Science Bonanza - Pandemic Response: Quarantine Box Design

In a world where we are more connected than ever, diseases can spread rapidly! In Pandemic Response, youth will become biomedical engineers as they explore how to prepare for outbreaks of highly contagious diseases. During this engineering activity, participants will use the engineering design process to solve a problem. Imagine if The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention,or CDC, is renovating their space and do not have access to their normal labs. They need a way to work with samples of a highly contagious virus while still protecting their staff. What type of technology would allow them to do this?

A Quarantine Box!

Intended Ages:  Grades 6-8th

We all know what Quarantine means, as we have been living through a very real Pandemic for the last 9 months.  Quarantine means to isolate someone or something so dangerous things, like contagious viruses and bacteria, cannot get in or out.  Here is an example:  

As we begin to think about this problem, we'll use the Engineering Design Process:

Identify the problem, Investigate the problem, Imagine a solution, Plan out the solution, Create and Test the solution, Improve the solution and then communicate your results!


Shoe box or other small box, two small containers (petri dish size), baking powder/baking soda, 1 foot of duct tape, saran wrap or sheet of transparency, 1 piece of chart paper, 1 craft stick, 1 straw, 2 feet of packing tape, 1 pair of scissors, a vial or small medicine container, non-latex gloves


The goal of the activity is to be able to move the "virus" (baking soda/baking powder) from one petri dish (small dish or container similar to a petri dish) to another petri dish without spilling any of it in the box or on your hands as you transfer the powder.


1. Work with a partner if you have one

2. The dangerous virus will be represented by the baking soda or baking powder

3. The following laboratory procedure must be able to be performed in the quarantine box: open the vial and transfer all of the powder from the vial into Petri Dish A.  Then, transfer half of the powder into Petri Dish B.


1. You have 25 minutes to engineer

2. You cannot spill the powder in the box, touch it with your bare hands or allow it to leave the closed environment

3.  You have a limited set of materials

Once you have completed your design, it is time to test!  See if you can complete the challenge without spilling any powder! 

Video tape or take pictures to share with the Science Bonanza community on Facebook!

This activity is brought to us by The Boston Museum of Science: Engineering is Everywhere! 





Extension Field Specialist-Science Literacy
Extension Field Specialist, 4-H Natural Resources
Phone: (603) 641-6060
Office: Cooperative Extension, Taylor Hall, Durham, NH 03824