Prepare for Black History Month

February is Black History Month. African American scientists and engineers have had a huge impact on the STEM world for a long time! Here are a few of the African American scientists, engineers, and mathematicians who have made the STEM world a cooler place!

George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver was a scientist and inventor. He invented over 100 products from the peanut, sweet potatoes, and soybeans! Every invention he created was to help make the world a better place, and that is exactly what he did!

George Washington Carver Photo

Euphemia Lofton Haynes

Euphemia Lofton Haynes was a mathematician. She was the first African American woman to receive a PhD in mathematics. Afterwards, she turned towards the world of education to change the face of education. She did so by fighting against segregation in schools and advocating for poor students and better schools. She took the STEM and education world by storm!

George Edward Alcorn Jr. 

George Edward Alcorn Jr. is a physicist and inventor. He earned a PhD in atomic and molecular physics. He has invented and patented many creations, including the Imaging X-ray Spectrometer. For this invention, he received the NASA Inventor of the Year Award.

Campbell C. Johnson

Campbell C. Johnson was a Quality Engineer. He started college as a Civil Engineering major at Howard University and realized his passion for Chemical Engineering. This caused him to transfer to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, but because he was a transfer student and the only African American in his class, he was at a disadvantage which caused him to push himself to the best of his ability. He graduated with his degree in Chemical Engineering in 1942.

Campbell C. Johnson

Daniel Hale Williams 

Dr. Daniel Hale Williams was performed the first successful open heart surgery at Provident Hospital in Chicago. This hospital was also founded by Dr. Williams, and was one of the only hospitals to welcome African American patients. Dr. Williams changed the medical world for years to come!

That’s only a few of the many African American scientists and engineers to change the world of STEM forever!

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A Very Merry STEM Christmas

Kids get time off from school during the holidays, and this is great! It gives them time for independent exploration, but this also means that they have to stay busy. The best way to keep them busy and make sure they’re learning is to do STEM Christmas activities! These activities have all the Christmas cheer and fun, and they’re also a great way to learn!

Below are our favorite STEM Christmas activities.

Christmas Tree Icy Engineering

All the supplies you need for this activity are simple household items! All you need to do is freeze water in different sized containers, and build a Christmas tree out of the ice. Through this, students learn about different shapes, weights, and other characteristics to keep in mind while building their trees. Students will learn simple engineering concepts through festive fun!

Christmas Tree STEM Ice tree building engineering activity

Crystal Candy Canes

For this activity, you will need borax, mason jars, water, and other household supplies. You and the students will create a candy cane out of pipe cleaners. Then, you will mount the candy cane in a mason jar into a mixture. The next day, the candy cane will be covered in crystals – which is AWESOME! Students will learn all about the different mixtures, states of matter, and more!

Crystal candy cane after 24 hours

Erupting Ornaments

The Erupting Ornaments experiment is the most fun Christmas themed experiment. Students will fill clear ornaments with baking soda and vinegar to learn about chemical reactions. The reaction will cause the ornament to erupt and the fizzy mixture to spill. This is a really fun way to learn about reactions, and kids will get to perform this awesome hands-on activity!

Christmas Baking soda science eruption ornaments play

We hope everyone has the best holiday season possible! Stay safe, make time for family and friends, have fun, and learn something new!

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A STEM Thanksgiving

The season of Thanksgiving is upon us, and it’s always cool to connect STEM and Thanksgiving inside and outside the classroom!

The cool thing about Thanksgiving STEM activities is that they connect STEM and history, so students learn about both, which is awesome!

Here are some of our favorite Thanksgiving STEM activities!

Build the Mayflower

Build the Mayflower with your students to teach them about buoyancy! Students will use household objects to build the Mayflower and test whether or not their ideas work. Students can test boats with and without sails, with or without paint, with varying weights, and more!

Mayflower Craft and Science Experiment for Thanksgiving

Cranberry Chemistry

Teach your students all about chemical reactions through the use of cranberry juice, baking soda, and lemon juice! Students will learn how different solutions react; they will also learn all about the different chemicals that cause these reactions.

Cranberry Chemistry

Regrowing Food

Not only is Thanksgiving a cool time to learn about STEM, it’s also a time to be thankful and not wasteful.

Do this cool activity to regrow Thanksgiving food to learn about growing plants!

This is always a fun activity, and it’s even more fun when it’s Thanksgiving!

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Along with STEM activities, we hope your Thanksgiving is filled with food, fun, and family. Remember to learn something new this holiday! We hope everyone has a fantastic Thanksgiving!

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Halloween Science

Halloween is right around the corner, and with all the cool/fun things going on, kids may forget about the cool/fun things they learn about in school. The best way to reiterate what’s going on in school is to combine STEM and Halloween! Do these awesome STEM Halloween activities to get your kids excited about Halloween AND school!

Glowing Pumpkins

Glow in the dark jack o’ lanterns are super cool!

For this experiment, you will need to purchase Glow Powder to add to your pumpkins, but the students will learn all about illumination.

What you need to do for this experiment is simple – make your pumpkin and add adhesive and glow powder!

Afterwards, your students will be able to connect fluorescence and phosphorescence to the activity they just completed!


Oozing Pumpkin 

Make oozing pumpkins with your students to teach them about chemical reactions!

These pumpkins are jack o’ lanterns that have foam oozing out of their mouths, eyes, and noses through the use of easy household ingredients.

The reaction of hydrogen peroxide and a yeast mixture causes the foam to form. The yeast acts as a catalyst which speeds up the reaction. Students will learn all about reactions and catalysts through this cool experiment!


The Screaming Cup

Make a Screaming Cup with your students. Students will learn about sound transmission through vibrations. The materials used for this experiment are simple: a plastic cup, a piece of string, and violin rosin!

The procedure is also simple – cut a hole in the cup, thread the string in and tie it, and wet the string with violin rosin. When you rub your fingers along the string, there will be a screaming noise!

Students will learn that the vibration from your fingers causes the amplification of the sound inside the cup which causes the screaming sound!

Not only will they learn about sound and vibrations, they will also be able to relate it to Halloween!


We hope you and your family have a great and safe Halloween! Don’t forget to do these cool STEM activities and learn something new along with the festivities!

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Upcoming Events

It’s always busy in the Caruth Institute for Engineering Education, but it’s also always exciting! We have some awesome events happening soon; below you’ll find descriptions of whats coming up!

TEDxSMUWomen 2016 is on October 27, 2016 at the Hughes-Trigg Student Center at SMU in Dallas, TX. TEDxSMUWomen is a full day conference that consists of networking, discussions, workshops, and live, local speakers!

TedxKids@SMU: Illuminate is on November 11, 2016 at The Bomb Factory in Deep Ellum. TEDxKids@SMU is a TED-style conference for middle school students that focuses on passion and ideas. 7-9 speakers will share their ideas, and in between sessions, students will be able to interact with speakers and each other! Students who attend are required to complete a service project.

TEDxSMU After Dark  is also on November 11, but this event is at 6 p.m.! TEDxSMU After Dark is a casual, fun night with food and drinks, speakers, and live music!

TEDxSMU 2016: Illuminate is on November 12 at The Bomb Factory! There are two sessions of TEDxTalks from local and national speakers! In between sessions, attendees get to talk to speakers and each other, and they also get to participate in interactive exhibits and discussions.

February 18, 2017 is Visioneering 2017! Visioneering is a half-day event for middle school students! Students from all over North Texas come to SMU and participate in an engineering design challenge to learn all about problem solving and engineering!

Another event a little later in February is the Dallas Regional Science and Engineering Fair. This event will take place on February 25, 2017, and it will consist of just what it sounds like – a science and engineering fair! Students will bring their projects to showcase them in hopes of advancing to the next round!

All of these events are so cool and a ton of fun! We have a busy (and super exciting) year ahead, and we hope to see you at our events!

Teacher Professional Development at the Caruth Institute

Over the summer, we had a lot of cool programs for middle school and high school students, but we also had cool programs for teachers!

We had two professional development courses for teachers of grades 4-8 and for high school teachers!

The first course was Classroom Robotics for Teachers Grades 4th-8th. The course was one week long and consisted of an introduction to the LEGO Mindstorms EV3 System. Participants learned about EV3 programming and building and were given activities to use in the classroom!

The next Teacher Professional Development Course we had was the UIL Robotics Training FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) and First Robotics Competition (FRC) course. The training consisted of learning about coaching a team in the FTC or the FRC! Participants learned how to organize teams, understand project management, and effective strategies to build/program a robot. Because this is the first year that Robotics is considered a varsity sport in Texas, these professionals were some of the first that will be participating in the new events!

These trainings were very cool, and the teachers learned a lot and had a great time!

Summer Programs at the Caruth Institute for Engineering Education

Summer is one of the most exciting times of the year – school’s out, the sun’s shining, and kids (and adults) get to do cool things they wouldn’t normally be able to do during school!

This summer at the Caruth Institute for Engineering Education, we hosted a variety of programs for students in middle school and high school.

The first one we hosted for middle school students was the Mindstorms Robotics Program. Students spent two weeks learning all about robotics using the LEGO Mindstorms EV3 System. They worked together and learned how to build and and program a LEGO robot.

Another program for middle school students was Introduction to Programming. Middle school students spent two weeks learning how to program simple devices. They learned simple to complex function programming. They got to make electronic devices and program them! It was a really cool experience for the students participating and for the adults that were there to help!

Another cool program was the Crime Scene Investigation Summer Program for 6th and 7th grade students. The students spent three days exploring science, technology, engineering, and math to learn how each subject is relevant when trying to solve crimes! Students even solved a “real” crime scene and got to see presentations by professionals in the crime scene field!

The Rocketry Program was also a ton of fun! Middle Schoolers spent two weeks designing, building, and flying a model rocket from scratch! They built multiple rockets prior to the final model rocket, and throughout the two weeks the students learned a ton about what goes into rocket flight!

Quad-Copters are fun – especially when you have a summer program devoted to learning all about them! Quad-Copters have recently gained a lot of popularity as they are going to be used in a variety of places. Middle school students spent two weeks learning how quad-copters work and got to use quad-copters to go through an obstacle course!

The last program we did for middle school students was The Competitive Robotics FIRST LEGO League Program. This program lasted one week and prepared the students for the FIRST LEGO League Competition in the fall. Students got to learn a lot and build a robot!

Along with programs for middle school students, we also hosted programs for high school students! They were just as cool and just as exciting as the programs we held for middle schoolers!

We hosted a residential engineering program for 11th and 12th grade students. This program was split into two sessions – one for boys and one for girls. Rising juniors and seniors were able to explore the different fields of engineering offered at the Lyle School of Engineering. The first two (of five) days were spent building skills in the fields of electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and computer programming. Then, the students were  assigned a design challenge to build a prototype to solve a real-world problem! The program ended with a project presentation. This program was a lot of fun for everyone!

The next camp we held for high school students was the Advanced Robotics (FIRST Tech Challenge) Program. During the week long program, high school students worked together to build a TETRIX robot. Not only did they build awesome robots, they also learned to program their robots autonomously and with remote controls!

We also hosted a Quad-Copter Program for High School Students. Students spent two weeks learning all about quad-copters, and eventually went on to design and build parts to add to their own using CAD software and 3D printers! Students learned the rules quad-copters have to follow, and were able to fly the copters through an obstacle course. The students even got to compete with one another to see who was better able to get through the obstacle course! Students and teachers enjoyed the program, alike!

The last (and one of the coolest) programs we hosted for high school students was the Space Launch Program! This program was two weeks long, and students learned all about space flight through the use of a launch simulator, rockets, and a weather balloon. The students designed, built, and flew a model rocket, sent a weather balloon up in the air and monitored the temperature and pressure of the atmosphere, and learned how to use a 3D printer, CAD software, and program sensors!

There was always a cool program going on at the Caruth Institute this past summer! Although, as with every project, there were some head-scratching moments, students and teachers all had a great time. We’re sad that this summer has concluded, but we can’t wait until next year to have an even better time!

Math Awareness Month 2016

April is Math Awareness Month, and the theme is The Future of Prediction!

MAM 2016

This year’s theme is meant to show how math and statistics are used to predict the future!

For resources to use during Math Awareness Month to explore the theme from the National Education Association for students in grades K-12, click here!

Apart from using these resources, take time to teach your students (or learn yourself) about how math is all around us. Without math, we wouldn’t have any of the cool technology we have today – we wouldn’t even have the chairs we sit on or the buildings we live/learn/play in! Math is all everywhere, but we just don’t realize it!

So, take some time to appreciate math this month!

Also, how fitting that Square Root Day (4/4/16) was in April (Math Awareness Month) this year! It’s crazy how cool math is!

UIL Robotics

In a world where knowledge of STEM is vital in choosing a career, the variety of STEM related programs in schools was limited.

However, this has been recognized as a problem that needed to be resolved, so UIL has added a robotics competition!

This year has been the first year this is being implemented, and the competition has been divided into two divisions, BEST and FIRST. BEST is for smaller schools without official robotics programs, and FIRST is for schools with more advanced programs and teams.

Both divisions have had a huge impact on various schools, and they have definitely increased students’ interest in STEM and robotics!

We are looking forward to how this program will take shape over the course of the next few years!


National Engineering Week – Visioneering!

February 21-27 was National Engineering Week 2016! To kick off National Engineering Week, The Caruth Institute for Engineering Education in the Bobby Lyle School of Engineering at SMU hosted their 16th annual Visioneering event!

Lyle Visioneering

On February 20th, over 90 middle school teams from all over DFW came to SMU to display their engineering skills!

Lyle Visioneering

After teams arrived, they were welcomed in the auditorium through a welcoming ceremony where they learned about what engineers do, and they were presented with this year’s design challenge! This year’s challenge consisted of the students designing a classroom for the year, 2025. After they were given the challenge and some ideas, they were sent off to various classrooms across SMU to work on the project!

When in the classrooms, students met with their mentors (either a professional engineer, an engineering student from SMU, or a professor from SMU). Mentors introduced themselves, described the field of engineering, and discussed the engineering design process. Students were given time to brainstorm ideas that they had for their classrooms of the future based on things they thought were wrong with the classrooms of today. After brainstorming, students worked with a partner to design a drawing of what they think the classroom should look like. After the partner activity, students worked together as a team to finalize ideas before they moved on to their diorama.

After finalizing their ideas, students created a diorama of their classrooms with card-stock paper, construction paper, markers, and a shoe-box. Students got pretty creative with these dioramas.

Some students wanted courtyards inside, doors that lead to playgrounds, multiple floors (1 for education, 1 for studying), holograms on the walls, whiteboards/smartboards that were connected to each student’s desk, and more!


Students really got creative with their ideas for their classrooms!

After the creation of the classrooms, students were expected to present their creations to judges. Each student was expected to have a role in the presentation to explain each new idea they had for their classrooms.

After presentations/judging, students returned to the auditorium for snacks, an engineering panel, and awards! Six teams were awarded for various aspects of the project, but everyone left with the satisfaction of creating an engineering project!

Students and mentors enjoyed, alike, and students left knowing how to work in a team, to not be afraid to share their ideas, and with more knowledge about what engineers do!

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Visioneering 2016 was a success, and we can’t wait for next year!