Amazing Feats of Winter Engineering

To honor both the beauty of the winter season and the often deemphasized field of engineering, we thought we’d take today to point out the wonderful things that can happen when these two things collide. Whether we’re protecting ourselves from frigid temperatures or meerly enjoying a bit of creative expression, people have been enjoying the winter canvas arguably since the dawn of time. Here are some of our favorite feats of winter engineering.

Igloos: What were once viewed as purely a feature of function, Igloos have transcended the world of functional engineering into the world of…



Symphony Concert Halls

igloo symphony hall

And backyard things of beauty.


And of course there are those who took the idea of building a snowman to a whole new level by building…

A snowman on a horse

Man on Horse

Snow dinosaurs

Snow dinos

And epic snow castles.


Yet we can’t conclude this post without posting our favorite feat of winter engineering, contributed by Mother Nature herself…

The snowflake.


Happy holidays everyone, and we’ll see you in 2014!

2013 STEM News in Review

newsShould old acquaintance be forgot? We say nay! Rather than posting a monthly STEM news review, this month we are celebrating the conclusion of another year with our 2013 STEM News in Review Scavenger Hunt. This scavenger hunt takes you on a tour of the year’s biggest STEM news stories. Use this hunt in your classrooms or at home to spark discussions about these stories and the impact they have on our understanding of our world and of a variety of STEM subjects.

And we know for a fact that there are many STEM-related stories that we missed, so be sure to stop by our 2013 STEM News in Review blog page to post your favorite stories from the year, be they news stories or personal stories. It is best to have solid footing before stepping into a new year, so let this scavenger hunt strengthen your STEM foundation!

5 STEMy things that will blow your mind

Since it’s Tuesday, and the holiday break is so close, yet so far away, we thought we would give you a break from your daily grind to throw some amazing facts at you. Some of these will seriously blow your mind…

The Animal Kingdom IconLike, for instance, did you know that monkeys have an inherent propensity toward fair compensation? No it’s true. However complex of a concept you may think fairness to be—the video mentions that one philosopher claimed that fairness was invented during the French Revolution—it turns out us humans aren’t the only ones to internalize it. Frans de Waal explains this concept further in his TED talk.

Oh, also, cows have best friends.

Space IconOr, did you know that time travel is actually possible? A fast spaceship could theoretically take you to the future: Light speed travel causes time dilation, in which time passes more slowly for the traveler than for the universe outside. Therefore, a light speed voyage of several months could see many years pass at home, effectively sending the traveler into the future.

CSI iconMost people know that our fingerprints are unique to us as individuals, but did you know that we also have unique tongue prints? So be careful who you kiss… they may be trying to covertly identify you!

Medical Innovations IconOur brains contain hundreds of trillions of connections, which is more than all the stars in the Milky Way galaxy. And while we’re on the subject of brains, did you know that the human brain stops growing at age 18?


Do you know more awesome STEM-related facts? Tell us about it!

Approach your classroom like your Facebook page

Photo Source: Rawpixel|Dollar Photo Club

Photo Source: Rawpixel|Dollar Photo Club

As a communications professional I often find myself inundated with information about the latest and greatest copywriting techniques. While it is helpful for me to know how to craft web content that sparks interest and facilitates further clickage, the aspect of my job that is much more important to me is the creation of content that is useful and applicable to STEM enthusiasts. Needless to say that I am always thrilled, however, when these two worlds collide and pose an opportunity for interesting transdisciplinary application…

So, I recently stumbled upon this Buffer article explaining some simple copywriting tips. About halfway through reading the article I found myself wondering, “What if these principles were also applied in a classroom?” Now, you’re probably thinking “yeah, but it’s way easier to keep someone’s attention for a few minutes on a social media site than to keep it for hours in a classroom,” but just hear me out. When you find yourself following an entertaining conversational thread on a Facebook page or reading an interesting article that a friend posted, you are pretty engaged in that moment, right? And why is that? Because you are following information that is particularly interesting or applicable to you. So how can those moments be re-created in the classroom setting?

While not all of the rules posed in the article are applicable in the classroom, I’ve plucked out some gems to help you create engaging lessons in your classroom.

Rule #1 – Create a Curiosity Gap

The first rule presented in the article is to create a curiosity gap. What this means for copywriters is that they should create headlines that are “tantalizing enough to get a reader to click through, but mustn’t give away the whole story.” Ok great. This is a great principle to create short-term curiosity for a reader, but it can also be very applicable to the way lessons are planned and structured. But how can you introduce your students to new lessons to create a curiosity gap? I view this to be a trait that many project-based, problem-based, and inquiry-based lesson structures possess. When students are posed with a context and a problem, obtaining the skills they need to learn to explore the issue becomes a much more engaging process. A narrative structure also creates a curiosity gap. When our brains are presented with bits and pieces of a story, we become much more engaged in filling in the details of the story. Which leads me to the next rule…

Rule #2 – Don’t expect announcements to be popular (and turn them into a story instead)

You’ve probably been there… the pinnacle of your lesson comes around and your students are underwhelmed, disinterested, and staring at the clock. But for those lessons that came packaged in a story, I bet you experienced the opposite effect. According to the article, “You can in fact, create the exact same emotions that you had when experiencing a situation in the other person if they are listening to your story.” The use of narrative storytelling with your lessons creates a shared experience among yourself and your students, thus creating a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. So when crafting lessons, think to yourself “how can I incorporate these facts and/or processes into a story?”

Rule #3 – Know exactly who reads your posts and tailor your words to them

One of the words that goes through the heads of communication professionals about fifty thousand times a day is “audience.” Now, before you get mad at me, I am completely aware that this word (or student—its equivalent in teachspeak) in constantly on the minds of teachers as well. Lessons are almost always tailored to a student’s age, skill level, etc. But are there more aspects of your audience that you could take into account when you stage your lessons? Building off the previous two rules, ask yourself “what are my students talking about during their side conversations? What are they interested in, what do they pursue in their free time?” Making class time feel more closely in tune with their extracurricular identities is a sure way to get them engaged and keep them engaged. This teacher who crafted a zombie-based learning experience for his students is a great example of being tuned in to an audience…

Rule #4 – Use more verbs and less nouns

To apply this rule to the classroom setting I suggest looking at it less literally and more symbolically. This one goes back to the basic adage “tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand.” Are there a way to make your lessons more active? More involved? More hands-on? Think of different angles that you can approach your content from to create new and innovative ways to involve your students.

But if you want to take this one literally too, the article points out that “verbs are also more persuasive in college admission letters. Dee Leopold, Harvard Business School’s head of M.B.A. admissions said in an interview that the best recommendations for student contain lots of verbs, as these are stronger than adjectives.” So pass this tip on to your college-ready students, eh?

So what are your experiences with these rules? Do they work? Can they be improved? Let’s talk about it!

Last month’s exciting STEM news – November, 2013

Here we go again folks… some cool STEMy things from the month of November:

The Animal Kingdom IconAnimal Kingdom

Humans aren’t the only ones affected by devastating natural disasters. Read about these animals that were rescued in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan. Read article.

Extreme Weather IconExtreme Weather

Extreme weather found itself front and center in the news this month as Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines. Typhoon Haiyan was one of the strongest storms ever recorded. In case you’re not up to speed about what happened, here’s a synopsis of the storm. Read article.

Medical Innovations IconMedical Innovations

Due to a shortage in physicians, one medical school in California is offering free medical school. Where was this deal when we were in college? Read article.

Robotics IconRobotics

If India Jones and the Bionic Woman had a turtle for a baby, this would be it. U-CAT is a robotic turtle that will help archaeologists investigate undersea shipwrecks…  Read article.

Space IconSpace

A meteorite that surfaced in the Sahara Desert is revealed to be a piece of ancient Mars. Thanks to this little piece of Martian crust, scientists are able to unlock secrets of the ancient planet. Read article.

Under the Sea IconUnder the Sea

A recent study published in the journal Nature Genetics reveals how whales evolved their deep and lengthy diving abilities and their baleen teeth replacements. This is way cool. Read article.

Video Games IconVideo Games

Did you know that your performance in first-person shooter games can predict career success in STEM fields? No, seriously. The American Psychologist has recently published an article summarizing a decade of video game research. While people are rushing to say that this article proves video games are good for you, the more realistic tagline might be “video games still have pros and cons”. Read article.

Wind Energy IconWind Energy

Are you constantly left wondering why “clean energy” hasn’t taken off? Well, this article brings up some interesting points about the complications of clean energy prospects. Read article.

So there, various STEM subject lovers. We’ve got you covered!