STEM as a Time Machine

November 4, 2022


Integrating STEM into History

Throughout the ages, history is full of amazing engineers and inventors. Integrating STEM into our history lessons requires looking at the different events through a different lens. The benefits to such integration are an increased insight to a past society’s accomplishments and a better understanding of the problems faced by earlier civilizations. How do you integrate STEM into your history lesson? We have several tried and true ways to accomplish this.

Recreate Inventions and Technology of a Period of Study

Since the beginning of time, all people have faced problems that needed a solution. If you use the definition of technology – anything created to solve a problem - you will see instantly, that technology isn’t just a modern day terminology. Asking your students to recreate a particular invention helps your students gain insight into the struggles of the people of that time. They also can gain a better appreciation into that group’s knowledge, ability to adapt and ability to solve problems.

When studying the westward expansion of American history, we often would have our students create a trunk to fit in a covered wagon. This would help them relate to the very human dilemma of taking both necessary and treasured items on a long journey.

Engineer a Trunk for a Wagon Train

 After your students have created a prototype of the invention, a discussion of their own difficulties will help them appreciate the obstacles that were overcome long ago

Be sure to discuss:

  • What problem did the technology solve?
  • What was life like before the invention?
  • What science and math knowledge was needed to create this technology?
  • How could the knowledge and technology of today improve this invention?

Solve an Everyday Problem Faced by a Culture

Ordinary people solved problems everyday throughout history. While studying a particular era, have your students identify their technological needs.

Their list might include:

  • A way to get water
  • Shelter
  • Tools to build and maintain

Now have your students come up with a solution to the problem using the same materials available to them whenever possible. They might choose to: 

  • Engineer a water filter system
  • Engineer a shelter to protect them from the elements or a particular danger such as an earthquake
Engineer a Water Filter System

Improve or Modify an Invention

A valuable exercise for students is for them to consider how a particular technology has improved throughout the ages. Have them focus on what new knowledge or other advances made the improvement possible.


  • Engineer a Roman road
  • Engineer a water wheel
Engineer a Water Wheel

Create a Theme Across Time

As students continue their studies throughout the year, they hopefully gain an appreciation that people throughout time had the same basic needs, regardless of their time in history or their location. Therefore, another way to integrate STEM into your lessons is to have your students investigate How did different groups of people meet the same need throughout history?

  • Irrigate crops
  • Engineer a wall protection system
  • Engineer wheels that can handle rough roads

You can accomplish this by assigning different time periods to groups of students to investigate the solution to the problem.

Investigate Inventors throughout History

As far back as the ancient civilizations, there have been amazing inventors. Make a list of the inventors of the time period you are studying and have them research their life and their invention. Have them recreate the invention or improve upon it. They should be able to discuss how the invention improved upon the lives of their fellow citizens and how history was changed by people from different backgrounds. In addition, exploring the engineering inventions that contributed to architectural developments is an area we have included when studying Ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt.

Ancient HIstory and Architecture

STEM and History is a Great Combination

Everyone agrees that there is so much to learn by studying history. By integrating STEM into your history curriculum, your students will gain a better understanding of what it was like to live in that time.

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We hope you "Get Caught Engineering" in your history lessons.

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