Mar 15

Lego Mindstorm kits STEM activity for girls car obstacle course and race

Finishing touches were made on the cars this past week.  The girls figured out how to get steering wheels to turn, head lights to work, and one even did a double motor with all wheel drive!  They were designing for two tasks- durability during the obstacle course and speed.  They had a blast driving their cars through the tough terrain and race track.  These kits were very cool!


Mar 05

Lego Mindstorms STEM activity for girls. Designing a car

This week, the girls worked with Lego MIndstorm kits to design a car.  First they brainstormed and drew a plan, then they selected wheels, and finally they begin building.  What I loved about about it was how quickly the girls starting asking questions and trying out different connections to see if they could get their cars to do anything else besides drive forward.  Many of them had drivable cars by the end of class.  Next week, we will do any modifications to our designs and race them.  Hopefully we will have time to do an obstacle course, too!


Mar 02

Making Lego egg cars

The girls had a fun task this week that is in preparation for building with Lego Mindstorm kits.   They had to design a car that could safely race an egg (plastic of corse!).  First they selected an egg and gave it a name and a face.

Next they had to select the right wheels for the job and design their car to safely transport their egg.  There was lots of great design thinking involved!  The girls were very focused on the task.  They had many different designs and loved seeing what each one came up with.  When they finished they tested their car and made modifications if they needed it.  They even got a chance to race each other! 

these girls rock! Great job! 

Jan 25

Mythbusters: Exploding Pop Rocks and Does Bread land butter side down? Science myths testable questions

This past week in STEM, we tested some pretty fun myths. We had such a great time last week, so I wanted to continue mybusting one more week.

The girls have been asking to do experiments with candy (exploding candy) for months. I thought, this week, we should try it out. There is a myth that if you drink soda and eat pop rocks, that your stomach will explode. The girls were up for testing this myth out (in cups of course! ). They also couldn’t help but sample along the way. We did our control first and tested to see if the pop rocks would explode in water. We dropped them in and they fizzed, but nothing more. Next we tried them in soda. They did the same. Just fizz… although some of the girls thought they fizzed a bit more in the soda. Any brave girls that wanted to, were allowed to drink the remaining soda in the cup. No worries, all stomachs were still intact :). Overall this myth was tasty, but busted!









Our next myth: butter and bread. We wanted to test out the myth that bread always lands butter-side down. The girls were able to throw their piece off the second floor. The results were not what we predicted. Both times, 7 out of 12 slices landed butter-side up. We thought the weight of the butter would force it to go down. Another myth busted. Science is awesome!

Here’s a video of the bread going down!





Jan 14

Mythbusters- squishy circuits! can you pass a current through play dough? Testable question

Winter session of stem club has begun! I cannot believe that we have 13 girls for this STEM club session! They were excited to begin! For our first session, I decided to try some fun science experiments that were inspired by the television show Mythbusters. It’s a great show, and I love the idea of trying experiments  out to see if they work.

I’ve been teaching third grade for 5 years, and each year I teach a unit on electricity.  I have heard that you can pass a current through play dough, but I have never tried it. I thought it would be a fun experiment for my STEM club girls to do! The best part was that I would be learning right along with them!

We started by watching a short clip on Mythbusters.

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Then we made play dough on a hot pad using salt, flour, oil, cream of tarter, and food coloring. The girls took turns pouring in the ingredients and mixing.


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We then talked about circuits and got to the experimenting part. Could they get a bulb to light? A buzzer to work? A motor?

The girls loved finding out!



Dec 02

Minecraft building – STEM for girls using Brackitz and Legos. Build your own minecraft following blueprints

For our last two meetings of the Harley School Girl’s STEM Club fall session, I decided to get back to the basics of our club: building.  These girls love to build with anything they can get their hands on! It is my hope that with more exposure to building, the girls will develop a passion for STEM.  For the past two weeks, the girls were presented with the task of building constructions to mimic what they would see in the popular game- Minecraft!  In Minecraft, the kids get to craft a world of their own!  There are animals,farms, cities, and everything in between.   You are only limited by your own imagination. If you have walked the halls of an elementary school, chances are you have heard about Minecraft.  Kids today can’t seem to get enough of it. They love building constructions out of 3D cubes.  Boys and girls are wearing shirts, playing with stuffed animals and toys, and playing the video game to their hearts content.  For me, I saw this as an opportunity to take the game past the computer! I thought we could build some of these constructions in real life. For the last two sessions of STEM club, the girls were presented with the idea of building Minecraft-like structures.  The building materials used would be Legos or Brackitz.  We talked about how the basis of Minecraft building is with a 3D cube.  The first thing we did was sit down to discuss the geometric shape of the cube.  It was easy to see a cube in legos, but Brackitz required a bit of work.  They had to construct their cubes first, and then build with it. This took them a couple of attempts and lots of great math thinking!  The girls were given a choice of what materials they would like to build with.

Attempting to make a cube with Brackitz

Attempting to make a cube with Brackitz

The next step was learning how to build Minecraft structures.  The girls explored blueprints and 3D structures.  We discussed how to crate a flat 2D shape following the blueprint and also how to construct 3D ones.  They had their choice to craft people, animals, or buildings, they could make them 2D or 3D, and also chose their materials to build with.  There was a lot to think about.



the making of a pig!


Claire decided to build a lighthouse

The girls decided what was their design-challenge would be  and got to work.  Emily and Claire chose Brackitz.  They loved the challenge of building with these and could not wait to start constructing the 3D cubes.   Elizabeth, Isabel, and Ali chose to follow the blueprints and create a 2D structure.  They decided to make a creeper and Steve.  Excellent choices.


A 2D creeper!


both girls busy at work!


Addy, Elizabeth, and Maddy decided to build a 3D animal.  2 foxes and a chicken would be added to our creations.



Minecraft foxes are off to a great start!

  Finally, Dylan and Maya decided to tackle the hardest challenge of them all!  Designing a building out of legos.  The girls used pictures of structures already created in Minecraft for inspiration.  We looked at how many of the buildings had symmetry.  They selected an image to use for their inspiration. image[4]

This project took two sessions to complete. They were extremely focused on the task at hand. image[9] image[12]


great team work!

  They are half way through and they are making good progress.   Clair and Emily decided to use construction paper to make the 3D cubes look more like cubes in Minecraft.  They are really starting to come together.


Claire has made a lighthouse! Now to give it some color!


The 2D shapes are coming along.  The girls had no trouble following the blueprint!


IMG_0447.JPG The finished product



The animals were so cute!  We wish we could take them home!


Do these spikes look good on him?


It is really starting to look like a chicken!


a finished chicken

Once the feet were build, the rest of the chicken came together rather quickly.         IMG_0426.JPG

The buildings were not an easy design task.  The girls carefully selected their pieces and worked hard both afternoons.

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The girls with the brackets had a lot to think about.  Building, cutting, taping, and creating.  The girls were surprised how durable their structures were.  It was part of the design thinking.  If one part was weak, they had to think about how  to make it stronger.  There was a lot of trial and error, but in the end, they were proud of what they accomplished.  The lighthouse and the pig turned out great!


the finished lighthouse


side view of the pig


almost there


The finished pig!


The girls were all very proud of their work.  We hope to share the finished product and also our process at our lower school assembly.  We host it once a week for the school and parents to see what we are doing at our school.  Great building girls!

Oct 23

Cornstarch and water speaker experiment in STEM testable question science

The girls were so excited to enter the classroom and see sound equipment. They instantly began to guess what we would be doing for the day- they had lots of predictions.

I told them how we would be continuing our sound/vibration study today by finding another way to observe it- with a speaker. Luckily for me, my husband knows a lot about sound equipment, and he volunteered to come in and help with the experiment. I also know when a topic is above my expertise and I need to recruit someone. Win/win! We took some time to mix the corn starch and water together.



Next we talked about how sound waves look, the range of frequencies of sound, and decibels.


We showed them a cool app that showed them where their voice fell in the range of frequencies. They were eager to talk into the iPad and giggled as they raised and lowered their voices. The range of frequency is measured in hertz.




We then went to see what the cornstarch and water would do if we increased the hertz. We started low and slowly moved it higher. It was very cool to see it start to move.




We then wanted to see if their voice could move the corn starch- we plugged a microphone into the speaker and let them try. No luck- their voices didn’t generate the right frequency or enough decibels.


Then, we decided to see what would happen if we played music. We started with this song:

We also let them select a couple of songs. “Timber” did not have a wide enough range of frequencies, but “turn down for what” wasn’t too bad.

We ended our time letting the girls build to music. A very cool afternoon!




Oct 07

Exploring Electronics

imageimageimageimageToday in STEM club, we took a break from vibration to study the art of electronics.  I say art because inside of every piece of equipment we use, is truly a masterpiece.  I am in awe of how people learn to construct and put this kind of stuff together.  Since we have been working with motors, wires, and batteries, I decided to have the girls get their hands inside some broken electronics.  The girls were excited for this adventure.

The first thing we discussed was safety.  We agreed to be careful with sharp things and if they found something that look weird, they would ask a teacher before touching it.  They selected a piece and began the tedious process of opening the item with a screw driver.  These girls were driven and determined to get inside.  They could not wait. Some were easy to open and some required a team to get inside.  There were two items we could not even open.  The hairdryer and a funny and old projector were just more difficult than we could do.  Luckily the girls didn’t mind teaming up if their electronic was not opening. Many found motors in their electronics.  Some found lenses and lots of circuit boards.  They were giddy as each one got theirs open to peer inside.  They never stopped until the time was up.  I had to promise them we would continue this next time – and we will!  I was proud of them.  I love seeing girls get excited for these things.













Sep 30

Day 2 motoring robots! ( a robot made with a motor)

Today in STEM club the girls were given another task- designing their own robot. They could be animal robots, people robots, or other robots. They just needed to design one.

They were shown what one could look like and the given the guideline that their design had to:
1. Be balanced
2. Move
3. Have a plan
4. Be safe

The girls were so excited to see the materials and get to work. They selected the items they might use and began the gluing process. Design plans were changed and material ripped off and re-glued. Designing is not an easy process and these robots not only had to balance but move!

What I thought was most interesting was that some girls really thought about the motor- where it would go and how it would be used and some girls used the motor as an after thought.

The finished projects were amazing. This was my favorite day so far. The girls were so kind and helpful to each other. I was floored at what they created!

Bugs, horses, and even a massage chair were created.  Some robots like Ali’s moved in a circular motion, some like Elizabeths’ moved straight, and some like Madisons’ had room for the tail to flip in a circle.  What a fun afternoon!

















Sep 24

Good Vibrations: Girs STEM – ART Robots. Using a motor to see vibration

This is our official kickoff to girls STEM club for the 2014-2015 school year.  I had an amazing turnout this year and have maxed out with 10 girls in the club.  Hurray!  I still remember back in the day when we started the club with only 4 girls. I am thrilled to see more girls becoming interested in science, technology, engineering, and math! I hope this love continues throughout their lives.

Today we started the lesson with a science experiment. I sat them in a circle and we all looked at these material.
I took some rice and placed it on top of the bowl with plastic wrap on top. They made predictions of what would happen to the rice if I banged the drum with a spoon. Most thought it would move because of air from the drum. Some even thought it was the vibration of the drum that would make the rice move. Sure enough, it worked. The vibration from the drum caused the rice to move. We then tried it with a bucket, made predictions, and watched if the rice would move. This time the predictions were split. Half thought the vibration would make the rice move and the other half thought the rice would stay put because the bucket would not produce enough vibration. When I banged the bucket. The rice did not move! Awesome job, girls! We are observing vibration.

Our design task for the 2nd part of this class was to design something that could show the movement of vibration. What better way then through art! The girls were given different cups or containers. They were given pencils, colored pencils, crayons and markers. Then they were given something that would actually vibrate – a motor. They have to design a “vibration bot” to show the movement of the vibration.
The girls were thrilled with this task and could not wait to get their hands on the materials and motors. They instantly went to work testing the containers and learning how importAnt it is to make sure the markers were even. They hand to make sure the vibration bot they created could stand on its own. They also figured out that the motor had to be placed in a way so that the end piece could spin around.

They tried their plan, and if they had time, they tried again with a new idea. Some attempts failed and some were very successful. They also learned that the wires that are attached to the motors were very fragile.
Next week we will continue to study vibration!

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