Fostering STEM

Make these school holidays fun with these awesome STEM challenge cards from THE JAMES DYSON FOUNDATION (JDF).

Designed by Dyson engineers, these cards provide an educational and engaging solution for parents. Now more than ever JDF’s mission is to inspire the next generation of engineers, designers and scientists.

The JDF Challenge Cards provide the perfect opportunity for children to explore science, technology and engineering, using readily available equipment from around the home. With over 40 cards to choose from, the cards are an excellent way for parents to keep their children occupied and unleash their inner inquisitive minds. Who knows where these first steps in STEM may lead!

Spaghetti Bridges

The brief:
Construct a free-standing bridge out of spaghetti, strong enough to support a 200g bag of sugar.

The method:
Think about bracing strands together for strength. Some shapes are better at absorbing loads – triangles are particularly strong. Rubber bands make for good junctions. 

Top tip: 
Be patient. Through trial and error, you’ll become proficient at working with spaghetti.

Materials: 

  • Spaghetti 
  • Small rubber bands or bag ties 
  • Tape 
  • 200g bag of sugar

How does it work?
Bridges manage two important forces: compression and tension – pushing and pulling. Too much of either and they buckle or snap.

Balloon Car 

The brief: 
Make and race a balloon-powered car. 

The method: 

  1.  Using scissors, carefully cut the cup in half lengthways, to create the car body. 
  2.  Using a pencil, poke two sets of holes through the length of the cup. One set near the top of the cup, and one set near the bottom. Poke another hole through the bottom of the cup. 
  3. Insert a straw through each set of holes. Then, slide the spools of thread or lid wheels onto each end of the straws. 
  4. Wrap a rubber band around the end of each straw; these will keep the wheels from sliding off. 
  5. Push the neck of the balloon through the hole in the bottom of the cup. The balloon should be lying inside the cup. Make sure the hole is big enough to let the air out. 
  6. Blow up the balloon, place on a hard surface and release.

Materials: 

  • A balloon 
  • A paper cup 
  • Two plastic drinking straws 
  • Four spools of thread (or drink lids with holes in them) 
  • Four small rubber bands 
  • Scissors (with adult supervision) 
  • A pencil

How does it work?
The balloon-powered car is an excellent example of Newton’s Third Law. If object A pushes on object B, object B pushes back on object A with the same amount of force. The force of the air leaving the balloon pushes the car forward.

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