Society of Women Engineers

STEM Activities

Agricultural Engineering - Create a Worm Habitat

Caucasian and Asian elementary school students are studying earth worm and plants in earth science class. Boys and girls are wearing private school uniforms and are amazed by earthworm. Mature adult Caucasian teacher is sitting at desk while teaching them.

By integrating technological principles into food growing and processing, agricultural engineers help farmers produce larger crop yields while improving sustainability.

Agricultural engineering is involved with the food production chain, from developing seeds to designing and testing farm equipment. They also optimize transportation and storage. 

Agricultural engineers work with production facilities, equipment design, food engineering, physical and chemical properties of materials, soil science, plant biology, organic chemistry, climatology and atmospheric science, waste, and water management and the sales and services within the agricultural industry. Now let's get started on creating your own worm habitat!

What You Will Need

  • One 2-liter plastic bottle
  • One small plastic water bottle (16 oz)
  • Scissors
  • One cup of sand
  • Two cups of soil
  • Two earthworms (purchase from bait shop, garden store, or online)
  • Piece of cheesecloth to cover top of bottle
  • Rubber band or string to secure cheese-cloth
  • “Worm food” – veggie or yard scraps work best. Food waste that is too salty or contains a lot of acidic remnants like tomatoes and citrus can kill worms. No meat!
  • Brown paper grocery bag
  • Spray bottle

The nutrients in soil can impact what crops we grow, and how well they grow. Farmers, with the help of agricultural engineers, maintain soil quality in many different ways. Although they often go unnoticed, earthworms play a significant role in our lives. 

Agricultural biodiversity is a broad term that includes a variety of animals, plants and microorganisms, at the genetic, species and ecosystem levels, which are necessary to sustain key functions of the ecosystem, its structure and processes. As decomposers, worms have the important job of recycling waste material into nutrients that plants can use to grow and provide food for people and other animals.

We’re going to build a small worm habitat to allow us to observe this behavior, and explore how changes in available food impacts worm behavior. 

  1. Use scissors to carefully cut the top off of a plastic two-liter bottle.
  2. Put the empty, small plastic bottle inside the center of the two-liter bottle. While one person holds the small bottle in place, another person should pour alternating layers of sand and garden soil into the space between the wall of the small plastic bottle and the two-liter bottle until it is about two-thirds full.
  3. This design will keep the worms near the interface of the soil and two-liter bottle wall so we can see them. Do not pack the soil down, it should remain loose so the earthworms can easily burrow through.
  4. Use a spray bottle to squirt enough water onto the soil to make the layers damp but not soggy. Do this as you build the layers up.
  5. Earthworms like their habitat to be dark. Cut a strip of brown paper bag that can be taped around the habitat to keep the light out.
  6. Sprinkle your selected earthworm foods on top of the soil and gently place two worms on top. Cover your earthworm habitat with cheesecloth and secure with a rubber band.
  7. Place your earthworm habitat in a cool, dark place for two days before uncovering the paper cover to observe earthworm behavior.
  8. Replenish habitat with food and dampen soil as needed every few days.
  9. Continue with 7 and 8 for two weeks while recording your observations. Wen you’re done, release your worms into the wild!

Each time you uncover the paper cover from your earthworm habitat, record the following observations:

  • Date and Time
  • Conditions of the habitat (water, food, etc.)
  • What foods did earthworms eat from the last time you fed them?  
  • What foods remain uneaten?
  • What food did you provide today, if any?
  • Can you see the worms? If so, describe their location in the habitat.
  • What evidence is there of worm activity?
  • Draw what you think the world would look like without worms.

Marine Engineering - Build An Aluminum Boat

SWENext_EngineeringActivity_BoatImage_1

What causes something to sink or float? How can engineers help explore and protect the ocean? Marine engineering refers to the engineering of boats, ships, and other marine vessels or structures as well as related equipment.

Marine engineers design and build things which will operate in water. That can include water craft like boats, barges and submarines, equipment that will be used on the water craft, steering and anchoring technology. This includes how the boat will look, the equipment on board and how everything works together.  They also need to make sure that the vessels are safe and comfortable places in which people can travel and work.

All these things have to be able to cope with the demands of a watery workplace, and marine engineers are the experts.

What You Will Need

  • Aluminum foil 12”x12” sheet (heavy duty works best)
  • Popsicle sticks
  • White glue
  • Straws
  • Masking Tape
  • Pennies
  • Bathtub, pool or sink in which to test your design

We’re going to be Marine Engineers and design a boat to carry cargo (pennies) while being as cost effective as possible.

Buoyancy is a net upward force caused by displacement. A boat displaces a certain amount of water based on its weight and shape. If the weight of the boat is less that the weight of the water it displaces, it floats! If the boat weighs more than the water it displaces, it will sink.

We want to design a boat that will carry the most pennies. Think about different boats you have seen. What is the same about them? How are they different? Is it better to have a small bottom and tall sides, or a wide bottom and small sides?

SWENext_EngineeringActivity_BoatImage_2

Take some time to look at your materials and decide on your design then start building! You don’t have to use all the materials. Using the cost of materials below, calculate how much your design will cost.

Lumber (popsicle sticks)                             =$50 each

Sheet Metal (aluminum foil                       =$25/sheet

Welding Materials (glue)                            =$50/ bottle

Reinforcement (straws)                              =$25 each

Cable/rope (masking tape)                        =$10/inch

Once your boat is built fill a large bowl, bathtub or sink with water. Float your boat and add pennies one at a time until your boat sinks.

How many pennies did your boat hold? Did it tip over? Did it fail completely or was there one part that didn’t work very well?

Can you modify your design to be more cost effective or carry more weight? Redesign and try again!

STEM Activities For Summer 2020

800-Pool_Cropped

The school year is over, and the summer fun is just beginning! Here are some really cool STEM activities that you can try out at home with your family this summer!

Make Your Own Ice Cream!

All you need is:

  • Ziplock Baggies
  • Ice
  • Cream
  • Sugar
  • Optional flavors like vanilla, fruit, or cocoa powder
  • Your muscles... there will be a whole lot of shaking!

With your parent or guardian’s help, check out this tutorial. What flavors will you invent?

800-IceCream_GettyImages-1153411309

Design and Build a Fort!

800-Fort_GettyImages-661556654

These fort ideas take blanket forts to a whole new level! With your parent or guardian’s permission, gather materials from around the house to build your very own, unique fort!

Have a Mystery Engineering Bag Challenge with your Family!

800-STEM_GettyImages-611751296

Get your siblings, or whoever is on your Quaranteam to join you on some cool engineering games! You can have your parent or guardian help gather the materials needed. Some of the items might be around your house!

Your parent or guardian can help you create a bag full of tools that you and whoever you are playing against can use to build things like a catapult or a marble run.

With your parent or guardian’s help, check out this site for inspiration!

Build Your Own Circuit and Learn about How Electricity Works!

title STEM Activities -One of my favorite activities I got to do as a kid is the Science Fair. An experiment I really enjoyed was building my own circuit. I used:

  • A D battery – Some people use AA, too.
  • A lightbulb – A small LED lightbulb like the ones used on holiday lights will work well here
  • Copper Wires – If you don’t have copper wires, aluminum foil can work
  • Alligator clips – Bare aluminum paperclips can also be used
  • Electrodes – I used metal rods, but nails will also do the job
  • A beaker – You can use a glass mason jar or something similar

In my experiment, I tested different types of liquids like vinegar, orange juice, or milk to see if they could conduct electricity. You could try something similar, too!

With your parent or guardian’s help, you can design your own circuit! Here are a few different ideas!

Watch this video to learn more about electricity. Be sure to be safe when doing your experiment so you don’t get shocked!

Other Free Resources to Stay Sharp This Summer!

  • Bill Nye the Science Guy: watch episodes about STEM experiments and play STEM games.
  • PBS Kids: check out some cool educational games and activities.
  • NASA Kids’ Club: lots of games, missions, and learning activities.
  • Khan Academy: stay sharp with lots of school-related activities, lessons, and games.
  • Ask Dr. Universe: explore and learn about how everything works, find coloring pages, and more!
  • Hooda Math: lots of math and strategy games, video tutorials, and movies.
  • Tynker: free online coding classes and games.
  • Nova: learn about rockets, Leonardo DaVinci’s inventions, and much more!
  • STEMWorks: learn about cool jobs in STEM, genetics, wind energy, and try out some fun STEM activities!
  • Code.org: learn to write a real app or game!
  • ComputerScienceOnline.org is an in-depth website for potential and current students considering a career with computers, software engineering, and more. For more information about pursuing a career in computer science or in anything related to tech, please visit: