After School STEM Project

By Rachel Miller


Do you have a kiddo who just *needs* to know how things work?  A kiddo who loves to tinker and take things apart?  They would love STEM activities. STEM activities are a way to learn hands-on the emerging concepts from Science, Technology, Engineering and Math fields to create something. After school STEM activities are both great at helping kids develop critical thinking skills but also are a ton of fun!

We took principles that are being taught in the Sylvan Edge classes and applied them to create a train. Without realizing it, your kids will learn about electric polarity, what can cause a short circuit (and what the effects of that are), and how an open circuit is also a bad idea, all while creating an electromagnetic train.

After School STEM Project_1

Supplies Needed:

  • 1 – AAA Battery
  • 6-8 disc shaped Neodymium Magnets
  • 10+ feet of Copper Wiring (must be bare, uncoated, and roughly 20 gauge)
  • Thick Marker

Science Project Instructions:

Take the copper wire and wrap it tightly around your marker, spooling the wire to make a giant thin “slinky” like snake from the wire.  Try to be consistent and not have gaps or bends in your wire “snake”.  Set the copper snake aside.

Separate the magnets from each other – be sure to not put the magnets in your mouth.  Make two equal sized piles of the magnets.  Gripping each set in a different hand tightly (these magnets are STRONG), move the magnets closer to each other.  If they “pull” towards each other flip one of the magnet stacks over and move your hands together again.  You want the magnets to repel each other.  This is called repulsion.  For this experiment to work you will want to put the battery between the two “repelling” stacks of magnets.  Your battery with the magnets on it’s ends is your “train car” – and the copper snake is the track.

Lay your snake out on a flat surface and put the battery train into the tube.  What happened?  If the battery did not “go” through the train pull it out and flip it around.  What does it do now?

After School STEM Project_2

Critical Thinking Skills.

Here are just a few of the dilemma’s that we came across while we were building our train.  My son had to use critical thinking skills to find out why our train had issues and come up with solutions to get it working again.

If your train has an open circuit your train will sit there and buzz.  This means that the copper wires are too far apart for the train to go, try either straightening your tube out or re-wrapping it so that it is more tightly cinched.  If your battery is getting hot, this is because it is short circuiting.  This means that the positive side is connected directly into the negative side of your battery… i.e. the wires are crossed in your tubing.