Cool Designs from NYC Spring Family Science Sessions

This spring, New York City studio ran four different 5-week Family Science sessions with our partner schools. In these sessions, families learned about Electrical Engineering, the Engineering of Transportation, and Biomimicry and were able to work together to build models based on different design challenges. We had a lot of productive learning experiences and amazing designs come from these sessions, so I wanted to share a few of them here.

First, let me briefly talk about the general components I saw in many successful Family Science designs. At these sessions, the engineering concept was taught in a way that allowed for open-ended creation, contained models that kids of all ages could be a part of and products that we were able to test for real-life situations. Ultimately, I think that Family Science designs that did not allow for variation or that needed families to follow formulaic steps did not tend to facilitate deep learning experiences for our participants.

Okay, enough about the theory—lets talk about some cool designs!

Propeller-Powered Vehicles Capable of Flight: For this Engineering of Transportation design challenge, families were asked to build a propeller that uses torque to power the balloon in vertical flight. Participants were able to draw upon their knowledge of helicopters and other vehicles, like ships, that use propellers to create their own models (hopefully) capable of flight. This design was fun for families because they were able to easily test the success of their design—how long could it stay in the air? Then, redesign was fun and immediately impactful. We had multiple designs that created a propeller-operated system able to stay in the air for more than 10 seconds!

Electronic Sensor System: This Electrical Engineering design challenged families to build an electronic sensor system that is activated by movement. Participants had to understand circuitry and work to connect those components into a responsive system. This was a fun design because of the variation in products. One student created a suit that lit up when he put his hand on his chest; another created a system that lit up when her dog ate a treat from the model.

Basilisk Lizard Tail: Families participating in the biomimicry course were asked to build a creature that imitated the basilisk lizard’s structure and was able to run over water. This challenge was particularly fun for kids of all ages because the materials and design components were highly accessible. Most models required taping, wrapping rubber bands, and cutting—tasks that even young children enjoy doing. Plus, even the youngest of kids were excited about creating systems inspired by animals. We tested these designs in the water and had a few that moved forward a bit without sinking!

I hope you enjoyed hearing about some of our designs. If you’re particularly inspired, remember that most of our models are built from materials that can be found at home. Go ahead and try to build a model of a bird’s wing or a vehicle that can travel through water (or visit for design ideas). Be sure to let us know how it goes!
1 reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *