PAL Annual Tournament of Champions Virtual Stem Challenge

March 3, 2021

On February 17, 2021, Police Athletic League youngsters from all five boroughs of New York City participated virtually in the city-wide PAL Tournament of Champions STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Challenge. Activities focused on STEM featuring engineering, design, and physics skills building. Participants were in Kindergarten through eighth grades and worked within age groups.

Dana Wheeler, Director of Education and Program Development, Police Athletic League, said, “The academic needs and aspirations of our participants are always our top priority.

STEM is a significant part of PAL programming, and we are determined this year to continue holding our traditional, annual events, even if the format and scope have to be changed due to social distancing.

The children that took part in the hands-on STEM activities had fun and learned about using the scientific method to answer questions.”

PAL’s annual event is designed to provide young people with valuable learning experiences. Activities encourage creative problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, determination, and life skills.


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Children take on the scientific or design method that connects these hands-on projects to STEM outcomes.

In the Spaghetti Tower Challenge, PAL children in Grades K-2 built a tower out of dry spaghetti sticks that could hold weight at the top.

Boys and girls constructed a freestanding structure using no more than 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of masking tape, one yard of string, and one jumbo marshmallow.

Creativity soared in the race to the top to build a tower that required balance, patience, and skills. The lesson included a discussion about how standing towers are made and how these items mimic building materials.

In the Marble Track Challenge, PAL children in Grades 3-4 created a paper track, where marble can build momentum and speed with turns and loops.

Children built a machine powered by gravity to move down a track while understanding how the angles of a moving ball affect its speed and inertia.

The lesson covered rollercoasters, what they are, what makes a rollercoaster function, how it looks, and why people find them fun.

In the Chain Reaction Challenge, PAL young people in Grades 5-8 found a wide variety of objects and then designed a chain reaction using construction toys or kitchen items.

They used items that could help move a rolling ball in a downward trajectory and skip along to a chair, stool, and eventually the floor with stacks of books and boxes along the way.

Imaginations took flight as children discovered a sequence of events where one thing triggers another, as they experienced the exhilaration of invention and innovation.

The 2021 Tournament of Champions virtual STEM challenge continued the PAL tradition of holding an annual tournament to foster better understanding and relationships by bringing together boys and girls of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

Children had the opportunity to work together on hands-on informal learning experiences and share the camaraderie of teamwork and achievement.

New York City’s Police Athletic League is the first and finest civilian-run PAL in the country. Founded in 1914, PAL has served the city’s young people for over 100 years.

PAL provides recreational, educational, cultural, and social activities to 20,000 boys and girls annually. It is also the city’s largest, independent, nonprofit youth organization. For more information, please visit www.palnyc.org.

Photo credit: 1-2) PAL child participate in hands-on STEM challenges focused on engineering, design and physics skills building, by the PAL.

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