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STEM Capstone Project Ideas for High School

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

STEM education encourages students to use the Engineering Design Process to solve real world problems. The following STEM capstone projects encourage high school students to think critically and creatively.

STEM Capstone

STEM combines science, technology, engineering, and math to enhance a student's ability to think like a scientist when approaching a problem. STEM students use the Engineering Design Process to define a problem, brainstorm solutions, research and design prototypes, test the prototype, and make improvements on their design in search of the best possible results. The following capstone projects may be used by high school students at the conclusion of their STEM studies.

Wind Energy

Grade level: 9-12

Time: 2-5 days

Guiding Question

  • What is the most energy efficient material for building blades for a wind turbine?

Materials:

  • computer/internet
  • turbine building kits (hub, dowels, DC motor, stand)
  • fan
  • balsa wood
  • cardboard
  • cardstock
  • plastic disposable cups
  • masking tape
  • multimeter

Procedure:

  • After conducting internet research about the design and materials used to create blades on wind turbines, students will create their own prototype to test blade materials.
  • The first step is to build the base of a wind turbine (no blades yet). The angle and location of blades must remain consistent for all trials, therefore the basic design of the turbine will not change.
  • The next step is to create a template for the blades. Regardless of the materials used to create the blades, each blade will be the same size and shape.
  • Then, students will trace and cut out blades of various materials, such as balsa wood, cardboard, cardstock, plastic cups, …
  • The first set of blades will be attached to the wind turbine for testing. During each trial, the fan and the windmill must remain in fixed positions. With the fan on the low position, the blades will turn.
  • Students will use the multimeter to check the voltage of the turbine and record data. Students will complete 3 trials for each set of blades.
  • Students will adjust their design as needed and retest. Possible adjustments may include the size or position of the blades.
  • Results will be translated into graphs from which a written conclusion will be drawn.

Water Testing

Grade level: 9-12

Time: 2-3 days

Guiding Question

  • What is the most effective system for filtering polluted water?

Materials:

  • activated charcoal
  • aquarium pump
  • camera
  • clean 2-liter bottles
  • clean gallon jugs
  • cheesecloth
  • coffee filters
  • computer/internet
  • cotton balls
  • gravel
  • plastic cups
  • pollutants (such as salt, pepper, baking soda, shredded paper, dirt)
  • sand
  • soil
  • stirrers
  • rubber bands
  • water testing kits

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