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STEM Activities

STEM Activity: Build a Nobel Prize-Worthy Idea

Nobel Prizes are some of the world’s most prestigious awards. Presented each year for outstanding intellectual achievement to individuals who have contributed “the greatest benefit to humankind,” these prominent awards celebrate advancements in areas of science, medicine, literature and peace.

Explore the six Nobel Prize categories as you create a tall tower to knock down, revealing an area in which you might innovate. Once you have your category of invention, you can sketch and build your prototype (or model), and have your own awards ceremony with family and friends.


Materials Needed

  • Blocks, cups or other building materials
  • Craft materials (e.g., modeling clay, pipe cleaners, ribbons)
  • Medals (or other DIY certificates or trophies)
  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • String


Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Discover the story of National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) Inductee Alfred Nobel and how he created dynamite, making mining, railroad building and other types of construction safer, more efficient and more affordable.
  2. Next, conduct an internet-safe search to identify three Nobel Prize winners, like NIHF Inductee Frances Arnold, who might inspire you.
  3. Grab a pencil and write each of the following terms on a separate slip of paper:
    • Physics
    • Chemistry
    • Physiology or Medicine
    • Literature
    • Peace
    • Economic Sciences
  4. Begin building a tower with cups, blocks or other easy-to-find building items, and then place each of your slips of paper in various parts of your structure.
  5. Once you’ve finished constructing your tower, tie a string to a bottom piece of your tower and pull! Select the slip of paper that lands closest to you, or pick one out of the rubble. This will be your challenge area to advance through your innovative efforts!
  6. Once you have your category, think of how you might innovate in this area, and then sketch three of your ideas.
    • Will you advance our understanding of space travel?
    • Might you develop a new medicine?
    • Could you write something that inspires society to take care of the planet in new ways?
    • Can you think of ways to promote peace around the world?
  7. Dream big and remember that nearly all Nobel Prize winners were likely told at one point or another that their ideas were too wild or out of reach.
  8. Take one of your sketches and make a prototype of it using modeling clay or other craft materials.
  9. Invite friends or family members to join you in creating an invention. 10. Host an award ceremony after everyone presents their best ideas!


What Are We Discovering?

World-changing inventor Alfred Nobel held over 350 patents in different countries throughout his life in electrochemistry, optics, biology and physiology. In 1863, he developed the Nobel patent detonator, which ignited nitroglycerin – an explosive liquid – using a strong shock rather than heat. He went on to patent dynamite, making nitroglycerin a useful explosive in construction.

To this day, the bulk of his fortune awards prizes annually to individuals who have made advancements in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, peace and economics.


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