Go on a scavenger hunt around your home or school, and find 20 things that bug you! Is your backpack too heavy to carry around, does water from the sink or drinking fountain get all over the place, or do you wish there was an easier way to remember to recycle? Be your own problem solver and invent solutions to one or more of these pesky challenges.
Gather found objects such as:
- Copy paper
- Duct tape
- Foam sheets
- Items from a junk drawer
- Items from the recycle bin
- Masking tape
- Old games and toys
- Old or non-working appliances*
- Small DC motors and battery wires (from electronics store)
- Tubes (e.g. PVC, foam, paper towel)
- Tools (to use with supervision)
- Plan the course for your adventure around your home. Where will you begin? Where will you finish?
- As you venture around the house, write or draw your ideas on a piece of paper on a clipboard. You can make a clipboard by placing a binder clip at the top of a stiff piece of cardboard.
- Once you have made the list, select the one or ones that you think you can create solutions for. What type of an invention will you need to solve your challenge? Will you make a working invention or a non-working prototype just to show your ideas? What process will you use to design and create your invention or invention prototype?
- Before you begin building, sketch ideas of your invention.
- Identify and collect the materials you will need.
- Make a prototype or a working invention to test, and then share it with others.
- Use the SPARK method detailed below to reflect on your invention, strengthen it and re-create it!
Educators: Use this activity in the classroom with these modifications
Have children bring in items they will not have a problem disassembling.* Ask parents to prepare an appliance or machine at home (e.g., remove all electrical cords, loosen all screws, pry open encased devices, etc.). Some suggested items include computer hard drives, VCRs, DVD players, stereos, keyboards, tape recorders and old radios. Ask them to collect all the pieces and parts in a labeled bag — minus electrical cords and any objects that may cause potential harm.
*To ensure that children’s safety is not compromised, avoid items containing glass (such as TVs, monitors, laptops, etc.), microwave ovens, cell or rotary phones, cameras, irons, printers, vacuums or toasters.
What are we learning?
STEM activities are prime opportunities to engage children’s natural curiosity while introducing them to the SPARK method — an affirmative judgment tool.
To use SPARK, guide children to make the following observations as they work on their inventions:
- Strengths: What are this invention’s pluses? What is good about it? What is working?
- Problems: What are this invention’s problems? What are its weaknesses? What isn’t working?
- Areas to grow: What are some new ideas (additions/subtractions/changes) that I hadn’t thought of before?
- Reflect: How might these growth areas be applied to what I have learned through testing?
- Keep solving: Can I generate five to 10 solutions to my invention’s top two problems, then rebuild and retest?