Get Caught Engineering at the Smithsonian

December 18, 2014


Get Caught Engineering at the Smithsonian

Get Caught Engineering was honored to be guest presenters at a STEM Family Workshop at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum this month. With ocean as a theme, hands-on activities were developed that encouraged an exploration of various marine concepts. For two hours we took over the museum’s Discovery Lab, “Q?rius Junior”, and invited families to participate in STEM events.

SMith group shot

As families arrived they had a room filled with activities to explore. Each table in the room had a STEM concept to investigate. Tanks of water, ready to go materials, signs with instructions as well background information, and volunteers to answer questions all contributed to a great afternoon of discovery for all ages. Children tried their hand at making “flinker” submersibles that would neither float nor sink, experienced the significance of shore erosion, and created their own underwater scene with paper engineering. After freezing their finger in icy water they learned how helpful blubber was to arctic animals when they put on a blubber mitt made with Crisco and Baggies. They struggled to clean up a polluted pond with their newly engineered tools and took the challenge of inventing baleen that would scoop up parsley. Additional experiences for children and their parents included comparing the effect of salted and plain water on eggs, as well as matching marine life with inventions and viewing the energy produced by waves.

SMith 2 boys pollution pond

One of the most popular activities was the challenge to invent a tool to solve a pollution problem on a body of water. We added not only vegetable oil but also oregano, pepper, string, tissue paper and, for additional “yuk factor”, some dryer lint. Once children started on this challenge they did not want to leave. The engineering design process was very apparent as they modified and adapted their tools to improve their success rate of removing the pollution. They also were quick to point out that it is impossible to remove everything and that everyone should try harder to not pollute our waterways. The activity provided a great combination of the engineering and environmental science for the families.

Smith pic #1 two girls

As we developed our activities we found several great resources which were helpful.

The Smithsonian’s Ocean Portal

NOAA’s Ocean Service

If you would like to try some water themed STEM activities with your class, we have several available:

Dive into STEM- Ocean Centers for Exploration and Observation

STEM the Spill – An Engineering Exploration of an Oil Spill

STEM Trickle Down Effect – Building a Water Filter with Systems Engineering

Sailing with STEM- Engineering Rain Gutter Sailboat Races

It may have been pouring rain outside the day of our visit, but inside the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum, the only things getting wet were the STEM projects. Get Caught Engineering had a blast sharing engineering and science projects about the ocean with families at our center based workshop.

We hope you “Get Caught Engineering”,

Wendy and Cheryl

What They Say


Wendy came to Bellevue Arts Museum to co-lead our Full STEAM Ahead! Summer Camp in August 2014. This camp was a huge success thanks to her expertise, experience, and warmth working with the campers throughout the week…

Educational Outreach Director, The Bellevue Art Museum, Bellevue, Washington