Staying at home? Let’s make the most of it!

Welcome to this week’s edition of Make It! Each week, we bring you a new collection of fun maker activities that you can do at home. This week we’re tackling one of my favorite fields — engineering.

Build an architectural masterpiece out of paper, launch your own catapults and straw rockets, and take on the ultimate challenge of designing a device that can keep an ice cube from melting.

When you’re done, post your creations on social media, tag KID Museum (and use #KIDmakes), and we’ll be sure to share them.

For those of you looking for an even greater challenge, and live interaction with me and the other Maker Educators, check out our virtual workshops — Make It! Plus.

Now, what are you waiting for? Let’s start engineering!

– Gavin, Maker Educator

P.S. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter to get Make it! delivered to your inbox every week.

Home Engineering

1. Paper Towers

Using a little bit of engineering, you can build a tower that is both strong and tall out of nothing but paper and tape. Test out different tower designs and folding techniques to see which type of tower can stand the tallest, and which is the strongest.

Suggested Materials
– Ruler
– Paper
– Tape
– Pencil
– Scissors

As you’re making, consider the following questions:
– Look at different tower designs. What do they have in common? Which design do you predict will be the strongest?
– Which shapes made out of paper are strongest? How can you use them in your tower design?
– Watch closely as you test your tower. Is it always falling or collapsing in the same area? How can you reinforce weak points in your design?

Resources
Video for Younger Students
Video for Older Students
Written Instructions

Click here to take this challenge to the next level.

2. Catapults

Take on the ultimate engineering challenge: building a catapult. Using household items such as a plastic spoon, rubber bands, cardboard and pencils, design and build a catapult that can launch a ping pong ball or pom poms

Suggested Materials
– Popsicle sticks or pencils
– Cardboard
– Rubber bands
– Plastic spoon
– Small ball
– Scissors
– Tape or hot glue

While building, consider the following challenge questions:
– How high and far does your catapult launch?
– How does changing the weight of the ball affect how it launches?
– How does changing the angle or length of your catapult affect how it launches?

Resources
Video for Younger Students
Video for Older Students
Written & Picture Guides

Take this challenge to the next level. Use a counterweight to make a trebuchet!.

3. Parachutes

Parachutes work by increasing the force of air resistance pushing up against gravity as something falls. Use household items such as plastic bags or fabric to design a mini parachute for a small object. Experiment with different sizes, shapes, and materials to see how you can make your parachute fall the longest.

Suggested Materials
– String
– Plastic bag or trash bag,
– Small toy, tape, scissors
– Optional: Plastic or paper cups, scrap fabric or dish towel, hole puncher, cardboard.

While building, consider the following challenge questions:
– How do different sized parachutes change how they fall? What about different shapes?
– Which kind of material makes the best parachute?
– Is the fall of the parachute affected by the size and shape of the rider? How so?
– How can you make sure that the rider of your parachute lands safely? Try designing a basket for your parachute.

Resources
Video for Younger Students
Video for Older Students
Written Instructions

Click here to take this challenge to the next level. (Please test outside!)

4. Straw Rockets

See how far your paper rocket can fly! Using paper, tape, a soda straw, and some engineering skills, design and test different styles of rockets and launchers. Change your rocket’s flight by altering the shape of the nose cone or the fins on the back. Take it to the next level by designing a launcher out of a two-liter soda bottle.

Suggested Materials
– Paper
– Pencil
– Tape
– Soda straw
– Scissors
– Optional: Hot glue, soda bottle

While building, consider the following challenge questions:
– How does the length of your rocket affect its flight?
– How can you make the rocket fly higher or farther?
– Try testing out different fins on the back of your rocket and record your results.
– What else can you modify to improve your rocket?

Resources
Video for Younger Students
Video for Older Students
Written Instructions

Click here to take this challenge to the next level.

5. Protect the Popsicle

Welcome to the Protect the Popsicle Engineering Design Challenge! Have you ever bought a pack of popsicles on a hot day only to find them melted by the time you got home? Your challenge is to design, build, and test a container that keeps a popsicle cold for the longest amount of time. You’ll need to consider how heat moves (or doesn’t move) through different materials. Materials that limit heat transfer are called insulators. (Click on the video to learn about insulators.)

Start by seeing how quickly an ice cube melts when left out on the kitchen counter on top of different insulators such as paper, metal, plastic, and foam. Which one melts the fastest? Which takes the longest? What conclusions can you draw from the results?

Then decide which material you want to use for your popsicle protector. Choose one, two, or more. Consider the size and shape of your container, and whether or not you will want it to be open or closed. Test out your popsicle protector by timing how long it takes for the popsicle to melt, or use a thermometer to measure how the temperature changes inside the container.

 

Suggested Materials
– Ice cubes or popsicle
– Aluminum foil
– Plastic wrap
– Cotton balls
– Cardboard, foam or other packaging material
– Tape
– Small box or container
– Scissors
– Pencil and paper

While building, consider the following challenge questions:
– What material is best at keeping the ice cube cold? Which material is the worst?
– How do the thickness of your container walls affect how cold the popsicle stays?
– How does opening and closing the lid of your popsicle protector affect how well it works?
– How will you test your design? What do your results mean?
– What can you do to improve your container?

Resources
What is an insulator?
How to test different insulators (no hot plate needed!)
Written Instructions

Be sure to share how you protected your popsicle or ice cube on social media with #KIDmakes!

We'd love to see what you make!

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