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STEM Activities

STEM Activity: Invent a City for Kid Inventors Day

Celebrate Kid Inventors Day by exploring civil engineering as you invent or re-invent a new city!


Materials Needed

  • Blocks
  • Cardboard
  • Craft items
  • Dominoes
  • Masking tape
  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Scrap paper
  • Scissors
  • Sticky notes


Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Take a walk around your town and observe the homes and buildings.
  2. Try using an internet search to see if you can find the architectural drawings or blueprints for the buildings in your town. If not, find blueprints of similarly shaped buildings.
  3. Imagine what your house, apartment building or town would look like if you were a bird flying overhead. Sometimes this vantage point is called a “bird’s-eye view.”
  4. Use an internet map to look at your city. Now, replicate your city using scrap paper, sticky notes, dominoes or blocks. Start with your street. Next, build the downtown area.
  5. Think about these questions:
    • How would you design your city if you were the city planner and could start from scratch?
    • What do you like about the buildings in your town?
    • What would you like to change?
    • How would you rearrange the buildings?
    • What buildings would you make taller? Smaller? Wider? Shorter? Why?
    • How might you make room for new parks?
    • What feature does your city really need?
    • What could you do to make your city better for children?
    • How could you arrange the city so that it is more accessible for all?
    • How could you make it greener or more environmentally friendly and sustainable?
  6. Using your paper and blocks, create a new “footprint” of your city by rearranging buildings, structures and parks.
    • Because some parts of a city cannot be moved, you might want to start with features in your city that are permanent, like lakes, rivers and mountains.
    • To build a new neighborhood that is more sustainable than the town you currently live in, try designing it so more people would walk and bike.


What Are We Discovering?

Many of our National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) Inductees have developed inventions that have shaped and changed our cities. Be inspired by their great work as you invent or re-invent your own new city!

NIHF Inductee James Bogardus invented iron buildings. He significantly advanced American architecture by designing and constructing buildings that combined structural strength and aesthetic beauty. His iron buildings permitted bigger windows because less surface area had to be devoted to load-bearing supports. These buildings could also be taller than masonry structures thanks to the strength of the iron frames used in their construction.

Hall of Famer David Crosthwait developed modern heating and ventilation system design. An inventor and authority on heat transfer, ventilation and air conditioning, he devoted his career to redefining the technology of indoor climate control. During the 1920s and 1930s, Crosthwait invented an improved boiler system, a new thermostat control and other items with the goal of making the ventilation systems in larger buildings more effective. His innovative solutions to heating and ventilation problems led him to design systems for high-profile projects including Radio City Music Hall and Rockefeller Center in New York City.

A highly respected innovator in solar energy, Hall of Famer Mária Telkes invented solar thermal storage systems. Throughout her career, she published widely on the topics of solar heating, thermoelectric generators and distillers, and electrical conductivity of solid electrolytes.

NIHF Inductee Harriet W.R. Strong patented a system of dams and reservoirs for water storage and flood control. Placing a series of dams so that the water in a lower basin would act as a brace for the dams above, Strong’s design allowed for the collection of water until it was needed. Her work in water irrigation and conservation significantly contributed to the development of Southern California as a major agricultural region.


Looking for More STEM Fun?

Thousands of children across the country have engaged in easy, at-home fun with our Innovation Exploration Kits. Each kit offers tons of materials for endless exploration and creativity, delivered right to your door. To learn more, check out our website!

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