STE(A)M activities get students involved in not just one content area, but several at the same time. For group work, this means helping each student show strengths in their interests. For a long list of potential steam exercises, the following site may be helpful:
For a specific, here’s a lesson that gets students applying what they know about physics and energy to a hand-on project: Building a car!
Demonstrate first by building a car as an example.
- Where is energy being held?
- At what point does it become mechanical energy?
- Is this what we mean when we say “wind energy?”
- How is this power form different than a real car?
- What similarities does this have to a real car?
Engineering concepts- constructing axels and placing wheels
Science concepts- Potential and kinetic energy, mechanical and electrical
Offer different sizes and materials for the car’s body, axles, and wheels
Options include different shapes of bottles, toy wheels, rubber bands for traction, and other small pieces that allow the students to get creative.
Allow for group discussion as they choose their materials
Have students make notes of their thought process and why they chose the materials they did. As they experiment with their choices, have them add to their notes with which parts were successful and which ones could have been better.
Once they have finalized their choices, have students race their cars!
The “winner” is the fastest car, but allow students to notice which cars can go the farthest, or which cars are lacking in structural stability.
Have groups decide on an explanation for what sources of power are involved in creating the car’s motion and when each type of energy is involved.
Have students explain their car’s motion in terms of energy and why each piece is helpful or not.
After students have seen it first hand, have students research common materials used for similar modern cars.
Have students list items that could have been more beneficial to use and let them explain these items in terms of energy transfer and physics (when describing traction, for example, look for words like friction).
A presentation may be a good opportunity for students to describe their process.
Key points to cover should be their initial assumptions, things they learned while creating, things they learned after research, and how they could improve their car with other materials.
Grade the presentation in terms of creativity, application of mechanical knowledge, and understanding of physical science in kinetics.