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Middle School STEM Projects

Olga Popova
The Middle School STEM Program is based on project learning where scientific principles are applied in practical engineering projects.
The students are introduced to various materials, tools and techniques and develop hands-on maker skills.They learn the basic process of a maker-type project: 

1) Envision a goal
2) Study examples and propose a design
3) Build a prototype through testing and experimentation
4) Final project with individual creativity

In 6th and 7th grade the STEM classes are small (a half-class of 8-10 students) and the duration is one-half of a semester. This allows for a lot of individual attention and a workshop atmosphere. In 8th grade the students work as a whole class (20 students) and the duration is a full semester. In 8th grade the focus is more independent projects and competitions between different engineering teams. Students in G6 through G8 designed their very own stuffed toys and bags through hand sewing projects last semester.

Below are some examples of our projects so far:

Grade 6: Cardboard Robotic Arm
The students study the structure and movement of the hand by building a robotic arm with simple materials (cardboard, straws, string and glue) and test it to lift an object.

Grade 7: Cardboard Automaton
The students build a gear mechanism from cardboard, foam and craft wood. They observe the transfer of movement from horizontal to vertical direction. They learn about engineering production process and precision.

Grade 8: Engineering Construction Competition: A Tower and a Bridge
The students use toothpicks and gumdrops to build engineering structures. They work in teams and devise their own design. There are two competition areas:

1) A bridge at least 3 feet long that carries a weight,
2) A stable tower at least 3 feet tall. 

The students learn about truss design, construction principles, properties of materials and failure mode.
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