It has been several weeks since I’ve written a Stem Club blog and it’s good to be back. For Term 2 we had the kids themselves writing about their experiences. I think it has been an awesome addition to the programme and I’ll be asking for more volunteers to give it a go this term as well. A big thanks to everyone (young and old) that helped make it possible for the last few weeks.
So here we are at the start of Term 3. We’ve welcomed another couple of families to Stem Club and are still working towards accommodating the growing waitlist. If you have any friends or family that are keen to be part of the fun, do get them to sign up as soon as possible. The hope is that we will be able to double our weekend capacity for the start of 2019 but even with that expansion it is looking like we will quickly run out of spots.
But that’s not what you’ve all come here to hear about! What (I hear you say) was everyone up to last week?
WELL - most of our weekend groups were trying something a bit different this week. We had them doing their first Engineering Challenge. These challenges are designed to get the kids working either individually or in groups on a specific engineering problem, designing, building and testing their designs along the way. The challenge this week was one that we’ve used before (and is often used in STEM programmes around the world) - can you design something that will protect an EGG from a large drop. In our case this was a hefty fall of 5 metres onto concrete. There were a few parameters in place to guide the designs. The brief stated that the EGG is actually a new NASA satellite called the “Extra-planetary Galvanic Gague”. As such the designs needed to be:
- as light as possible (to save on rocket fuel)
- no larger that 20cm square
We began by having a discussion about how other engineers have solved similar problems - including some of the interesting mechanisms that Mars Rovers have used to land safely on the surface of Mars. Then everyone got out their notebooks, noted some of their designs and started experimenting with the available materials.
As each group put together their designs they got to experiment with an EGG analogue/substitute - testing their constructions with our specially designed release mechanism.
Once everyone had settled on their final design they replaced their EGG substitute with the real thing (wrapped in glad wrap) and out we went for the final test.
Some groups finished their initial design quite quickly so they were given the additional challenge of designing something that could catch an unprotected EGG when dropped from our test height.
There were some great designs that utilised all sorts of construction materials. Plastic bags, balloons, polystyrene cups, rubber bands, tissue paper, foam - you name it.
And did the designs perform? Did they protect the EGG from damage? Well, I would love to be able to say that no eggs for harmed in the making of this programme but sadly there were a few casualties. But out of a dozen available eggs and a whole weekend of making we still had enough for a sizeable omlette (free range of course).
Thanks everybody - see you all next week!