Engineering in Lower School

Engineering in Lower School

Natural Engineers

Children are natural-born engineers, fascinated with taking things apart to see how they work and putting them back together, perhaps in a new or unique way.  At St. Michael’s we are working to bring out that intuitive engineer in the classroom through STEAM challenges and using the Design Thinking Process. 

Engineering activities are based on real-world technologies and problems, helping children see how math and science are relevant to their lives and can be applied in a real-world setting.  The engineering design process redefines failure; instead of being a negative it becomes an important part of the problem-solving process and a positive way to learn.  Equally important with these activities, is that there can be many solutions to one problem; with no single “right” answer in engineering all students can see themselves as successful.

Dream Big at the Boston Museum of Science

Our 3rd and 4th grade students visited the Boston Museum of Science to explore their engineering exhibits and to watch Dream Big, a movie focused on " the exciting, creative, heroic realm where the optimists of today are creating the life-saving, world-altering marvels,". 

The Movie

The project is so big, it is more than a movie—it’s part of a movement aimed at bringing engineering into the forefront of our culture. Dream Big is the first giant-screen film to answer the call of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) initiative, which aims to inspire kids of diverse backgrounds to become the innovators who will improve the lives of people across our entire planet as we head into the 21st Century and beyond. That’s why the film will be accompanied by ongoing educational, museum and community efforts to expose young people from all backgrounds to what engineering is…and what it can conjure in the world. From the Dream Big website.

Dream Big aims to educate students on the inspiring work of engineers around the globe, igniting in them a passion for engineering at an early age that can carry through their school years and beyond.  We also want our students to understand how engineers work together to solve the major challenges of our time and shape the world of today and tomorrow.
— Norma Jean Mattei, ASCE 2016 President

What makes a Bobsled go fast or slow?

At the Echo Base Bobsled Design Challenge, students were tasked with using recycled materials to design, build, and test a prototype bobsled. The 3rd and 4th graders had to consider the impact of friction, gravity, and air resistance on acceleration, making modifications as necessary.  The time to beat was 1.09 seconds and technology teacher Ms. Lipinski put St. Michael's on the leaderboard with her design, setting a new Museum bobsled record of 1.08!

Engineering at the Rhode Island Museum of Science (RIMOSA)

The 1st and 2nd graders visited RIMOSA for their engineering experience.  RIMOSA’s mission is to awaken curiosity and increase independent learning, creativity, and innovation in kids 8 and up – and adults, too!  We want to help kids become creative problem solvers that can examine and understand the world around them.  This mission is accomplished by encouraging the exploration of science through art, and art through science, with interactive exhibits, educational programming, performances and participation in music, dance and theater, informal discussions, and other museum events.  (excerpt from

RIMOSA Engineering Activities

Fuller Forts: What makes a house, a house?  What parts are needed and for what reasons?  There are non-traditional houses such as geodesic domes, underground houses, and yurts, and then there are the more standard models.  Students were challenged to use tubes and boxes as giant tinker toys to build their own forts. They also could use fabric, chairs and books to build other structures, big enough for them all to sit in!

Flight Tube: Students experimented with the movement of items in turbulent air. A variety of objects could be tossed in the open top or fed in through a space at the bottom with students predicting it it would spin, float, sink or fly in the wind.

Marble Roller Coaster:  Students were given a selection of materials, including flexible track and dominos with which they could make their own Rube Goldberg machine or simply a marble roller coaster.

Classroom engineering activities encourage students to work in teams, building their collaboration and communication skills; skills which are critical for success in any field.  Through these activities, students become more aware of the diverse opportunities in engineering, science, and technical careers, broadening their options as future possibilities. Our students will continue their engineering studies in the upcoming weeks in the classroom.

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