Intro to STEM

Students new to STEM work through a series of projects designed to expose them to four areas: 

(1) CAD (computer-aided design), (2)Coding (programming), (3) Graphics, and (4) Energy

For middle school students, those projects are very specific. High school students have a little more choice. Just as with advanced students, however, the final fifth project is student choice

Students get graded not so much on the quality of the work but on the depth of thinking about the work. So a student can "fail" in a project and still get an "A" so long as s/he is writing about what he or she tried to do, possible solutions for fixing problems, and documenting what was learned.

To help out, below are "reflection sheets" that have already been started with preset goals (middle school) and suggested goals for high school students.

Middle School STEM (Introduction)

Sweet Home 3D
Students start by using the free and open source "Sweet Home 3D" to design a floor plan of a building (either single or multi-story) and render it in 3D. In the process they learn to use drawing/CAD tools, have some experience with 3D, and create short walkthrough videos. This is a stepping stone to 2D and 3D CAD and design as well as video and animation.

    1. Sweet Home 3D Reflection Sheet (open, File-Make a copy and then "Share" with me and with your partner) 

Next, students learn to do some coding using Scratch -- a drag-and-drop environment for creating anything from animations and interactive tutorials to full-fledged games. This is also free and on the web. For students who have used Scratch before, there is Kodu (for creative 3D video games). Both introduce key concepts for control and response related to programming, game design and robotcs.

    2. Scratch Reflection Sheet (open, File-Make a copy and then "Share" with me and with your partner) 

Paint (Photoshop/
The third project is graphic arts using paint tools in Photoshop (or possibly or the online Pixlr). Students will learn about layers, filters and composition -- techniques used in animation and design.

    3. Raster Graphics Reflection Sheet (open, File-Make a copy and then "Share" with me and with your partner) 

In the final prescribed project students will create their own solar cars to race, in the process learning and applying concepts around electricity, gear ratios, prototyping, and troubleshooting.

    4. Solar Car Reflection Sheet (open, File-Make a copy and then "Share" with me and with your partner)

Soundtrap (online equivalent to GarageBand)
If we'd had more time this would have been the final project. This is a web-based equivalent to GarageBand that should work on all platforms (Mac, PC, Linux and even iPad or phone) using a browser (no app).

    4. Soundtrap Reflection Sheet (open, File-Make a copy and then "Share" with me and with your partner)

Soundtrap Student Codes: ELA & EMS

Final Project: Student choice!

High School STEM (Introduction)

High school students have the same choices as middle school plus more. For example, students can use Photoshop or try any of the other 7 "Digital Arts" Tools. Click on each numbered category for suggested goals for each reflection sheet "block".

    1. Digital Arts
  • Photoshop (vector graphics)
    learn to use layers and filters to composite together and alter images
  • Frames (frame-by-frame animation)
    draw or use clay or LEGO to create a stop-motion film
  • Scultpris (3D Character)
    use virtual modeling clay to create a 3D character that can be exported and used in a game or animaton
  • Sweet Home 3D (Architecture/CAD)
    using simple tools, design a house in 2D to view in 3D and make a "walkthrough" video
  • Pivot/Stykz (stop-motion animation)
    here's another way to create a simple frame-by-frame animation using stick figures
  • Crazytalk (video FX)
    add facial expressions and lip-sync voices to a static picture
  • GarageBand (audio production) 
    create an original song from loops, remix a song, add vocals and real instruments, and create a movie soundtrack
  • Muvizu (video/directing) 
    direct a movie with virtual actors, set and cameras where the actors speak and move

    2. Engineering
  • LEGO NXT (robotic engineering)
    Build, control and program a robot made of LEGO
  • K'Nex (building and civil engineering)
    Build structures and simple machines using gears, pulleys and levers
  • Contraption Maker (rube goldberg mechanical engineering)
    Solve quirky puzzles then make your own contraption or even a platform game
  • Snap Circuits (electrical engineering)
    snap together electrical components to make any of 750 different circuits
  • Bridge Designer (bridge and civil engineering)
    learn to design and test forces on different bridges, even competing against others for prize money 
  • Flight Simulator (aeronautical engineering)
    use the free Flightgear or commercial Microsoft flight simulators to learn the physics and practice of flying fixed-wing and rotor craft

    3. Coding
  • Scratch (general coding)
    learn this easy drag-and-drop coding environment to build animations, interactive tutorials and games
  • Kodu (game design)
    create a 3D game using simple coding

    4. Alternative Energy
  • Snap Circuits Green Energy (electricity)
    explore alternative forms of energy while constructing simple electrical circuits
  • Solar Car (photovoltaics)
    design, build, test, and race a car running off a single solar panel
  • Wind Power (wind/water turbines)
    determine the optimal orientation of the vanes on a wind turbine for generating electricity
  • Hydrogen Car (hydrogen gas)
    learn to separate hydrogen from water to run a model hydrogen car
  • Solar Oven (passive solar)
    design, create and test an oven that uses reflected sunlight to cook a hotdog or other foods

Final Project: Student choice!