A STEM Christmas #2

As the end of the year approaches, here are 6 big ideas for combining maths, science, technology, engineering and a bit of art in December.
 
 

Spiced Drinks Fermentation

While Christmas in Australia is hot, not cold, we can still investigate fermentation of spiced drinks.

 
Research recipes for spiced fermented drinks that are enjoyed at Christmas time.
Investigate different factors that impact on the rate of fermentation e.g. of sugar using yeast to ethanol. Factors may include amount of sugar, amount of yeast, temperature of reaction mixture, type of yeast, type of sugar, source of sugar (different fruit juices).
 
Maths – collecting data and recording in a graph
Science – biochemistry of fermentation and yeast
Technology – possibly used to log and measure changes over time in fermentation
 

The Present Drop

How high up the chimney can Santa be to safely drop the presents without them breaking?

 
Let’s face it – it’s a rush to get all those presents delivered on Christmas Eve. See how high Santa can drop the presents from without them breaking. Design and engineer a present dropping device (rocket, insulated shell, parachute for example) to drop a delicate present (represented by an uncooked egg) from different height chimneys/balconies. How high can you drop the present before it breaks and what dropping devices work best?
 
Maths – measuring speed/time/distance and calculating speed at impact and force at impact using V=d/t and F=ma
Engineering – the design and construction of dropping devices
Science – understanding motion and forces, the use of parachutes and crumple zones, airbags and insulation in preventing crashes
 
 

Crystal Decorations

It’s Christmas tree decoration time, on a molecular level

 
Make up a saturated solution of salt and hot water in a beaker. Place a bent pipe cleaner (in a shape such as a star or a candy cane) in the beaker. Allow it to stand for several days as the salt crystals come out of solution and deposit over the pipe cleaner.
 
Science – crystal growing, concentration calculations
Community – sell the completed decorations in a stall to raise money for charity
 

Cooking Christmas Day Roast

How long should you cook the roast?

 
Investigate heat transfer in different cooking environments to see how long you should cook the roast on Christmas day. You could construct your own solar oven and see how hot it gets a fixed volume of water over a set time duration. Apply this to cooking a roast to see if you could successfully cook a roast in a solar oven.
 
Maths – measuring temperature, recording values over time and graphing
Science – heat transfer, radiation, solar energy
Engineering – design and construction of solar oven
Community – cook something in the oven and share it with the class!
 

Transporting summer mangoes for Christmas day

There’s nothing like the taste of a juicy mango on Christmas day.

 
Calculate the distance and time to get a mango from a farm in North of Australia to where you live. Prototype and construct the most efficiently sized box for safe transport of a (or many) mango(es).
 
Maths – distance, time measurements; volume and shape construction
Engineering – prototyping and construction of box
Technology – sensors (optional) to detect mango ripeness, safety, tracking of individual mangoes from farm to plate
Community – if the design is good, see if the prototype can be trialed by a mango company!
 

Gingerbread House construction

Yum! The spiced taste of gingerbread.

 
Design and prototype a gingerbread house, making most efficient and creative use of the dough.
 
Maths – modelling shapes, volume, area
Engineering – construction of house
 

Get Inspired

 
We’d love to hear from you if you explore A STEMy Christmas in your classes or at home. Merry Christmas!

What’s in that junk food?

Thematic units of work with driving questions… this unit is aligned to Year 9 Biological Sciences in the Australian Curriculum.

Multi-cellular organisms rely on coordinated and interdependent internal systems to respond to changes to their environment

Ecosystems consist of communities of interdependent organisms and abiotic components of the environment; matter and energy flow through these systems

Driving Question: What’s in that junk food?

Hook: Empty a school bin and collect (with gloves) all the junk food wrappers that are inside. Sort the wrappers by classification (e.g. chips, sugarary, chocolates, biscuits) and graph the results. Write down some of the common ingredients sounds in these items that are being eaten by the school community.

Challenge One (SUGAR): Many of the junk food items contain sugar. Is this a good thing tbe eating?

Learn about the nervous system and hormones in multi-cellular organisms.

Use this base knowledge to inquiry further with a research task into the impact of sugar and other ingredients on homeostasis in the body e.g. diabetes and other hormonal diseases.

Challenge Two (PALM OIL): Palm Oil goes by many names, but is a cheap and key ingredient in many chips, biscuits and other junk foods.

Learn about ecosystems and environments through direct instruction and prac-activities.

Use this knowledge to design, perform and report on a practical field investigation into the use of palm oil on orangutan habitat. This might include designing a suitable enclosure for conservation of an endangered species that mimics its natural habitat.

Challenge Two (PLASTIC WRAPPERS): Most of the rubbish bin was probably plastic waste. Single use plastics end up in our oceans, and creates havoc for marine ecosystems.

Learn about ecosystems and environments through discovering the impact plastic wrappers from school has on the environment around it.

Use this knowledge to design, prototype, test, iterate and present on a possible solution to plastic waste in the school.

Closure/reflection: Present ideas to an authentic audience – pitch rubbish solutions to school council, talk to a zoo about enclosure design.

What do we need to survive on Mars?

Thematic units of work with driving questions… this unit is aligned to Year 9 Physical Sciences in the Australian Curriculum.

Energy transfer through different mediums can be explained using wave and particle models

Driving Question: What do we need to survive on Mars?

Hook: Introductory videos on becoming an interplanetary species.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7DWqKIunOs

http://www.spacex.com/mars

Research what the conditions on Mars are like and how they differ to Earth. Share in a collaborative document/forum. Brainstorm what humans would need in order to survive on Mars.

Challenge One (HEAT): The temperature on Mars gets really cold. One of our first problems to solve in living on Mars may be how to survive in cold temperatures and stay warm.

Learn about heat as an energy form and about energy transfer through direct instruction and mini-prac activities.

Use this knowledge to design, perform and report on a practical investigation into the best insulation (best thickness, best colour, optimal material) in a space suit to keep an astronaut warm on Mars.

Challenge Two (LIGHT): Mars is really far away from Earth. What are the best ways to communicate between Mars and Earth and between colonies on Mars itself?

Learn about light and sound as energy forms and about reflection, refraction, total internal reflection, electromagnetic spectrum and waves through direct instruction and mini-prac activities.

Use this base knowledge to inquiry further with a research task. Questions to choose from for inquiry could include:

Why we can’t live stream from Mars? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kLvNH28Tgc

What would need to happen to get a rainbow on Mars?

You would need to communicate over long distances between colonies on Mars, with large and frequent dust storms. Research the benefits of communicating using optical fibres in these conditions over radio communication.

Closure/reflection:

‐ Would you want to go to Mars? Why or Why not?

‐ What do you see as the advantages/successes of going to Mars?

‐ What do you see as the disadvantages/difficulties/struggles of going to Mars?

‐ What technologies will need to be developed to go to Mars?

What else do we need to survive on Mars? Food? Shelter? Transport? Communication? Clothing? Oxygen/Atmosphere? Invent a technology and sketch a blueprint of it.

A STEM Christmas

Ideas for Christmas themed STEM projects at school.

 

As the end of the year approaches, Christmas trees are decorated, outdoor light displays are hung, and teachers look for Christmas themed STEM projects. Here are some of our favourite ideas for combining maths, science, technology, engineering and a bit of art in December.

The Christmas light display

We now have prizes for the best street/town/house decked out in Christmas lights…but what about the environmental and economic cost of running all those lights?

Design a light display given constraints of area, cost or other (e.g. must fit a 3mx3mx3m front yard area, with purchase of lights not exceeding $500). Assume a certain number of dark hours per day and calculate how many hours the lights will be on during the month of December. Using an electricity bill as a guide, calculate the cost of running these lights. Compare the usage and cost of different types of lights e.g. LED vs solar powered. Construct your own to-scale model using LEDs and your own circuit wires (either conductive ink pens on paper or alligator wires or insulated wires. Bonus marks for programming the lights to flash in a pattern to Christmas music.

Maths – calculating cost, efficiency, hours, to-scale drawings

Science – electric circuits, energy efficiency, sustainability

Technology – electric circuits, coding programmable lights to music

Engineering – to-scale model construction of yard/house and lights

Art – design of light display (shape, size, models)

Community – collate findings on economic and environmental costs and make recommendations to local council on how to manage light displays in the local area.

The Christmas story

Create an interactive museum gallery exhibition on the history of Christmas.

Using history/geography/HASS or religion as a context, research an aspect of Christmas that has a timeline or map associated with it e.g. the biblical story of Christmas from conception to the visit of the Wise Men; the origins and development of Christmas celebrations from St Nicholas to Santa; different ‘Father Christmas’ characters around the world in different countries.

Create an interactive map or to-scale timeline of the research using QR codes that can be scanned to pop up a video or image, or AR pop-ups (e.g. layar.com or aurasma.com or zap.works) to link the printed timeline/map with digital images/video/audio giving more detail on each date/place.

Maths – to-scale timelines

Technology – video, AR

HASS/RE – history of Christmas celebrations

Community – share displays with a local museum or library and ask them to host/curate/give real feedback on your museum displays.

The Santa Sleigh

It’s just as well Santa has magic, otherwise how else could he make it to all those houses in one night?

Option 1: Calculate the speed Santa’s sleigh must travel to be able to reach every child by dawn of Christmas day. You could calculate this in terms of how many children (and thus how fast each visit must be to fit within 24 hours) or more simply, the distance covered in circumnavigating the globe to fit in this time.

Option 2: Conduct time trials from the front door (or footpath, where ever you think Santa’s sleigh will pull up) to the tree. Conduct 10 time trials and average the time it takes to run from the front door to the tree to conduct a ‘delivery’. Calculate how many ‘deliveries’ can be done in 24 hours and hence the maximum number of children who can receive presents in one day.

Once the calculations have been done, construct a to-scale model of a more aerodynamic sleigh, aimed at reduced air resistance and friction, to help Santa move more quickly and get his deliveries done.

Maths – calculating times, distances, speed, averages

Science – motion, random error reduction and collecting data, friction (air resistance)

Engineering – to-scale model construction of sleigh with aerodynamic properties

Community – engage the services of someone to prototype your new sleigh design as a new float in the next Christmas pageant in your city/town!

The Christmas tree farm

What’s better – a plastic Christmas tree or a live tree?

Call up a local tree farm. Find out the height that they cut trees, and how old these trees would be. From this data calculate the average rate of growth.

Ask the farm what their predicted number of tree sales each year is. From the average rate of growth and number of tree sales, calculate the number of pine trees that must be planted each year to replace what is cut down. Graph it. Conduct a survey to see what features of live trees and plastic trees people value and find attractive. Complete some research and weigh up the sustainability of a live tree against the sustainability of a plastic tree. From all this data, prototype a new tree design (potentially made out of a new sustainable material?!)

Maths – calculating cost, rates, averages, graphing, surveys

Science – sustainability, photosynthesis, tree growth

Engineering – prototyping of tree tree design

Community – interaction with tree farm, surveying people, and potential commericalisation of new tree design/material

A sparkly Christmas

The sounds of Christmas – why does Michael Buble sound so good?

Prototype and construct a light and sound Christmas decoration spectacular that plays carols when a motion sensor (or light or other sensor or just when the circuit is connected e.g. by stepping on it) is activated. Make changes to the sound in terms of pitch and loudness and relate this to the properties of sound waves.

Science – sound waves – amplitude and frequency

Engineering – prototyping of decoration

Technology – electric circuit, sensors and coding of decoration (depending on the activity)

Community – put the decoration in a public place or on your classroom door so everyone can enjoy the music as they walk past!

Get Inspired

We’d love to hear from you if you explore A STEMy Christmas in your classes, or if you have other ideas or feedback on how have a STEMy Christmas at school. Merry Christmas!

Build Your Own STEM Adventure – Insulated Space Suits

Ideas for integrated STEM projects that align to the ACARA science understandings.

 

Insulated Space Suits

ACARA Science Alignment: Physical Sciences – Energy transfer through different mediums can be explained using wave and particle models (ACSSU182 – Scootle )

Suggested Year Level: Year 9

Project: Students work in groups to design, perform and report on an experiment investigating insulation and heat transfer. Students apply their experimental findings, in collaboration with other research collected by the class, to suggest the best thickness, material, colour etc of a highly insulating space suit.

Hook

 

If humans travel to Mars in the future, we will need good insulation in their space suits to survive the cold temperatures on Mars (https://www.space.com/16907-what-is-the-temperature-of-mars.html)

STEM links: boost the connections with different disciplines by

· Maths – have students record temperature over time and graph using software, then finding equations of best fit.

· Science –Use scientific inquiry to design and perform a fair test that alters one factor (e.g. thickness of insulation, type of insulating material, colour of insulation) in the design and determines the effect on temperature stability (i.e. insulation). Students could use dry ice or liquid nitrogen (or just ice cubes) to simulate the coldness experienced on an average day on Mars to test their insulating materials (cloth, newspaper, craft polyfill, house insulation, cotton wool, packing peanuts, alfoil etc). Students could present their individual experimental findings on a scientific poster, which gets presented and shared with the class in a display so students can collaborate and learn from each other’s fair tests.

· Technology – have students use probes or temperature sensors to record and measure the temperature over time

· English – have students write scientific papers/posters/journals to share their experimental findings in the specific writing format: scientific writing.

· Art/Design/Fashion – students could design and construct a life size space suit using insulating materials and showcase in a fashion show.

Get Inspired

 

We’d love to hear from you if you explore insulated space suits in your class, or if you have other ideas or feedback on how to use this Build Your Own STEM Adventure. Good luck!

Build Your Own STEM Adventure – Earthquake Proof Buildings

Ideas for integrated STEM projects that align to the ACARA science understandings.

 

Earthquake Proof Buildings

ACARA Science Alignment: Earth and Space Sciences – The theory of plate tectonics explains global patterns of geological activity and continental movement (ACSSU180 – Scootle )

Suggested Year Level: Year 9

Project: Students work in groups to design on paper, prototype using fun edible materials (e.g. toothpicks and mini marshmallows in a jelly plate), then build and test using construction materials (e.g. Styrofoam blocks, straw construction sets, lego or mechano), a 2 story construction that can survive a shake table ‘earthquake’ for 10-30 seconds.

Hook

Watch the Catalyst episode on earthquake resistant building techniques in Japan, http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/2948245.htm

STEM links: boost the connections with different disciplines by

Maths – have students film in slow motion either their own building during the simulated earthquake, or using film footage from real earthquakes. Students can take measurements to calculate the distance the building moves/sways/wobbles from the centre, and express this as a percentage or graph it over time or against the magnitude of the quake.

· Science – have students explain how their design assists in earthquake resistance, while using key terms from a word bank such as liquefaction, p and s wave, epicentre, transform boundary etc. Use scientific inquiry to design and perform a fair test that alters one factor (e.g. height of building, depth of foundations, mass of inner column) in the design and determines the effect on stability.

· Engineering – have students design, construct and test the building while following an engineering design model. Build using everyday materials found around the kitchen, school and home.

· Technology – have students use apps to measure and record the magnitude of their ‘earthquake’ e.g. Richter scale phone apps.

· English – have students write newspaper articles, poems or historical fiction to recount the experience of surviving an earthquake.

· HASS – research different earthquakes and plot on a map to see if they align with plate boundaries. Explore different soil types and how they affect liquefaction.

Get Inspired

We’d love to hear from you if you build earthquake proof buildings in your class, or if you have other ideas or feedback on how to use this Build Your Own STEM Adventure. Good luck!

Build Your Own STEM Adventure – Rube Goldberg machines

Ideas for integrated STEM projects that align to the ACARA science understandings.

 

Rube Goldberg Machines

ACARA Science Alignment: Physical Sciences- Energy appears in different forms, including movement (kinetic energy), heat and potential energy, and energy transformations and transfers cause change within systems (ACSSU155 – Scootle )

Suggested Year Level: Year 8

Project: Students work in groups to design, construct, and test complex machines of multiple (at least 7) steps that perform a simple task (e.g. pop a balloon), using the engineering design model. They identify and use at least 3 forms of energy (e.g. kinetic, gravitational potential, sound) and identify each energy changes (transfer or transformation) that make the machine work.

Hook

Hook: Watch the film clip to OK Go’s song, ‘This too shall pass’ for a giant Rube Goldberg machine (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qybUFnY7Y8w)

STEM links: boost the connections with different disciplines by

· Maths – have students record the time of the machine at each stage/step and the distance and calculate the speed of movement of each step.

· Science – have students plan for and identify within their machine multiple forms of energy and energy changes.

· Engineering – have students construct the machine using everyday materials found around the school and home

· Technology – have students use technology to measure speed (timers, sensor gates) and film/document the process of building and/or performance of the final working machine (cameras, phone, editing software)

· Music/Media – have students film the performance of the final working machine and create music to accompany recording.

Get Inspired

We’d love to hear from you if you use Rube Goldberg machines in your class, or if you have other ideas or feedback on how to use this Build Your Own STEM Adventure. Good luck!