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According to OnlineEngineeringPrograms.com, “nearly all subfields of engineering are expected to experience growth between 2018 and 2028.” With that in mind, we must prepare students for STEM-related careers. And, with summer right around the corner, what better way to keep learning than with STEM engineering activities for Middle School students.
Here’s a list of Middle School STEM projects you can do with students of all levels. We’ve found a mix of 3D printing ideas, robotics, and coding projects to satisfy many engineering disciplines.
Give these engineering activities a try! They’re a few steps beyond “Spaghetti Towers,” and if you’re feeling a little uncertain or overwhelmed, you can always leave a comment below!
STEM Engineering Activities for Middle School (All Levels)
These engineering activities for middle school are designed for students (teachers, and parents) of all backgrounds.
You don’t need any experience with coding, computers, or tech to follow these project guides. You will need some previous experience with hand tools and creativity! But, that’s the beauty of working on STEM projects! They’re designed to be a little challenging and a lot of fun!
1. 3D print a Water Sprinkler
One of the fun parts about summer is that the weather is hot and there are a ton of outdoor water activities that you can do.
Rather than buy a sprinkler at Target or Walmart, try 3D printing one. This is a great way to get students thinking about science without making it a “science lesson.”
Remember when your mom used to cover broccoli in cheese so that you’d eat it? Well, this is just like it!
Students will enjoy the process of learning how to use a 3D printer. Plus, you can expand on the existing CAD files to create unique designs. Once the sprinkler is done printing, students can test it out by having fun running through the sprinklers they made!
2. 3D printed Sundial
Continuing with our 3D printing motif, another cool engineering activity is 3D printing a sundial. A sundial is an instrument that shows the time by using a shadow from the sun.
There are plenty of templates and designs for sundials on Thingiverse.com. You may have to do some calibrating to make the sundial work for your part of the world; however, it is a cool activity that students will have a lot of fun building.
3. Launch bottle rockets
3-2-1, Blastoff! What better way to spend a hot summer day than launching off bottle rockets! First, connect an air pump to a 3D printed bottle mount. Then, attach a plastic soda bottle to the base. Pump air and watch the bottle fly!
This project can be combined with topics in aerodynamics or you can make it a competition by seeing which bottle flies the highest/farthest. There’s a lot of room for customizations leaving the door wide open for creativity.
4. Grow your Food
If gardening is your thing, then how about designing a 3D planter to grow your food!
Students can use free 3D modeling tools like TinkerCAD and Fusion 360 to customize the planter design. Then, add some seeds, soil, and water, to start growing plants. Combine this project with the temperature and humidity probe, and you can have the start of a “smart garden.”
Intermediate STEM Projects for Middle School
These STEM projects for middle schoolers are designed to be a bit more challenging. I recommend some background in (or willingness to learn) coding, electronics, and technology.
If you are a beginner but want to eventually build projects like these, we have an online coding and circuits course that can help you gain these skills quickly, without the confusion or frustration of learning it by yourself.
1. Collect and display temperature readings
As an add on to your “smart garden.” you can create a device to monitor temperature, humidity, and moisture. Wire up the circuit, create some code and then add this prototype to your plants to keep them happy and healthy. Learn how to build this device, here.
2. Light Following Robot
For students interested in robotics, challenge them to make a robot that moves towards sunlight. This can be done by building an array of photoresistors and checking to see which side of the array reads the highest brightness. You will need a background in electronics (voltage dividers) and programming, but it’s an interesting project for future engineers! Find the project guide, here.
3. Lemonade Dispenser Stand
Nearly every budding entrepreneur finds themself selling lemonade at one point or another. This engineering activity puts a spin on the traditional lemonade stand, by building a motorized lemonade dispenser. Enhance the customer experience at your lemonade stand by allowing people to “dispense” themselves a drink.
All you need are a few DC motors, switches, a battery, and some cardboard to build a lemonade dispenser. You can make this project more advanced by integrating an Arduino or Raspberry Pi and building an App that allows customers to “order” mixed lemonade drinks. Cool, right?!
Advanced Engineering Activities for Middle School
In this section, you can find a list of advanced engineering activities for middle and high school students.
These projects combine electronics, coding, automation, 3D printing, soldering, and systemic-thinking. I recommend trying these activities if you’re looking for a long-term, multi-months activity or a family project that you can expand on.
1. Solar Powered Weather Station
Create a Solar Powered Weather Station that you can add to your yard or outside the classroom. This weather station runs completely from a Solar Panel and Battery. The main controller is a Wemos D1 Mini (Arduino), that sends data information to a Cloud App (such as Thingspeak or Blynk).
Once it’s built, you can connect to a webpage and view metrics such as Air Temperature, Humidity, Battery Voltage, and Location. There’s a lot of lessons to be learned with this project, plus, you get a cool technical device once you finish building it!
2. Build and fly a custom drone
In this engineering activity for middle school students, you’ll 3D print components to create a custom drone. In this engineering activity, students will learn the fundamentals of CAD modeling and how to use a flight controller. By the end of the project, you’ll have a drone that you can fly outside and make adjustments to. If you wanted to take this project a step further, you could add a camera and build a drone for photography.
3. Arduino Telescope
Who doesn’t like stargazing during Summer? This next STEM project ties in programming, electronics, and astronomy for the next generation of NASA scientists (lol).
There are a few different ideas on how to add Arduino to astronomy: create a Go-To telescope or a Star Finder. Both of these projects include the math and code behind how stars are located in the sky. If you have children or students interested in Space, this is a nifty way to apply computer science, math, and electronics topics.
4. Ice Cream Bar Robot
And, finally, we all scream for Ice Cream! It’s not officially Summer until you’ve dripped ice cream down the front of your shirt. (Yep, we’ve all been there!)
If you don’t own Lego Mindstorms, this project can be adapted to use Arduino and a linear slide system. For those of you who are more advanced, it’d be cool to create an Ice Cream Bot App where users can select the toppings they want and the robot will make their Sundae.
The possibilities are endless here, so I encourage you to brainstorm different ways of making this better. And, who knows. Maybe you can replace the traditional lemonade stand with the robotic ice cream bar concept!
Just be sure to invite me over once you have it working!
Summer Doesn’t Have to Be Boring! Engineering Activities Can Help!
No matter if you’re interested in tech or you’re just trying to curb boredom during the summer months, these middle school STEM projects can help!
These STEM projects are designed for students of all levels and backgrounds, so you should find projects that will appeal to a broad audience.
Which of these projects do you plan on making? If you have ideas be sure to leave them in the comments below!