4 FANTASTIC ENGINEERING FEATS TO VISIT

The Grand Canyon’s Skywalk

The sky walk is a horseshoe-shaped pedestrian bridge with a glass floor located in Arizona. The structure was commissioned and is currently owned by the Hualapai Indian tribe.

The Grand Canyon's Sky Walk is made of approximately one million pounds of steel and 83,000 pounds of glass. Some people within the tribe and others associated with the Grand Canyon worry that the project could negatively impact the sustainability of the area and the beauty of the canyon.

Shanghai World Financial Center

The Shanghai World Financial Center is a skyscraper that serves as offices, hotels, conference rooms, and observation decks. The structure is highly regarded for its design by architects and designers around the world. The trapezoid is made of structural steel and reinforced concrete and helps to reduce wind pressure on the 1,614.2 ft building.

The Falkirk Wheel

The Falkirk Wheel is located in central Scotland and helps to connect the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal.

Prior to the wheel, the two canals had been connected by a series of 11 locks. By the 1930s, these locks had fallen into disrepair and were removed in 1933.

In an effort to figure out a better solution to reconnect the canals and improve the connectivity of waterways in the United Kingdom, the Falkirk Wheel began to manifest as an option. Today, the wheel lifts boats 79 ft. It is the only rotating boat lift designed in this fashion and has helped to solve a major problem for that region.

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The Golden Bridge (Cầu Vàng)


This structure is a 490 ft pedestrian walking bridge near Da Nang, Vietnam. It is used to connect the cable car station to the gardens, but it also serves as a major tourist attraction to avoid the steep incline below. The bridge is relatively new and only opened in June of 2018.

It was designed by TA Landscape Architecture, a company headquartered in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

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How Statistics Affect March Madness

Surprisingly, statistics are all around us. Without many of us being aware, we use or are affected by statistics or statistical analysis almost on a daily basis.

Yet, during a certain time of year, all college basketball fans around the world go into statistical overdrive with the beginning of March Madness!

March Madness is the Men’s NCAA Division I basketball tournament. The tournament was founded in 1939 and has changed over the years to include more teams and schedule them to play each other based on seeding teams.

In scheduling teams to play each other, the tournament considers statistics from their performance throughout the season in order to “fairly” match teams up.

However, where the real statistics come in are with the fans. Families, offices, communities, and friend groups from around the country try to correctly guess the outcome of the 64 team tournament using statistics. Without using statistics, in the first round of the tournament alone, there could be 2 to the 23 possible brackets…that is 4,294,967,296 different outcomes!

With the use of statistics, fans are able to narrow down their chances of guessing the correct bracket significantly. Lots of fans build upon the foundation of the outcomes of past tournaments and trust the tournament official’s logic when it comes to seeding. For example, the #1 vs. #16 seed; the #1 seed has won 100%of the time against the #16 seed. Not to say there haven’t been close calls!

In addition, there are other historical outcomes that can help to narrow a bracketer’s choices such as the lowest see to win the tournament is a #8 seed.

Yet, past performance is not the only indicator that can be utilized to narrow down the pool. You can also look at the statistics associated with individual team’s performance throughout the year.

Some of those stats could include highest scoring team, fastest team, best free-throw shooting team, best 3-point shooting team, and all of the teams that rank lowest for those metrics.

While for some that is deep enough, others have gone deeper into this analysis to try and figure out the top 15 most important statistics for detecting upsets. The difference between those 15 statistics create a profile of past upsets. That profile is then applied to the current year’s bracket to identify the most likely upsets for this year.

A paper published in the American Statistical Association Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports was written by Sheldon Jacobson, Jason Sauppe, and Shouvik Dutta. The method the found explains a technique to detect potential upsets using a small number of publicly available statistics. This framework was named Balance Optimization Subset Selection or BOSS) and can actually be used in data associated with many areas of social sciences and medicine. To learn more about the collision of statistics, basketball, and this interesting new statistical framework, read more here.

Are you filling out a bracket this year? How do you plan to apply the ideas of statistics to making the right choice?

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Eliminate Waste Like An Engineering Using Lean

Industrial engineers use Lean all the time to systematically eliminate waste from a process. Lean is used by a lot of different engineering disciplines, but it is usually a core piece of the industrial engineering curriculum. It can be used with Six Sigma concepts, but we are just going to focus on Lean for now.

When using Lean to evaluate a process, the focus always remains on the customer value or what the end user sees as being valuable about the process. The focus of Lean is to eliminate all waste that does not help to achieve this customer value; basically “streamlining” the process.

Lean concepts took hold in the manufacturing business but are constantly being revamped and reused in new industries such as retail, food service, and software development.

There is a lot to learning Lean, but we are going to boil it down to 5 main steps. They may sound easy, but it can be difficult to appropriate complete each step of this process as all processes are different.

Step 1: Understand the customer value. It is critical to understand what the customer wants and what they perceive to be valuable at the end of the process.

Step 2: Map out all the steps to achieve the final product. List them or draw them in a diagram. This should include any step that is considered “wasteful”.

Step 3: Work to come up with solutions to eliminate waste within the process. Check out this post on muda to learn about the different types of waste.

Step 4: As the process changes, focus on pulling value from the upstream process step instead of pushing a product down the line.

Step 5: Continue looking in the process for ways to eliminate waste and to pull value from a previous step.

In our personal opinion, the hardest part of this process is creating a true pull system. It makes sense in manufacturing because you only want to create what you need (supply/demand) but when applying these ideas to every day processes, this can be difficult.

We hope you liked learning a little about the Lean methodology. It is a great tool to make a process more efficient.

Be sure to check out our other posts related to Lean tools to help you understand how they can be applied in your every day life!

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Famous Arches and Domes Around The World

Domes have a long presence in architecture and have been as far back as prehistoric times. They have been made of all types of materials and can be seen in many types of buildings from religious to governmental structures.

Arches have also been seen throughout history but especially starting with the Roman empire. They are seen in aqueducts, bridges, and famous structures.

Since arches and domes date back so far into the history of engineering and are such an important part of construction today, we wanted to share 3 awesome structures from around the world that contain arches and domes!


Interested in learning the engineering behind arches and domes? Check out our Growin’GEERS quest specifically covering the concepts by using the code FIRSTMONTHBLOG at checkout to get your first month of Growin’GEERS free!


Great Stupa at Sanchi

The Great Stupa is one of the oldest Buddhist monuments in India. It was built in the 3rd century BCE and many believe it is the final resting place for Buddha’s ashes. The center of the stupa is made of bricks but is now covered in stones. General Henry Taylor found the structure in massive disrepair during the Third Maratha War and restoration began in 1912 where it was restored to its present condition. Sanchi has numerous stupas, but The Great Stupa is one of the most recognizable and well-known in the region.

Pantheon

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The Pantheon is one of the best preserved buildings from ancient Rome. Though its true purpose is unknown, it is believed to have been used as a temple. Some also believe it was used as a place for the emperor to make public appearances. The dome itself is made of concrete and used to be covered in bronze. At the very top of the dome, there is an 8.8 diameter oculus that opens up to the sky above.

Arch of Cinquantenaire, Belgium

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Also known as Jubelpark, the Parc du Cinquantenaire contains the arch which was completed in 1905. The goal of the arch was to make Brussels beautiful. The columns separating the arches once divided three roadways as well, but the area has now been fully converted to a park for tourists and locals to enjoy. The interior mosaic was completed in 1932 to complete the project.

Gateway Arch, St.Louis, United States

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The Gateway Arch is a monument that was completed in 1967. The idea for the project began in 1933, and the final design was chosen through a design competition. There were many engineering challenges included in this project including moving a railroad track to ensure they did not ruin the views of the riverfront from the site of the monument.

Eero Saarinen was the architect behind the Arch, and an interesting component of the design is that the bases of each leg of the arch are triangles instead of squares. The monument is the tallest memorial in the U.S. and the tallest stainless steel monument in the world. The structural load is supported by a stressed-skin design and can sway up to 18 inches in either direction. Some serious mathematical calculations went into this design!


Check out our Growin’GEERS quest specifically covering these concepts by using the code FIRSTMONTHBLOG at checkout to get your first month of Growin’GEERS free!

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FREEBIE! - How Engineering Is Related to the Heart

In honor of the pending Valentine’s Day holiday, we wanted to bring a little application to it! Check out these examples of how engineering is related to the heart and get our free Valentine’s Day worksheet to explore it with your students!

Pacemakers

Engineering Discipline: Biomedical Engineers

Pacemakers are devices that are implanted into a human’s body to assist in regulating the beating of the heart. Electrical activity in the heart was discovered in the 1800s, but the pacemaker was not developed until 1932 by Albert Hyman. It was powered by a hand crank motor and only tested on animals as the idea of artificial heart stimulation at the time was thought to be similar to reviving the dead.

Paul Zoll and Earl Bakken were a few of the pioneers that were first in developing smaller pacemakers that could be implanted in the human body. They didn’t last long, and people who received them died shortly after receiving them due to complications.

Once advances were made between 1960 and 1990 in materials used for the pacemakers and the type of battery to support them, pacemakers became a lifesaving tool for many that needed it. The technology is still being improved today to last longer, be smaller, and decrease the rate of rejection within the human body.

Match.com

Engineering Discipline: Computer Engineering

Match.com is one of the world’s leading online dating softwares. What do you think they owe most of their success to? Their highly tuned algorithm of course! It takes into account a person’s many preferences for what they are looking for in a mate as well as evaluating the information the user provides about themselves. In addition, it learns from how the user interacts with the platform to hone in on their perfect match. So, if a woman says she only wants to date men under 30 but is consistently looking at men’s profiles that are over 30, the algorithm will take that into consideration in making suggestions for her.

In addition, the president of Match.com, Mandy Ginsberg, has an in depth technology background and just happened to marry an engineer!

It takes a lot of complex programming and computer engineering knowledge to create a tool like the Match.com algorithm and is a great example of computer engineering impacting the heart!

How can you apply these concepts?

Want to apply this lesson? Get our Valentine’s Day Freebie to learn more ways that engineers contribute to the heart!

What's New in 2019 with Growin'GEERS?

Growin’GEERS is excited to start 2019 with a new foundation and with some exciting plans for this year!

What’s new with us you ask?

New Website

Well, at the end of 2018, we completely revamped our website to be cleaner, faster, and easier to navigate for your users! We hope you are enjoying it so far, and we would love to hear any feedback you have to make it better!

New Quest - Breezing Along

We just released our newest quest, which is one of our most difficult ones to date, called Breezing Along. This quest is focused on teaching the concept of Wind Power. We discuss how wind turbines work, where they are used, and how wind turbine engineers and other engineers contribute to making wind power a functional option for energy production.

2019 Future Quests

We will be releasing another quest in the early part of February focused on the science of acoustics and what acoustical engineers do.

In addition, we have plans to release 6 new quests throughout the year that cover topics such as motor vehicles, erosion, crop rotation/irrigation, and more!

Conventions and Live Events

We are planning on participating in more events in the Jacksonville area which include:

The Jacksonville Science Festival - March 7th & 8th, 2019

FL STEM Expo - February 9th, 2019

In addition, we will be attending two home school conventions this year:

Florida Homeschool Convention - August 8th - 10th, 2019

Southeast Homeschool Expo - July 26th & 27th, 2019

Freebies

We are focusing on creating a lot of STEM focused freebies and printables that you can use to supplement your Growin’GEERS membership that are fun and seasonally focused!

We are looking forward to 2019, and we hope to see you at one of our events or learning from one of our new quests this year!

How Math Is the Foundation of Football

The Super bowl, the Game of Games, the Battle of the Pigskin is fast approaching, and we know you will likely be watching, even if it is only for the Puppy Bowl or the commercials in between play. So, in honor of this fun and exciting American sports day in February, we wanted to share with you some educational insights on how football is actually a very mathematical and calculated game.

The Rules

The objective of the game of football is to gain possession of the ball and advance the ball down the field towards the opponent’s goal line or goal posts. Each team has 4 plays to move the ball 10 yards or more before the ball is turned over to the other team. Each time the team succeeds in moving the ball 10 yards or more, they either get a first down which starts their 4 chances over again, or they score!

The Field

Mathematical concept: Geometry

The field is an example of a rectangle; 120 yards long and 53 and 1/3 yards wide. The field has two end zones at either end where points can be scored. When moving from one end of the field to another, the yardage count goes up to 50 and then back down to 10. This can make for some interesting addition and subtraction challenges once the offense and defense start moving up and down the field!

General Game Play

Mathematical concept: Basic Addition and Subtraction

In football, each play is made up of either yardage gain or yardage loss which is a calculation of a negative or positive number.

With each pass or run that the offense attempts, you must add the yardage that they made together to understand where they have advanced to on the field.

However, at the same time, the defense is working to stop the offense from scoring. So, if the defense pushes the ball back past the line of scrimmage which is where ever a set of 4 downs began, the offense loses those yards, and they are subtracted from the offenses’ yardage.

Don’t forget about penalties! They can affect the yardage count for both the offense and the defense. Sounds like a lot of addition and subtraction practice in the works!

Last but not least, what we mentioned about the field affects how this addition and subtract goes. If a team is moving towards their opponents end zone and is at the 20 yard line, they need to move 20 yards to score. But what if they only gain 10 yards? Where are they at on the field?

At the 10 yard line! So gains and losses in the game can actually be subtraction and addition respectively!

Play Calling/Routes

Mathematical Concept: Angles

Since the goal of the game of football is to get 10 or more yards, teams have to be very strategic on how they plan to outplay the defense. Teams practice plays which include a variety of routes for the wide receivers, running backs, and corner backs to run in order to get the ball down the field. All of these routes make up different angles to maximize the chances of getting the ball and taking it down the field. In most plays, these angles compliment each other to utilize the full field while trying to outsmart the defense.

In addition, the defense also has to think about angles. In an effort to slow down or stop the movement of the offense, the defense has to constantly be thinking about intercepting the ball from their opponent. This requires an understanding of the best angles to ensure they can beat their opponent to the spot and still have the ball in a place where they can advance the other way down the field.

Individual Player Stats

Mathematical Concept: Statistics

In football, statistics are used to understand how a player is performing and how to compare one player to another. Without statistics, this can be difficult in a team sport like football.

Using one of the main positions as an example, quarterbacks on evaluated on the following statistics:

  1. Pass completion percentage

  2. Yards per pass attempt

  3. Quarterbacks efficiency rating

  4. Yards per game

  5. Touchdown to interception ratio

When calculating a quarterback’s pass completion percentage, all you have to know is how many passes they attempted and how many passes they completed. Let’s say a quarterback attempted 30 passes in a game but only completed 20 passes. We would calculate 20/30 = .666 X 100 = 66.6% as their pass completion percentage.

All of these statistics can be calculated using addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

Applying This Knowledge

Now that you know how math plays a part in the game of football, use these facts to mathematically track the progress of the Super Bowl yourself! Block the portion of the TV during the game they gives the yardage and score, and check in with your progress every now in then to see if you are on track with your calculations!

We recommend only doing this if there is not an avid football fan in the room!

Another way to practice your math during the Super Bowl is to try and calculate the yardage and score before it appears on the screen. This can be tough though as they are fast so be ready for some speed math!

Happy Super Bowl Sunday!

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When Is It Best To Introduce Technology To Your Child?

There has been a lot of buzz around what is the right age to give your child full access to technology. Based on developmental experts and even technology moguls, some agree that it is best to wait until the prefrontal cortex of their brain has developed further in order to reduce the risk of “addiction” to their devices. The prefrontal cortex, once fully developed, helps with impulse control.

As in any debate, there are pros and cons to the argument. Smartphones and tablets are a great way to expose kids to educational content and learning more about the world around them. However, the internet can also be a gateway to less than ideal content that in many ways can be too mature for younger audiences.

Bill Gates has set the age limit for his household at 14 to be able to have your own smartphone. Even with those limits, there are screen time limits in his house for everyone that is of age as well and no cellphones are allowed at the table.

As with every parenting decision, the person best suited to make the decision is the parent of the child in question. Some great questions to gauge the readiness of your child are provided in this article.

As an organization that believes in teaching technology at an early age, learning about technology and what benefits it brings to society and the massive improvements it has made does not necessarily need to be learned while using technology. Talking to your kids about technology and understanding how it is used beyond your typical smartphone is an important part of the learning process.

With all major society shifts, we have to understand new barriers we need to set for ourselves and for our families to ensure that new technology is moving us forward instead of taking us back.

What are your thoughts on exposing children to technology? What boundaries have you set up in your household?

We would love to hear from you as we do believe this is an important dialog to have due to the ever changing technological environment!

Check out the links below for additional information!

Article About Bill Gates Household Choices Surrounding Technology

New York Times Article about the Right Time for Tech

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THE HISTORY & ENGINEERING BEHIND THE NYE BALL DROP

With the passing of another year and beginning of a fresh year, we wanted to look back at the history of one of the most cherished New Year’s Eve traditions: the ball drop in New York City!

The History

The first year of the New York NYE Ball Drop was 1907, and the first ball was made of iron, wood and 100 25-watt light bulbs. It weighed 500 pounds!

The ball has been dropped every year since then except for 1942 and 1943 due to WWII. People still gathered to celebrate, but the ball was not part of the celebration.

In 1920, they replaced the original ball with a 400 pound wrought iron ball. Then, in 1955, they replaced it with a ball that weighed only 150 pounds due to it being made of aluminum.

This ball remained unchanged other than a lighting change to support the “I Love New York” campaign from 1981 to 1987.

For the year 2000, the ball was completely redesigned by Waterford Crystal and Philips Lighting. They implemented the latest lighting technology but used traditional materials to represent both the old and the new.

In 2007, Waterford Crystal and Philips Lighting struck again, and created a spectacular new LED crystal Ball. The energy-efficiency and brightness are the best they have ever been. With this change, the owners of One Times Square decided to build the permanent Big Ball that hangs over Times Square all year around.

Now that you have the low down on the actual ball, how about the mechanism to make it move?

The Mechanism

In 1995, the ball was dropped via a control system that ran wire down to the street and uptown 4-5 blocks. They used computers to boost the signal as well since it was an impermanent structure.

Now, since the ball is always in place, there is a winch under the mast which guides cables to go to the top of the mast and then those cables come back down to lift the ball. Sounds a lot like a pulley system huh?

The lighting is controlled by a software called “e:cue”, and the timing of the ball drop is timestamped through a GPS system. There is a “black box” that receives time from the GPS to ensure 100% accuracy!

The New York NYE Ball is not the only thing that is dropped on New Years. Check out what other parts of the country do!

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Other Drops

Miami, Florida - The city of Miami is home to the Big Orange Drop and is done at the Hotel Intercontinental Miami each year.

Atlanta, Georgia - The city of Atlanta does the Peach Drop which is broadcast worldwide and is done at the Underground Atlanta.

Dillsburg, Pennsylvania - The city of Dillsburg drops “Lil’ Pickle” at 7 PM which aligns with midnight in Ireland to honor their Irish founders, and they drop “Mr. Pickle” at midnight to celebrate the new year!

Mobile, Alabama - The city of Mobile drops a 600 pound Moon Pie from the RSA Tower. The festivities are sponsored by Chattanooga Bakery.

Boise, Idaho - The city of Boise has dropped a giant potato since 2014 from the US Bank building.

FREEBIE! - Start the Day with STEM: Get Your Daily STEM Facts Calendar!

One of our favorite mottos is “Practice Makes Perfect”. To become an expert or learn anything, you must consistently be present in learning, practicing, and absorbing that subject or skill.

So, in order to keep STEM top of mind and to immerse yourself in STEM learning, we have created a monthly STEM facts calendar for you! Each month, you will receive a full month of fun STEM facts to keep you learning all year long!

How can you use these STEM facts? Below are a couple suggestions for our STEM loving mommas and killer STEM educators!

Momma Tips

  1. Read our STEM fact of the day at breakfast with the kiddos to get a fun, STEM focused dialog started over your Cheerios! If it is something that sparks an interest for your family, do a bit of extra research on that fact during the day.

  2. Read the STEM fact at lunch time to add some fun to the middle of the day!

  3. Discuss the STEM fact over dinner with the whole family and gather each family member’s take on the fact. Were they surprised? Did they already know that? Have fun with it and make it a nightly game!

Teacher Tips

  1. Use our STEM fun fact to be a consistent check point to start the day. By creating routine in your classroom, your students will have an idea of what to expect and will look forward to the fun and sometimes surprising fact!

  2. If you review the facts on a regular basis, let your students pick a fact from the year and do a research project on it. Get them to dive into something that they didn’t know before!

  3. Close the day with our STEM fun fact and ask the students to come back the next day with some research on the subject. This will take their learning out of the classroom and will be a consistent and enjoyable way for them to bring their education home to their parents!

All around, these fun facts are a quick and easy way to integrate STEM into your family’s routine or your classroom’s routine.

Click below to make STEM a part of your day to day routine with Growin’GEERS!

8 Must Have STEM Books to Ignite An Interest in Engineering

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Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding

Age Range: 4 - 8 years
Grade Level: Preschool - 3

This is one of our top picks because it encompasses the application of engineering skills. Not only are you learning about Ruby and following her adventure, you learn about conceptual coding concepts, how to break down a problem, and how to look for patterns. The key to any successful engineer is to understand that you can solve anything you put your mind to, and this book is a great way to encourage kids that they can do anything!


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Mistakes That Worked: 40 Familiar Inventions & How They Came to Be

Age Range: 8 - 12 years
Grade Level: 3 - 7

At Growin’GEERS, we are all about encouraging failure. There are few great engineers that have accomplished something amazing that haven’t experienced failure hundreds of time. This book is a great way to give students examples of how failures can be great learning experiences and how you can truly stumble into something great by never giving up.


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Rosie Revere, Engineer

Age Range: 6 - 9 years
Grade Level: 1 - 4

Rosie is a great all encompassing example of what it takes to be an engineer. Her aunt acts as a wonderful role model within the story, and her focus on encouraging her to not quit is so critical to building a strong and resilient engineering mindset. This is a great starter book for any child who hasn’t hear of engineering, is just beginning to show an interest, or is an old pro at STEM activities.


Ancient Rome: Monuments Past and Present

Age Range: All Ages
Grade Level: All Grades

Growing up, this was one of my favorite books. It is such an interesting way to not only compare past and present but to see how the ancient Romans approached architecture. What they were able to accomplish in the time is remarkable, and this is a great book to get it into the hands of budding engineers! In addition, this is a great book for students that aren’t the best readers. There is a lot to leann from the images alone, so it works for an array of ages.


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Anna the Engineer

Age Range: 8 - 12 years
Grade Level: 3 - 7

This is a fun and engaging story that follows the journey of Anna as she decides what she should do for her science fair project. The reading level is a bit higher, so this is a great pick for students at an upper elementary reading level. We love it because it breaks the traditional thought process associated with a science fair and introduces engineering as a valid science fair project option!


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The Giant Book of Creativity for Kids: 500 Activities to Encourage Creativity in Kids Ages 2 to 12--Play, Pretend, Draw, Dance, Sing, Write, Build, Tinker

Age Range: 2 - 12 years
Grade Level: K - 7

Growin’GEERS is a firm believer that creativity and critical thinking is a must-have skill to be a successful engineer. This book gives a lot of small, easy to take activities that exercise that creativity! In addition, it spans a large age range so this is a great read for families with a wide range of ages!


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I Can't Do That, YET: Growth Mindset

Age Range: 6 - 9 years
Grade Level: 1 - 4

Engineering is all about solving the world’s problems. However, if you don’t believe you have the skills to get it done, you never will! This is a great read to encourage students to understand that they may not be great at everything now, but they can be if they value growth and learning through the entirety of their lives. By instilling these values early in life, kids can be better prepared for the skills that they may not be great at from the beginning.


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Engineered!: Engineering Design at Work

Age Range: 8 - 12 years
Grade Level: 3 - 7

We love this one for the attention that is paid to connecting engineering to real world scenarios. As one of our main missions, we know how important it is to connect concepts to application, and this one does an amazing job making that connection! Plus, the illustrations are so fun!

5 Holiday STEM Gift Ideas to Blow the Socks Off of Legos

We all know Legos are great, but we thought we would give some alternatives this year to bring STEM and engineering into your home! Check out our top 5 list below that are associated with an engineering discipline!

Product: Snap Circuits

Related Engineering Discipline: Electrical Engineering

Age Range: 8+

Description: Snap Circuits have been around for a few years now, but we love this option for learning and understanding the wild work of electrical engineering! It safely (no soldering needed!) exposes young students to parallel and series, switches, circuits, etc. to make learning about electrical engineering fun. If I had had this as a way to learn circuits in college, I may have gone into electrical engineering! We linked below to a beginner kit and more advanced kit, but either way, this is a super affordable way to get kids thinking circuits!

Product: Kano Harry Potter Coding Kit – Build a Wand. Learn To Code. Make Magic.

Related Engineering Discipline: Computer Engineering

Age Range: 6+

Description:  Considering the fact that we are a bunch of crazy Harry Potter nerds, this is a great balance between an interest and a great coding toy! Kano has some amazing products related to computer engineering and exposing kids to coding, but we are definitely partial to this one due to the story it is related to. This product allows kids to build a wand and code out different actions of the wand. You will need a tablet to utilize the app, but we are big fans of this amazing new take on coding fun!

Product: SmartLab Toys Ultimate Secret Formula Lab

Related Engineering Discipline: Electrical Engineering

Age Range: 8+

Description: Kit science isn’t usually our favorite, but we love this toy because of how true it stays to an actual chemistry lab. Pipettes, petri dish, calcium hydroxide…sounds like a chemistry lab that all engineers spend some time in! We also love this product because you can do a ton of different experiments. It is not a one and done type investment which is great for any budding engineer!

Product: Fort Boards

Related Engineering Discipline: Civil Engineering

Age Range: 5+

Description: All kids love to build forts; building a place they they can actually crawl into is a pretty exciting thing. So, fort boards is our number 1 choice to introduce civil engineering in a fun way. What we love about this toy is how open ended it is. There is a lot you can do with these boards and a fort is just the beginning! We believe this is the perfect combination of an introduce to construction while also giving kids room for creativity and play.

Product: Growin'GEERS

Related Engineering Discipline: Industrial Engineering

Pricing: $30/month

Age Range: 5+

Description: Okay, so to be totally honest, we looked long and far for a great toy or game that encompassed what it is like to be an industrial engineer, and we couldn’t find it. Seriously, isn’t that nuts? Especially since industrial engineering is quickly growing and because the skills you use as an industrial engineer are useful in other engineering fields (just as all the civil, chemical, and electrical engineers with their masters degree in Industrial Engineering). Anyway, we didn’t feel right leaving this discipline out, so check out Growin’GEERS for an at home option to learn about optimization and Dijkstra's algorithm. We provide the animated videos, research and brainstorming worksheets, and a planned hands-on activity that can be done using household materials (materials not provided with online membership).

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A Year of Hands-On STEM Learning for Seabreeze Elementary

STEM education can seem like an overwhelming discipline to start in your classroom, let alone your entire school. With the acronym encompassing so much, it can be mind boggling where to start! That is why Growin’GEERS is here: to help ease the stress and get you implementing as soon as possible in your classroom, school, coop, or homeschool.

But don’t take our word for it! To help you better understand what it can mean to implement a program like Growin’GEERS and to leverage us as a resource, we wanted to share some of the amazing feedback and experiences that one of our customers had with Growin'GEERS!

The following blog includes student and parent surveys about the program and some photos too! This type of feedback is what keeps the Growin'GEERS team excited and ready to reach more budding engineers, so consider their experience when thinking about joining our community!

STUDENT SURVEY QUESTIONS

WHAT DID YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT GROWIN'GEERS?

It helps me learn about science words and how to make pulleys, circuits, and coolers.
— Cammi
I think being able to learn new things but also have fun doing it.
— Kendall
I got to experience other peoples ideas!
— Leo
That every time I would learn and make something new.
— Katie

WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM GROWIN'GEERS?

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If you work together, it’s better.
— Justin
How to change an idea when one doesn’t work, and some materials work better than others.
— Olivia
If something is metal, it can turn hot or cold.
— Ella
How to make a Circuit!
— Kyla

WHAT WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE PART ABOUT GROWIN'GEERS?

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At the end when we had to go home.
— Austin

PARENT SURVEY QUESTIONS

DID YOUR CHILD TALK ABOUT ANY OF THE ENGINEERING CONCEPTS THAT THEY LEARNED ABOUT OUTSIDE OF GROWIN'GEERS?

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He would talk about what they did/built after each session. He now says he wants to be an engineer. - Justin's Parent

Yes; he built a pulley system at home. We talked about electrical circuits. - Ballard's Parent

Yes; Katie talked about every session when she came home and has referred to concepts such as conduction and insulation in cooking and packing lunch. - Katie's Parent

Yes; after each session, she was so excited to tell me about how she and her friends solved the problem even though they thought it was impossible initially. - Kendall's Parent

Yes. Leo came home and talked about his team's invention and explained why they created what they did. Also he talked about what changes he could make for it to work better next time. - Leo's Parent

After they made the pulley she would point out any sort of pulley she saw. She also kept trying to make a light out of random things after the light/battery project. - Olivia's Parent

IS THERE ANYTHING YOU FELT WAS GREAT ABOUT THIS PROGRAM THAT REALLY HELPED YOUR CHILD?

Building things and getting a deeper understanding of how things work. I also liked that they worked with a team to accomplish the objective/goal. - Austin's Parent

Practical, hands-on "experiments" really show kids the cool part of engineering. - Justin's Parent

She is excited about engineering and can relate how concepts she learned can be applied in the world. - Katie's Parent

Teaching her that difficult problems can be overcome with proper planning and careful thought. - Kendall's Parent

It helped him to use his creative thinking skills and to think outside the box! - Leo's Parent

Mel is a very hands on kid. It gave her a great way to be creative and use her imagination while still learning. - Mel's Parent

I think it helped her build confidence in math and science. She seemed more engaged and curious, especially about engineering concepts. - Olivia's Parent

I love how this program sparks her imagination. It empowers her to do anything. - Rheece's Parent

It helped him keep his interest in science up. I think it made learning more interesting. - Zaki's Parent

THANKS FOR ALL THE GREAT FEEDBACK FROM SEABREEZE ELEMENTARY! WE HOPE YOU CONTINUE TO ENJOY GROWIN'GEERS INTO THE FUTURE!

WE WOULD ALSO LIKE TO GIVE A SHOUT OUT TO MS. ROMER WHO HAS BEEN AN EARLY ADOPTER WITH GROWIN'GEERS AND TAKEN IT TO NEW HEIGHTS! THANKS FOR ALL YOUR SUPPORT, AND WE ARE SO HAPPY TO SEE YOU HAVE FOUND SUCCESS WITH GROWIN'GEERS!

Agriculture: How Engineers Help To Feed Our Families

Food is something that humans require, and Thanksgiving is centered around celebrating the many blessings we have including the food that nourishes us. Without proper engineering around food production, it would be difficult to keep up with the ever growing demands of the population.

Food production around the world has evolved and change extensively since the early 1900s. Since food is a necessity of life and has an impact on the quality of the life we live, we need agricultural engineers to focus on the science behind food and farming. Their main purpose is to ensure the agricultural technologies and methods that we use today can meet the population’s demand for food.

There are a ton of tasks that fall to an agricultural engineer because there are a lot of key components that go into creating a sustainable and healthy crop or food product.

To name a few, irrigation systems and water control is critical to the success of a farm’s yield. Building cost effective yet efficient storage facilities for product is a major task they are charged with as well.

Other than day to day tasks, agricultural engineers also do a lot of research to be on the cutting edge of sustainable farming and food production. They must ensure that their facilities are up to code, and they have to be agile to meet the demands of growing populations and the changing environment.

In addition, agricultural engineers have to work with many other disciplines to achieve their goals such as horticulturalists, agronomists, animal scientists, and geneticists.

To learn more about the engineering behind our food and how you can become an agricultural engineer to support the next generations sustainable food sources, check out the link below.

https://www.environmentalscience.org/career/agricultural-engineer

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Top 3 Ways To Keep Up With Changing Tech

The most exciting thing about technology is that we are constantly outdoing ourselves. Some people are so far ahead in their head that society just cannot understand or keep up. We here at Growin'GEERS like to be up-to-date on exactly what is going on in the technology world, and we wanted to share some of our tips on how we keep up!

 

1. Social Media

Yes, social media can be a pain sometimes in the ways that it distracts us from the moment, burns a bunch of our time, and can be littered with false information, but if you tailor your feeds to your interests and to trusted resources only, it can get a great tool to catch up on the latest tech news quickly! Everyone has their preferred social media platforms, but we have found that instagram is a great way to get your tech fix by following the Techcrunch instagram. We follow tech crunch because they are a huge supporter of startups and disrupting the status quo. They give great tech updates, and keep us up to date on all new innovations with relation to technology.

 

2. Podcasts

Podcasts are a great way to fit in your news while you are doing something else like driving or cooking and are looking for some entertainment. Podcasts are a great way to expose your kids to news while on a long car ride or road trip. Please be aware though that these are media outlets so always screen the content before sharing with your kids as we know how the media likes to take things over the edge sometimes!

 

We love to listen to some amazing tech podcasts that cover the gamut on tech. I highly recommend Rocket which is hosted by 3 powerhouse tech women. We also enjoy Analog(ue) which discusses the perspective of human interaction with new technologies. It is quite interesting. If you are looking for some variety, check out Clockwise which switches up their tech topics frequently and has different industry related guests to keep it moving.

 

3. Blogs/Websites

We read fewer blogs, but the ones that we check to stay up on tech news include The Verge and, of course, Tech Crunch. The Verge has a great homepage where you can quickly browse the topics that interest you, and we find that the Tech Crunch website always has a ton of different content compared to their Instagram. When we are looking for a bit more detail or have some more time to read more detail about a technology that interests us, these are the two pages we turn to.

Hope you enjoy these suggestions!

Social Media

https://www.instagram.com/techcrunch/

Podcasts

https://www.relay.fm/clockwise

https://www.relay.fm/rocket

Blogs/Websites

https://www.theverge.com/

https://techcrunch.com/

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What STEM Isn't

Education is a hot bed for buzzwords and phrases: disruptive technology, digital literacy, MOOC, and the list goes on.. Buzzwords are good and bad. They bring attention to items that we need to be aware of (hence the technology reference in every word we listed above), but they also can be misused to create marketing hype around products and services.

As you probably already know, our favorite buzzword, (buzz acronym really) is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). The reason why this buzzword is so near and dear to our hearts is because we believe it encourages the integration of some key areas that are cross functional in the digital or information age. When these four segments are integrated, they can truly create a learning environment that will prepare our students for the careers of the future, many of which may not yet exist.

STEM experiences brings attention to and demonstrate the value of the integration of these four disciplines. Yet, STEM is often referenced in circumstances when only one of the 4 pillars is in use. Can you think of any recent science experiments that you saw online that were referred to as STEM? What about math exercises or worksheets? Or perhaps a building or construction toy that included the STEM acronym in its packaging or marketing? The value that STEM brings is the actual application of these four disciplines to one problem or one exercise; not just a science or math exercise in a silo. The significance of STEM is teaching our students to recognize opportunities to apply science, technology, engineering, and math skills in ways that challenge their critical thinking abilities and prepares them to not be afraid to use a concept or idea differently than how it was originally explained or taught.

Today’s careers, and those of the future, will require our children to apply the skills they are learning now in creative and innovative ways. Adapting their learning to fulfill the demands of the future is what we need to be preparing our children to be able to do. So, how can we enable students to feel comfortable in that regard? We believe it centers around encouraging creativity, critical thinking, and a certain comfort level with failure. And cultivating these skills cannot be done with a set of instructions. Providing students with the answers without encouraging them to ideate and redesign limits the opportunity for students to think critically or challenge any preconceive ideas or prior knowledge. Instructions do not lead to failure, innovation, and creativity. Testing a hypothesis, asking open ended questions, and encouraging redesign creates an environment of innovation.

So, next time you hear the term STEM, ask yourself these questions when trying to decide if the product, service, or activity truly embodies the value that STEM adds to learning:

1. Does it encompass more than 1 discipline from the four pillars of STEM?
2. Is your child engaging his or her problem solving and critical thinking abilities rather than simply following a set of directions?
3. Is your child encouraged to create his or her own solution along with a testing process to know if they were successful or if they should consider modification?
4. Is technology utilized not only in the delivery of the content, but also in how students connect with the problem and complete the task.

If you answered yes to 3+ questions above, the activity likely embodies the foundation of STEM and encourages critical thinking, innovation, and creativity. Stay calm, and STEM on!

*Shout out to @SherylDwyer for the deep discussions and insights on this topic from the perspective of an educator!*

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Be Efficient – Learn How An Engineer Eliminates Waste

A large portion of the Lean process is focused on identifying waste in a process. Why is it so focused on the negative you ask? Well, you can’t eliminate something that you don’t know is there!

Not sure what Lean is? Check out our post on the basics of Lean.

So, we are going to walk you through the 7 forms of waste (or Muda as the Japanese like to say) that we try to identify and eliminate in Lean.

By eliminating waste in a process or in the production of a product, you save time, money, and effort and reach a higher efficiency in whatever you are working to accomplish. These forms of waste can be found in every aspect of work or tasks that we do daily, so look out for these in your daily processes and life and eliminate them!

1. Transportation
This form of waste is by moving product or equipment that is not needed to move during processing.
2. Inventory
Inventory is any part of the product that is not completed. This could be in the form of raw materials, work in process, or a final product that hasn’t been used.
3. Motion
This is the waste that occurs when people or equipment move to much in the process or producing the product. It can lead to physical injury or machine downtime.
4. Waiting
This is any time in the process that the product is waiting to be processed or the process is halted because the next step cannot occur.
5. Over production
When too much of a product or process is available and is not needed. This creates a situation where a product is not changing rapidly with a customers needs.
6. Over-processing
This form of waste is when more is done to a product than is required by the customer’s idea of value.
7. Defects
This is when you have to discard or rework a product or step of a process due to an error or defect.

Want to learn how to find waste in a process? Keep an eye out for more posts about how to apply these concepts!

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5 Ideas To Guarantee A Successful Stargazing Night

Stargazing is great way to connect back with nature and have a fun STEAM experience getting a little closer to our solar system.

Below are 5 tips to have an outstanding star gazing experience and to get to know your solar system a little bit better!

1. Pick a clear night and great location
We know this may sound a bit obvious, but it is a key factor to having a successful stargazing night. Make sure you check the weather continuously up until the night of the watch. If cloud cover pops up, just reschedule. It will not be worth it and may be disheartening to the crew we hope you are bringing along to enjoy it with you!

2. Bring a comfy blanket and some snacks
Star gazing can be a longer activity as the night sky will change over time. If you have little ones, make sure you bring a comfy blanket and pillows. We recommend taking a pickup truck if you have access to one so you can turn the bed of the truck into a cozy stargazing nest! Don't forget to bring snacks and water to keep everyone full and happy!

3. Grab some equipment
If you have one or if you can borrow one, definitely bring a telescope. It will add a layer of insight and depth to your experience that cannot be seen with the naked eye. You can even look at renting them from a local store or facility, but this is just a suggestion; definitely not necessary to have an enjoyable time!

If you are willing to break the bank by spending $2.99, download Sky Guide. When you hold it up to the night sky, it automatically finds stars, constellations, planets, satellites, and more. It is an amazing app and is a cheaper way to add some learning to your stargazing expedition than a telescope.

4. Do some research
I'm sure this one isn't surprising, but do some research before you go. Learn a little bit about constellations and see if your kids have a favorite. Constellations are a great way to combine a lesson on science and mythology. Find answers to the following questions to kick off your research!

A. What is a star made out of?
B. What is the youngest star in our galaxy that we know of?
C. Who is Leo the Lion?
D. What is the story of Orion the hunter?
E. How did constellations and mythology join forces to put a name to our stars?

5. Set a goal
Do a little research in advance, and pick out a constellation to seek out during your trip. Make sure you don't set yourself up for failure. Check that you can see it during the time of year and location that you are in. A great site to use to learn a LOT about constellations, their location, and their history can be found at the link below.

Happy gazing!

Quick Links
Stargazing Apps for IOS and Android

Great Constellation Reference Link

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