We love STEM!
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math help make our understanding of the world richer and more vibrant – and they’re fun! We’ve been celebrating National STEAM Day with lots of you on twitter, but with the back-to-back celebration of World Science Day on November 10, we wanted to round up four of our favorite STEM projects.
Every project is free, hands-on, and easy for you to get started – we design them so that anyone can build them anywhere with materials they have on hand (or can pick up at a grocery store). So gather up some rubber bands, popsicle sticks, pencils, and tinfoil and join us!
Build a Vertical Jumping Machine
Jump for joy! Invent a machine that can jump 3 feet into the air! Learn about potential energy, kinetic energy, and biomechanics as you build. Build your machine out of any materials you want (the video shows a paper cup, but we also love using pencils or pick-up-sticks!) and then use a rubber band to make it jump. By wrapping the rubberband and twisting it around itself, you’ll take advantage of its potential energy … and when you release it, your machine will leap into the air as that energy becomes kinetic energy (or the energy of motion).
Suggested materials: cups of different sizes, rubber bands of different sizes and strengths, scissors, tape, yardstick for testing height
Build a Robotic Face
Show us how you feel – build a robotic face that can make different expressions! Using popsicle sticks, pins, and cardboard, design and build different features (like eyes, eyebrows, and a mouth) that can move to express how your robot is feeling. To make them move, you’ll be building simple mechanisms, so spend some time looking at your face in a mirror and noticing the different motions your features make. Which parts of your face move up and down, open and close, or move sideways?
Suggested Materials: cardboard, popsicle sticks, rubber bands, paper, markers
Building Tip! Think about how you want each part of your robot’s face to move, and what sort of motion you want it to make. Then pick the mechanism that will make that motion … and check out the mechanical pegboard design challenge for inspiration on how to connect multiple mechanisms!
Build a Self-Propelling Boat
Get ready to start your engine … but first you have to build it! Build a fast, stable boat that can move through the water for at least 1 foot. Learn about kinetic and potential energy, gravity, and buoyancy as you construct a small boat that can propel itself across the water using a rubber-band powered propeller.
A propeller is like a fan that creates a force by converting rotational (or spinning) movement into a thrust (or forward movement). For your boat, you’ll create rotational movement by winding up a rubber band really tightly so it stores the energy – once you let go, the rubber band will spin, releasing the energy and creating a forward thrust that will make your boat move!
Suggested Materials: straws, popsicle sticks, rubber bands, waterproof tape, scissors (and then to test it, you’ll want a container or tub that’s at least 2 feet long/wide, a yardstick or ruler, and water of course!)
Build a Safe-Stopping Robot
*you’ll need to get a small motor to build this hands-on challenge, but you can get them online!
Learn about robot safety – Build a small robot that knows when to stop moving as soon as it leaves a safe area. This project is inspired by robots at Boeing that use artificial intelligence to keep both humans and robots safe as they work next to each other. Scientists teach robots to recognize humans using cameras and visual-recognition systems and training them on a lot of data. Eventually, the robots learn to recognize humans and immediately shut themselves off if those humans get too close! In this project, you’ll build a robot that does something similar – you’ll define a “safe zone” and make sure your robot stops working if it moves out of that zone.
To do this you need to learn about circuits. Circuits are pathways that electricity can flow through! You’ll make a simple circuit with a DC motor, batteries, and conductive material (like aluminum foil) –if you need some help making a simple circuit, check out our projects on creating a circuit to light an LED and building a “No Wire” circuit.
Suggested Materials:2 AAA or AA batteries, 1 battery holder, 1 DC motor, paperclips, binder clips, masking tape, glue, 1 cup (like an old yogurt container), 2 wires with alligator clips, scissors
Optional materials: aluminum foil or HVAC foil tape, plastic water bottles or empty plastic containers, electrical tape, pipe cleaners
To test your robot: foam board, poster board or paper, aluminum foil