Tag Archives: engineering

EngineerGirl

EngineerGirl has been literally rated, “A Great Website for Kids” by the Association for Library Service to Children.  After visiting the site, I have to agree with ALSC that it is an awesome site for young students who would like to know about engineering.

Obviously, the site is aimed at girls.  However, there is a lot of information that will appeal to both genders.  The “Try on a Career” page allows you to click on different types of engineering occupations to learn more.  The site also includes interviews with engineers, resources,  and information on “How to Get There.”

EngineerGirl is currently sponsoring an essay contest for girls and boys in grades 3-12.  Students must propose a new technology that they think would help in at least one of these areas:

  • Safety
  • Health
  • Well-being, and
  • Environmental sustainability

Entries are due by 2/1/16.  For more information, go to this page.

I’m definitely adding EngineerGirl to my “STEM Inspiration” Pinterest Board!

EngineerGirl

Advertisements

Sphero Bridge Building

Every year, my 2nd grade GT students build bridges as part of a unit on Structures.  We have K’nex kits, and they enjoy learning about the different types of bridges as well as making their own versions.

This year I really wanted to have them do more than follow the instructions in a kit. When I saw the Sphero Bridge Building Challenge, I knew immediately what we were going to do.  I modified the lesson plans a bit, borrowing from some other bridge-building lessons I’ve seen, and created yesterday’s challenge.

I gave teams the task of building a bridge that would span a 14-inch gap between two table edges.  It would need to be strong enough to drive a Sphero across, and cost the least amount of “money” possible.

Of course, they didn’t have to spend real money.  I put a bunch of materials on one of my tables and gave them a chart listing the costs:

  • Popsicle Sticks – $100 ea.
  • Straws – $50 ea.
  • String – $20 per foot
  • Paper – $10 per sheet
  • Tape – $5 per 6 in. (the 1st 6 in. are free)

The students had to plan the materials they would use and then figure out the projected cost.  They had to sketch their bridges. Once I approved their plans, they could build.

I was so impressed with their planning!  They weighed the Sphero, used string to measure its circumference, did complicated calculations of the costs of materials, and measured straws and popsicle sticks with great care.  Great discussions ensued about the best designs for their bridges.  A lot of math was done – most of it correctly.

In the end, two groups succeeded in completing and testing their Sphero bridges.  Two did not.  Their reflections afterward were fun to read.  One student wrote, “We got our bridge done in time but we could have gotten it done earlyer if we had not been arguing.”   All of the students thought planning was essential to a successful project – except one, who stated, “planing wast of time.”  Another commented that the time it takes to complete building something can be delayed by things like, “how prodoctove your workers are.”  His teammate was more blunt, “Our bridge did not get finish because some people don’t work.”  They learned another reason for building delays can be when you don’t plan for enough materials and you have to wait for more to be delivered ( i.e. when there is a line of students waiting for Mrs. Eichholz to dole out more pieces of tape).

I will definitely add this to my lesson plans again next year.  It was one of those experiences where you find yourself slightly overwhelmed by the utter chaos but completely awed by the creativity and engagement of your students.  At the end of the activity you feel the contradictory, but welcome, combination of being both drained and energized.

spherobridge2

Left Brain Craft Brain

Yesterday’s post about the “Engineering – Go For It!” website left me thinking that I should look for some good sites for younger students related to engineering, too.  Today I have one to share with you.  “Left Brain Craft Brain” is a blog by a mother who happens to be a chemical engineer who loves to craft.  She shares projects that she has done with her young daughter, and the activities are well-suited for PreK through 2nd grade children.

Since St. Patrick’s Day is coming up for some of us, you might want to try the “Light Up St. Patrick’s Day Card.

image from Left Brain Craft Brain
image from Left Brain Craft Brain

There are many other St. Patrick’s Day activities on the site, too. But don’t worry – you don’t need to have the luck of the Irish to benefit from Left Brain Craft Brain.  There are plenty of other topics that will surely interest your young artistic engineer!

Engineering – Go For It!

When I realized that last week was National Engineering Week, the week was practically already over.  I tried to salvage things by doing some engineering with my 5th grade last Thursday – Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day.  Ironically, there are only 5 girls in my 5th grade class of 18.  But that’s still a higher percentage of females represented in my class than in the engineering workforce according to this article.

During my attempt to find an informational engineering website that would appeal to my students, I stumbled on eGFI (Engineering – Go For It!).  This site shows the many different professions that fall under the umbrella of “engineering.”  You can read about all of them, find out how to make a difference in each career, and “meet” engineering students as well as current engineers by reading their bios and major accomplishments.

eGFI

My students enjoyed just browsing the site and writing down 6 facts that they didn’t know about engineering that they learned from the site.  I wrote down 6 myself, and could have continued for another 50, I have a feeling!

The eGFI Magazine was a huge hit (but it seemed to work better on the tablets than on the PC), with articles about everything from movie-making to fast cars.

Of course, I didn’t have my students just read about engineering. We attempted to do our own engineering by designing the best ways to make straws fly through the air.  I gave them this activity from Zoom after they had tested out other options – some of which worked better.  (They are still reporting back to me on iterations they continued to create at home.)

On the way to lunch on Thursday, I overheard one student say, as if in complete surprise, “Engineering is really fun!”

I guess I need to do a better job at communicating that!

Goldieblox and the Movie Machine App

You may already be familiar with Goldieblox toys.  I’ve featured a couple of them on this blog.  I recently visited their site, and they’ve added quite a few more products to their selection – all with the aim of getting children, especially girls, interested in engineering.  One of the kits available for purchase is “Goldieblox and the Movie Machine“, which includes pieces and directions for creating a zoetrope.  The company has released a free app to complement this product, but you don’t need to purchase the kit to get a lot of fun out of the app.

screen shot from GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine app
screen shot from GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine app

Our Maker Club has transitioned from making cardboard games to making movies, and one of the apps the students explored last week was Goldieblox and the Movie Machine.  They quickly figured out what they needed to do to create their own short animations, and they were too busy having fun to ask for help from me.  The club is still testing out different options for movie creation, so we haven’t worked our way up to making final products, but I think this app will definitely be a contender for most popular movie-making tool (along with the Lego Movie Maker app).

If you do happen to have the actual kit, then you can use the app to print out your drawings to put in the zoetrope.  However, this is certainly not mandatory, as you can watch your video play on the iPad just as easily.

I definitely recommend that you add this to the list of apps from which students can select for sharing their learning.  They could, for example, make a video of the life cycle of a butterfly or portray how a character changed in a novel.  I’m sure you can think of many more ways to integrate it with academics!

Like a Girl

Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 4.25.57 PM
Two recent ads tackle sexist stereotypes that contribute to a culture in which women are often seen as inferior.  In the Pantene ad below, women are encouraged to stop apologizing for everything.  This is a bad habit that I am guilty of, and I’ve been trying to curb it for years.  Ram me in the supermarket with your cart, and I guarantee that I will automatically say, “I’m sorry.”  I never realized excessive remorse was a vice primarily displayed by women, but being aware of the problem might help us all to think twice about giving the message that anything that goes wrong is our fault.

The second ad, from Always, gives a pretty powerful message about the phrase, “like a girl.”  If you think about it, you will probably realize that those words are usually not uttered as a compliment.  But they should be.  It’s interesting to see in the commercial that the perceptions about “like a girl” seem to vary with age.  I hope my daughter grows up to be as confident and assertive as the young lady in the blue dress near the end of the ad.

I bring these two examples to you because I’ve talked a lot on this blog about the need for more women in STEM fields.  It’s important to recognize how deeply sexism infiltrates our society through the media and under-educated family and friends.  Coincidentally, I saw a list of the 22 Most Powerful Women Engineers this week on Business Insider.  I’m happy to see these women being honored in an article, but I hope that, one day, it won’t be so notable that there are 22 women who are capable of doing the same intellectually demanding job as men.

UPDATE:  Here is a link to an article about Mo’Ne Davis, the female Little League pitcher who gives a whole new meaning to “throw like a girl!”  H/T to Julia Warner for letting me know about this amazing story!

This is Your Brain on Engineering

image from: GoldieBlox - "This is Your Brain on Engineering"
image from: GoldieBlox – “This is Your Brain on Engineering”

GoldieBlox, the company devoted to encourage more females to develop interest in STEM, has had its controversies.  But I think they’ve done an excellent job with their latest PSA, a video that parodies the “This is Your Brain on Drugs” campaign.  The ad creatively shows the use of its toys to highlight the entertainment value of engineering and design.  However, it also sprinkles in some sobering facts about the relatively low participation of our gender in engineering careers.  I like that GoldieBlox offers explanations, resources, and links about each of these facts on its site.

For more information on STEM resources for girls, you might want to visit my recent post on Women Role Models, or this one that gives several links to books, games, and sites.