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Totally Rad STEM Activities to Do This Summer!

The school year is almost over, but the summer fun is just beginning! Here are some really cool STEM activities that you can try out at home with your family this summer!
Totally Rad STEM Activities to Do This Summer! -

1. Make Your Own Ice Cream!

All you need is:

  • Ziplock Baggies
  • Ice
  • Cream
  • Sugar
  • Optional flavors like vanilla, fruit, or cocoa powder
  • Your muscles… there will be a whole lot of shaking! With your parent or guardian’s help, check out this tutorial. What flavors will you invent?

2. Baking Soda and Vinegar Fireworks!

Celebrate the end of the school year with your own fireworks!

A little background: You are going to do a chemical experiment to make your own “fireworks!” Below is the chemical formula of baking soda and vinegar. Mixing vinegar and baking soda together leads to an acid-based chemical reaction. Vinegar, also known as acetic acid, has the chemical formula CH3COOH. Baking soda is a base, also known as sodium bicarbonate. It has the chemical formula NaHCO3. This chemical reaction produces sodium acetate (C2H3NaO2.) Sodium acetate is made up of one sodium ion, two carbon atoms, three hydrogen atoms, and two oxygen atoms. The two other products include water (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2). Carbon dioxide is the gas that causes bubbling during the chemical reaction.

Chemical Formula of Baking Soda and Vinegar

C2H4O2 + NaHCO3 -> NaC2H3O2 + H2O + CO2

vinegar + sodium bicarbonate -> sodium acetate + water + carbon dioxide

What you will need:

  • Baking soda (also known as sodium bicarbonate)
  • Vinegar
  • Star cookie cutters
  • Red, blue, and silver glitter (for an eco-friendlier glitter, check out this biodegradable glitter)
  • Spoon
  • Small squeeze bottle, syringe, or pipette (for vinegar)
  • Tray or large dish
  • Safety equipment (rubber or latex gloves, safety goggles or glasses)
  • Plastic tablecloth or over covering to protect your table

What to do:

  1. Put on your safety equipment and cover your surface to protect it.
  2. Fill your squeeze bottle with vinegar or prepare a small bowl with vinegar if you are using a syringe or pipette.
  3. Place the cookie cutters in the large dish or tray.
  4. Add a tablespoon of baking soda into the cookie cutter and flatten it a little bit with the spoon.
  5. Sprinkle the top of the baking soda with your glitter (you can choose to bury the glitter in the baking soda so they will be revealed during the chemical reaction.
  6. Slowly add a few drops of vinegar. Add more vinegar as needed to continue the reaction.
  7. Watch and listen to the chemical reaction!
  8. Reflect on the chemical reaction that took place. How might this chemical experiment be used in engineering?

3. Design and Build a Rube Goldberg Machine!

Have you ever watched Home Alone, where the kid gets the bad guys by building traps and Rube Goldberg Machines? With your parents or guardians’ help, you can build your very own by using items around your house! Check out this video for inspiration!

4. Three Little Pigs STEM Challenge!

Gather with your friends or family and divide yourselves into three teams. One team will build a house made from sticks. Another will build a house made from small straws. And the third team will build a house made from index cards.

What you’ll need:

  • 50 popsicle sticks
  • 50 small (hot drink) straws
  • 50 index cards
  • 3 thick pieces of cardboard to use as foundations for each house
  • 1 poster board roof for each house
  • One roll of masking tape
  • A desk or table to build on
  • Small desk fan to serve as the Big Bad Wolf (if you don’t have a fan, you can try to use a folder, poster board, or card stock and use that fan the houses)
  • Paper and pencils
  • A copy of The Three Little Pigs: An Architectural Tale by Steven Guarnaccia (you can either buy it or borrow it from your library!)

Follow these instructions for the challenge:

  1. Read The Three Little Pigs: An Architectural Tale by Steven Guarnaccia.
  2. After reading the book, consider what is needed to build a strong house.
  3. Think about which building materials and designs are best for certain weather conditions or natural disasters.
  4. Each team has twenty minutes to build their house using the materials listed above.
  5. Test out each house against the Big Bad Wolf (fan). Your house can face any direction, but the wind must come from the same direction. If your house is still standing after 20 seconds, your design was a success!
  6. Reflect on your design and how it might be improved to last even longer against the Big Bad Wolf

5. Build Your Own Circuit and Learn about How Electricity Works!

  • One of my favorite activities I got to do as a kid is Science Fair. An experiment I really enjoyed was building my own circuit. I used:
  • A single D battery – Some people use AA batteries, too
  • A lightbulb – A small LED lightbulb like the ones used in holiday lights will work well here
  • Copper Wires – If you don’t have copper wires, aluminum foil can work
  • Alligator clips – Bare aluminum paperclips can also be used
  • Electrodes – I used metal rods, but nails will also work
  • A beaker – You can use a glass mason jar, Pyrex measuring cup, or something similar

In my experiment, I tested different types of liquids like vinegar, orange juice, or milk to see if they could conduct electricity. You could try something similar, too!

With your parent or guardian’s help, you can design your own circuit! Here are a few different ideas!

Watch this video to learn more about electricity. Make sure to ask an adult to help you so you can do your experiment safely!

Authors

  • totally rad stem activities to do this summer! stem activities

    SWE Blog

    SWE Blog provides up-to-date information and news about the Society and how our members are making a difference every day. You’ll find stories about SWE members, engineering, technology, and other STEM-related topics.

  • totally rad stem activities to do this summer! stem activities

    Allison Osmanson

    Allison Osmanson is a Materials Science and Engineering PhD student at the University of Texas at Arlington. She holds a Master’s degree in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of North Texas and she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Materials Science and Engineering from Washington State University. She plans to graduate in December 2021, after which, she will be a Microelectronics Packaging Engineer at Texas Instruments in Dallas, Texas.

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