A Helping Hand

I asked several 6th, 7th, and 8th graders to build a working model of a hand.  They were provided with cardboard, hot glue and glue gun, drinking straws, scissors, yarn, and rubber bands.  These models will be tested on May 11th in the Exploring Engineering displays at our In Demand Jobs Seminar.  This will help our students to see one of the things a biomedical engineer might do is to design, build, and test prosthetic appendages.

4th Grade Design Challenge

The 4th graders have been learning about the states of matter in their science class.  In STEM lab they were provided with egg cartons, plastic eggs, paper towel tubes, fabric scraps, newspaper, pipe cleaners, foil, waxed paper, and tape and asked to build a structure that will slow down the melting of an ice cube.  The structure was to to be designed and built so that the progression of the melting cube could be easily checked.


Pasta Skeletons

The third graders were challenged to build the skeleton using different types of dry pasta for a specific skeleton.




Grade 2 STEM Lab

Innovative Redesigns

The students of SJS really showed some innovative thinking when they redesigned their cardboard box design challenge.  Here is what they come up with.

8th grade- birdhouse with an elevator for injured birds

7th grade- suggestion box for the library with a flag and dial alerting staff how many suggestions have been made

6th grade- a wheeled bin to carry lunches with a shelved mechanism inside to remove the lunches in an organized way

5th grade- remote controlled box was changed to a box that is transported by a drone so it can deliver things to the home-bound or handicapped

4th grade- lined doghouse with storage for toys with a feeding system that is run remotely by an app

3rd grade- recycling bin with innovations TBD

2nd grade- lost and found container with labeled compartments and a clothing rack for hanging items that will possibly locate the owners by using DNA

1st grade- storage system for classwork and items from desk that will now sort the papers that are turned in for the teacher and alert him/her if any student has not turned in the assignment


kdg- pillows for the reading area that is now capable of connecting to technology so a story be listened to


Kindergarten Design Challenge

The kindergarteners were issued the following design challenge in STEM Lab.

The Empire State Building in NYC has approximately 100 floors (1454 feet tall). Georgette, a baby gorilla, wants to climb it like her hero, King Kong. Her dad, George, thinks that is way too tall for such a small gorilla to climb. Collaborate in groups of 4 or 5 to design and build a tower/building that is at least 100 cm tall for Georgette to practice climbing on.

*The tower must be free standing.
*It will be measured from the floor up.
*You can only use tape to assemble your building.
*You may only use 15 total items from the list below in your construction.
plastic lids
zip ties
toilet paper tubes
large plastic straws
drinking straws
cotton candy holders
cotton swabs
popsicle sticks
craft stick
coffee filters
uncooked spaghetti noodles
pipe cleaners
foam bricks
plastic forks
wooden skewers
cardboard sucker sticks



Last week the students were given a design challenge to design and build something out of a cardboard box that was useful.  Each class had to collaborate and work together to create one project to bring to morning meeting.  Here is what each class created.

8th grade- birdhouse

7th grade- suggestion box for the library

6th grade- a wheeled bin to carry lunches

5th grade- remote controlled box

4th grade- lined doghouse with storage for toys

3rd grade- recycling bin

2nd grade- lost and found container with labeled compartments

1st grade- storage system for classwork and items from desk

kdg- pillows for the reading area

After each class presented their creations, we talked about innovation.  How can these items be changed to add value and set them apart from similar items that have already been produced?  So, each class is going back to the drawing board to redesign their product in an innovative way.  I look forward to seeing the new versions and prototypes they come up with.

Whole School Design Challenge

On Tuesday during morning meeting the students learned about the Engineering Habit of Mind, resourcefulness.  To practice this they were given a design challenge.

Design Challenge
Can you create something useful using one cardboard box that serves a purpose?

*You can use only 1 cardboard box (size is up the students) in this challenge.
*The design must be completed by the end of school on Friday.
*The items used during construction cannot be purchased. They must be brought from home (prior to construction Friday) or found in the school.
*Each grade is responsible for designing and building only one useful item.

I look forward to seeing what the student engineer!


Engineering Habits of Mind- Resilience


Second Grade
To practice resilience the second graders worked on logic puzzles. They began by solving one together. Then they were given a puzzle to solve on their own. Each time they were given a new puzzle it became more challenging to solve. Resilience was needed when the students’ attempts failed and were asked to persevere and try again.

Fifth Grade
Fifth grade practiced resilience as they tried to build a house of playing cards with a partner.

For kindergarten’s resilience activity they watched a video about a llama who really wanted to get some berries, but many things kept getting in his way. He didn’t give up and eventually got a berry. They then talked about how we can give ourselves a pep talk when things are hard. They practiced saying “I can do this”. The students then worked in pairs to throw the 5 erasers into a cup. It was challenging, but the kindergarteners didn’t give up and kept trying until they got some or or all ion the erasers in the cup. You could hear many students saying “I can do this”. After they finished, they talked about the challenges they faced, and what they did to overcome the challenge.


Sixth Grade
The sixth graders showed resilience when trying to solve a riddle.

Four people need to cross a bridge in the middle of the night to escape zombies. The bridge can only hold two or less people at any time and they only have one flashlight so they must travel together (or alone). The flashlight can only travel with a person so every time it crosses the bridge it must be carried back. You can cross in 1 minute, the Lab Assistant can cross in 2 minutes, the Janitor can cross in 5 minutes, and the Old Professor can cross in 10 minutes. If two people cross together, they can only go as fast as the slower person. The zombies will reach the bridge in 17 minutes. How can everyone cross the bridge in 17 minutes or less?

Balancing Robots

Topic of Design Challenge: balancing robot
Essential Question/Problem being solved: Design
a paper robot that can balance on your finger.
Subjects involved: Science
Grade(s) involved: kindergarten and first grade
Brief Description: Kindergarten and first grade learned about balance in phys ed class. They then applied what they learned to this challenge. The students were give a robot template to color and cut out of card stock. They were then challenged to balance the robot on their finger. When this proved impossible to do they recalled what they learned about balance from Mr. Johns. They concluded that weight needed to be added to the robots. They were then given two pennies and a small amount of sticky tack to use to apply the pennies to the robot. After some testing of the placement, all concluded that the robots balanced better when the weight was evenly distributed. The student then had fun learning to balance their robot on their fingers, on the end of a pencil, and even on their noses.