STEM Expeditions

STEM Expeditions® is a dynamic initiative tailored for students in Grades 6-9, emphasizing hands-on project work within a cloud-based multimedia platform. Alongside collaborative student engagement, the program features digital logbooks for progress tracking and customizable assessment tools for educators.

STEM Expeditions® Grades 6-9 Titles

In A Closer Look, students learn about the classification system and explore different types of small single-cell organisms using a microscope. Their challenge is to use a small lens to create a microscope using a camera from an electronic device such as a cell phone or tablet. The microscope is used to gather data after a disaster.

Essential Question:

How can we help disaster areas recover to healthy living conditions faster?

In Ahead of the Game, students learn how athletes have increased in size, strength, and speed; how equipment protects them; and how new equipment is needed to continue to protect them. They use the engineering design process to create a vehicle to safely transport and protect an egg during a crash.

Essential Question:

What is the best way to absorb the energy of contact in sports?

In Artificial Ecosystems, students explore the environmental impact on plant growth cycles using different growth methods for a scientific research company. The company does small-scale experiments using terrariums to conduct research for companies that are interested in long-term space exploration.

Essential Question:

What changes in the number of organisms covering Earth affect our environment?

In Beyond Earth, students examine the bodies of our solar system and their interactions with one another. Students also determine the needs of a permanent Mars colony, construct a scale model of a Mars colony, and use evidence to justify their decisions.

Essential Question:

What is necessary for us to arrive at and establish a permanent colony on Mars?

In Bio Research, students assist in the design of a store’s new outlet by helping the owner make decisions about genetically modified produce. Students research biotechnology, evaluate sources of information for validity, and make recommendations for the store justified by valid evidence that he or she has collected.

Essential Question:

How should genetically modified organisms be labeled and displayed in a store?

In Body Blueprint, students learn about the levels of organization in living organisms. They study the body’s systems and how they work together to keep a person alive. The engineering challenge involves building a model of a human’s lung and diaphragm system and then using this knowledge to determine design requirements for an artificial human lung.

Essential Question:

How can pollution affect my health?

In Building Bridges, students work as civil engineers for the Plan-it Span-it bridge construction company while exploring types of bridges and the roles civil engineers play in the design and construction of bridges and other projects. Students work through the stages of the engineering design process as they design, plan, construct, and test a model balsa bridge using given specifications. Students also learn how to use equipment designed specifically for building the model as well as techniques to improve the design.

Essential Question:

What is the best bridge design for spanning a distance?

In Communications, students learn the essential elements of a communications system, create a simple communications system, complete several types of drafting sketches, learn about fiber-optic transmission systems, and engineer a communications system.

Essential Question:

What is the best way to transmit a signal in a communications system?

In Contraptions, students explore how simple machines are used to accomplish work. Students conduct an experiment to see how energy and work are conserved when using simple machines. Working together, students explore the six classical simple machines, the use of simple machines throughout history, modern applications of these ancient devices, and how the mechanical advantage of these machines affects the effort required to perform a task. The Expedition culminates with the Siege Machine Challenge in which students engineer a siege machine that is made up of two or more simple machines.

Essential Question:

What is the best way to use simple machines to make work easier?

In Creative Composites, students learn about the different types and uses of composites as well as create and test various composites to determine their resistance to deflection. Students design and create a composite material that they think best resists deflection and provides the lightest weight.

Essential Question:

What materials are best combined to create a strong, yet lightweight, composite beam?

In Cultivating Our Future, students investigate factors that affect agricultural food production in America. They explore the concept of sustainable farming, how technology has changed agriculture in the US, and modern trends related to urban farming. Students start a radish garden and make observations of the garden at different stages of growth. They also engineer and test a greenhouse that meets certain construction requirements.

Essential Question:

What is the best way to increase the quantity and quality of America’s food supply?

In Design Time, students participate in a contest for the Time Town Clock Shop. Students use the engineering design process to develop a new clock and then create a plan to market it to potential customers. They learn the four key components of a marketing program: products, promotion, price, and distribution. After completing the marketing plan, students share it with a public audience.

Essential Question:

What is the best way to bring a technology to market?

In Dragster Design, students follow given specifications to design, build, and test a CO2 dragster. Students test different axle materials to determine the axle with the least friction in an attempt to create the fastest dragster.

Essential Question:

What is the best material to use for a CO2 dragster axle to reduce friction and produce the fastest dragster?

In Electric Tech, students participate in a training program for a stage lighting company that invents new types of lights. Students learn about the basics of electricity; different ways to wire an electric circuit; and how electrical properties of a circuit, such as voltage, current, and resistance, are related to one another. They complete their training by engineering a new light circuit for the company.

Essential Question:

What is the best way to wire a circuit?

In Engineering Rockets, students work with a partner to compete in one of three rocket engineering challenges: soaring to the highest altitude, carrying a payload to the highest altitude, or achieving the longest flight time. He or she follows the engineering design process to design and build a rocket that meets the given challenge constraints and specifications. During the design process, students apply knowledge gained about aerodynamics and the forces that act on rockets. While competing in the challenge, students use properties of triangles to calculate rocket apogee. After the competition, they evaluate the rocket’s performance and make design improvements.

Essential Question:

How are models useful in the engineering design process?

In Everyday Electricity, students explore the basics of electricity and electrical circuits. They learn about charged particles and use a Van de Graaff generator to investigate the fundamentals of static electricity. Students learn about basic circuit schematics, wire a simple circuit, and wire series and parallel circuits to investigate how voltage, current, and resistance behave. Using Watt’s law, students calculate the power and work required to keep electricity flowing through the circuit. The investigations culminate with a circuit engineering activity in which students must design a circuit that meets certain requirements and specifications.

Essential Question:

What is the most efficient way to transmit electricity?

In Flight Dynamics, students work as an assistant for a student competition company. Students use aerodynamic principles to design and build a motorized paper airplane for a flight competition. Utilizing data from experiments and trial flights, they create the best possible plane and then design a fair competition based on the results.

Essential Question:

How can aircraft be designed for most efficient flight?

In Fueling the Future, students explore energy terminology; learn about the sources and types of energy; and determine the characteristics of renewable, nonrenewable, and perpetual energy. Students investigate several sources of alternative energy, explore combustion engines, perform a fermentation experiment, and develop ideas for sustainable fuel sources to be used on a hypothetical island.

Essential Question:

What fuels can be used to replace fossil fuels as the major source of energy?

In Future Footprints, students explore environmental issues and examine cases with disastrous outcomes. Considering the need for alternative available energy sources, students experiment with methods that could be used in the absence of current solutions. They complete activities and conduct experiments related to green living and living without electricity and consider what they can do to become more environmentally responsible.

Essential Question:

What can we do to become more environmentally responsible?

In Get a Grip, students test potential polymers to be used in developing a prototype that will help rock wall climbers grip holds better. Observing chemical and physical changes as well as exploring characteristics of natural and synthetic polymers will provide opportunities for students to better understand the world of polymer science.

Essential Question:

How do synthetic materials affect our lives?

In Growing Up, students consider vertical farming as an option for providing fresh produce in their school. After exploring ecosystem-related and building subsystem standards, students design a possible vertical farm system for their school.

Essential Question:

How can growing crops indoors affect future food production?

In Innovating Solutions, students learn about the processes used to develop new ideas, inventions, and innovations including problem-solving models, the engineering design loop, and the Universal Systems Model of technology. Utilizing these processes and critical-thinking skills, students solve problems and challenges from simple brainteasers to an engineering design competition. They also explore the roles and relationships among the fields of science, technology, and engineering in developing new inventions and innovations.

Essential Question:

How are the processes and strategies of invention or innovation useful for creating new products?

In Looks Like Rain, students build instruments to measure changes in weather conditions. Using data from observations, students predict weather events with reasonable accuracy. Also, they develop a response system that can be used in extreme weather situations.

Essential Question:

How can human behavior be affected by weather predictions?

In Making Waves, students explore the properties of sound waves including frequency, wavelength, and amplitude; discover how the ear interprets sound; and experiment with a variety of waves. Students design and create a tunable music instrument with a unique sound.

Essential Question:

How can I make a tunable music instrument with a unique sound?

In Mining Mechanics, students explore the theory of continental drift and how the geologic boundaries between plates result in uneven distribution of minerals on Earth. Students also work with a heavy hydraulic digger to determine a system that optimizes the moving of material for a mining operation.

Essential Question:

What is the most efficient way to mine materials?

In Optical Solutions, students use optical devices such as lenses and mirrors to manipulate light waves. Using knowledge of optics, students help plan, build, test, and improve a 3-D movie viewer for a smartphone or small mobile device.

Essential Question:

What are the most useful applications of optics?

In Rolling Robots, students work as robotics drive engineers for the Fleet Robots corporation. Students learn how and where robots are utilized, explore gear arrangements to change the speed of a robot, and assemble a robot with metal beams and plastic connector pieces.

Essential Question:

What is the best way to arrange gears for proper movement of a robot?

In Safe Food, students work as assistants to a state health official to learn how the food in the food supply is tested and how to prioritize resources for food testing. Students learn about food chemistry by completing comparison studies of the six major nutrients and also investigate the digestive processes, both mechanical and chemical, in humans and how it works to deter foodborne illness. They discover how bacteria and other contaminants can cause food poisoning and learn safe food practices. The Expedition culminates with students developing new guidelines for the state health official.

Essential Question:

How should the safety decisions about food and food supplies be prioritized?

In Theme Park Physics, students explore the physics of amusement park rides, especially the role energy plays in causing these rides to be fun yet safe. They design roller coasters and other rides to determine the relationships between potential and kinetic energy.

Essential Question:

What makes a ride fun, yet safe?

In Thermal Physics, students work as employees of a box manufacturing company to design and create a container that minimizes temperature change in order to ship a temperature-sensitive product. Students learn about temperature, heat, and the different ways heat is transferred. Students also conduct an investigation to discover how heat transfer is affected by the type of matter and the mass of a substance and determine the energy changes that occur based on the temperature differential.

Essential Question:

What is the best design for a shipping container to minimize heat loss or gain?

In Tower Power, students work as civil engineers for the Tower Up construction company, exploring the purposes of towers and the roles civil engineers play in the design and construction of towers and other projects. They work through the stages of the engineering design process while designing, planning, constructing, and testing a model balsa wood tower using given specifications. Students also learn how to use equipment designed specifically for building their model as well as techniques to improve the design.

Essential Question:

What is the best tower design for a cell phone tower?

In Transportation Stations, students work as assistant logisticians. They explore how transportation technology has changed throughout history, determine how loads affect vehicle speed, and use logistics to participate in a challenge. Two different gear ratios are used to show differences in speed. The challenge enables students to test predicted and actual transportation times.

Essential Question:

How can new transportation technologies affect product availability?

In Urban Wind Farm, students work as assistants to an architect specializing in tall buildings. Students investigate how wind energy can be converted to electricity by designing wind farms for tall buildings. The project can be extended so students can design and build a site-specific installation using their wind generator.

Essential Question:

How can a tall building use wind energy to provide its own electricity?

Career Expeditions Grades 7-9 Titles

In the Artistic Communication Expedition, students explore career pathways in the Arts, A/V Technology, and Communications career cluster by completing activities related to video storytelling. Using information from the activities, students develop a plan of study for a career of their interest.

Essential Question:

How do career opportunities in the Arts, A/V Technology, and Communications cluster impact my future choices?

In the Mechanical Makers Expedition, students explore career pathways in the Manufacturing career cluster by completing tasks related to robotics. Using information from activities, students develop a plan of study for a career of their interest.

Essential Question:

How do career opportunities in the Manufacturing cluster impact my future choices?

In the Now Hiring Expedition, students explore the 16 career clusters and related occupations. They complete skills evaluations and interest inventories to identify careers that might be suited to their particular interests and abilities. They then develop a four-year educational plan for high school related to career pathway choices.

Essential Question:

How do career opportunities in the different career clusters impact my future choices?

In the Remote Aquabotics Expedition, students work with an underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV). They demonstrate the correct operation of an ROV and also inspect and assess the ROV operation. They make adjustments to the ROV to complete presented tasks as well as explore careers in the STEM career cluster. They then develop a four-year educational plan for high school related to career pathway choices.

Essential Question:

How do career opportunities in the STEM cluster impact my future choices?

In the Special Delivery Expedition, students explore career pathways in the Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics career cluster by completing tasks related to shipping. Using information from activities, students develop a plan of study for a career of their interest.

Essential Question:

How do career opportunities in the Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics cluster impact my future choices?

In the Top Dog Architecture Expedition, students explore career pathways in the Architecture and Construction career cluster by completing tasks related to truss construction and testing. Using information from the activities, students develop a plan of study for a career of their interest.

Essential Question:

How do career opportunities in the Architecture and Construction cluster impact my future choices?

In the Under Pressure Expedition, students work with a basic hydraulic system. They demonstrate the correct operation of a hydraulic system and also inspect and assess the hydraulic system operation. They design and construct a fluid reservoir for the hydraulic system as well as explore careers in the Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources career. They then develop a four-year educational plan for high school related to career pathway choices.

Essential Question:

How do career opportunities in the Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources cluster impact my future choices?

In the Vital Signs Expedition, students learn to properly take and record vital signs using digital medical equipment, specifically temperature, pulse, oxygen levels, respiration rate, and blood pressure. They learn to fill out various medical forms related to patient care as well as explore careers in the Health Science cluster such as radiological technicians, certified nursing assistants, MRI technologists, registered nurses, physical therapists, and hospitalists. They then develop a four-year educational plan for high school related to career pathway choices.

Essential Question:

How do career opportunities in the Health Science cluster impact my future choices?

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