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Activities to inspire future engineers

 

A Really Really Long Straw

Wouldn't it be fun to poke your head out of an upstairs window and secretly take a sip from a drink way below? Would it even be possible? See if you can set your own record for the longest working straw!

Building Forts and Structures

Everyone can get involved with these great activities. Encourage your child to create a plan first. Which materials will they use? How many of each will they need? Does their design need a function? Ask guiding questions as they go and listen to their observations. 

Stick Fort
Get out into the woods and let their imagination run wild. Activities like this build on designing and forward planning skills, What shape should it be? How tall or wide will it be? How many walls should it have? They also develop their motor skills through the building itself, along with problem solving skills when their construction comes across issues.

Milk Bottle - Plastic Igloo
By setting out plastic milk bottles in a circle with the caps facing inward, and continually building on the layers, you can create your very own igloo. This may work best as a community project due to the number of bottles needed. 

Branch and Fabric Tee-pee
Grab large branches to create the basic teepee structure. Then add scrap fabrics around the edge to further secure and decorate the branches. Leave one area open to go inside. 

Wooden Block Fort
Create a fort using wooden blocks, you likely have these already at home or in your setting. To make this a real engineering activity, print off examples of existing buildings around the world and see if they can recreate them.

Catapults

Catapults throughout time have always been cool and exciting, without realising it, children will be working on their problem solving and motor skills. 

Egg Carton Catapult:

  1. Cut the cardboard egg carton in half widthwise.
  2. Place objects in the egg cups inside the egg carton to weight it down.
  3. Wrap a rubber band around the side of the egg carton. Our egg carton had a lip that we could put the rubber band below to hold it in place.
  4. Wrap the second rubber band around the egg carton from top to bottom.
  5. Place the spoon beneath both rubber bands.

Super Simple Catapult:
Tape a spoon to an old toilet roll tube. The trick to get something to fly further is to apply the right amount of pressure!

Pool Noodle Catapult
You'll need one pool noodle cut into 4 pieces, plus a few elastic bands to secure. This is safe for toddlers to use. 

Wooden Catapult:
This catapult is launched by doing a 'stamping' movement with your feet. It involves using some hand tools so will require some supervision.

LEGO Catapult:
Explore and recognize that the effectiveness of a lever depends on the arrangement of the pivot point, effort and load.


MoreDesign one of these 14 catapults

Cloud in a Jar

When you add the warm water to the jar, some of it turns to water vapor. The water vapor rises to the top of the jar where it comes into contact with cold air, thanks to the ice cubes on top. Water vapor condenses when it cools down. However, a cloud can only form if the water vapor has something to condense on to. In nature, water vapor may condense onto dust particles, air pollution, pollen, volcanic ash, etc. In the case of this activity, the water vapor condensed onto the hairspray. For instructions click here.

DadLab | Youtube 

Design and build a boat

Using the selection of materials below, ask your child to create their own boat design. Here is a handy work sheet to help them.  

Materials: Plastic bag, Paper clip, Plastic cup, Twist tie, Pencil, Pipe cleaner, Plastic wrap , Sucker, Foil, Cardboard box, Smarties, Candy hearts, Rubber band and a Popsicle stick

James Dyson Foundation | Youtube

LearningMole | Youtube

LEGO®

Lego is a great resource for young engineers. The opportunities for creative play are endless, here are a few tutorials we have found that will aid their development.

Create Your Own: LEGO Balloon Car 
Start your engines! LEGO® brick building is all about fun and creativity, and making a balloon car is a thrill-packed birthday party activity for children, who will marvel as their air-powered creation whizzes across the floor.

Watch 20 LEGO DUPLO bricks become one cute robot!
So, if you could own your very own robot, what would you choose? The Housemaid 500, who never bores of chores? How about a cyborg chef to prep meals 24 hours a day? Let’s face it, we’d probably all opt for something really practical and (whisper it) dull. Ask the same question to a child, however, and the answers are genius.

Create Your Own: LEGO Zipline
The ever popular lego youtube channel and the REBRICKULOUS Hosts demonstrate how they recreated their zipline adventure using LEGO.

LEGO Catapult:
Explore and recognize that the effectiveness of a lever depends on the arrangement of the pivot point, effort and load.

Make a Digital Accessory
Invent a digital accessory that fits your needs and ease your daily life.

Make a Simple Machine to Move Something
Allow the students to interpret the Maker brief for themselves. Design a simple machine that can move things.

LEGO Build to Give Campaign
Use your LEGO® bricks at home to build a fun holiday ornament. Share it online with #BuildtoGive. For every ornament built and shared, we will donate a LEGO set to a child in need of play.

MoreLego Ideas

Magnetic Slime

Adding iron oxide powder (you can get this on amazon) to your standard slime recipe will result in the slime becoming magnetic! This activity is an excellent conversation starter as kids are sure to have a lot of questions about how magnets work—so don’t forget to brush up on the subject yourself before getting started!  

How to make slime | BBC Good Food

Origami 

Origami is a great way to develop a broad range of skills, including mathematical thinking, fine motor skills, patience and resistance to frustration.

Pig

Fortune Teller

Ninja Star

Pecking Chicken

Hungry Fish

Paper aeroplanes

Make and test-fly paper planes. This simple activity allows children to make paper planes and investigate different types of designs.

There are so many ways to create a paper plane, this website gives you multiple tutorials for free. 

Ping Pong Ball Launcher

You'll need:

  • An empty plastic bottle.  We used the small 12 oz. sized Gatorade bottles.
  • Scissors
  • String
  • Rubber bands – two per toy
  • A large bead
  • A nail – for punching a hole in the lid of the bottle.

The design is quite simple.  For full instructions visit this website

Rainbow Jar

This requires a few supplies, but most you are likely to already have lying around. Add the different liquids in various orders, what happens? Do they mix together? Why not? If they do, why did they? You might have to try a few times to get this right!

  • A clear container, like a big jar or vase

  • Honey
  • Corn Syrup
  • Dish soap
  • Olive oil
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Water
  • Food colouring 
  • Pipette

Stop-motion animation 

These are very easy to create! You can download an app called 'StickBot' for free which allows you to string multiple photos together to create a video. Have your child create a storyboard first and plan their idea so that they know which photos to take. 

Squishy circuits

You'll need: a circuit kit (you can find them on amazon for under £10) 

Salty water conducts electricity, which makes ordinary play dough a reasonably good conductor adding cream of tartar makes it even more so. Replacing the salt in play dough with sugar produces dough that conducts so poorly at low voltages that it functions like a non-conducting insulator. Alternatively, Play dough sold in stores is conductive, while modeling clay is insulating. 

Create amazing and funny shapes like snails and unicorns, create a circuit with bulbs for their eyes and light them up. For full instructions click here.

Welding with chocolate

This activity, from The Welding Institute, gives students the opportunity to build structures made from chocolate. In the example given, a box-section is compared with a flat plank of chocolate, to see which is the strongest when spanning a gap.

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