143 science and STEM projects

caliThis is one of my favorite finds – thanks Cheryl!  Great for rainy days or about any days.   If you only find one out of the bunch that you can use then it’s worth your time – – but my bet is you’ll find a dozen or so that fit your teaching methods and ages.

Mostly elementary through middle school, but adults like many of these too.

Each one has a short VIDEO and full instructions with color photos for building and use.   From the nice folks at the  Watsonville Environmental Science”Workshop.


or just http://www.cswnetwork.org/projects

Science Toy Maker

This guy is a middle school teacher.  His site has about 40 carefully-selected science toys that can be easily made for cheap or even free.  Each one has instructions, images, and most have videos and animations.   Everything is explained which makes YOU look like the expert!


Class-opener demos for any age (almost) from the Exploratorium

The Exploratorium in San Francisco is literally the mother of the modern hands-on inquiry musems (we have five of them here in Oklahoma!).

They have oodles of resources for science teachers and here is one:  Over 100 quick demonstrations and activities.   Some require advance  preparation and some do not. They call them “Snacks”.


Toys from Trash – 100’s of cheap and easy activities.

This is a wonderful science education site from India.   There are literally several hundred easy little toys to make from paper and other scraps.   He does not go deeply into the science of each however you, the trained professional, could easily have them modify different variables and you have an instant STEM, STEAM, or EDP activity.

Many of them also have short videos.   Don’t overlook the opportunity to teach cultural diversity as the language, etc are slightly different from here in rural USA.

With several hundred activities you could literally have one per day – as if you had THAT kind of time!

Appropriate ages?  Use your professional judgement.  Most are intended for upper elementary but with the proper presentation I have used some up to grades 9, 10 and even in college!   When working with the little ones though be aware of safety hazards.


Put Put Boat, the miniature Steam Engine

It’s called the pop-pop boat, the put-put boat or putt-putt boat because that’s the sound it makes, as it putters around the bathtub or pond.   That is also how you can search for images, plans and videos on the internet.  Put-put boats have been around for generations.

Basically, you build a small boat-shaped model.  This can be as complex or as simple as you wish.  Then, you put a tea light or votive candle in it with the engine.  The engine is simply a piece of soft copper 1/8″ tubing with a single loop or two in it.  Above is one made from a soft plastic bottle and here is a fancier one


Let some water run into the tubing, float your boat and light your candle, and wait for it to putt-putt about.

How’s it work?  Here are the principles..  Gases expand when heated but liquids do not.  Gases contract mightily when cooled but liquids do not.  Copper conducts heat.  Now, when the candle heats the copper loop (with some water in it already) the water turns to steam, the steam pushes out, the boat makes one “putt”.  (Newtons’s 3rd law of motion).  When the coil is out of steam, the aft part cools, water is sucked back up, where it is heated, and the process repeats.

These toys are cheap but more fun to build yourself.  The most important trick is safety around an open flame (fire extinguisher within arm’s reach?), followed by using copper tubing instead of other materials.

I have used these from 7th grade on up (way up!).  You can also have regattas or boat races!  The trick here is to have them go in a straight line – that can be a contest in itself.  I have even put a small wading pool in the classroom for a week’s worth of put-put boats and small sailboats races and experiments.   Do NOT use the inflatable kind!  Have a small pump to drain the water into the sink drain when you are finished and you are good to go.  Mop up your own mess and have chocolate for the janitorial staff to make up for the stress they quietly nourished while watching your pool for the week.

You can quickly find your own links but here are some of my favorites:

http://sci-toys.com/scitoys/scitoys/thermo/thermo.html#boat  How-to, plus he sells boats and parts.

http://www.sticksite.com/putputboat/     Very nice plans for cutting and building these boats using aluminum pop cans.   A little more complex though.

http://www.sciencetoymaker.org/boat/index.htm   A complete site for putt-putt aficionados, complete with galleries, etc.

http://www.nmia.com/~vrbass/pop-pop/  A pop-pop boat page.


Fun with electric motors – 2

Here is an even easier, quicker motor to build.  It is more for older kids though, and safety goggles are absolutely necessary!   This little sucker takes less than a minute to assemble and gets up to thousands of RPM’s in a hurry.  If it comes apart (and it easily can) at that speed it might send that woodscrew flying, hence the goggles.

The critical part is the little neodymium magnet.

You usually have to give it a spin to get it started.

Look at this link for instructions, then search the internet for some more pictures, videos, or  instructions.   http://www.evilmadscientist.com/2006/how-to-make-the-simplest-electric-motor/    Search for “world’s simplest electric motor”


They are so easy to build, you can almost do it from the picture alone.


Physics workshop for all levels – elementary and up

Professional Development Opportunities for Teachers:

  • 2012 AAPT/PTRA ToPPS II: Designed for In-Service Oklahoma Teachers of Physics and Physical Science, this professional development opportunity is a 5-day summer institute (with 2 follow-up sessions during the 2012 – 2013 academic year).  This is a very “hands-on,” “minds-on” professional development opportunity.  Those seeking to enhance their students’ learning in physics and physical science are encouraged to apply!
  • Details:

o   Summer institute runs July 9 – 13that the Alva campus of Northwestern Oklahoma State University

o   $600 stipend ($400 at end of 5-day summer institute; $100 for each follow-up session)

o   Free instructional/curriculum materials endorsed by AAPT (American Association of Physics Teachers)

o   High-tech and Low-tech equipment used

o   This year’s topics: Energy, Momentum and Impulse

o   Total of 40 hours of professional development (30 in July, 5 at each follow-up session)

o   Free on-site housing (if staying in dorms)

o   Website:  www.nwosu.edu/ToPPS

o   Participants may enroll in 3 hours of graduate EDUC, PHYS or PHSC credit to apply toward an advanced degree

o   A $100 refundable check will be required of applicants (checks will be returned at the close of the summer institute)

While this PD opportunity is designed for HS physics teachers, MS and ES teachers may also apply.  We are fully aware that science teachers wear many hats, and we want to encourage teachers of all grade levels to consider this opportunity.


Please let list members know that they can contact me directly if they have any questions.


Thank You!



Steven J. Maier, PhD

Chair, Department of Natural Science

Associate Professor of Physics

Northwestern Oklahoma State University

Science Building 107-B

709 Oklahoma Blvd.

Alva, OK  73717



580.327.8562 (o)

580.327.8556 (f)

History of Oklahoma Highways

Today seems to have evolved into an Oklahoma History theme.  Fine, let it go in that direction then.  Here is another one of Wes Kinsler’s sites that I have used often. This one is about the history of Oklahoma Highways.  It’s good for armchair traveling, either down the highway or backwards into time.


Oklahoma Bridges

A photographic history of bridges throughout Oklahoma, and some discussions and diagrams of the various kinds of trusses. Especially useful for students working on a balsa-wood bridge for Engineering Day!  The pages “Bridge Design” and “Oklahoma Bridge Types” would be excellent required reading for these students.