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Julie Marsteller

Building 3d-printed parts for a Rube Goldberg machine to learn about physics

2019 STEM Scholar
Potomac, MD Herbert Hoover Middle School

Julie’s Big Idea: Julie plans a high-tech enhancement of her unit on machines and energy, in which students build a Rube Goldberg machine from common and found objects and recyclables. In her Big Idea, students will use Google Sketch-up to design and create a 3D-printed robotic component for the Rube Goldberg machine. Then, using the Scratch programming language, they will program the component to move, transferring energy through the machine.

Julie’s idea allows students to apply and further their physics content knowledge of energy, forces, motion and acceleration; use basic coding to direct their robotics and 3D created parts to interact within their contraption; and apply the engineering design process to test and revise in order to improve and learn from failures and successes.

Interesting Facts: One of Julie’s favorite science/STEAM lesson is a lesson series emphasizing science, engineering processes and art concepts, while included some less direct standards in ELA and Math based on the work of American scultor/artist, Alexander Calder. The series of lessons took students through core science concepts of movement, gravity and balance. Students create a Calder-esque product which moves freely while interacting with other objects in motion. To do this they applied and created balanced forces through finding the center of gravity. The lesson combined the standards of Science, Engineering, Language Arts and Arts. It helped students identify the relationship in various disciplines helping them move towards a more holistic view of their world. As the science concepts were applied, using the EDP, students discovered ways to make their Calder function properly. The process enabled students to create and design the elements which made up their working product. They learn the processes through mini lessons (cutting, wire bending, creating 3D objects). Through reading, students analyze the life of Calder and his ideas about the work. Upon completion of the project, students wrote a description and explanation of their own product and how it fit the criteria.

In her own words: "I am presently involved with the NASA Endeavor STEM online program, working towards an advanced certificate....My faculty considers me a bit of Jack of All Trades, a bricoleur of sorts (not quite MacGyver)....My bucket list is brimming, but always has room for more."