The Squashed Tomato Challenge

A STEM Challenge where pupils design and build a model to move tomatoes down a mountain

Challenge your students to take on a real life  problem affecting people in Nepal.

The problem: In Nepal many farmers living on the mountainside grow fruit and vegetables, including tomatoes. To earn a living they need to sell these at the local market.  The problem is getting to market involves a long, dangerous walk down the mountain side and over a river, at the end of which the tomatoes may well be a bit squashed.

The challenge: To design, build and test a way of moving tomatoes that won't squash them!

Suitable for pupils aged 7-16.

Teacher resources include lesson plans, pupil worksheets, a PowerPoint, certificates and more 

Accredited by the British Science Association this activity can be used to gain a CREST Discovery award (primary and secondary),  a CREST SuperStar award (primary) . For more information please go to the CREST area of our website.

The challenge can provide a focus for British Science Week ; be used as a STEM or science club activity; enhance a lesson on forces/friction/levers;  form the basis of an enrichment day;  and be the starting point for a range of cross-curricular activities. 

NEW POSTER For a free A2 Squashed Tomato challenge poster, download from below or email us for a free copy.


Teacher's notes

All the information you need on how to run the Squashed Tomato Challenge with suggested extension activities

Students' notes

All the information your students will need to complete the Squashed Tomato Challenge

Squashed Tomato challenge poster

A poster to support that shows how aerial ropeway systems in Nepal work.

CREST Discovery Award Passport

An example of the passport pupils need to complete if entering for a Discovery Award.

Squashed Tomato Challenge Powerpoint

A presentation to introduce and run the Squashed Tomato challenge.

Certificates - well done

Certificates - congratulations

Worksheets for the CREST award

Worksheets to be completed by students in order to achieve the CREST Discovery award

Squashed Tomato Challenge - Welsh

Our Squashed tomato challenge materials in Welsh for our Welsh speaking teachers and pupils.

Read more

How an aerial ropeway works

How ropeways have changed people's lives

Watch students at the INTECH science centre take part in the challenge


The images below are linked to Flickr. They can be used to help illustrate the context of the challenge and/or for display.

Nepalese woman with children

Ploughing land in Nepal Watering the crops Harvesting tomatoes in Nepal View from the mountainside in Nepal
Farmer carrying tomatoes using traditional basket with headstrap, Nepal Typical market stall selling produce Nepal View from top of gravity ropeway, Nepal Downstation of a gravity ropeway, Nepal Tomatoes safely at the bottom of a gravity ropeway, Nepal


How it works

Find out more about how gravity ropeways work and affect the lives of people in Nepal.

Read our detailed technical brief on gravity ropeways

Case study of how a family has benefited from the gravity ropeway

Have a look at a great article in Low-tech Magazine on the history of aerial ropeways which includes diagrams and information on a variety of different structures and and their uses.

Some quite interesting facts about tomatoes

  • The tomato is the world's most popular fruit.  60 millions tons are produce each year, 16 million more than the banana.
  • It used to be thought that tomatoes were poisonous.  They come from the same family as deadly nightshade.
  • An average size tomato has 35 calories.
  • Tomatoes originated from South America, in the Andes.  They were first cultivated in 700AD by Aztecs and Incas.
  • Tomatoes are rich in vitamins A and C and fibre, and are cholesterol free.
  • The tomato was once considered to be an aphrodisiac.  The French called it 'the apple of love'.
  • Tomatoes will keep longer if you store them stalk down.


Some quite bad tomato jokes!

  1. Why did the tomato blush?  Because he saw the salad dressing
  2. A family of three tomatoes were walking downtown one day when the little baby tomato started lagging behind. The big father tomato walks back to the baby tomato, stomps on her, squashing her into a red paste, and says, "Ketchup!"
  3. What's a vampire's favourite soup?  Scream of tomato.
  4. Grace was looking at the red ripe tomatoes growing in the farmer’s garden. “I’ll give you a penny for that tomato,” said Grace, pointing to a beautiful, large, ripe fruit hanging on the vine.

    “No,” said the farmer, “I get ten pence for a tomato like that one.”

    Grace pointed to a smaller green one, “Will you take a penny for that one?”

    “Yes,” replied the farmer, “I’ll give you that one for a penny.”

    “OK,” said Grace,  “I’ll pick it up in about a week.”
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