Canyon Crossing Challenge


Cargo Carrier Challenge

  • Cargo Carrier Challenge

    What's it about?

    This exciting primary school Challenge is to design and build a vessel using materials from a given list, which can float and hold the most weight possible, up to a maximum of 5kg, whilst minimising the weight of construction.

    The Challenge is focused on the concept of 'strength to weight ratio' and not outright weight holding capacity. Therefore, a lightweight vessel holding less than 5kg could potentially outperform a heavier vessel that supports the maximum load. Judges will also be looking for evidence of STEM learning through research into boat design, buoyancy and stability; and experimentation with design and materials.

    Eligible school year groups: Years 3-6.

    Entries accepted from: Individuals or teams of 2-5 students. Schools may submit a maximum of 3 entries for the Challenge. Teams may be mixed age if desired.

    Open to: Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire Authority Schools, Academies and Private Schools within the circulation area of the Loughborough Echo or who are members of the Loughborough Learning Alliance. Home-educated children may also participate. See our Terms and Conditions.

    Watch the video to see the creative entries in the 2018 competition

  • British Science Association CREST Awards

    CREST Discovery Award

    3M will pay for entries for the Cargo Carrier Challenge to be submitted for a British Science Association CREST Discovery Award. See our Terms and Conditions. Please indicate your consent on the Entry Form.

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Important Dates

Closing date for entries: 22 March 2019

Judging: 1 and 2 May 2019 at 3M Charnwood Campus, 10 Bakewell Road, Loughborough, LE11 5RB. Please indicate your preferred judging date/time on the entry form.

Entries will be screened to ensure they meet the entry criteria. Students, accompanied by their teacher, will be invited to present their vessel to the judges and give a presentation of up to 10 minutes on their background research, experimentation, final design and construction. The presentation can take any form (Powerpoint® slides, poster, songs, drama, simple talk etc.) and should aim to build the students’ confidence, communication and presentation skills. The judges will ask questions about the vessel and the students’ work. All members of a team should play a part in the presentation.

The vessel’s dimensions will be checked and then weighed using digital weighing scales. The vessel will be placed by hand into a large plastic tank of water and loaded in increments of 100g, 250g or 500g with cuboid stainless steel blocks up to a maximum load of 5kg. Blocks may be loaded in any location within the vessel, as selected by the students.

More than one block can be added at the same time, for example to support initial stability of the vessel. No padding/cushioning materials will be added during testing. If the vessel requires protection from the angular corners of the test blocks, this should be included as part of the vessel design.

Testing will stop when:

  • the vessel capsizes,
  • the vessel starts to sink, or
  • the team requests that no further weight is added

If the vessel sheds a small quantity of its load, it may be possible, at the judges’ discretion, to replace the block(s) and continue testing.

The maximum load applied will be recorded and used for allocation of marks.

Mark Scheme

Up to 40 marks for the vessel's performance, based on the ratio of load carrying capacity to weight

Up to 25 marks for evidence of STEM learning including:

  • background research
  • idea generation
  • design and material experimentation
  • prototyping
  • load sequencing
  • overcoming problems and challenges

Up to 20 marks for quality of the presentation

Up to 15 marks for the vessel’s style, aesthetics and visual appeal

Total marks available = 100

The students’ year group will be taken into account when awarding marks.

Judges will select 4-6 finalists who will be invited to attend the 3M Young Innovators Challenge presentation evening at Loughborough College on 14 June 2019.

£750 of construction equipment for school use plus a £50 gift voucher for the winning individual or team member. All finalists and their schools will receive a framed certificate.

All entrants will receive a certificate of entry and personalised feedback from the judges.
Curriculum links

Links to Science Curriculum (England)

Year 3

Forces and magnets; pupils should be taught to:

  • compare how things move on different surfaces

  • Year 5

    Forces and magnets; pupils should be taught to:

  • identify the effects of air resistance, water resistance and friction, that act between moving surfaces

  • Non statutory guidance:

  • pupils might explore resistance in water by making and testing boats of different shapes

  • Links to the Design and Technology Curriculum (England)

    Key stage 2

    When designing and making, pupils should be taught to:


  • use research and develop design criteria to inform the design of innovative, functional, appealing products that are fit for purpose
  • generate, develop, model and communicate their ideas through discussion, annotated sketches, prototypes

  • Make

  • select from and use a wider range of tools and equipment to perform practical tasks
  • select from and use a wider range of materials and components, including construction materials

  • Important documents to download

    Please download these important documents for the Cargo Carrier Challenge. Please save the entry form to your device and send as a file attachment to

    If you have any questions, please Get in Touch.
    Please see our Terms and Conditions.


    • John Fisher

      John Fisher

      John Fisher is Technical Director at Lacerta Technology Ltd, a scientific instrument manufacturer supplying the materials testing industry. He has a Masters degree in Physics and Electronics and has worked in several research and industry sectors including upper atmospheric physics and oil well borehole logging. John is a STEM Ambassador and recently helped a local school to the finals of the LEGO® Robotic Challenge.

    • Sam Stephens

      Sam Stephens

      Sam Stephens is the founding director of TBAT Innovation, a team of 20 consultants that works with many organisations, of all shapes and sizes, to secure them funding, raising investment and guiding them through successful innovation to commercialisation. A passionate engineer from an early age, building lawnmower powered go-karts and radio controlled planes, he has worked in the aerospace, nuclear and power engineering sectors. This passion continues today through vintage and classic car restoration.

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