Did you know that May is the rainiest month in Austin? Our STEM maker challenge puts your umbrella making skills to the test with a few common household items.

Materials: Just grab a handful of straws, paper plates, sponges, coffee filters, cupcake wrappers, aluminum foil, plastic wrap…plus tape, scissors…you get the idea. You can turn your kitchen table into your very own maker lab.

Success criteria: Your umbrella should keep an action figure dry for at least 10 seconds under dripping water.


1) First, gather your materials and set up your work space. If you expect a mess, plan accordingly.

2) Ask your kids how they think umbrellas were designed. Do they know when they were first invented (1000 B.C.)? What makes umbrellas successful? If they could design an umbrella, what would they use?

3) Spend a few minutes sketching a design. The umbrella does not have to open and close. It just has to block off water!

4) Create a challenge: set limits on time, size or the number of materials allowed.

5) Once the umbrella is built, test it. Place a doll or action figure under it and slowly pour water over the top. Does the umbrella keep the action figure dry?

6) Note any shortcomings in the design and make improvements.

7) Test again.

8) Finally, as you celebrate success, also discuss any obstacles you faced and how they were overcome.


Provided by YMCA Austin

This summer, at more than 25 area locations, YMCA of Austin Summer Day Camps will provide opportunities for project-based learning and STEM and LEGO challenges. There will also be Makerspace Zones for coding or creating music with Makey Makey equipment and Light and Sound Lab. Find more details at austinymca.org/camporby calling 512-236-YMCA.

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