Friday, January 10, 2014

Design, Create... Engineer

If the bitter cold has kept you inside and you're looking for something to do, gather up some odds and ends and see what you can design. That "E" in STEM is for "engineering": designing, inventing, creating.

It doesn't take much to create new things - all you need are some scratched CD's, toilet paper tubes, marbles, glue, batteries, mousetraps, maybe a motor and some dominoes. Then devise a solution to a problem.

What sort of problem? Hm-m-m... maybe a way to squeeze all the toothpaste out of the tube, or a "card-holder" so the little one can join in the games. Or maybe a "waker-upper" that will make sure older brother gets up and out of bed in time to get to school. Or race cars to run around the kitchen floor or a way to make them go up the stairs. Or a an elevator to haul your books (and midnight snacks) up to the second floor.

Sometimes good ideas come from the trash bin. That's what happened when 12-year old Max Wallack figured out how to put styrofoam packing noodles and plastic grocery bags to use building a small dome shelter. Or when my kids decided to make kitchen hockey sticks from gift-wrap tubes and plastic bottles. The pucks: a couple plastic lids duct-taped together. Goal: the thin space under the stove, of course. (next invention: something to retrieve puck)

Some inventions are just for fun - like Rube Goldberg machines that turn a page or start a car. But all inventions, whether purposeful or just for fun, start with ideas.

One way to nurture inventors and engineers of the future is to fill their shelves with books, like Rosie Revere, Engineer, or The Kite That Bridged Two Nations. Both feature characters with can-do attitudes.

Then, make sure you keep a junk box or two filled up with stuff - and allow space for all that messy creativity to happen.

And bookmark this site for when your kids ask, "what does an engineer do anyway?"

Remember to head over to STEM Friday and check out what other bloggers are sharing today.

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