Straw Mazes


Create a maze from chipboard and plastic straws! This simple project has lots of room to scale into an exercise in design thinking. Sketch your maze, lay out your straws, and test it out!

 


straw maze supplies scissors chipboard hotglue gun glue tape and plastic straws

Supplies Needed

  • Plastic flexible straws
  • One piece of chipboard
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Masking Tape
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks

How to Make a Straw Maze

 

pencil marking each side of the chipboard

Step 1: Begin Marking the Chipboard

Using a pencil, add a 1 inch mark on each side of the chipboard. You’ll use these marks as a guide for cuts. They don’t need to be exact, but try to keep each side consistent.

pencil mark on each corner to be cut to prepare for folds

Step 2: Mark All 4 Sides of Chipboard

Repeat the process in step 1 until you’ve made a 1 inch mark on all 4 sides of the chipboard.

scissors cutting the first of the four slits

Step 3: Cut Single Slits In Each Side

Using the scissors, cut a single slit on all 4 sides of the chipboard.

scissors cutting the one inch marks to prepare for folds

Step 4: Repeat Cuts For Each Side

Cut a 1 inch slit into each side of the chipboard. When you’re done, your chipboard should have 4 one-inch cuts. The photo here shows 2 of the cuts completed and 2 remaining.

chipboard with a slit cut on every side to prepare for folds

Step 5: Check Your Work

You should now have 4 slits — one on each side of the chipboard. Stop and check to make sure that you cut all these slits. Your chipboard should look like the picture.

chipboard with all four edges folded in an inch

Step 6: Fold Up Each Side

Now that the slits are cut, fold each side of the chipboard upward to create 4 walls. If you’re having trouble folding these, consider making the slit slightly larger.

adding masking tape to folded chipboard edges

Step 7: Tape the Edges

Once the sides are folded, add masking tape to the corners to hold them in place. The tape should be placed on the exterior of the folds. This doesn’t need to be perfect — just add enough tape to keep the walls folded up.

chipboard with folded edges

Step 8: Check Your Work

After adding the tape, the walls should stay in place. If the walls aren’t, make sure to redo the folds and tape. The walls keep the marble/bearing from escaping the maze, so take time to ensure that the walls are solid!

start using a pencil to plan out the paths of maze

Step 10: Plan Your Maze

Once the walls are sturdy, start planning out your maze. Use this time to plan out your maze and think about the path you want the marble to take.

beginning to sketch the pencil paths on chipboard

Step 11: Draw Your Plan

Once you’ve planned out your maze path, start drawing the lines with a pencil. Each line is where a plastic straw will be placed. Take as much time as you like during this phase — this is where you can decide how complex you want the project to be!

drawing the maze paths with pencil on chipboard

Step 12: Continue Drawing the Lines

When drawing the lines, it’s a good idea to pause and think about how the maze will work when straws are added. Think about the size of the marble you’ll be using and make sure that it’ll be able to fit! It’s a good idea to use straight and diagonal lines at first that connect together.

overview of all the pencil paths drawn onto the chipboard

Step 13: Check Your Plan

Check your maze sketch once you finish. Make sure that the paths are how you want them to be for now. It’s much quicker to change the maze plan now than after the straw are glued!

adding 'goal' to the end of the maze

Step 14: Add a Goal Label

This is optional, but it’s a good idea to include a Goal marking so that your players can find the end of your maze!

adding 'start' to the top of the maze

Step 15: Add a Start Label

Likewise, it’s a good idea to add a Start label to the top of your maze. This can be done as creatively as you’d like — or you can omit it completely if your plan calls for it!

scissors cutting a plastic straw

Step 16: Begin Cutting the Straws

Once you’re happy with the first version of your plan, go ahead and start cutting the straws with your scissors. If you know that you’re using a lot of the same size pieces, you can start cutting the straws in preparation for placing them on the chipboard.

lining up the straws on the outline to prepare for cutting

Step 17: Line Up the Straws

If you have lots of precise, different length cuts you can place the straw over each line and cut it from there. This will help make sure that you don’t waste any straws. In this photo, the straw sits on top of the first line which is then used as a reference point for cutting.

scissors cutting the straws into segments and placing on the pencil outlines

Step 18: Cut the Straws

If you’re using the previous method, the next step is to cut each straw to match the line size. This is a longer process but is more accurate and is likely to result in wasted straws.

straws laid out on the chipboard before being glued

Step 19: Finalize Straw Layout

At this point, it’s a good idea to double check your maze layout once you’ve placed the straws. Take a look at the overall design and move anything around that you want to before applying glue.

start placing hotglue on the chipboard

Step 20: Begin Applying Glue

Once you’ve placed your straws you’re ready to start adding the hot glue! You’ll find a good method that works for you, but one suggestion is to apply glue to one line at a time, placing each straw as you go.

adding hotglue to the chipboard to prepare for placing straws

Step 21: Example of Glue on Chipboard

Here’s an example of one way to apply the glue to the chipboard. It’s recommended to go one line at a time.

hand pushing down any straws to make sure the glue is adhered

Step 22: Add the Straw

After adding the hot glue to each line, you’d place the cut straw and hold it in place while it dries. You’ll want the straws to be attached pretty firmly so that they don’t come off when the marble hits them.

straw maze closeup of writing 'start' onto the top of the chipboard

Step 23: Adjust the Straws

Periodically stop and check your maze as you glue the straws to the chipboard. You may find that you need to adjust one or two straws as you’re working. Try to do this before the glue is completely dry, otherwise you may detach the straw and have to glue it again.

straw maze nearly complete final adjustments

Step 24: Check Your Work

Once your straws are in glued, take a moment to check your maze. Make sure that there aren’t any loose straws — you’ll want these to be pretty firmly attached!

finished straw maze -- straws on chipboard

Step 25: Test Your Maze

Use your marble or bearing to test your maze! At this point you may find that you want to make some alterations, especially if your marble gets stuck. Make adjustments as needed, remembering to firmly reattach any straws that you move!