Category: STEAM Program

ENERGY MATTERS – Fall 2017 STEAM Program at MERCY!

General Topics: Physical Science, Solar System, Space, Time, Energy, Gravity, Heat, Light, Electricity, Chemistry, Aerodynamics, Building, Programming

Grade Level: 4-7

In these classes we learned a variety of natural sciences, from space to unicellular organisms, and we explored these different areas through hands on activities that were fun and instructional.

The Solar System

In this class students learned about units of measurement, including the metric system, in order to learn about the size and scale of our solar system. We learned about the actual distances and diameters of the planets in our solar system, and learned about the distance at a smaller scale.

First we cut out a cardboard circle with 40cm diameter. This circle was the sun! – Next, we used clay and our metric rulers to form the planets to scale to our sun. Due to this, some of the planets were as small as a crumb! However it showed the scale in a tangible way!

In order to show the distances between the sun to the earth, students measured out in string the length of approximately 50m which was the scaled distance from the sun to the earth. We then went outside and asked the students to stretch out the string while one end held a sun and the other an earth. This showed how far light travels from the sun.

Last, students were tasked to make a Papier-mâché Earth. The earth was made of layers of newspaper which were meant to represent the layers of the earth: inner core, outer core, mantle, crust.


Space-Time and Gravity

In this workshop students learned about different forces acting on us everyday. In particular, students learned about gravity and aerodynamic forces. Students made paper planes of various designs in order to understand how different shapes affect the aerodynamic forces on a plane. From the different designs, students could make planes which could travel a long distance, a faster speed, can stay afloat longer, or do all three!


Energy: Heat and Light

This topic taught students about heat and light. The class began with the movement of molecules experiment. Here we explored the different states of water and the molecule movement associated with those states. By putting a few drops of food coloring in a beaker of water when the beaker contained cold water then hot water, students could see how the food dye spread faster when the water was hot, rather than cold, due to the faster movement of the molecules.

Next we did the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide experiment. Students learned about decomposition and how heat is generated from the energy caused by the movement of molecules. By adding yeast to hydrogen peroxide, students could see the solution foam up. This was caused by the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide to oxygen and water, creating bubbles to release the gas. Students lowered lit matches into the bubbles made by the solution in order to show how oxygen powers fire. While doing this, the students could feel the solution get warmer as the reaction happens.

Properties of Light

Here we worked with prisms and made kaleidoscopes. Students used prisms to separate the light and see the different colors in a human being’s visible spectrum. They also had a variety of activities to test with the prisms. We then made kaleidoscopes, using 3 reflective walls and a clear sphere. Students decorated their kaleidoscopes in creative ways. This activity taught students about how lenses worked.

Electric Energy

In this class we made a solar battery charger for a rechargeable 9V battery. Students learned about solar energy and how to make simple circuits. We learned about the power of photons from the sun, and how we can take advantage of that to make charging devices for batteries. Each student was able to make their own solar charges using 4 mini solar panels and a diode. Using the sun, they power their battery!

Students then made a flashlight which was powered by their rechargeable a 9V battery.

Last we made a motorized car. Students learned how gears and an advanced circuit containing an h-bridge worked. They made the chasis of the car and then created the circuit on a breadboard that acted as joystick. The joystick allowed students to drive their cars forward and backwards! Students raced their cars!

WeDo Projects

Students created WeDo projects to end the term.The students made a robotic car using the WeDo to understand how programming can be used to make a more advanced version of a motorized car like they made in the previous lesson. With programming, students can add more ‘flare’ to their robots. Such as sounds, lights, and using sensors to assist in having the robot sense the world around it.


Making Slime, Our last activity!



WeDo Class 2: Programming Sensors!

General Topics: Engineering, Robotics, Electric Energy, Electronics, Programming
Grade Level: 2-3

In this activity we explored more of Lego’s WeDo software and continued to expand on our robot!

The students began by teaming up again to create another Milo robot so that everyone had an individual robot (the ones built last class and those built this class). By this class the students knew the procedure and were quick to build and quick to explore.

Once built, the students were then asked to perform the motion sensor code and explain what is being observed. We explained the sensor and gave a simple overview of feedback systems with robots.

The students then built the tilt sensor robot. This robot used the tilt sensor to gain feedback and project a word onto the screen of the software. While it was initially a bit hard for the students to understand how to make the code work, the students were able to pick it up. We then taught them how to make not only a word appear on their screen based off of the direction of tilt, but how to make their robots move based off of it, allowing a joystick motion!

This class we learned: 

  • How to use the WeDo software
  • How to create from Lego pieces
  • How to code using visual programming (the WeDo software)
  • How open feedback systems work in robots
  • About the tilt sensor and motion sensor

Things to keep in mind for future activities: 

  • Students didn’t understand the tilt sensor much without the visual feedback from the moving robot, always linking the code to robot movements/changes is ideal



WeDo Class 1: Building Robots!

General Topics: Engineering, Robotics, Electric Energy, Electronics, Programming
Grade Level: 2-3

In this activity we explored Lego’s WeDo software! We began by seeing a quick overview of the software and learning how the processes we will be accomplishing through it can help us explore the world around us!

When this was done, we handed the students their building supplies (all pieces to make the Milo robot were separated to make it easier for students) and asked them to create Milo the robot! The students worked in teams of two and together fit the pieces to make a final robot.

With the robot built, students were then shown how to make a basic forward movement. The students then had free roam to explore the software however they desired! This open creation process was great and students learned so much of the software just by exploration. They changed the lights on their robot, they made it make different noises, and had their codes end with their voices!

After a while of exploring, the students were then asked to follow the instructions to create an attachment with a distance sensor! The students added the sensor to the robot and then created a small flower for the robot to spot. Once more, students added their own creative twists to the code.

It was a great lesson on building and coding!

This class we learned: 

  • How to use the WeDo software
  • How to create from Lego pieces
  • How to code using visual programming (the WeDo software)

Things to keep in mind for future activities: 

  • Students picked up the software very quickly! Next time we can be more ambitious with the lesson plan