The Importance of Exploration

Though most STEM teachers know the importance of letting students explore, it’s usually the students who struggle with “exploration”. We are living in a world where students get immediate feedback whenever they make decisions, so they’ve come to expect it, and they’re so afraid or failing that they don’t want to take the next step without knowing what will happen.

Challenge your students or your children to experiment, to explore, and yes, to make mistakes. Challenge them to have a very broad idea of what to expect. If you need to, explain that things like the microwave, silly putty, and even Viagra were invented by mistake, as their inventors were trying to create something else.

Challenge them to answer their own questions by exploring. Whether that means the adult not answering questions for a 30-minute period, or just leaving the room (parents, this option is more for you since teachers wouldn’t be allowed this luxury), push them to find their answers by doing things themselves. One more important piece of the exploration puzzle is keeping a log or journal of what they’re doing. Have them record their hypotheses, their observations, their discoveries, their successes AND failures (very important to experience both), all conclusions, and how they came to each conclusion. This journal should include sketches and ideas, and it should probably look a bit sloppy and disorganized. The idea if for them to develop a strategy and see if it works.

We have created a list of STEM Challenges especially geared toward exploration.

STEM Challenges

Anyone who has been a teacher or a parent knows how difficult it is to keep a child (of any age) focused on school when they’re excited about something. Whether that something is a holiday, a party, or a break from school, our challenge as the adult is to keep the kids occupied and focused. With that in mind, we have put together a list of STEM challenges that can be used in situations such as these. We will continue to add to this list, so come back frequently to check for new ideas.

Encourage the students to explore by reminding them that there are no wrong ways to do things (although you should always explain safety precautions before doing any any of these). If the students are old enough, encourage them to keep a log of their ideas and findings, including any hypotheses they may have, as well as sketches and notes of successes and failures (both are important!). If students are younger, encourage them to draw pictures of what they expect and then what they actually see.

Density Challenges
Steve Spangler
Younger Elementary Density Exploration
Will Sodas Sink or Float?
Neutral Density Exploration (very little prep and few materials involved)

Building/Engineering Challenges
Build a Roller Coaster (easily adaptable to all ages)
Building Projects for Elementary (this could be adapted to older students as well by adding additional challenges: build a bridge that will hold a certain amount of weight; build a crate that will keep an egg intact when dropped from different heights; etc…)
Whose Bounces the Most Times?

Intro into Electricity/Electromagnetism
Simple Battery Motors
Simple Electromagnetic Train

If you know of any other challenges that are worth including on this list, please contact us and let us know.

2016 SeaPerch Competition Winners

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We would like to congratulate the winners of the 2016 SeaPerch Competition: Kye Lee-Smith, Eric Zhang, Brian Towne, Colby Patterson, Anna Wilson, Rachel Hamilton, Tommy Wilson, Sofia Trevino, Carmen Mendez, Cooper Williams, Christopher Hugo Escobar, Nathan Vipal, Christian Miller, Suraj Patel, Elijah Cantu, Dersh Bhakta, and Karthik Bhagavatula.

A huge thank you to Occidental Petroleum Corporation for sponsoring the awards for these students! Without industry partners like Oxy, we wouldn’t be able to continue to reward these hard-working students for their accomplishments.

2016 ISWEEEP Winners

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We would like to congratulate the winners of the 2016 The International Sustainable World Energy, Engineering, and Environment Project (I-SWEEEP): Jaewoo Heo, Vikram Pandian, Zury Cutler, Emily Huang, Vaishali Tikoo, Drew Provost, William Yin, Julia Riley, Arjun Menta, Sarah Carlson, Siddarth Eswarachari, Elena Young, Sai Sameer Pusapaty.

A huge thank you to Caterpillar for sponsoring the awards for these students! Without industry partners like CAT, we wouldn’t be able to continue to reward these hard-working students for their accomplishments.

2016 C-STEM Challenge Winners

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We would like to congratulate the winners of the 2016 Communications, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (C-STEM) Challenge: Patrick Frain, Emili Arnautovic, Kendall Maffet, Armon Alex, Derrick Ngo, and Nasario Trejo, Jr.

A huge thank you to Dixie Chemical Company for sponsoring the awards for these students! Without industry partners like Dixie, we wouldn’t be able to continue to reward these hard-working students for their accomplishments.

2016 NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Winners

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We would like to congratulate the winners of the 2016 National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) Aspirations in Computing: Isabel Li, Temitope Oyewuwo, Kanchana Raja, Asha Jackson, Paige Moore, Jacqueline Deans, Caitlin Lau, Uma Sethuraman, and Brittany Leslie.

A huge thank you to Fluor for sponsoring the awards for these students! Without industry partners like Fluor, we wouldn’t be able to continue to reward these hard-working students for their accomplishments.

2016 Science Engineering Fair Houston Winners

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We would like to congratulate the winners of the 2016 Science Engineering Fair Houston: Hina Akbar, Annie Zhang, Jenny Qu, Vidisha Ganesh, Akhil Majmudar, Andrew Liu, Smiti Gandhi, Maria Lopez, Adham Kassem, Hasnain Khan, Mujtaba Hussain, Brianna Lola, Katelynn Miller, Naail Lakhani, Shreyhas Yachamaneni, Abhinav Sinha, Sophie Hulett, Olivia Anderson, Esther Falokun, and Arya Kataria.

A huge thank you to Just Energy for sponsoring the awards for these students! Without industry partners like Just Energy, we wouldn’t be able to continue to reward these hard-working students for their accomplishments.

2016 All-Earth Ecobot Challenge Winners

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We would like to congratulate the winners of the 2016 All-Earth Ecobot Challenge: Rafael Elorza, Chris Frias, Jonathan Mejia, and the Glamour Bots.

A huge thank you to Golden Pass for sponsoring the awards for these students! Without industry partners like Golden Pass, we wouldn’t be able to continue to reward these hard-working students for their accomplishments.

2016 Energy City of the Future Winners

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We would like to congratulate the winners of the 2016 Energy City of the Future: Ryan Quach, Duncan Rowe, Nicholas Vaporciyan, Rohith Karur, Zack Donovan, Ian Hommel, Nicholas Keck, Mayeul Paul-Dauphin, and Shasi Pininti.

A huge thank you to Hess Corporation for sponsoring the awards for these students! Without industry partners like Hess, we wouldn’t be able to continue to reward these hard-working students for their accomplishments.

2016 Young Inventor’s Showcase Winners

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We would like to congratulate the winners of the 2016 Young Inventor’s Showcase: Wyatt Moncla, Chase Ojeda, Lamess El Beheary, Lola Rocha, Molly Fruehan, Amanda Huttenbach, Chris Limon, Lakshmi Sunder, Amber Kaul, and grand prize winners Karan Sura, Christopher Ho, and Adrian Ng.

A huge thank you to American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) for sponsoring the awards for these students! Without industry partners like AFPM, we wouldn’t be able to continue to reward these hard-working students for their accomplishments.