Challenge your students to build towers, and see which shapes are the strongest.Bonus: place the students' creations on top of a text book and ask them which designs they think will be more stable if the book begins to move in an earthquake. To help them find some real-life meaning in this activity, you can show this 1.5 minute TED Ed video that compares the same kind of earthquake in two places around the world. After the video, ask your students to re-design their structures and perform the earthquake experiment again.
Bells and buzzers provide plenty of opportunity to play with simple circuits like electrical engineers, while ramps and flaps will have your students thinking like civil engineers in no time.
Bonus: As Dan Meyer explains in his famous TED talk Math Class Needs a Makeover, students thrive when we give them opportunities to ask their own questions and become patient problem solvers. Give bonus points to students who write their own word problem to solve for surface area and volume, or measure probability and statistics by observing other students play with the pinball machine. Students can incorporate (and label) 3D geometrical shapes like prisms, pyramids, spheres, cones, cylinders, and composites into their design.Encourage them to reverse engineer their own math problem, based on what they find most compelling about their pinball machine invention.