Marble maze

by Fellowship Agency June 7, 2018

A great STEAM challenge! Use the equipment listed to make a marble maze in the bottom of a shallow Gratnells tray.

Learning outcomes

You will be able to:

  • Design and build your own marble maze.
  • Evaluate your design, suggest and implement improvements.
  • Describe the forces acting on the marble.

You will need (per maze):

  • 2 x Washi tape in different colours
  • 1 x Scissors
  • 5-10 x Thick multicoloured art straws (or other suitable recycled or reusable materials)
  • 1 x Shallow Gratnells (F1) tray or a Gratnells A3 (D3) tray or Art (A1) tray if you would like to make a bigger maze!
  • 1 x Marble
  • 1 x Printed start and finish labels
  • 2 x Small piece of blue or white sticky tack
  • 1 x Stopwatch (optional)
  • 1 x Camera and video recording equipment with tripod (optional)
  • 1 x Pencil
  • 1 x 30cm ruler

What to do:

Take a look at our Marble Maze video here for inspiration.

  • Sketch a plan for your maze on a piece of A3 paper using a pencil and ruler, it may help to draw around the base of the tray first, so you have the rough tray dimensions for your design.
  • Create your maze in the base of the tray using the art straws and washi tape. You may wish to take photographs at each step of the construction to create your own simple stop-motion animation.
  • Secure the start and finish labels in place using the sticky tack.
  • Place your marble at the start marker and then lift and tilt the tray to guide the marble through the maze to the finish. You may wish to video your attempt and add it to the end of your stop motion animation.
  • Challenge yourself and your friends to complete the maze in the shortest time possible, set up a leader board and time them using a stopwatch. You may wish to video their attempts.

What is happening?

The marble will move when the tray is tilted because of the force of gravity acting upon it. The marble will move in the direction of least resistance (down the slope) under the force of gravity until it meets an impassable object (one of the maze walls). Changing the angle of tilt will alter the path of least resistance and the marble will move again down a new path. An exception to this would be if the marble had built up sufficient momentum to move up a slope (against the force of gravity) for a short distance.

Other things to try…

  • Critique and evaluate your maze design, develop your sketch and modify your maze to make it more complex or simpler as needed. How many ways are there to complete your maze?
  • Compare your maze to those created by your classmates, what can you learn from other people’s designs?
  • To make a simpler maze, use a larger marble and fewer art straws.
  • To make a more complex maze, use a smaller marble, or a dried pea, and thinner art straws.
  • Make a bigger maze using a Gratnells AS Paper try or Gratnells Art Tray.
  • Use a computer to design your maze layout instead of paper and pencil.
  • Make use of recycled or reusable materials to construct your maze instead of art straws.
  • Share your maze construction photographs and maze run videos on social media using #WhatsInMyTray.

Health & Safety

As with all Gratnells Learning Rooms What’s In My Tray activities, you should carry out your own risk assessment prior to undertaking any of the activities or demonstrations.