2020 MISF STEM Education Conference

1:00–2:30 PM | Wednesday, AUGUST 5

Explore Engineering through Experiential Learning Activities and Challenges

Melissa Huppert, Ph.D., Minnesota State Engineering Center of Excellence

The Minnesota State Engineering Center of Excellence is excited to share its newly developed Explore Engineering Kits and Curriculum for 3rd-5th and 6th-8th grade! This FREE curriculum is designed to inspire interest in engineering-related careers among students, increase educators’ self-efficacy to teach basic engineering principles, and support educators in teaching STEM principles through hands-on lesson plans, tools, and resources. Framed by the Experiential Learning Model, this curriculum is appropriate for in-classroom and out-of-school programs. The curriculum also focuses on Life Skills Development (e.g. teamwork, effective communication, critical thinking, problem-solving and creative thinking), Entrepreneurial Mindset, and Literacy. This is an excellent resource for all STEM educators!

Session Materials

Session attendees should have the following supplies accessible during the session, as well as a good dose of creativity!


  • Marble(s) or Small Ball
  • Tape (Masking or Painters is best)
  • Scissors
  • Scrap Cardboard (e.g. shipping box, cereal box)
  • An Assortment of Building Materials: (Not all are needed, just what you have available.)
    • Pipe Cleaners
    • Rubber Bands
    • Toy Car(s)
    • Dominoes
    • Random Household Objects
    • Random Kids Toys
Examples of Random Supplies

Presentation Slides

Sample Activity Resources

Reference Slides

Unit Terminology & Prerequisite Knowledge

  1. Simple Machine | A device with few or no moving parts that are used to help accomplish a task. They make work easier to do. 
  2. Types of Simple Machines | There are six main types of simple machines (include a diagram?):
    • Inclined Plane – is a flat surface that is at an angle to make a ramp. Examples include a playground slide and a ladder.
    • Lever – A long tool or bar that can be put under an object to lift it. It works with a fulcrum (an object placed under the bar) to lift objects. Examples include scissors, door handles, or see-saws. 
    • Wedge – two inclined planes connected together. They are used to force things apart or hold things in place. Examples include a shovel or a stapler or a push pin. 
    • Wheel and Axle – A wheel is a round object that rotates. It uses an axle (a rod in the center of the wheel) to make the wheel move. Examples include a bicycle tire or pizza cutter. 
    • Pulley – A combination of wheel and axle that works with a rope, cord, or chain to move objects back and forth or up and down. Examples include an elevator or window blinds.
    • Screw – An inclined plane that has been twisted. It moves it in a circle and allows movement from a lower position to a higher position but at the same time. Examples include an electric drill and the end of a light bulb.
  3. Machine Step | A Machine Step starts with the motion of one object and ends when that object transfers energy to another object, or in other terms, the step ends when the motion of the object causes another object to move. For example, a ball rolling down a ramp could be a step. If that ball rolls into a toy car, causing the toy car to move forward, that would be considered the end of the first step and the start of the second step. The second step could be the toy car going down a track and stopping on a leaver with the weight of the toy car causing the lever to initiate the third step. 
  4. Engineering Notebook |An engineering notebook is a book in which an engineer documents, in the order that it occurred, all of their work on a specific project.
  5. Motion | Motion is described as an object changing position with time. Advanced Related Terms: Distance, Displacement, Speed, Velocity, and Acceleration
  6. Description or Type of Motion | Observations about the type of motion or movement an object doing. For example, linear (in a straight line), rolling, bouncing, swinging, circular motion. Advanced Related Terms: Linear/Non-linear, Periodic/Non-periodic, Translational, Rotational, One/Two/Three Dimensional, and Uniform/Non-uniform
  7. Changes in Motion | When an object goes from one type of motion to another it is considered a change in motion. For example, a ball rolling down a track that falls to the floor and bounces would be considered a change in motion.
  8. Force (Balanced versus Unbalanced) | Force is the push or pull on an object that can cause it to go into motion or change motion. Balanced force is when the push or pull on an object is the same on both sides and does not cause motion. For example, when the same amount of push (or force) is applied to both sides of a box, it will not move. Unbalanced force is when the push or pull on an object is not the same on both sides and causes the object to move. For example, when a ball is pushed on one side causing it to move.
  9. Predictive Motion | Motion that can be predicted based on observations or measurements. For example, predicting where a ball will roll based on the observations of the track it will roll down, predicting the pattern of a see-saw going up and down or a swing going back and forth, or predicting how one object will move when hit with force from another object.

Engineering Design Process

Showcase & Reflection Reference Slides

Discussion Reference Slide

Contact Information


Director of Program Development and Evaluation

Minnesota State Engineering Center of Excellence
131 Trafton Science Center North
Mankato, MN 56001