a stand-out student in his class. He was always excited about coming to the lab. Excellent student, easy to get along with, and a great team member.
The next week I met Julio’s class outside the lab and noted that he was carrying a little bundle. He had brought some supplies! (Not many kids did!) He showed me some pieces of cardboard, some straws, and four CD’s. He explained that the CD’s would be the wheels of his car.
We got into groups, supplies from my supply table were chosen, and the children got right to work.
Using my supplies they had a grand time trying to manipulate the materials and make a rolling car.
I had styrofoam blocks and florist foam blocks for the car bodies. They used plastic sticks or straws for axles and washers or cups for wheels.
In the meantime, Julio and his team were hard at work with a piece of cardboard. And 4 CD’s. They used tape and rubber bands and tried some of my supplies, too. Julio stubbornly insisted they could make the CD’s work as wheels.
This was a project for which I had allotted two weeks.
At the end of class we packed everything away to continue the next week.
The next week everyone finished a car. Some rolled!
Except Julio’s group. Their car was not finished. They had a lot of trouble getting the cardboard in the shape needed. They needed a longer axle than the plastic pieces I had. (I helped them cut a wooden dowel stick in the right length.) The CD wheels were just too large. However, I could tell this was important to Julio, so I packed their supplies in a box and told him we would continue the next week.
The next week Julio came in and I announced we would be completing a challenge to build a bubble wand. Supplies were given out and Julio came to me and said, “Can I work on my car?”
Of course I said, “Yes!”
As the other students blew bubbles and designed a bubble wand (even Julio’s group members) he tackled getting his car finished. The problem was he just could not get the axle and wheels to work together and he couldn’t determine how to attach it all to the cardboard body. I watched as he tried different things. He asked for additional supplies. He tried pipe cleaners, rubber bands, straws, craft sticks, and finally he asked for those little things you put on papers. Paperclips!
Now, here’s the reason for this story and the reason I love STEM. Julio tried clipping the wooden dowel stick axles to the cardboard. No rolling. He knew the axle had to be suspended from the cardboard body. Then, he tried unbending the paper clip. He poked the straightened end into the folds of the cardboard and curled the other end around the dowel stick.
When he called my name I went over and he showed me how the car was rolling. Then the paper clips kept sliding off the ends of the dowel sticks.
I watched for a second as he thought about it. He finally said, “I need those rubber bands again!”
A few minutes later I went back to see.
Julio’s car was rolling. Rubber bands on the ends of the dowel sticks were keeping the paper clips from sliding off.
He had done it!
So, why is STEM so wonderful?
Friends, I love STEM because of kids like Julio. Kids that never give up. Kids that have a task that they persist in completing. Kids that think and think and think and try, try again. Kids that think outside the box, kids that create and build, kids that let their failures teach them what to do next.
Actually, that’s what STEM is all about.
I see it everyday in so many kids that are just like Julio.
Have you tried a STEM activity yet?
Try an activity or challenge.
You will be glad you did!
The company has tons of engineering products, teacher’s guides, complete kits, and videos available on the website.
To see more STEM in action visit my blog! Here are some specific topics:
Challenges About Volume
The Great Spaghetti Challenge
Chromatography, Parachutes, and Electric Circuits