Fragile Freight Challenge


Fragile Freight Challenge

  • Fragile Freight Challenge

    What's it about?

    This secondary Challenge enables pupils to solve a problem faced by communities in Nepal who grow produce (including tomatoes) on high mountain terrain. They need to transport it, without damage, to a market below; however, carrying produce down the mountain can be a long and difficult journey. The Challenge is for students to design a model/system that can move this ‘fragile freight’ down the mountain in a safe and controlled way without damage.

    In addition to STEM learning into forces, gradients, material properties and structures, this challenge also supports general understanding of global issues and gives students the opportunity to find out more about Sustainable Development Goals / Global Goals, particularly Goal 9 – Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure.

    The aims of the Challenge:

    • To design and build a model/system to move the greatest possible weight of cherry tomatoes in a controlled manner from a starting station to a base station in two minutes. The base of the loading container(s) to hold the cherry tomatoes must start its journey at a height of at least 85cm above ground level and descend to deposit the cherry tomatoes at ground level, travelling across a horizontal distance of at least 100cm
    • Encourage problem-solving, team work, presentation and communication skills
    • Increase students’ awareness that engineering design is influenced by the world around us, including geographical location and available resources

    Eligible school year groups: Years 7-9

    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 designs in the 2019 competition.

  • British Science Association CREST Awards

    CREST Bronze Awards

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

Important Dates

Closing date for entries: 25 March 2020

Judging: 14 May 2020 at 3M, Charnwood Campus, 10 Bakewell Road, Loughborough, LE11 5RB. Please indicate your preferred judging 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 Fragile Freight model to the judges and give a presentation of up to ten minutes containing information on their background research, materials selection, design experimentation, any calculations performed and construction process. Presentations should demonstrate an awareness of factors influencing the design of similar systems used for communities in Nepal which this Challenge is based on. Sketches and prototypes showing the evolution of the model’s design should be included. The presentation can take any form (PowerPoint® slides, poster, video, a talk or combination) and should aim to build the students’ confidence, communication and presentation skills. Judges will ask questions about the students’ experience of taking part, their STEM learning, awareness of global issues and their final structure. All members of a team should play a part in the presentation.


The model will be checked to ensure it only uses materials from the Materials List, and that the position of the base of the loading container(s) and horizontal distance covered are correct. The two-minute time periods will be measured using a digital stopwatch. The total weight of cherry tomatoes will be measured in grams using digital weighing scales.

Mark Scheme

Up to 30 marks for the total weight of cherry tomatoes transported

Up to 25 marks for idea generation

  • Students should demonstrate their understanding of the aim of the Challenge, describe the background research and influences on initial design ideas and material selection

  • Up to 20 marks for design development

  • Students should demonstrate evidence of STEM learning in design development, prototyping and building their model/system. Explain how they worked as a team and problem solved

  • Up to 15 marks for an understanding of Sustainable Development

  • Students should explain the importance of engineering to achieving sustainable development goals; how real-world applications influence design; describe how their model/system could be adapted to other applications to support sustainable development

  • Up to 10 marks for quality of the presentation

    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 on 19 June 2020.

    £750 of science or design and technology 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) Links to Design and Technology Curriculum (England)

    Key stage 3

    Scientific attitudes; pupils should be taught to:

  • pay attention to objectivity and concern for accuracy, precision, repeatability and reproducibility
  • understand that scientific methods and theories develop as earlier explanations are modified to take account of new evidence and ideas, together with the importance of publishing results and peer review

  • Experimental skills and investigations; pupils should be taught to:

  • ask questions and develop a line of enquiry based on observations of the real world, alongside prior knowledge and experience
  • make predictions using scientific knowledge and understanding
  • select, plan and carry out the most appropriate types of scientific enquiries to test predictions, including identifying independent, dependent and control variables
  • make and record observations and measurements using a range of methods for different investigations; and evaluate the reliability of methods and suggest possible improvements

  • Analysis and evaluation; through the content, pupils should be taught to:

  • present observations and data using appropriate methods, including tables and graphs
  • interpret observations and data, including identifying patterns and using observations, measurements and data to draw conclusions
  • present reasoned explanations, including explaining data in relation to predictions and hypotheses
  • identify further questions arising from their results

  • Forces

  • forces as pushes or pulls, arising from the interaction between 2 objects
  • using force arrows in diagrams, adding forces in 1 dimension, balanced and unbalanced forces
  • non-contact forces: gravity forces acting at a distance on Earth and in space
  • Key stage 3

    When designing and making the model, pupils should be taught to:


  • identify and solve their own design problems and understand how to reformulate problems given to them
  • develop specifications to inform the design of innovative, functional, appealing products that respond to needs in a variety of situations
  • develop and communicate design ideas using annotated sketches

  • Make:

  • select from and use specialist tools, techniques, processes, equipment and machinery precisely
  • select from and use a wider, more complex range of materials and components, taking into account their properties

  • Evaluate:

  • test, evaluate and refine their ideas and products against a specification, taking into account the views of intended users and other interested groups

  • Technical knowledge:

  • understand and use the properties of materials and the performance of structural elements to achieve functioning solutions

  • Important documents to download

    Please download these important documents for the Fragile Freight 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.

    • Helen McGloin

      Helen McGloin

      Helen is a Manufacturing Engineer at Rolls-Royce, having joined the company as a graduate after completing an MEng in Mechanical Engineering at Cardiff University. Her main focus of work is the development of new automated and robotic systems into manufacturing environments. Helen is also responsible for developing the Automation skills strategy in the company, supporting continued learning at all levels – from schools to Apprenticeships to specialists. She recently won a Rising Star Award in the WeAreTheCity Science and Engineering category, sponsored by 3M.

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