Make a Cell Phone Stand (Student Instruction)

This is your opportunity to experiment with and explore the design decisions that go into making a manufactured product. In this activity, you will engineer a stand that props up a cell phone on a flat surface.



STEM careers

Grade level


  • stuff for making the stand: cardboard, craft or popsicle sticks, balsa wood, thin sheets of plastic
  • stuff for holding the phone on the stand: paper clips, rubber bands, pipe cleaners
  • stuff to hold the stand together: glue, tape
  • ruler
  • scissors and/or box cutter
  • pencil and paper for sketching designs
  • felt (optional)
  • decorations (optional) such as colored markers, glitter, stickers


  1. Identify the Problem and Constraints
    • How can you build a cell phone stand that is stable on a flat surface and sturdy enough to hold a cell phone?
    • An engineering constraint is a limitation on your design. There are three constraints for this challenge:
      • Use only the materials listed (but no need to use them all)
      • The stand has to hold a cell phone at an angle that makes it easy to see the screen if you are sitting at a desk
      • The stand has to be usable while the cell phone is being charged
  2. Brainstorm Designs
    • Explore the materials you’ve collected and think about which ones work best together.
    • Spend a few minutes researching existing cell phone stands. What’s good about them and what can be better? Decide if your stand will work with different sizes of cell phones, whether it will hold a cell phone horizontally as well as vertically, and whether it will adjust to different angles or just be in one position. What design feature will enable your cell phone to charge while it’s on the stand?
  3. Build and Test
    • Build your cell phone stand based on your research.
    • To test it, place a cell phone on the stand. Is it stable?
    • Try plugging in a charger while it’s on the stand. Does the stand hold position?
    • If your stand fell over or feels as if it will fall apart, no worries. Engineers learn from what isn’t working all the time.
  4. Evaluate and Redesign
    • Where are the weakest points in your cell phone stand? Think about the changes you’d like to make. Ask yourself:
      • How can I make the stand more stable or strong?
      • What happens if I want to change the volume or brightness while the cell phone is in the stand? What if I want to answer a call without taking it off the stand?
      • What happens if I add height to the stand? Can I make it stable if it’s higher?
  5. Make Changes and Try Again!
    • See if you can improve your cell phone stand by making it more stable and strong.
    • Consider making your cell phone stand more adaptable—make it work whether the cell phone is horizontal or vertical, for example. Or make the angle adjustable.
  6. Share Your Results with a Teacher, Parent/Guardian, or DiscoverE!


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