Current Topics Covered in Mr. Russo's STEM Curricula

6th Grade Curriculum

Intro to STEM/LEGO Activity

The Importance of Directions

Spark your students creativity with a fun and engaging LEGO activity! One of the issues we face as teachers is having our students understand the importance of directions. We’ve developed an activity that connects to the real world and exposes the consequences of not following directions. Students are tasked with analyzing a LEGO structure and creating their own directions. Then they must exchange their directions with another group and try to build the structure with a bag of pieces and the instructions provided. It’s not as easy as it seems!

STEM Lesson Design Focus
Engineering Principles
Design Process
Student Choice

Balloon Rockets: Intro to Data & Inquiry Based Learning

Making Them Fly & The Vertical Climb

Every year we introduce an activity that uses the principles of propulsion and friction with a slight heir of mystery. Students are presented with a set of materials (straw, string, balloon, scissors and two pieces of tape) that they use how they see fit. Their goal is for their balloon hit the center of a target 10ft away, three times in a row.  They have to draw up a plan and create their invention. Once they are finished, they have the opportunity to test their design and collect data so that they may make modifications if any issues arise.

STEM Lesson Design Focus
Engineering Principles
Design Process
Student Choice

Force, Motion, Friction & Average Velocity

Constructing Balloon Cars

Building off of the previous actiivty, students continue to explore the affects of friction and instead of measuring it’s effects, they will utilize it in order to create a balloon car that will stop after traveling a specific distance (25ft). New concepts are introduced such as circumference (to measure the size of the balloon), propulsion, average velocity (for measuring the relationship between the distance traveled and the speed of the car) and wheel & axle (simple machines). There’s a lot to cover here, so this lesson is broken into three steps, to make sure students can not only grasp all of the concepts, but utilize them to create their own balloon car design, and fulfill the goals of the activity.

STEM Lesson Design Focus
Engineering Principles
Design Process
Student Choice

Magnetic Levitation: Magnetism and Opposing Forces with Cars

Building Maglev Vehicles w/ 5VDC motors

We have been measuring and utilizing the affects of friction, but what happens when we remove friction from a moving object? Students are tasked with measuring the affects of a frictionless vehicle by creating a car that uses magnetic levitation and a varying power source to identify changes in acceleration, magnetism and opposing forces. They will use the formula for average velocity they learned in the previous experiment to measure the displacement and time of their Maglev vehicle.

STEM Lesson Design Focus
Engineering Principles
Design Process
Student Choice

Constructing Straw Rockets (Part 1) : Measuring the affects of Aerodynamics and Wings

Aerodynamics and Rocket Wings

In the beginning of straw rockets, students are introduced to the basics of aerospace engineering through constructing their own rocket to be aerodynamic. Students are given a standard method of construction, but are able to modify it and implement their own design choices in their rockets. In order to keep a constant, all students must examine how air flow, drag, and pressure affect its movement.

STEM Lesson Design Focus
Engineering Principles
Design Process
Student Choice

Constructing Straw Rockets (Part 2) : Changing the Length and Mass of the rocket

Measuring the Affects of the Rocket's Length and Mass

After grasping the affects of their rockets aerodynamics and wings, they continue to make changes to their initial design, experimenting with the length and mass of their rockets. Students are introduced to the triple beam balance and measure the mass of their clay with slight changes of weight and length. Students are given the opportunity to change the angle and pressure of the rocket as well, but this is not mandatory. Average velocity makes a return in order to aid students with finding the best design for a rocket that can travel fast and achieve a distance of 30+ feet.

STEM Lesson Design Focus
Engineering Principles
Design Process
Student Choice

Straw Rockets (Part 3) : Engineering Challenge

Rocket Engineering Challenge

For the final activity, students are challenged to use everything they have learned to create two rockets with varying lengths that travel exactly 27ft. They are given the opportunity to analyze past launch data from the last two experiments to determine what should be the precise weight, length, angle and lift of each rocket to reach the same target.

STEM Lesson Design Focus
Engineering Principles
Design Process
Student Choice

Constructing Simple Machines in VR

Constructing Simple Machines with Fantastic Contraption (V1, V2 & VR)

Students were previously introduced to Simple Machines in the Balloon Car activity (wheel & axle) but not all types. Using the original flash games Fantastic Contraption 1& 2, students create and explore simple machines on laptops, trying to solve simple problems with their own inventions.

This is a great alternative to introducing simple machines through memory, but instead students discover them through the creation process. Unfortunately FC 1& 2 were discontinued online because of their flash requirement, so I have created and compiled the game as a EXE program that can be used on any computer running Windows. You may download my versions by clicking the icons below!

While students are discovering and creating inventions using the provided software, each student gets the opportunity to physically build a large simple machine in VR using the HTC Vive. I have found that using the software & VR in tandem has not only helped with information retention on Simple Machines, but creates a positive experience building, creating and discovering that students carry with them throughout their time in STEM.

STEM Lesson Design Focus
Engineering Principles
Design Process
Student Choice
Fantastic Contraption Downloads: Custom Software & VR Link

Flowchart Programming with Ozobot EVO

Learning to Code without a Computer

Under Construction!

This activity is NEW and in development for the 2019-2020 school year! Once the lessons have been thoroughly tested and optimized for classroom use, I will make sure to update the exact plans for implementation here!

Check back soon!

STEM Lesson Design Focus
Coding Principles
Design Process
Student Choice

Advanced Robotics with Sphero SPRK+

Coming Soon!

Under Construction!

Originally a mini unit intended for 7th grade, all activities are being changed and re-focused for 6th grade use! These activities are NEW and in development for the 2019-2020 school year! Once the lessons have been thoroughly tested and optimized for classroom use, I will make sure to update the exact plans for implementation here!

Check back soon!

STEM Lesson Design Focus
Engineering Principles
Design Process
Student Choice

Building their First Computer with Kano

Computer Construction & Programming Five Games with Syntax

Students will construct their first computer (using a Raspberry Pi 3) daily and learn about how a computer works! Within the Story Mode software, students will be asked to program five different challenges, each with their own levels of progression:

  • Program your own version of Pong
  • Program your own version of Snake
  • Create Art Designs using Python Coding Language
  • CMD line Adventure game (Terminal Quest)
  • Hacking Minecraft with Code

Kano is a fantastic way of closing out the year and having students use all of the programming skills they’ve learned throughout the year to program their own games on a computer they’ve built!

STEM Lesson Design Focus
Engineering Principles
Design Process
Student Choice

7th Grade Curriculum

Intro to Nets & Spatial Reasoning in 3D Models

Exploring Portal 2's Puzzle Maker & Geometrical Scavenger Hunt

Grasping the concept of Spatial Reasoning is no easy task. The best way for students to understand the concept is by experiencing and using it! Utilizing the video game Portal 2, students can begin to grasp the concept by using two dimensional geometric shapes in the map editor to craft three dimensional renderings and models. After using the map editor, students are tasked with the geometrical challenge! They will have to not only create specific geometric shapes digitally, but also physically with limited materials.

STEM Lesson Design Focus
Engineering Principles
Design Process
Student Choice

8th Grade Curriculum

Understanding Game Design

Close Analysis of Board Game Mechanics & Creating Engaging DLC

Did you ever want to make your own game? The best way of starting is to analyze the design process, mechanics and details that go into making a game. Our students analyze board games (just as they are used in most universities for analysis in their introductory courses) by gathering information on three different games inner workings as well as developing additional content that’s mechanics and art style fit the game’s theme.

STEM Lesson Design Focus
Game Design Principles
Design Process
Student Choice
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