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Maximizing the M in STEM

In many schools and classrooms, STEM is simply the new science. In many of our workshops and site visits, we deal with science teachers who seem to have become responsible for the STEM initiatives in their schools. At ProjectEngin, we remain committed to the idea that the E is the key to connecting many subjects. But we always try to include as many disciplines as possible in our curriculum materials. Here are a few ideas for developing some Engineering projects that lead from the other end of the acronym. They start with math and connect to science through Engineering Design projects and activities.

  1. Packaging Design – volume, geometry, 2D to 3D spatial awareness, artistic design, costing, environmental impacts, forces

Packaging is all around us and, in many cases, it has an enormous environmental and economic impact. We have projects for grades 4-12, ranging from 3 -10 classes in length. Most of them challenge students to design more environmentally friendly and cost efficient packaging.  In addition, they provide a platform to work on the spatial reasoning skills that have been found to be so critical in supporting success in math. Here are a few resources to get you started thinking about an M-based Engineering project.


  1. Assembly Lines and Rate Studiesrates, planning, optimization, human factors, product design

We use assembly line projects for a variety of reasons, ranging from the study of rates in math classes to developing an understanding of protein synthesis in biology. Setting up a mini-assembly line requires thinking about production rates of various operations and consideration of possible bottlenecks. It also involves a lot of collaboration and communication.  Finding the optimum production plan with limited resources provides options for a range of graphing and data analysis activities. We also use this project for more social studies-oriented activities related to the Industrial Revolution and current issues involving manufacturing conditions throughout the world. We like to start our projects out with a fun video, like this classic: Lucy in the Chocolate Factory !


  1.    The Power of Graphs – data analysis, visualization, artistic design, wide range of        science and social studies issues

Numbers and images are universal ways of communicating.  This is a skill that has become increasingly relevant in the age of Big Data. Our projects focus on the idea of using the Engineering Design Process to create a mathematically-based platform for creating awareness of a topic or issue.


Asking students to engineer an infographic or a bubble chart, reflective of the work of Hans Rosling, provides the basis for a great STEAM challenge. By selecting a topic related to science, such as health or climate issues, you can truly connect all of the letters in the acronym.

Embracing a STEM culture in your school offers amazing potential. But if you hope to realize its true value in creating a new learning experience, it needs to be more than the “new science”. You can start by maximizing the M. And remember, as we like to say, “E is the key” to content-rich, skills-based learning!


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