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STEM Activities

STEM Activity: Power Up Your Battery-Operated Toys

It’s the time of year when festive lights and decorations shine brightly, and shoppers search for special gifts for friends and family – many requiring batteries to operate. This year, boost your child’s confidence by handing over the screwdriver and batteries and showing them how to put together their own toys. With this hands-on activity, young innovators can learn new skills and take pride in assembling their holiday gifts!


Materials Needed:

  • Batteries
  • Battery-operated toy or device
  • Screwdriver


Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. With an adult’s help, identify the batteries you’ll need to operate your toy or device, then find the battery compartment. 

    This is also a great opportunity to learn what different battery sizes mean
  2. If you need a screwdriver to open the battery compartment, determine what size and which type of screwdriver it will take. 

    Helpful hint: A Phillips-head screwdriver is one of the most popular types. 
  3. Follow these tips to remove the screw(s) from the battery compartment: 
    • Before you begin, discover how turning the screwdriver different directions affects what happens to the screw. 
      • Hold up your right hand and your left hand. Use your right hand to point to your left hand — you’re pointing in the direction of “lefty-loosey,” or the way to loosen the screw. 
      • Now use your left hand to point to your right hand — you’re pointing in the direction of “righty-tighty,” or the way to tighten the screw. 
    • Line up the screwdriver with the notches in the screw. Be sure to hold the screwdriver straight up and down as you twist. 
    • Turn the screwdriver to the left to loosen and remove the screw(s). 
  4. Insert the battery or batteries, lining up the positive (+) and negative (–) signs. 
  5. Replace the battery cover. Then, insert the screw(s) and turn the screwdriver to the right to tighten the cover. 
  6. Power on your toy or device! 

    If this sparks questions about how batteries work, follow that curiosity! Explore some of the basic science behind batteries and talk about how they allow toys and other devices to function.


What Are We Discovering?

The process of invention involves hands-on tinkering, creative problem solving and persistence, which can lead to making new discoveries, fostering curiosity and building self-esteem.

National Inventors Hall of Fame® Inductee Henry Phillips did more than redesign the screw from a slot to a cross shape – he redesigned the world of manufacturing. The cross shape of the Phillips screw holds the screwdriver in place, ensuring that it stays straight. Additionally, when the screw is fully tightened, the screwdriver pops out automatically and prevents the screw from being overdriven. Phillips knew his design would be revolutionary. He was proven correct as the Phillips screw increased efficiency, especially in the automobile industry.


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