Cover image: Practical Action – Practical STEM resources

Practical Action – Practical STEM resources

Julie Brown, Education Manager at Practical Action, introduces a range of resources to support Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). At Practical Action we get students positively engaged in global issues in a variety of ways. By taking part in our STEM challenges students see the application of STEM in a real world context and find out more about the issues around global poverty. Squashed tomatoTake the Squashed Tomato Challenge for example. The problem: In Nepal many farmers living on the mountainside grow fruit and vegetables, including tomatoes. To earn a living they need to sell these at the local market. The problem is getting to market involves a long, dangerous walk down the mountain side and over a river, at the end of which the tomatoes may well be a bit squashed. Nepali farmers with their tomatoesThe challenge: To design, build and test a way of moving tomatoes that won't squash them! As a follow up to this activity students can view the videos of the gravity ropeway system used in Nepal which demonstrates how it works using a simple pulley system. They can also read a case study of how the ropeway has changed the lives of families in Nepal. Older students can view the technical brief given to engineers who build the ropeways. Wind power challengeIn the Wind Power Challenge students design and build a simple wind turbine from scrap material that can lift a cup full of pennies form the floor when powered by a hairdryer. They can watch a video of a wind turbine being installed in Sri Lanka and another one of a wind turbine exploding!! Like all our challenges there are downloadable certificates to give out to the winners and all those taking part. The Small is… Challenge challenges students to research a product of their choice from the past then design a sustainable product for the future. The starting point for this activity is a 2-metre long colourful timeline which will be sent to you upon request. A PowerPoint presentation that sets the context of the challenge, lesson plans and worksheets are all included.Small is... banner       All the above challenges are suitable for ages 7-18 and in addition have been accredited by the British Science Association as suitable to count towards a CREST Star Investigators SuperStar award (for primary students). For more information about the scheme please visit their website. Global CREST challengesLast but not least for secondary school we have our Global CREST challenges, for students wishing to take part in the CREST award scheme and use development issues relating to water, energy, shelter, food and transport as their starting point. These resources have links to technical information provided by Practical Action for engineers in the field and include raw data that student can use in their research. Students can enter their projects into national competitions including the Big Bang Fair. So if you are looking for an activity with a global dimension to enhance a science or D & T lesson or a hands-on activity for a science or STEM club we are confident we have something that will appeal to you. For a wide range of other resources for primary and secondary on sustainability, climate change, renewable energy and STEM careers plus free posters and beautiful downloadable images please go to