My STEM Units

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

STEM@home: Engineering

STEM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, is a term used by teachers to encompass lessons and projects which include these subjects. STEM units usually start with a problem.  The teacher guides the students through discovery and experimenting to find solutions.  STEM does not just happen at school. In fact, STEM can be very effective, engaging, and fun at home.  

Over the last few weeks, we have been looking at the various aspects of STEM and how you can encourage your child at home.


When most people think of engineering, they think of professionals designing bridges or skyscrapers.  Although those are great examples of engineering, it can also be defined as designing solutions to common problems.  For instance, how can I collect the water that rains onto my roof and use it in my garden?

Children are natural-born scientists and engineers.  And, they aren't afraid of failure.  Because, to them, it's not failure; it's just a step in the design process.  If their design fails the initial test, they redesign and build again.  Over and over.  If your child fails to engineer an electric circuit on their first try, encourage them to analyze why it didn't work the way they wanted. 

Although there are really cool gadgets on the market that can build robots out of soda cans, you don't have to break the bank to encourage your child to engineer.  Legos are a perfect way to get your child started.  And the possibilities are endless.  K'Nex are also a resource at home that can be used to produce many different designs.  K'Nex has the addition of motorized pieces, which adds a really fun element to engineering.

The drawback of Legos and K'Nex is that they usually appeal to boys.  Girls haven't really had an engineering toy that has appealed to them.  Until now.  One of the most talked about commercials during the Super Bowl was the Goldie Blox commercial.  Goldie Blox is a new company, producing engineering toys for girls.
"By tapping into girls' strong verbal skills, our story + construction set bolsters confidence in spatial skills while giving young inventors the tools they need to build and create amazing things."

Even household items can be used for engineering projects.  Paper towel tubes and duct tape offer endless possibilities.  Plastic spoons and playdough can be used to make water wheels.

Here is an easy recipe to make homemade playdough:

2 c. flour
1 c. salt
1 tbsp. oil
1 c. water
Food coloring
Mix flour and salt, then add oil. Mix the food coloring with the water. Slowly add water until the mixture is soft and pliable. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.

STEM@home is a series focusing on bring STEM activities into your home.  Read on and experience STEM@home today:

STEM@home: Science - Watching Science on TV
STEM@home: Science - Exploring national parks
STEM@home: Technology - Using apps to support your child
STEM@home: Math - Playing math games at home

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