Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (or STEM) might seem like the sort of subjects taken on by middle and high school students. After all, these areas help us describe how the physical world works and can be very complex. However, it's never too early (or late) to introduce someone to STEM topics. You just have to pick the right material and have the right tools for the job.
Introducing younger children to electrical and mechanical principles is at the heart of several companies' educational products. Here, we'll take a look at three of these.
littleBits is a series of easy-to-use electronic building blocks that allow students to create an electronic circuit with almost any number of components attached along the way. The Bits snap together with built-in magnets, which are placed so they only go together one way. No worries about short circuits or shocks and there's no wiring or soldering. You don't have to be a programming wiz to use littleBits but some products are available that allow students to explore these avenues too.
Kid Spark Education produces a line of building/modeling blocks (called ROK Blocks) that fit together on each side of their cubic structure. They allow students to build models that are completely stationary, have moving parts, are mobile, or any combination of these. Some packages include motors, power sources, and controls, while others contain programming modules as well. These products demonstrate the cross-overs between mechanical and structural engineering creations with mechanical and electronic engineering ones.
Makey Makey is a tool that illustrates the power of conductivity, circuits, inputs, and outputs. The device connects a computer
with a series of clips which are attached to an electrically- conductive objects. By touching these and completing a circuit, a keyboard or mouse-click input is received by the computer. This is translated into one of a number of outputs, depending on the program being used at the time. Some of the combinations can be as strange as they are amusing. If you've ever wanted to play a bunch of bananas like piano keys, Makey Makey is the product for you!
These are only some of the STEM products appropriate for all grade levels. For more information on these and other STEM education products, have a look around Learning Labs' page or contact us directly for more information.