Welcome to the MakerSpace!
On this page, you will find videos to inspire and activities to engage young makers.
“What does an Engineer do?” you ask. Good question! There are many types of Engineers in this world that do so many cool things! Watch this video and be prepared to discuss a few things you learn about Jen and her job.
- 1/2 cup of Clear or White Washable PVA School Glue
- 1/4-1/2 cup of Liquid Starch
- 1/2 cup of Water
- Food Coloring, Glitter, Confetti, and other Fun Mix-Ins Add Iron Oxide Powder to make it MAGNETIC
First mix (with a craft stick or plastic spoon) water with glue in a small bowl really well – really, really well. Then add liquid starch, a little at a time. Keep mixing until it seems to change consistency and is pulling away from the edges of the bowl. Start kneading with your hands until it can be transferred from hand to hand without sticking all over you. 🙂
Sketch & Measure
Goal: To practice precise measurement using a ruler and/or tape measure. To understand the importance of labeling when sketching a new design. To foster creativity by asking children to reimagine a household object.
- Rulers/tape measure
- Household utensils – corkscrew, grater, tongs, spatula, etc.
- EXTRAS: pom-poms, glue sticks, googly eyes, crayons, markers, colored pencils, yarn, colored paper, etc.
Children will choose a tool to trace and then measure in as many directions as possible (length & width of the whole object or broken into smaller sections) labeling measurements to the nearest fraction as they go.
Children should trace a second time (and perhaps even layer by tracing more than once) to reimagine what the tool could be. Children can color and/or add items to bring their new creation to life.
Robotic Arm (Grabber)
How can we build “grabbers” that will be sturdy enough to pick up random objects?
Paint sticks or cardboard strips
Assorted craft materials….
- Lightly drill or use scissors to make symmetrical holes in the paint stick (or use hole puncher to make holes in cardboard)
- Connect the paint sticks together using brass brads. Cross and connect paint sticks in the middle. (Recommend 6 paint sticks only.)
- Cut two 2” X 4” section from a grout sponge. Slice the sponge in the middle and slide the stick through at the top of your grabber.
- OR design your favorite real or imaginary animal face to create an awesome puppet
STEM Connections: Explore Mechanical Science
The robotic arm creates coordinated motions that move in ways that our arms can’t. By making intelligent mechanisms that extend our capabilities, we can do tasks that are normally beyond our reach. Simple devices and simple machines can be used to help solve everyday problems. A scissor lift is a device that can fold up compactly but can extend to a great length. Compound machines are comprised of two or more simple machines in an effort to more efficiently exert force, like the cutting of an object. The blades of the scissors are a pair of wedges in a cross shape which pivot around a fulcrum. The attached handles are levers.
Making a Lava Lamp
GOAL: To explore the scientific principles of density and polarity by mixing oil and water in the same bottle.
Empty Plastic Water Bottle
What You Do:
- Fill the plastic bottle most of the way with vegetable oil.
- Fill the rest of the bottle with water. The water will sink to the bottom under the oil.
- Add a few drops of food coloring; your choice of color. The food coloring is water-based, so it will also sink and color the water that is now at the bottom of the flask.
A lava lamp works because of two different scientific principles, density, and polarity.
- Density is the measurement of how compact a substance is – how much of it fits in a certain amount of space. (The scientific equation is density = mass/volume.) If you measure an equal volume of oil and water, you’ll find that the water is heavier than the same amount of oil. This is because water molecules are packed more tightly and a cup of water actually has more mass than a cup of oil. Because water is denser than oil, it will sink to the bottom when the two are put in the same container. Density is affected by temperature—the hotter a liquid is, the less dense it will be.
- Even though they have different densities, oil and water would eventually mix together if it weren’t for polarity. Water molecules are “polar” because they have a lopsided electrical charge that attracts other atoms. The end of the molecule with the two hydrogen atoms is positively charged. The other end, with the oxygen, is negatively charged. Just like in a magnet, where north poles are attracted to south poles (“opposites attract”), the positive end of the water molecule will connect with the negative end of other molecules. Oil molecules, however, are non-polar— they don’t have a positive or negative charge, so they are not attracted to the water molecules at all. This is why oil and water don’t mix!
Real lava lamps use a polar and non-polar liquid just like our homemade one did. In a real one, however, the densities of the liquids are much closer together than vegetable oil and water. The denser liquid sinks to the bottom, but the lava lamp light heats it up until it expands and becomes less dense, causing it to rise upward. As it gets farther from the light, it cools down, becoming denser again until it sinks; then the cycle starts all over.
Loose Parts Portrait
Goal: To use loose parts to inspire language and creativity by building a physical representation of oneself.
- Paper plates (to build on)
- Take a stroll around outside to gather materials (bring something to carry things in – one cup per child or container) Maybe 15 minutes
- Using a paper plate for a base, children can build their self-portrait thinking about what this portrait is saying about them – what part of their personality do they want to highlight?
- Photograph and write a story or add labels to your masterpiece
Goal: To design and build a unique obstacle to elevate the game of mini-golf.
Video on mini-golf courses (video is long, so show a little from the beginning, middle and end)
What do you notice?
Bridges, loop-di-loop, volcano, ramps, spinning objects, split ramps, tunnels, etc.
Design & Build:
Children should start with a carefully measured sketch so that they scale the obstacle to their course. Each design should also have a materials list.
Children should be encouraged to test their design as they continue to build.
Lego Zip Line
GOAL: To explore angles, tension, friction, and gravity through the construction of a zip line
Materials: Lego bricks; cord or string (dental floss works too)
- Construct a small Lego “basket” that will travel down the zipline. Be sure to leave a space for the cord to slip through.
- Decide on an end-point and secure the cord, place Lego basket on the cord and secure the cord to a starting point (hold the Lego basket).
- Let the Lego basket go and observe what happens.
- Should the lego structure break apart, ask questions:
-what made that happen? (slope was too steep, speed was too great, poor construction, gravity, etc. )
-how can we slow the structure down? (lessen the slope, create friction, heavier structure, etc.)
- Reiterate and try again
Crystals are a special kind of solid material where the molecules fit together in a repeating pattern. This pattern causes the material to form all sorts of unique shapes.
How do crystals form?
The process of crystal-forming is called crystallization. Crystals often form in nature when liquids cool and start to harden. Certain molecules in the liquid gather together as they attempt to become stable. They do this in a uniform and repeating pattern that forms the crystal.
In nature, crystals can form when liquid rock, called magma, cools. If it cools slowly, then crystals may form. Many valuable crystals such as diamonds, rubies, and emeralds form this way. Another way crystals form is when water evaporates from a mixture. Salt crystals often form as saltwater evaporates.
What unique properties do crystals have?
Crystals can have very flat surfaces called facets. They can form geometric shapes such as triangles, rectangles, and squares. The shapes are a direct result of the type of molecules and atoms that make up the crystal. Smaller crystals and larger crystals that were formed of the same molecules and in the same method should have similar shapes. There are seven basic crystal shapes, also called lattices. They are Cubic, Trigonal, Triclinic, Orthorhombic, Hexagonal, Tetragonal, and Monoclinic.
Borax – 9 Tablespoons
Boiling water – 3 cups
- Wrap pipe cleaners around a popsicle stick to keep secure. You can wrap in rainbow order or choose your favorite colors. Lay stick over the glass jar to suspend pipe cleaners – cut the length to fit if needed. Remove and place to the side.
- Wear gloves for this step: In a large glass mixing bowl, mix 9 Tablespoons of Borax with 3 cups of hot water. The solubility of most solids increases with temperature. In other words, more Borax may be dissolved in hot water than cold water. The solution will be cloudy as it will be saturated. Pour the solution into the jars and hang pipe cleaners so that they fit into the jar and are at least halfway covered by the solution.
- Let stand overnight and beautiful crystals will form by morning. When the hot, saturated solution cools, there’s more Borax than can be contained by the colder water, and so Borax may fall out of the mixture forming crystals.
Please note: Borax is harmful if swallowed, inhaled or contacts eyes, and on rare occasions touching it can result in rashes. Caution and adult supervision are advised when handling it.
HOW TO MAKE PLAYDOUGH
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup salt
- 4 teaspoons cream of tartar
- 2 cups lukewarm water
- 2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil (coconut oil works too)
- Food coloring, optional
- Quart sized bags
Stir together the flour, salt, and cream of tartar in a large pot. Next, add the water and oil. If you’re only making one color, add in the color now as well. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue stirring until the dough has thickened and begins to form into a ball. Remove from heat and then place inside a gallon-sized bag or onto wax paper. Allow to cool slightly and then knead until smooth. If you’re adding colors after, divide the dough into balls (for how many colors you want) and then add the dough into the quart-sized bags. Start with about 5 drops of color and add more to brighten it. Knead the dough, while inside the bag so it doesn’t stain your hands. Once it’s all mixed together you’re ready to PLAY.
WHY IS THIS THE BEST HOMEMADE PLAYDOUGH RECIPE?
- It is SUPER soft and squishy but doesn’t stick
- The playdough lasts for months in a zip-top bag
- It is inexpensive to make
- It makes enough for 4-6 kids
- You can add different colors and even scents to customize your dough
Catapult Design Challenge
How can we build a catapult that will launch pom-poms far distances?
In this challenge, students explore potential and kinetic energy transfer as they use the engineering design process to build catapults that launch projectiles for distance and accuracy.
Pom-poms or Cotton Balls (not included)
How to: This one is fairly simple and has been tested with curious first graders. Supply students with a variety of supplies and present them with the design challenge. They may need help with rubber bands.
Catapults have been used throughout history as a way to launch something from point A to point B, sometimes over castle walls and sometimes into things. Experimenting with a catapult and launching objects at a target can be fun, and a catapult activity invites discussion of both the physics and math at work in the way a catapult operates and in how accurate one’s aim may be.
The catapult is easy to assemble, but this simple catapult helps students see how energy can be stored, transferred, and converted. As they use the catapult to launch lightweight pom-poms or cotton balls, students are encouraged to explore the variables that come into play and to explore the physics of projectiles. What controls how far the object flies? Can you hit your target? What is the best combination of catapult design and launch angle to make the pom-pom or cotton ball fly farthest? (Sciencebuddies.org)