ZOOMS STEM Design Challenge

The 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 an enrichment, to building a model of a renovated animal exhibit, the problem will challenge students to use their science and math knowledge, creativity, problem solving, and research skills during the engineering design process in order to best solve the problem and present a solution. Selected students are invited to showcase their design challenge solution in the ZOOMS Design Exhibition in March at the Minnesota Zoo for a chance to win a backstage pass experience with our animals!

See the ZOOMS Design Challenge in Action!

2021-2022 ZOOMS STEM Design Challenge

If you are a grade 3-12 teacher looking for ways to engage your students in authentic integrated STEM, join the ZOOMS STEM Design Challenge presented by Flint Hills Resources next school year! Participation is completely free!

Registered teachers will receive access to a free training in September, design challenge supporting curriculum resources for both in person and digital learning, and ongoing implementation support throughout the school year from Zoo education staff. Register your class by clicking ‘Register Now!’ by Friday November 12th to participate.

For more information on each of the ZOOMS design challenge options, view the Enrichment and Exhibit Design Challenge Guideline links below.

Gray Wolf Enrichment Design Challenge

Level 1: 3rd – 5th Grade
Level 2: 6th – 8th Grade
Level 3: 9th – 12th Grade

Challenge: Develop an innovative enrichment for the Minnesota Zoo’s Gray Wolves

Five orphaned gray wolf pups, rescued from the massive Funny River Wildfire in Alaska in 2014, now call the Minnesota Zoo’s Medtronic Minnesota Trail their home. The two females and three males were found without their mother and saved by an Alaskan fire crew who discovered a wolf den in a bulldozer line at the Kenai Peninsula fire. “Hooper,” “Stebbins,” “X-Ray,” “Huslia” and “Gannett” have adjusted very well to their new home over the few years.

While they are very people-oriented due to being raised in human care, they still display the same social structure and natural behaviors of a wild wolf pack. To help encourage the wolves to use their wild instincts and practice these important behaviors, zookeepers are always looking for creative and new ways to use enrichment with them. However, while planning enrichment, they must not only consider the wolves’ individual needs and preferences, but they must also incorporate where each wolf ranks in the pack and try to minimize conflict when determining how enrichments will be used.

Gray Wolf Exhibit Design Challenge

Level 1: 3rd – 5th Grade
Level 2: 6th – 8th Grade
Level 3: 9th – 12th Grade

Design the new Gray Wolf ‘Wolf Ridge’ Exhibit Expansion for the Zoo’s Master Plan

Since the Zoo opened its first gray wolf habitat on the Minnesota Trail in 2006, the Minnesota Zoo had never housed more than 2 wolves. But in 2014, the Zoo became the new home to a pack of five orphaned gray wolf pups rescued from the massive Funny River wildfire by a fire crew in Alaska.

While the current habitat offers plenty of space for a pack this size, as the Zoo looks to the future and explores new possibilities for the Zoo’s ‘Pathway to Nature’ master plan, zoo staff have considered expanding the current wolf exhibit to better accommodate the larger and active wolf pack. A new addition called ‘Wolf Ridge’ was proposed that would extend the back of the habitat and add a new visitor viewing area. While this project is still only a proposed concept in the master plan, the Zoo would like to see creative ways that this expansion could meet animal, visitor, and zookeeper needs and complement the existing wolf habitat in order to help determine if it should be included in the Zoo’s final master plan.

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