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Education and outreach

Build it and they will have fun

24 Jul 2018 Tushna Commissariat
Taken from the July 2018 issue of Physics World

Tushna Commissariat reviews Build It! 25 Creative STEM Projects for Budding Engineers by Caroline Alliston

Educational physics project

Bold, bright and easy to decipher, Build It! 25 Creative STEM Projects for Budding Engineers by award-winning educator, engineer and author Caroline Alliston is the perfect book for any burgeoning engineers, as well as their teachers and parents. The glossy book features 25 STEM projects for children, varying from constructing a marble maze to building a clock. The book’s main aims – to teach children to think scientifically and creatively, while also showing them the applications of science in the real world – are well achieved, thanks to the clear directions and explanations provided throughout. Alliston provides a list of tools and materials that most of the projects require, as well as a detailed section on how to put together a circuit board for some of the projects. While most of the materials should be pretty straightforward to source, the claim that they are “easy-to-find objects from around the home” is an overstatement – I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a spare toggle switch or 13 V motor lying around. Despite this, Alliston does provide a handy list of websites from where you can purchase the necessary electrical parts.

Putting aside this small grievance, Build It! is a great project guide. The projects cover the spectrum of physical forces and concepts including light, air, water and electricity, as you build models that fly, zip around the floor and light up. Each project has a specified difficulty level from one (the easiest) to three (the hardest), and includes a “How it works” box that explains the basic principles behind the build.

Another good feature of the book is that the projects vary a lot in terms of complexity, time required to make them and the skills necessary – not to mention the final product. For example, “the glider” (a more solid version of a paper plane) would be a quick project as it requires only printing out a template and pasting together sections from the polystyrene discs that come with supermarket pizza. The “motorized buggy” on the other hand, if executed perfectly, will give you a driverless vehicle that you can programme to move, turn and even park. With the detailed cut-outs and circuitry necessary, you could easily spend a few days working on this. For the same reasons, the book has projects that could be done with very young children as well as teenagers; just pick the right project. All in all, Build It! is an excellent companion for parents and teachers looking for fun and engrossing projects to keep young hands and minds busy.

  • QED Publishing, Quarto Kids £10.99hb 120pp

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