PAL Children In Harlem Fly Into Action For The Tournament Of Champions STEM Challenge

February 25, 2022

On February 16, 2022, Police Athletic League youngsters from all five boroughs of New York City participated in the city-wide PAL Tournament of Champions STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Challenge.

Activities focused on STEM and physical education learning, featuring engineering, design and physics skills building.

The 2022 competition was an individual, center-based competition held at each PAL center with participants in Kindergarten through eighth grades working within age groups.

“The academic needs of our participants continue to be a top priority at PAL, with STEM activities serving as a significant part of our programming. The annual PAL Tournament of Champions STEM Challenge is a creative and educational hands-on event for young people to enjoy while using the scientific method to explore and answer questions,” said Dana Wheeler, Director of Education and Program Development, Police Athletic League.

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

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

In the Wind-Powered Sail Car Challenge, PAL children in Grades K-2 built a small-scale wind-powered sail car using straws, plastic and wooden beads, tape and construction paper.

PAL kids created and sketched a plan using the materials provided and were challenged to build a sail car that traveled the furthest distance, as fast as possible.

The lesson included a discussion about how the energy in the wind (an electric desk fan) and the energy in the movement of the car are forms of kinetic energy. The young participants also used experimentation and testing to revise their designs.

In the Tower Basketball Challenge, PAL children in Grades 3-4 created a tower that would support the weight of a basketball for at least 20 seconds.

Children were asked to identify and plan designs for free-standing towers using scotch or masking tape rolls and newspapers.

The lesson examined towers, what they are, what makes them stand, what makes them strong and what were some different ways to manipulate newspapers in order to successfully build.

In the Parachute Challenge, PAL young people in Grades 5-8 used tissue paper, plastic bags, scotch tape, twine, string and a small action figure or doll to create their own mini parachute.

Participants put their design plans on paper following a lesson on parachutes, including what makes a parachute work and why are they used.

The challenge was to develop a parachute that traveled the slowest once released from the drop location until it made contact with the ground/target area.

Imaginations soared as children discovered the effect gravity has on objects and learned about the science behind drag and air resistance.

In addition, all children in Grades K-8 participated in the Fitness Challenge which included Bean Bag Drop, Jump Out, and Sit Ups. Scores were kept in each fitness challenge and champions were crowned by grade category.

The 2022 Tournament of Champions STEM challenge continued the PAL tradition of holding an annual tournament to foster better understanding and relationships by bringing together children in friendly competition.

PAL youngsters had the opportunity to excel in individual challenges and work towards personal goals and achievements while learning and having fun.

Founded in 1914, New York City’s Police Athletic League is a nonprofit organization that provides recreational, educational, cultural and social activities to 20,000 children and teens annually.

For more information, please visit

Photo credit: Photos Courtesy of the Police Athletic League.

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