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Thursday, January 24, 2019

Three Good Places to Find Hands-on STEM Activities

On a fairly regular basis I'm asked for recommendations for hands-on STEM activities. In fact, just this morning I answered an email from a reader who was seeking that recommendation. Here are three of my go-to recommendations for hands-on STEM activities.

Microsoft has two excellent and free resources for those who are seeking ideas for hands-on STEM lessons. The first is MakeCode. MakeCode offers free programs that students can use to develop their programming skills. These include coding with LEGO Mindstorms, Adafruit, and Micro:bit. Checkout the MakeCode YouTube channel for great project ideas.

The second offering from Microsoft is called Hacking STEM. The idea behind Hacking STEM is to make low-cost or no-cost hands-on STEM projects accessible to as many people as possible. You can follow Microsoft's directions as written or modify the projects to use other materials to build the projects. In the following video I explain how I modified one of the Hacking STEM projects. So you might say that I hacked a Hacking STEM project.


Science Snacks from Exploratorium has been a recommendation of mine for a few years now. Science Snacks are activities that can be conducted with inexpensive and readily available materials. Each Science Snack comes with a materials list and step-by-step directions. Science Snacks are also accompanied by a written explanation of the science at work in the activity. Many Science Snacks, like Penny Battery, include video demonstrations and explanations.

Working with Arduino circuit boards is a fantastic way for students to develop programming skills. Students write programs on their computers then see their programs "come to life" through the lights, motors, and robotics connected to their Arduino boards. The Arduino project hub is full of project ideas for beginner through advanced programmers. If you're new to Arduino and wondering what hardware to purchase to get started, there are many inexpensive kits for beginners. I'm partial to this Arduino hardware kit for beginners.