The summer is quickly winding down and it will be time to go back to school before you know it! Setting goals for the start of the school year is always a great way to start off right, and we hope that parents, teachers, and kids alike will include a goal to try new things in the world of STEM this year! In this post, we’re counting down our 3 favourite ideas for trying something new with STEM, whether it’s at home or in the classroom!
- 3D Design
3D design and printing is one of the most popular topics with the kids we work with, and it’s no surprise! You really never get over just how cool it is to watch something you designed on the computer come to life right before your eyes! While 3D printers can be pretty pricey (but they are rapidly decreasing in price), the process of design is often completely free!
Our favourite program to use is TinkerCAD. It is completely free and browser based, meaning as long as you have an internet connection you can use it anywhere. It is quick and easy to get the hang of, but if you ever find yourself struggling there is lots of support online since it such a popular platform. The process of 3D design is all about combining simple shapes to make more complex shapes, so have a look at what TinkerCAD has to offer and just test some things out!
We challenge you to make an account and bring your design to life! Our most beginner project is just creating a keychain, but we also challenge you to make a model of your favourite building, create a hybrid animal figurine, or try to make your own jewelry! You’re going to make mistakes, but that’s okay! That’s how we all learn. If you really like what you did, keep in mind that lots of local libraries have 3D printers that you can use for a small fee. Even if you never print it, be proud of yourself for trying something new!
Hackeronics is the fancy title we use for the simple process of finding old electronics and taking them apart. When you just hear about it, it sounds a little strange, but we haven’t met a kid (or adult!) yet who didn’t get completely absorbed in taking something apart to see what’s inside!
A big focus in STEM, especially here at STEM MINDS, is moving people from digital users to digital creators. The first step in that process is moving past the fear factor of not knowing what you are doing when interacting with electronics. The best way to do that? Take it all apart! You would be truly surprised to see just how much technology is behind a simple radio alarm clock. One of the coolest things we have ever seen is just what makes a keyboard work! Taking electronics apart gives people a sense of confidence that they can and do understand technology, plus it gets kids asking lots of great questions.
But it’s never good enough to just take things apart. One of our favourite things to do is build something new with the cool parts we find! Printers have so many cool gears, wheels, and motors. The parts of a computer make a truly beautiful sculpture. You don’t have to make an entirely functional piece (although kudos to you if you do!), just be creative and see what you can come up with. The process is what matters, not the final product.
- Video Game Design
We love to play them, so why not make one? The world of video games is so diverse; you have everything from Pong to Super Mario to Final Fantasy! So much thought and effort goes into even the simplest of games. You need to think about visuals and gameplay and rules and characters! There are lots of free programs available to get started!
One of our favourite apps to use with beginners is Bloxels. It’s colourful and easy to use and it makes it really easy to switch back and forth between creating and testing your game. Using a drag and drop system, you create a platforming game that can get as complex as you want! While it is fun to just use, the best learning comes from actively thinking and planning what kind of game you want to create. It’s completely free, so why not give it a shot and see what you can do? As you progress, there are lots of more advanced programs where you can put those foundational skills about gameplay and design to use.
These are just a few of the ways you can bring more STEM in your life! We hope you give them a shot and share what you come up with with us!
Written & Authored by Nicole Myers, Director of Curriculum and Business Development