So, why wouldn’t this work for…..CARS!
Now, I know what you are thinking!
How is this STEM?
Well, It’s the ultimate in STEM – it’s making do with what you have and making it work!
Think about it! Do you know the story of Apollo 13? That spacecraft was doomed. An explosion left the astronauts with a decreasing oxygen supply and only the engineers on earth saved them. How? By piecing together a bunch of junk that the astronauts had on board and building a device to fix the oxygen problem. (Duct tape might have been involved!)
So, why can’t we build a model of a car using cups, waxed paper, florist foam, tape, straws, and cardboard? Easy answer- You can build a car using whatever junk you can gather! (A little off topic, but you need to know that I use the word ‘junk’ in a joshing way. All of the materials are fabulous items, but you might not think them as a building material. Kids love it, however!)
So, off we went on round 1 of building cars. The predominant material kids used in our first attempt at this challenge was florist foam. And that was because I had access to a large amount of it. They made block shaped cars out of that foam. Since this was such an unusual material, of course, every team wanted to try it. I still remember hearing a kid say,
“Wow, this stuff is so easy to stab!”
Uh, not exactly what you want to hear in your classroom.
Ready for some more hints, advice, or tricks?
When we repeated this challenge and I did not offer foam! So, a first little piece of advice about using junk- be careful with the kind of junk. Some things work great and some things can be too messy, too costly, or too hard to manipulate. Florist foam is a great material, but not my first choice after using it in the past!
For this repeat of building cars, I put out an array of 10 items and the kids had to choose from those. (Although this was a random ten things I had in the cabinets I did think carefully before pulling them out!)
Hint #2- Talk to kids about lining both axles up better!
(If you are counting that was hint #4!)
So, there you have it!
Chevron and Crayons says
This is a Genius Idea!!! I have a ton of leftover "junk" in my supply closet from Christmas decorations, craft activities, and party supplies.
Carol Davis says
Exactly! Some of my most popular STEM challenges were born from just grabbing items randomly- and it almost always includes straws! Thanks for visiting!
Kidpeople Classroom says
So glad your class had so much fun learning. I recently did this same thing letting the kiddos build bridges. I put out different materials a few days in a row and each day was a new challenge. I threw in some goats, too, to see how much the bridge would hold, and because we were retelling the Three Billy Goats Gruff 🙂 Thanks for post. Kathleen