Make a Wire Maze Game—
Flinn STEM Design Challenge™
Materials Included In Kit
Aluminum wire, 16 gauge, 100 g
Connector cords with alligator clips, 24
Electrical tape, 2 rolls
Foam bases, 6" x 2" x 1", 8
Piezo buzzers, 12-V DC, 8
Screw eyes, 8
Tongue depressors, 8
Additional Materials Required
(for each lab group)
Battery, 1.5-V in battery holder, 1 or 2
Scissors or wire cutters
Various objects for testing (see Lab Hints section)
- Cut one 18" length of aluminum wire for each group for the Introductory Activity. This piece may also be used in constructing the game. Note: The wire is soft enough that it may be cut with sturdy scissors if wire cutters are not available.
- Check the buzzer wires to ensure there is sufficient length of bare wire for a good connection with the alligator clips. Strip additional insulation if necessary.
Use caution when handling the aluminum wire as the ends may be sharp. A 1.5-V battery has a low current and is considered safe. Remind students to wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before leaving the laboratory. Please follow all laboratory safety guidelines.
Materials may be stored for future use. Used aluminum wire may be thrown in the trash or check with local recycling centers.
- This is a great activity to incorporate engineering design with an electricity unit.
- Challenge students to find a way to quantify the amount of time the loop is in contact with the wire maze. One student included a battery-operated analog clock with a second hand in the circuit so whenever the circuit was closed, the second hand moved.
Correlation to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)†
Science & Engineering Practices
Asking questions and defining problems
Developing and using models
Planning and carrying out investigations
Analyzing and interpreting data
Obtaining, evaluation, and communicating information
Disciplinary Core Ideas
MS-ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems
MS-ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions
MS-ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solution
HS-ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems
HS-ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions
HS-ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solution
Cause and effect
Systems and system models
MS-ETS1-2. Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
MS-ETS1-4. Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.
HS-ETS1-3. Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.
HS-ETS1-2. Design a solution to a complex real-world problem by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable problems that can be solved through engineering.
Answers to Prelab Questions
- Label each diagram below as a closed circuit or an open circuit.
- Suppose an insulator was placed in the circuit between the battery and the lightbulb in Diagram A.
- Would the lightbulb light?
The lightbulb would not light.
- Give a reason for your answer.
Electrical charges cannot flow through an insulator.
- On a camping trip, you take your flashlight out of your backpack, push the switch, but the light doesn’t come on.
- Describe at least three possible reasons why the flashlight doesn’t work.
The filament in the bulb may be broken; the battery may be dead; a connecting wire may be broken or disconnected.
- How would each of the reasons described affect the flow of current in the flashlight?
The broken filament and broken or disconnected wire would create an open circuit, stopping the current flow. If the battery was dead, the circuit would have no voltage. Without a source of electrical energy, the current won’t flow.
Answers to Questions
Engineering Design and Procedure
- Consider the challenge assigned to your group. Write the problem you are designing a solution for in your own words.
The problem is to make a wire maze game to test hand steadiness that is both challenging and fun. A wand with a conductive loop at one end must encircle the wire. Touching the loop to the wire at any time as it is moved along must close the circuit so the buzzer sounds.
- Out of what type of material(s) must the wand be made?
The handle of the wand must be made of an insulating material so the participant can hold it without touching bare wire. The loop at the end must be made of a conductive material. The loop must also be connected to other conductive material so when it touches the wire, the circuit is closed.
- List all the components of the game. Which ones will be part of the circuit?
- During the game, what completes the circuit to make the buzzer sound? How will the other circuit components be arranged?
The circuit becomes closed when the conductive loop touches the wire maze. When that happens, a continuous pathway must exist from the positive battery terminal to the buzzer, to the wand, to the wire maze, and then to the negative terminal of the battery.
- What possible safety hazards may exist and what precautions will you take to avoid those hazards?
The wand handle must be insulated so participants do not touch bare wires. The ends of the wires may be sharp. They could be covered with electrical tape as long as the tape doesn’t interfere with the complete circuit.
- How will you ensure the game is challenging, yet not so difficult that participants give up too easily? How will the winner be determined?
Answers will vary, but may involve the diameter of the loop and the number and types of turns in the maze. The winner may be determined by how many “buzzes” are heard from the beginning to the end or how far along the maze one gets before the first buzzer sound.
- Brainstorm possible solutions to the challenge with your group. On a separate sheet of paper, draw sketches to represent your possible designs.
- Choose the solution you believe will achieve the goal for the design challenge and that meets all the criteria and constraints.
- Obtain the necessary materials and build the wire maze game according to your choice. Test and evaluate the game.
- Attach a copy of your final sketch to the worksheet. Be sure to label parts of the game and show circuit connections.
One possible design is shown below. (Not drawn to scale.)
- Scientists ask questions about natural phenomena and conduct investigations to find the answer to the question. Engineers define problems related to human needs and wants and design the best solution among many possible outcomes
- In what part of this activity were you conducting a scientific investigation to answer a question?
In the introductory activity, testing various materials to see if they were conductors or insulators was a scientific investigation.
- In what part of this activity were you defining a problem and designing a solution like engineers?
Making a wire maze game required defining the specific problem and then designing the game to meet the given criteria and constraints.
- Based on the results recorded in the data table, what property do the conductors have in common?
All the conductors were made of metal.
- A student read that the lead in his wood pencil is actually graphite and that graphite is a conductor. He decided to investigate and set up a circuit from a battery to a small light bulb and then to the graphite tip of the pencil. Since the eraser end of the pencil had a metal strip around it, he connected the metal strip to other terminal of the battery. The bulb did not light so he concluded that the graphite was not a conductor after all.
- Was the student correct in his conclusion?
No, the conclusion was not correct.
- Give an explanation for your answer.
The graphite in the pencil is surrounded by wood, which is an insulator, and is not connected to the metal strip around the eraser. The student did not make a complete circuit. Even if he had made a complete circuit and the lightbulb did not light, it may have been because the bulb was burned out or the battery was dead.
- Evaluate your final design solution.
- How successful were you at making a wire maze game that was challenging yet fun?
Answers will vary. If the winner is the person with the fewest “buzzes,” students may find it difficult to determine if several “touches” in the same spot on the maze should be considered as one or more than one, which would make determining the winner difficult.
- What improvements would you make if given the time to redesign the game?
Answers will vary, but may include using sturdier materials, making a base that can hide the battery, wires and buzzer, finding a way to quantify the amount of time the loop touched the wire or the distance the loop moved along the wire before the first buzz, etc.