5th and 6th Grades showcase STEM projects

Sixth graders Travis Schmidt, Joe Ermer and Blake Lynch and their gravity powered “cars.”

Alexis Kuhlman and Jailyn Krein, 5th grade students, watch their balloon-powered car scoot across the gym floor at Garner-Hayfield elementary. Leader photo by Rebecca Peter

GARNER – The gym at Garner-Hayfield elementary rang with cheers and applause as fifth and sixth graders demonstrated their newly learned engineering skills before an audience of their peers and parents on Friday, Feb 27.

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The goal of the program is to increase student interest and achievement in those subject areas.

STEM is a statewide initiative started in 2011 and offered through Iowa State University Extension Outreach and the North Central Iowa Region Governor’s STEM Advisory Council.

Teachers Krista Hopp, (Grades 5/6 science) and Tony Heitland (Grades 5/6 math) were asked to participate.

Tony Heitland said, “The overall goal we are hoping the kids will understand, is that they try to problem solve. No matter how big the problem, you should be able figure out what the solution is.”

Students worked on the project 4 weeks. Engineers from Stellar Industries, Garner, were invited to share insights about their jobs, and answer questions from the students.

Working in teams of two, students developed engineering and problem-solving skills to design two self-propelled “cars” from common materials.

Fifth graders worked on cars that would scoot across the gym floor for least 10 meters (about 30 feet) using a balloon inflated to 8 inches diameter for propulsion.

 Cars were made from heavy paper stock, straws for axles, tubing and rubber bands. Students received three different sized tubes to attach the balloon.

“They had to figure out which tube would make their car go the farthest and what could they do in addition to make their cars go farther,” Heitland said.