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With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing many schools to shift away from in-person instruction toward a remote learning environment, the challenge of maintaining student engagement takes on increased significance. This is especially true in courses that involve STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).
When taught in a traditional in-person setting, STEM courses combine education in the theoretical treatment of the subject (gleaned from written material as found in textbooks) with the practical treatment of the subject (developed via hands-on work from labs, experimentation, and the use of instruments and materials). When shifting to a remote learning environment, the techniques for educating students on the underlying principles of a subject are much easier to transfer successfully than are the more practical hands-on aspects.
To help fill this gap, we have identified some resources that may be used to provide students at the high school or college level with practical hands-on projects that they can perform which will help them supplement their education in STEM subjects.
The resources below contain a mix of different potential project ideas, many of which can be performed from home with a minimal need to purchase special suppliers or materials. Other projects from the resources below, especially those at the college level, will likely require students to make some investment in materials, components, and equipment that would not usually be found in the typical household. These are higher level projects that normally would be accomplished in a college lab class, possibly in a collaborative group setting, under the guidance of an instructor or advisor.
High School Student STEM Project Resources
Below are STEM resources that provide project ideas suitable for high school aged students.
The Science Buddies website provides a full selection of different science projects suitable for high school students to explore STEM subjects. The site allows users to filter by the subject, such as earth & environmental science, life science, or math and computer science, and also to drill into these subjects to choose a more specific area. For example, within engineering, choices for subtopics include civil engineering, electricity & electronics, energy & power, environmental engineering, materials science, mechanical engineering, robotics, and space exploration.
There is also filtering available to choose the grade level desired for the project, and to narrow projects based on preferences with regard to the duration of the project, the cost of the project, and the availability of materials.
When a specific project is viewed, additional details are provided such as a background for the project, the specific material needed, and the procedure to follow to complete the project. The site also provides variations that you can apply to customize the project and has a help section with FAQs.
The creation crate website has a variety of kit style projects suitable for a younger student, but a page on their blog contains more advanced projects such as ones around the subject of mechanical engineering.
Here you will find a mix of projects of varying complexity from simple to sophisticated. On the lower end of the complexity scale is a project such as building a robotic arm from cardboard and some zip ties. Intermediate level projects include building a high-altitude weather balloon complete with data logger powered by the Arduino open source IDE (Integrated Development Environment) that runs from your computer. At the higher end of the complexity scale is a project to build a self-balancing robot that avoids obstacles and stays upright and balanced even when carrying a load. This project is also built using the Arduino IDE platform.
In addition to presenting valuable content to educate students in science, tech, and math, the ThoughtCo.com website also has a webpage of ideas for engineering science fair projects. These projects are not fully developed into procedural form, and therefore will require the student undertaking them to do some independent research to further define the scope, process, and approach needed to make the idea into a project that can be successfully executed. It is, therefore, more suited to a higher-grade level and to students who aren't easily frustrated by having to define their project rather than executing an already developed process.
Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which is a federally funded research and development center that is administered and managed by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), has a series of classroom activities, labs, and problem sets that cover STEM subject and which relate to space exploration.
Filters on the activities webpage allow users to filter by the activity type, subject focus, grade level, and specific topics within the general subject area. Details on each activity include an overview, materials needed, background for understanding the activity, and procedures to follow.
The range of topics is fairly broad and includes:
- Computer Programming
- Earth and Space Science
- Electricity & Magnetism
- Heat & Thermodynamics
- Light & Optics
- Physical Science
The STEM-Works website has a project section dedicated to activities that can be done at home. These science projects are geared toward high school students and younger ages and include projects focused on extreme weather, medical innovations, robotics, space, video games, robotics, and wind energy. Activity pages provide additional details on how to perform the project or task. Some of the activities are virtual using interactive software.
The Exploratorium website site contains a variety of activities for high school students and younger children. The science projects are called “Science Snacks” and are teacher-tested activities that use inexpensive, readily available materials. The topics covered include astronomy and space sciences, biology, chemistry, earth science, engineering and technology, environmental science, physics, and mathematics.
On Sciencing, there is a section for science projects that goes up to the ninth-grade level. The project topics include biomedical engineering, chemistry, biology, and forensic science. Their other articles also have instructional videos.
College Student STEM Project Resources
Below are STEM resources that provide project ideas suitable for college students or advanced high school students.
For those studying electrical engineering, the electronicsforu.com website has a page of 30 Electrical Engineering Project Ideas that can help students create functioning circuit boards and develop their understanding of digital and analog circuits.
Each project shows a brief description of the circuit’s function or the problem being addressed and contains a link to a project page that shows the full details of that project . The details include schematic diagrams, component parts lists, logic circuit tables, descriptions of circuit operations, assembly guidance and downloadable PCB and component layout diagrams.
Some examples of the projects include:
- Dual Axis Solar Tracker System
- 5V DC To 48V DC Converter for Phantom Power Supplies
- High-Impedance Audio Buffer With JFET
- PIN Diode Based Fire Sensor
- Plus Minus 5V Supply From 9V Battery
- Infrared Motion-Sensing Relay Switch
- Low-cost LPG Leakage Detector
- Auto Power Switching Mains, Solar Inverter or Generator
- Signal Generator and Inverter Using NE555 Timers
- Configurable RS232 to TTL to I2C Adapter
PhET Interactive Simulations
The University of Colorado at Boulder hosts PhET Interactive Simulations, which offers a series of interactive simulation programs that utilize software programming and graphics to allow students to explore fundamental principles of science and mathematics through a virtual laboratory simulation on their computers. For example, a simulation on the ideal gas law allows the student to pump gas molecules into a closed chamber and then observe changes in pressure and temperature as heat is added and removed or the volume of the chamber is altered. You can also vary the particle size of the gas molecules and count the number of collisions of those molecules with the chamber walls for a given period.
Over 150 simulations are available to explore and cover subject areas, including Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Earth Science, and Biology. Filters permit the user to narrow results by subtopic within the general subject areas by grade level, which includes University level topics, and by software compatibility. Some simulations require Java or Flash, while others will run on standard HTML browsers. Language options are also available to suit users from different locales.
On Instructables, users upload different projects they have completed, along with guides and videos. While there are a variety of categories covered on the website, the circuits related projects feature some that an electrical engineering student could implement at home. After creating an account, users can download PDFs and ask other users questions about the projects. There are also classes available that cover topics such as 3D printing, CNC, and electronics as well as some more general interest topics including workshop, sewing, craft, cooking, design, and projects for kids.
The GeeksforGeeks website has coding projects suitable for college-level coders. Users can pick a project by program, which includes C++, Java, and Python projects. There are also online courses that students interested in computer science can take.
Code.org contains an at-home project ideas page that offers a variety of coding projects, including web page development, gaming, and app lab, game lab, sprite lab, and drawing. Students can get hands-on experience with coding and learn by taking classes online for free.
The interesting engineering website has a page of 12 electrical engineering projects that will help students expand their knowledge of the design, control, and maintenance of electrical equipment. The projects are described in brief but are not fully detailed, so the student will need to perform research and work up their designs, bills of material, and then build and test the project, which explains why we have placed this in the more advanced STEM project resources section.
This article provided a look at some STEM-related project resources that could be used for remote schooling of high school aged and college students. A variety of resources are available, which range from well-defined projects with materials and procedures already in place to project ideas that require more creative design thinking and project development.
To learn more about STEM-related topics, visit Thomas Insights, where you can find articles about current trends in business and industry including STEM initiatives.
Enjoy more free STEM resources from Thomas as we celebrate Manufacturing Day 2020.
As we move on to the next post, may I add that geoFence is the solution for blocking NFCC countries.