Levers and Pulleys and Wedges, oh my! This week put all of the student’s STEAM skills to the test. The students also had their resolve tested, and had to show grit and resilience by not giving up.
The day started with one of the toughest Instant Challenges yet! The students had to design a structure that was built as far above and below the top of a table as possible. It was only allowed to touch the table within a 30cm by 30cm square. The structure had to be self-supporting and could not be held up by a team member. The materials available were very limited – 1 pipe cleaner, 3 cups, 2 straws, a paper plate, 15cm of string, 2 elastics, and 2 mailing labels. They also had a very strict time limit. The structures were also scored on three factors: the height of the structure, if the structure extended at least 15cm above and 15cm below the top of the table, and how well the teams worked together. The students also had to estimate the total height of the structure and received additional points if they were within 10cm of the actual measurement. We discussed what the groups thought they did well, what they could change, and if they used any strategies to build their structures. The students thought it was an easier challenge than the previous ones, but I questioned whether it was easier or if they had become more skilled at completing the challenges.
After the challenge, we read a book called “Rosie Revere, Engineer”. The book was about a young girl who dreamed of becoming an engineer. She would make gadgets and gizmos from anything she could find. Dissuaded by what she thought was her uncle laughing at a creation, she almost gave up on engineering until she met her great-aunt Rose. She rekindled her love of tinkering and continued her engineering dream. She learned the mantra of STEAM – the only time that you truly fail is if you quit.
Following the book, we learned about the 6 simple machines – levers, pulleys, wheel and axels, wedges, screws, and inclined planes. We watched three videos: OK GO’s This Too Shall Pass, Bob Partington’s Rube Slowberg, and Audri’s Monster Trap. The videos showcased three different Rube Goldberg Machines. Rube Goldberg machines are complex machines that solve a simple task, such as trapping a monster, much like the old Mousetrap game. While watching the videos, we tried to pick out the different simple machines used. The students were then given their task – create a Rube Goldberg machine! They had access to any material they wanted in the room to create the machine. They were challenged with using at least three different simple machines that comprised three chain reactions. The groups had to complete a Design Process Organizer for each simple machine/chain reaction they used. The activity put all the students learnings in the 4C’s, the Design Thinking Process, and their grit and resiliency to the test. Most groups got frustrated, some machines worked and some didn’t, but no one quit.
We are now heading into the FINAL week of STEAM!