The Minnesota Zoo ZOOMS STEM Design Challenge presented by Flint Hills Resources offers students a chance to develop a solution to a ‘real’ problem faced by zookeepers and staff at the Minnesota Zoo. From designing enrichment to building a model of a renovated animal exhibit, the project challenges students to use their science and math knowledge, creativity, problem-solving, and research skills during the engineering design process to best present a possible solution.

Through topics such as Engineering FOR Animals (exhibit design), Engineering FROM Animals (biomimicry), and Engineering BY Animals (animals as engineers), teachers and students are challenged to consider and tackle the complexities in both the natural world and constructed environments. The ZOOMS program supports teachers with integrating standards-based ZOOMS resources, design challenges, and field trips into their curriculum to better equip students with the STEM skills to engineer and problem-solve just like zookeepers, exhibit designers, and conservationists at the Minnesota Zoo! The challenges helps students see the Zoo in a whole new way!

This year, students are focusing on the red panda. As one of the most beloved animals at the Minnesota Zoo, our 9-year-old female red panda can often be found resting on her favorite tree branch in her Tropics Trail habitat that she shares with two Transcaspian urials. Described as sweet and shy, Min has been a challenge to provide enrichment for and zookeepers have five specific goals for her and the enrichment students design.

Enrichment Goals: 

  1. Increase her activity levels
  2. Encourage her to explore her enclosure
  3. Help her to gain the confidence to explore enrichment
  4. Offer a way to cool off from the Tropics Trail humidity
  5. Help her to transition from the Tropics Trail to the Northern Trail

Students across the country are working hard on their projects that will be presented virtually to our judges between March 15 – 18, 2021. Follow along with us on social media as we share ZOOMS content and red panda facts, and help us cheer on the participating students. Winning projects will be announced on March 19. Learn more about the ZOOMS STEM Design Challenge here. (