Full STEAM Ahead: Engineering Projects for Kids of All Ages

Written by Lou Duggan Creative Studio staff, Central Library

Engage with Engineering

Whether you know it or not, engineering affects your everyday life! Odds are you’re sitting on a chair that was engineered, reading this article on a laptop was engineered, all while sitting in the comfort of your own home that was... you guessed it, engineered!

So, what is engineering? Engineering is the process of designing and building products, structures, and systems by applying math and science. Ultimately, engineers solve problems with their inventions. 

There are many different branches of engineering: civil engineers design buildings and roadways, mechanical engineers design cars and wind turbines, and electrical engineers design computers, laptops, and cell phones. However, at the heart of all engineering disciplines lies the design process—and you can learn the design process at home through these fun exercises and projects. Once you master the design process, you can begin applying it to your everyday life. You’ll start asking more questions, like “How can I complete my chores faster?” and “What is the best way to do this task?” 

1. Robotic hand

What do you have in common with a robot? Well, just like a robot, you move in a mechanical way. Our bodies are made up of complex cells and tissues, but the way we move is rather simple. Our muscles contract, or pull, on our bones to create movement. Build your own Robotic Hand, opens a new window to see just how machine-like our bodies really are!

2. Craft stick catapult

Make your own Catapult with craft sticks, duct tape, and rubber bands. Start by building your ideal catapult and fire away. How far does it throw projectiles? How high? Think about how you might be able to make it throw objects even farther, then implement those changes into your design and see if you were right! If you keep applying this process you will eventually end up with THE BEST possible catapult for that material you’ve got.

3. Toothpick bridge

Learn about the design of structures by building your own bridge, opens a new window out of toothpicks and craft glue. Start by looking at pictures of bridges online and observe the shapes used in their design. Then, grab some markers and graph paper and start dreaming up your own bridge design. What shapes will you use to make your bridge strong? 

4. Marshmallow challenge

Compete against your family members in the Marshmallow Challenge, opens a new window, where you’re tasked with building the tallest freestanding structure using just spaghetti, tape and string. There’s just one catch - your structure must support a single marshmallow and the very top. Gather the materials,split up into teams, start the timer, and start building! When you’re finished, record the height of your tower and then watch this video as a group. Take what you’ve learned from the video and try the Marshmallow Challenge again...were you able to build a taller structure?

5. Tinkering project: Toy take apart

Do you have a bunch of old toys lying around that just never get used anymore? Believe it or not, each one of them represents a new learning opportunity! With the help of an adult, follow this Toy Take-Apart Guide, opens a new window to figure out how your favourite old friends work.