Arduino Series Blink

This first project in the series shows you how to make a LED blink on an Arduino, and then shows you how to connect it to an external LED with alligator clips.

This activity introduces a great way to get started with the popular Arduino microcontroller by connecting it to CircuitBlocks – a make-it-yourself set of electronic “blocks”. CircuitBlocks essentially are electronic components glued to wood blocks and soldered to nails. You can learn how to make your own here:

This project and the rest of the series leads you through introducing the Arduino hardware, the programming environment and building simple circuits you control with the Arduino LilyPad – a variation of the Arduino that is used for e-textiles. In our circuits we connect things with alligator clips which make it very easy to quickly build and change. These projects also make it much easier for kids and adults to explore computer programming by using a graphical environment (while keeping the text-based programming available).

You can find the introduction to the series here:

Zipline with Science Journal

What’s it like to be an amusement park engineer? In this design challenge, participants are tasked with creating a fun zipline experience. Their job is to create a model version of the transport vehicle for a zipline. However, like an engineer, participants must keep in mind that their experience can be fast, but it still needs to be stable, safe and enjoyable. Using Science Journal, an app that can use the sensors in everyday smartphones, participants can find out if their zipline ride can stand the test of amusement park guests.

Toy Top with Science Journal

You’ve played with fidget spinners and spinning tops, but have you ever designed them? In this design challenge, participants will develop and test their very own spinning toy! Toy designers and engineers get to play with their toys, but they also need a scientific way to figure out how to make it most fun. Use everyday materials to build a spinning toy, then test it using the accelerometer sensors found in smartphones!

Using Science Journal

Science Journal is a free app designed by Making & Science, an initiative by Google. It allows you to gather data about the world around you by harnessing the sensors in your smartphone. The Tech Museum of Innovation uses Science Journal to hone our ninja skills, explore the sounds around us, test our reflexes and much more.  Watch this video, and then check out the other Data Science activities that use Science Journal: Toy Top, Ninja Walk, and Zipline Descent.

Dive into Design

Learn how to engage your students in the engineering design process through participation in hands-on design challenges. Staff will experience two mini design challenges related to The Tech Challenge 2015 on Seismic Engineering. All staff will leave with two age-appropriate design challenges they can use at their site(s) and the option of taking their creation. Come build your own solutions and see how much fun this would be to do with students of all ages and backgrounds.

The Challenge: Build a skyscraper that has limited roof drift.

Dowels and Rubber Bands I

Kids build structures with 3-foot dowels and rubber bands. There are many ways to build and to make things stand up, but making things stable is not a trivial task. You can make things that are very big – even big enough for several children to get inside

Happy City

Happy City is a design activity exploring circuits, conductivity and community. Kids add things to a city model to make it a happier place, using LEDs, batteries and motors (optional) to make their creations do something. Since the kids decide for themselves what would make the city a happy place, they become invested in what they’re making and how it will work. This kind of problem-defining and problem-solving is at the heart of engineering design. The activity can inspire great conversations about electricity or community.

Extreme Trampolines

A great deal of science and engineering goes in to building a trampoline. Through this activity, participants explore different materials and how their properties affect a trampoline’s ability to make something bounce as high as possible or as low as possible off its surface.

The goal of this challenge is to build a trampoline that can make a golf ball bounce as high or as low as possible off its surface. Working in small teams, participants use a variety of materials to design, build, and test their trampolines in our trampoline testers. Participants think and build like engineers as they experience the design process to make improvements to their trampolines through redesigning and retesting prototypes.


Visitors will challenge their creativity and dexterity to build tiny robot-esque creations using small, recycled materials.
Limiting materials to a few repetitive parts forces visitors to think laterally about material use (“if all I have are screws and capacitors, how can I transform them into all the different parts that I need?” Rather than, “this part already looks like an arm, so I’ll use it as an arm” ) while restricting the size of the creations encourages visitors to invest extra thought and care into detailed objects they can hold in one hand. Up close and personal = detailed and intimate!

Toy Mash-Up

Participants take apart toys to create a new character. They do this by cutting, dissembling and putting pieces together with added embellishments such as buttons, beads, jewels, ribbons, etc. Participants then display their creations for everyone to enjoy.