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Introduction to Creative Engineering

a pile of question marks, two of them are lit up, one orange and one blue

Have you ever ridden an elevator up a tower with over 100 floors? The Empire State Building in New York has 102 floors. That’s tall! How can an engineer construct a building so tall?  

Take on the rolls of an engineer and scientist in this week’s adventure. We are going to build, create, mold, and test our creations. Build the highest and strongest tower. Build a catapult. Build contraption for an egg that will withstand being dropped, and more! Will your creations hold up? Let’s try them out and see!  

This activity is pulled from our Virtual ExCEL Camps happening summer of 2020! While these activities are written to fit into the larger lesson plan of the camp themes, you can complete them with your little one at any time. Learn more about our Virtual ExCEL Summer Camp here!

Watch this video:  

Explore creative engineering and learn how to “make a plan.”To learn how to create a plan, watch this video. Or, click the direct link: 


Which method of planning do you prefer?  

  1. Sketch it – do you like to draw? Maybe sketching pictures of your ideas is your best method.
  2. Quiet time – do you like to sit quietly with your thoughts? Maybe thinking it through quietly by yourself is what you need. 
  3. Hands-on – do you get your materials, lay them out, and try them out before you begin? Maybe you are the organic planner who likes to touch things, manipulate the materials, and use them as you plan. 
  4. Group discussion – do you like to talk it through? Maybe you want to engage others in conversation about your ideas and gather feedback from several people before you begin. Having a group discussion may be your go to method. 
  5. Other – maybe you have another method of planning that works for you. We would love to hear about it! 


Answer these questions: 

When you get something that needs to be built, do you

  • a. Look at the pictures 
  • b. Read the directions out loud 
  • c. Grab all the materials and try and figure it out 

When you get a new battery-operated toy, are you more likely to  

  • a. Want to see a video about it? 
  • b. Want someone to tell you about it? 
  • c. Explore it by pressing all of the buttons 

When you have free time, would you prefer to 

  • a. Read a book or watch TV or a movie 
  • b. Listen to music 
  • c. Play or exercise 

Which is your favorite subject in school? 

  • a. Art 
  • b. Music  
  • c. Physical Education (PE) 

When you are learning about something new, do you prefer to 

  • a. Read about it 
  • b. Talk about it 
  • c. Take notes or write about it  

Now, look at your responses and count how many “a’s” did you have? How about “b’s?” And what about “c’s” Did you have more “a’s,” “b’s,” or “c’s?” 

 If you had more “a’s you may be a visual or graphic learner – visual/graphic learners like charts, tables, graphs, and videos. These resources help them process information holistically. 

If you had more “b’s” you may be an auditory learner – auditory learners learn best by hearing information. These learners may either want to listen quietly to process they information or they may want to talk it through in a discussion. 

If you had more “c’s” you may be a kinesthetic learner – kinesthetic learners like to build things and have a physical role in learning. They like to touch things and explore materials with a hands-on approach.    


So! Which method works best for you? 

Knowing which type of learner you are may help you in many ways. You can use your learning style in school to help you be a better student. Your learning style also will help you this week, as you develop a plan for each of the STEM challenges. 

Not convinced?  

Try out the different learning styles and see if you can discover your learning style.  

How do we use our learning style when we build a plan?  

Every STEM Challenge starts with a goal, or “challenge.” There are also constraints or rules that you must follow. Finally, there are criteria for how you will determine if you met the challenge successfully.   

To meet the challenge, for each STEM Challenge, follow this 5 step guide: 

  1. Ask – think about it and ask yourself important questions. 
  2. Imagine and plan – use your learning style, or try out a new learning style to come up with a plan on how you are going to meet the STEM Challenges goal. 
  3. Create – take time to build, create, and invent. 
  4. Test – using the criteria test your creation. Was your project successful? 
  5. Reflect/Improve – think about what went well and what may have caused failure. Then, improve your design. If you have time you can re-build your project and test it again… and again!  

When you use one of these methods, you are exercising your own “self-determination.” You are also problem-solving. These are two very important skills in learning, and they help you to grow as scientists and engineers. This week, we encourage you to be bold! Be challenged! Be observant! And don’t be afraid to make mistakes, it’s all part of learning!    




Cheryl Hannan, Professor from California State University, LA.

Johna Bogue, Lower school science teacher (grades PreK- 3rd) at The Pegasus School, CA.

Parisa Behmardi Lamarra, Teacher of the Visually Impaired at Whittier Unified School District, CA.

Susan Drake, Special education teacher and student in VI college program at Missouri State University.

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