on making an origami polyhedra or icosahedra.
    2. Choose your favourite polyhedral or icosahedral shape and get folding! Your shape must have a minimum of 20 sides.
    3. Take a photo of you holding your finished origami polyhedra or icosahedra.
    4. Post your photo to Facebook/Instagram and tag @ScienceANU and then email them to science@anu.edu.au. Include the total number of sides in your design and whether it is a polyhedral or icosahedra in your caption. If you don't have Facebook/Instagram, then just email your photo and caption to science@anu.edu.au.
    5. Submit your photo and caption by 11.59pm on Sunday 17 May.
    6. The photos will be judged by a panel of ANU Staff and the winning entry will be announced on Monday 18 May. The winning photo will be posted to the @ScienceANU Facebook and Instagram account, and posted on the website. The winner will be notified by email. Other submissions may be included in an Instagram story.

    Winner: Emily

    Challenge 6: Released on 18 May 2020

    Paper Plane Loop-de-loop

    We’ve all made paper planes before, usually with the challenge of who can fly it the furthest.

    Not this week.

    Your challenge this week is to fold a paper plane using any design you like that can fly a loop de loop and to take a video of you launching your plane and it completing a loop de loop in flight.

    For an extra challenge, make a Tiktok video of you folding and flying your plane and tag @ScienceANU on Tiktok or Insta.

    Materials required:

    • Paper

    Here is your challenge:

    1. Research some paper plane folding styles.
    2. Fold a paper plane that can complete a loop de loop.
    3. Take a video of you launching your plane and it completing a loop de loop in flight.
    4. Post your video to Facebook/Instagram and tag @ScienceANU and then email them to science@anu.edu.au. If you don't have Facebook/Instagram, then just email your video to science@anu.edu.au.
    5. Submit your video by 11.59pm on Sunday 24 May.
    6. The videos will be judged by a panel of ANU Staff and the winning entry will be announced on Monday 25 May. The winning video will be posted to the @ScienceANU Facebook and Instagram account, and posted on the website. The winner will be notified by email. Other submissions may be included in an Instagram story.

    Winner: Tilde

    Challenge 7: Released on 25 May 2020

    Coding Scavenger Hunt

    Australian businesses have joined up to bring you a digital scavenger hunt. Each business you’ll see in this puzzle has hidden a bug somewhere in their website code. Can you find all the bugs?

    To complete the scavenger hunt, you’ll need to visit the businesses’ websites and inspect the code to find the page with the hidden bug. Once you’ve found the bug, copy the webpage URL and paste it into the next puzzle page.

    For this activity we recommend playing via a laptop or desktop, and using one of the following browsers: Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer.

    Players who complete this puzzle will also have the chance to go into a draw to win a Lenovo IdeaPad from Code Like a Girl! 

    Here is your challenge:

    1. Visit https://puzzles.codelikeagirl.com/puzzles/scavenger-hunt
    2. Complete the 5 scavenger hunts. There is a hint in the bottom right hand corner of the page. Each of the rings around the insects will turn pink when you have the correct url entered.
    3. Take a photo of yourself cracking the codes and a screenshot of the completed scavenger hunt screen:
    4. Email them to science@anu.edu.au. Include the 5 urls in the email text. 
    5. Submit your photos by 11.59pm on Sunday 31 May.
    6. The photos will be judged by a panel of ANU Staff and the winning entry will be announced on Tuesday 2 June (due to the public holiday). The winner will be notified by email. Other submissions may be included in an Instagram story.

    Winner: Imogen

    Challenge 8: Released on 2 June 2020 (Due to public holiday in the ACT)

    Measuring the size of the Sun and Moon

    Caution: Do not look directly at the sun as it can cause damage to your eyes.

    At 149.6 million kilometres from Earth, the Sun is our closest star. It is a yellow dwarf star that is expected to run out of the hydrogen that fuels it in about five billion years. When that happens, the Sun will no longer be stable and will expand to envelope Earth. It will then be known as a red giant.

    Your challenge this week is to build a pinhole camera to measure the diameter of the Sun!

    Materials:

    • a small box (like a shoebox)
    • aluminium foil
    • sticky tape
    • a sheet of white paper
    • a ruler
    • a pin or needle.

    Here is your challenge: 

    1. Cut a 2x2 cm square out of the centre of one of the short sides of the box. Place the aluminium foil over the cut-out and tape it down.
    2. Use the pin or needle to pierce the foil.
    3. Line the inside of the opposite end of the box with the white paper.
    4. Measure the length of the box, from the hole to the sheet of paper.
    5. Point the foil-covered front end towards the Sun.  Do not look directly at the Sun!
    6. Use a ruler to measure the image of the Sun on the piece of paper, using the same units you used to measure the length of the box.
    7. Diameter of the Sun = size of image / length of box * 149,600,000 km
    8. Take a photo of your completed box, making sure you can see the pinhole camera, and a second photo showing the image of the Sun on your paper. Include your calculations in the caption.
    9. Post your photos to Facebook/Instagram and tag @ScienceANU and then email them to science@anu.edu.au. If you don't have Facebook/Instagram, then just email your photos to science@anu.edu.au.
    10. Submit your photos by 11.59pm on Sunday 7 June.
    11. The photos will be judged by a panel of ANU Staff and the winning entry will be announced on Tuesday 9 June. The winning photo will be posted to the @ScienceANU Facebook and Instagram account, and posted on the website. The winner will be notified by email. Other submissions may be included in an Instagram story.

    You can even repeat this with the Moon! Use the same box (steps 1 – 4), then:

    1. Point the foil-covered front end towards the Full Moon. 
    2. Use a ruler to measure the image of the Moon on the piece of paper.
    3. Diameter of the Moon = size of image / length of box * 384,400 km
    4. If you want to go further, change the size of the box and see what happens!

    Diameter of the Sun  /  Distance to Sun = size of image / length of box
    Diameter of the Sun = size of image / length of box * 149,600,000 km

    Winner: Ijaz

    Challenge 9: Released on 9 June 2020 (Due to public holiday in the ACT)

    Fibonacci IRL

    The Fibonacci sequence appears in nature because it represents structures and sequences that model physical reality.

    The order goes as follows: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144 and on to infinity. Each number is the sum of the previous two. This series of numbers is known as the Fibonacci numbers or the Fibonacci sequence. The ratio between the numbers (1.618034) is frequently called the golden ratio or golden number.

    The Fibonacci sequence can be found all around the house, on people and in nature.

    Here is your challenge:

    1. Research the Fibonacci sequence to learn what you are looking for.
    2. Take photos of 5 examples of the Fibonacci sequence in architecture, humans, nature or anywhere else around the house.
    3. Upload your images to https://golden-ratio.club/ and check they are examples of the Fibonacci sequence.
    4. Post your photos to Facebook/Instagram and tag @ScienceANU and then email them to science@anu.edu.au. If you don't have Facebook/Instagram, then just email your photos to science@anu.edu.au.
    5. Submit your photos by 11.59pm on Sunday 14 June.
    6. The photos will be judged by a panel of ANU Staff and the winning entry will be announced on Monday 15 June. The winning photo will be posted to the @ScienceANU Facebook and Instagram account, and posted on the website. The winner will be notified by email. Other submissions may be included in an Instagram story.

    Winner: Dominique

        

    Challenge 10: Released on 15 June 2020

    Double Bubble Challenge

    This week is a double challenge.
     
    Bubbles are pockets of soap and water that are filled with air. When soap and water are mixed together and air is blown into the mixture, the soap forms a thin skin or wall and traps the air, creating a bubble.
     
    Make a cube bubble: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3bIotV1kYzY
    Wand instructions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnERKv-5aPI
    Blow bubbles in a bubble: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5wy4T8g9ag

    For an extra challenge, make a Tiktok video of your experiement and tag @ScienceANU.

    Materials you will need to complete this challenge.

    • Wire coat hanger
    • Pipe-cleaners
    • Plastic drinking straws
    • Water
    • Sugar
    • Liquid dish soap
    • Bucket or large bowl

    Here is your challenge:

    1. Watch the videos on how to make a cube bubble and how to blow bubbles in a bubble.
    2. Follow the instructions in the video to assemble a coat hanger wand and a cube wand. You can use other bendy wire if you don’t have a coat hanger or pipe cleaners.
    3. Mix ½ cup water, ½ cup liquid dish soap and 5 cups of warm water together in a large bowl or bucket.
    4. Complete the challenge to make a cube bubble and blow bubbles into a bubble.
    5. Take a photo or video of your bubble experiments in action.
    6. For an extra challenge, make a Tiktok video of your experiement and tag @ScienceANU.
    7. Post your photo to Facebook/Instagram and tag @ScienceANU and then email them to science@anu.edu.au. Include the number of tries it took you to complete the experiment in your caption. If you don't have Facebook/Instagram, then just email your photo and caption to science@anu.edu.au.
    8. Submit your photo or video and caption by 11.59pm on Sunday 21 June.
    9. The photos will be judged by a panel of ANU Staff and the winning entry will be announced on Monday 22 June. The winning photo will be posted to the @ScienceANU Facebook and Instagram account, and posted on the website. The winner will be notified by email. Other submissions may be included in an Instagram story.

    Winner: Dominique

    Challenge 11: Released on 22 June 2020

    Brain Hat

    The human brain is an amazing and powerful tool. It allows us to learn, see, remember, hear, perceive, understand and create language.

    The brain is split into 2 hemispheres, with each divided into four lobes: frontal, parietal, temporal and occipital.

    Although we now know that most brain functions rely on many different regions across the entire brain working in conjunction, it is still true that each lobe carries out the bulk of certain functions. Some of these functions include movement, information about temperature, taste, colour, dancing, using scissors etc.

    This is the basis of your Challenge for this week.

    Here is your challenge:

    1. View and print this template. If you don’t have a printer, you can draw your own based on the template.
    2. Research the locations of each of the brain lobes and mark them out on the template. Write or draw some of the functions this lobe of the brain is responsible for.
    3. Colour in your brain hat.
    4. Cut out and assemble your brain hat using glue or tape.
    5. Take a photo of you wearing your completed brain hat.
    6. Post your photo to Facebook/Instagram and tag @ScienceANU and then email them to science@anu.edu.au. Include one function that each lobe of the brain is responsible for in your caption. If you don't have Facebook/Instagram, then just email your photo and caption to science@anu.edu.au.
    7. Submit your photo and caption by 11.59pm on Sunday 28 June.

    The photos will be judged by a panel of ANU Staff and the winning entry will be announced on Monday 29 June. The winning photo will be posted to the @ScienceANU Facebook and Instagram account, and posted on the website. The winner will be notified by email. Other submissions may be included in an Instagram story.

    Winner: Emily

    Challenge 12: Released on 29 June 2020

    Botany Scavenger Hunt

    The final STEM Challenge involves going out into nature for a scavenger hunt.

    You will need to collect as many of the items on the list as you can. Each item has a point value next to it. The more items you are able to collect, the more points you can score.

    Here is your challenge:

    1. Review this scavenger hunt list.
    2. Do some online research to find out where each kind of leaves, stems and roots occur.
    3. Go out into the garden or local park and collect samples for each of the listed items.
    4. Tally up your points for all the samples collected.
    5. Take a photo of yourself with your collected items, and another photo of the samples on top of the scavenger hunt list.
    6. Post your photos to Facebook/Instagram and tag @ScienceANU and then email them to science@anu.edu.au. Include your total number of points in the caption. If you don't have Facebook/Instagram, then just email your photo and caption to science@anu.edu.au.
    7. Submit your photo and caption by 11.59pm on Sunday 5 July.
    8. The photos will be judged by a panel of ANU Staff and the winning entry will be announced on Monday 6 July. The winning photo will be posted to the @ScienceANU Facebook and Instagram account, and posted on the website. The winner will be notified by email. Other submissions may be included in an Instagram story.

    Please observe all social distancing and other safety measures in place in your state or territory while completing this challenge. Please only make your collections from your own garden or public park. Do not trespass on private property to collect samples.

    Winner: Lily

    Most Submissions

    We also offered a prize for who submitted the most entries for the ANU STEM Challenges.

    Winner: Lucy

    Lucy submitted entries for all 12 of the ANU STEM Challenges. This was the highest number of entries from any of the participants.

    Have a question?

    Terms and conditions

    1. ANU Joint Colleges of Science is the ANU Joint Colleges of Science (ABN: 52 234 063 906)
    2. Information on how to enter the ANU Science Case Study Competition forms part of these Terms and Conditions.
    3. Entry is open to all Australian residents.
    4. Entry to the competition is via the science.anu.edu.au website: www.science.anu.edu.au\
    5. There is no entry fee for the competition.
    6. ANU College of Science Staff and their immediate family are excluded from participation
    7. There is (1) prize available for the best entry each week:
      • First Prize is a $25 UberEats gift card;
      • All prizes are in Australian Dollars (AUD).
    8. ANU Joint Colleges of Science reserves the right to modify or remove any prizes if required, or not to award a prize.
    9. The Prize must be taken as stated and no compensation will be payable if the Prize Winner is unable to use the prize as stated. The prize is not transferable to another person or exchangeable for other goods and services and cannot be redeemed as cash.
    10. The entrant will be solely responsible for any costs or taxes incurred as part of the competition, or claiming of the prize, including but not limited to any taxes.
    11. Prize winners will be notified in writing (email) on the Monday following the submission deadline.
    12. Only one entry is allowed per person per week.
    13. By entering the competition, you declare that the submitted work is entirely your own.
    14. ANU Joint Colleges of Science reserves the right to withdraw applications at any stage for any reason determined appropriate by ANU Joint Colleges of Science.
    15. ANU Joint Colleges of Science reserves the right to extend or modify the closing date.
    16. Submissions will be marked by a panel of judges chosen by ANU Joint Colleges of Science.
    17. ANU Joint Colleges of Science reserves the right to determine the final outcome of the competition, and to name and order winners and prizes.
    18. By entering the competition, the entrant gives permission for ANU Joint Colleges of Science and sponsors to use the winners name, likeness and work for promotional purposes, and other purposes deemed appropriate.
    19. Participants agree that ANU Joint Colleges of Science and sponsoring entities are not liable for any damages or losses arising from the competition.
    20. All submitted work is subject to the ANU Joint Colleges of Science Privacy Policy.
    21. Incomprehensible and incomplete entries will be deemed invalid.
    22. ANU Joint Colleges of Science reserves the right to verify the validity of entries and to disqualify any entry which, in the opinion of ANU Joint Colleges of Science, includes objectionable content, profanity, potentially insulting, inflammatory or defamatory statements, disqualify any entrant who tampers with the entry process, who submits an entry that is not in accordance with these terms and conditions of entry or who has, in the opinion of ANU Joint Colleges of Science, engaged in conduct in entering the promotion which is fraudulent, misleading, deceptive or generally damaging to the goodwill or reputation of the promotion and/or ANU Joint Colleges of Science. ANU Joint Colleges of Science reserves the right to disqualify a winner if ANU Joint Colleges of Science becomes aware that the winner and/or the winner’s entry is of a type described in this clause.
    23. ANU Joint Colleges of Science accepts no responsibility for any late, lost or misdirected entries including delays in the completion of tasks due to technical disruptions, network congestion or for any other reason.
    24. ANU Joint Colleges of Science’s decision is final and ANU Joint Colleges of Science will not enter into correspondence regarding the result or winning entries.
    25. In the case of the intervention of any outside act, agent or event which prevents or significantly hinders ANU Joint Colleges of Science’s ability to proceed with the competition on the dates and in the manner described in these terms and conditions, including but not limited to vandalism, power failures, tempests, natural disasters, acts of God, civil unrest, strike, war, act of terrorism, ANU Joint Colleges of Science may in its absolute discretion cancel the competition and recommence it from the start on the same conditions, subject to any directions given under State Regulation.
    26. ANU Joint Colleges of Science reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any individual they believe has breached any of these conditions, or engaged in any unlawful or other improper misconduct calculated to jeopardise the fair and proper conduct of the promotion.
    27. ANU Joint Colleges of Science collects personal information about you to enable you to participate in this promotion.
    28. The certificate of particpation is not an AQF certificate.