WMA in the Classroom Adventures with STEM Projects in the First Trimester
All Things Da Vinci
Grade One... Parachute Launch
Leonardo Da Vinci was very excited about the dream of flying. He made ob‐ serva ons of birds in flight and thought of ways for people to fly using ma‐ chines. He was also a very prac cal man and knew that if people were fly‐ ing, they could also fall. So, he drew sketches of diﬀerent inven ons that would allow people to fall safely to the ground. Objective: Students will understand that air is the force that holds a parachute up and allows it to dri safely to the ground. Engineering Challenge: Grade one students were given the task to work with one or two partners to design and build a parachute that would safely land a one‐gram mass teddy bear (Cubby the Bear) which was dropped from a specific height. In this case, a second‐story window of the Science Lab was used as the launch‐ ing spot. How they did it: Students brainstormed ideas and drew preliminary sketches of their thoughts and ideas in their journals. A er that, they picked one or two of their drawings to explore in more detail. They became true inventors as they imagined and drew their designs from several vantage points. Teams chose elements of the designs that they felt were the most eﬀec ve and would perform the best. They gathered materials from the “Cargo Hold” of Cubby’s parachute and began construc on. Mr. Borton was in charge of launching Cubby’s parachute from the Science Lab window, and mes (the longer, the be er) were taken as the designs were launched. A er the launch was over, students were able to discuss the ‘ups and downs’ of their designs based on observa ons of how well their parachutes performed.
Grade Two... Build a Better Bubble Blower
Objective: Students will understand that surface tension and hydrogen bonding are the forces that hold bubbles together. Students will understand that simple materials can be re‐used to create bubble blowers. Engineering Challenge: There is a new theme park opening in town and wants a fantas c bubble celebra on. Due to the cost of the new rides, the owners are over budget. To stay within budget, they are crea ng their own bubble blowers out of found materials. That’s where the second graders came in. How they did it: They worked in pairs or teams of three to create three diﬀerent types of bubble blowers: one that blew the largest bubble; one that created the highest number of bubbles with a single blow; and one that blew a diﬀerent shape. The students worked separately and sketched ideas for the three blowers, keeping in mind their goals and materials they’d use. Hoping they wouldn’t ‘blow it,’ they presented their individual ideas to their team, and discussed the pros and cons of each sketch. From there, the team chose the best design and gathered materials for con‐ struc on. To test the largest bubble, students blew bubbles outside over an area marked with chalk on the ground. The STEM advisor observed the dis‐ tance the bubble covers and its overall size. For mul ple bubbles, food col‐ oring was added so bubble prints (similar to fingerprints) could be counted. To blow diﬀerent‐shaped bubbles, students dipped their constructed appa‐ ratus into the solu on and could use a pipe e to blow addi onal bubbles. When they tested the designs, they were able to see whose design worked well and whose was a ‘bust.’
Grade Three... Build a Musical Instrument
Objective: Students will learn the ways that sound is produced from musical instru‐ ments and then design a new instrument to create pitch. Engineering Challenge: There is an a ernoon concert scheduled for the New Music Park, however the van with the instruments broke down, and ‘the show must go on!’ WMA third grade students need to use materials on hand to create instru‐ ments for the show. How they did it: Students worked individually to create instruments out of common items found in the house or recycling bin that produces two dis nct pitches. Stu‐ dents then joined together with their class to play in a ‘new music instru‐ ment band.’ Students were introduced to diﬀerent types of instruments—woodwinds, brass, strings, percussion—and built instruments using materials they found at home or in their recycling bins. They had to construct instruments that produced at least two dis nct pitches. A er brainstorming and sketching their instrument designs with a brief de‐ scrip on of each, students then worked in small groups to give feedback and the pros and cons of each design presented. Third graders chose their final designs and also had to give a guess on how their instruments would sound, based on pitch and tone. They took their materials and constructed their instruments. A er each student demonstrated his or her instrument, the class played beau ful music together!
Grades Four and Five... Sustainable Wind Turbines
Windmills have been used for centuries as a means of conver ng wind ener‐ gy into mechanical energy. Most o en for processing grain and genera ng electricity. Wind farms can be seen do ed across the country genera ng large amounts of electricity these days. Objective: Students learn the eﬀects that wind has on surface area and how a wind turbine transforms wind energy into electrical energy. Engineering Challenge: Fourth and fi h graders are part of the Wind Energy Research Team and are tasked with improving the current blade design for a California wind energy farm. Teams were assigned to assess and improve the current blade design. How they did it: A er reviewing current wind turbine designs, students worked in teams to observe the current wind turbine blade design. The wind turbine will be tested in front of a fan running at a constant speed. Using a volt meter, they assessed how well the turbine performed at distances of one foot, three feet and five feet. The blades were designed by the students, using their own shapes, weights, sizes and materials. Using an exis ng mount, the students’ three‐blade‐on‐ one‐bracket design was a ached to it, either ver cally or horizontally. Students then a ached the blades to the mount and the STEM advisor a ached them to the motor. The fan was turned on and the blades were then tested. They recorded energy output with the volt meter and checked whether the bulb turned on. You should have seen their faces ‘light up’ when their de‐ signs worked!
Grade Six... Build a Catapult
A catapult is a device in which accumulated tension is suddenly released to hurl an object some distance. The earliest catapult designs date back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. As castles and for fica ons began being built in Europe over the Middle Ages, catapults were widely used as siege weap‐ ons. The basic designs and principles for catapults have been used in history to wage war, li water for irriga on and even launch modern jets from Na‐ val carriers. Da Vinci designed both a catapult and a ballista, another type of launch weapon. Objective: Students will learn the engineering and physics behind catapults. They will learn mo on, accelera on, momentum and stored energy. Engineering Challenge: Sixth graders were given the task to construct a small scale model of a cata‐ pult out of commonly found objects. The students competed to see whose design launched the farthest and which hit a target. How they did it: Working in teams of two or three members, sixth grade students created a catapult out of only the materials which with they were provided. Each team received a box with a predetermined amount of materials and no ex‐ tras. In their journals, students brainstormed ideas which were then discussed with the group. They presented their diagrams, to‐scale drawings and mate‐ rials they had in mind for construc on of the catapult. Students worked to refine the designs and drew a hypothesis of the catapult’s trajectory before they started to build. With the catapults built, teams tested at the launch zone, and they were judged on two criteria: distance and accuracy. For the accuracy component, a plate was posi oned at a distance that reflected the scale diﬀerence to the ou ield in a li le league baseball field. This exercise ‘launched’ our students into the study of physics!
Grade Seven... Build Puppy Robot
Sensing is all about measuring physical quan
es o en termed signals (e.g.,
reflected acous c energy in the case of sonar) and interpre ng these meas‐ urements in order to draw conclusions about other physical quan
the distance to nearby physical objects that might cons tute obstacles to a mobile robot). Any signal that obscures the signal you want to observe is referred to as noise. Ambiguity refers to there being more than one interpre‐ ta on of a given signal. Ambiguity and noise are just part of the sensing game. (from h
Objective: Students will build a robot that responds to s mulus of sound and light.
Engineering Challenge: Teams of seventh grade students used the Lego® NXT 2.0 kits and Resource Expansion Kits to build a ‘puppy’ and programmed the robot to respond to both sound and light. Using the provided Lego® kits, students worked in teams to follow exact instruc ons to build their puppies. They programmed the robot puppies to follow voice commands and ‘walk’ on the leash. They then a ached light sensors and programmed the robots to follow light beams. When that was completed, students were challenged to make the puppies obey at least two simple commands, either by sound or light. And no dog treats were re‐ quired!
Grade Eight... Build an Egg Drop
“An object at rest remains at rest; An object in mo on stays in mo on,” said Sir Isaac Newton, and its innate truth has been witnessed and applied throughout the centuries. Leonardo Da Vinci no ced this and designed sev‐ eral inven ons with this principle in mind. Objective: Students observe objects in mo on and create safe methods of slowing an object down to land. Engineering Challenge: Eighth graders built containers from standard household materials to pro‐ tect a delicate package in which they protected an egg from the impact of a drop. Using project materials provided, eighth graders designed and tested pack‐ aging for use in an egg drop. Each two‐man team sketched preliminary ideas and worked on gathering household materials to create its egg‐safe containers so the egg would land safely a er being tossed from various heights. The eggs were placed in each of the team’s containers and were tossed from the top of the bleachers in the Dixon Gym. If the egg and the contain‐ er survived, the container was then tossed out of a second floor window. The eighth graders came up with some great designs, no yolk!
Coming up in the Second Trimester… More robo cs, including catapults and dolphins, and bionics