STEM Challenge: Bio Bubble

Bio Bubble

Hook, Challenge, and Constraints


I want you to imagine that you’re on Mars. The air around you is so thin it’s unbreathable. How do your lungs feel? So far, you’ve enjoyed the mild 70 degree day, but now it’s nighttime and -120 degrees. What does that feel like on your skin? Now you’re standing in the middle of a dust storm with the wind whipping sand and dust in your face. How does that feel? That’s what the astronauts are going to face on Mars.

Challenge and Constraints

To stay safe, they’re going to need shelters — little safe zones, where they can eat and sleep without being swept up in the dust storms, choking on the unbreathable air, or freezing to death at night. And they won’t need just any shelters. They’ll need hermetically-sealed shelters. In order for our astronauts to survive on Mars, we’re going to create hermetically-sealed shelters, so that no breathable, healthy air is able to get out and no dangerous, Martian gasses are able to get in.

We call these shelters “bio bubbles.” Every type of bio bubble must be hermetically-sealed. Bio bubbles for sleeping, bio bubbles for food, even bio bubbles for playing games must be air-tight. Remember, the astronauts are going to be on Mars for a long time, so let’s also make sure whatever type of bio bubbles we design are big enough for our astronauts to move around in. Finally, your astronauts should be able to enter and exit, so that they can move between the different bio bubbles.

Today, we will be testing our bio bubbles for air tightnesses. We will do this by placing our bio bubbles into a testing tub and pouring a cup of beans or beads onto the top, the bottom, and each of the sides. If anything gets inside the bio bubbles, that means they are not hermetically-sealed. What would happen to your astronauts in that case? They’d be dead!!!


You may also provide these optional materials: cereal boxes, toilet paper rolls, Dixie cups, and aluminum foil.


  • Materials: Students can use no more than five of any one material per creation! For example, a student can use five straws and five pieces of paper, but not ten straws. If you provide aluminum foil, no more than one arm’s length piece for each student!
  • Groups: Students can work with a partner or on their own. No groups of three!
  • Time to Build: 45 minutes