The Rosie Innovators STEM Night is an evening of hands-on science, math, and engineering activities for families to complete together. Focusing on elementary-school students, it aims to get kids excited about STEM!
STEM Night is a community-based event designed and executed by the Rosie Innovators – young women in high school that are preparing to pursue STEM in college (and beyond)! These young women have researched, developed, and presented all the hands-on projects at STEM Night in order to share their passion for STEM with children and inspire the next generation in the field.
Read on below for details about each hands-on project, including fun facts about a real woman in STEM working in the field and instructions to complete the project at home!
Want to host a Rosie Innovators STEM Night at your elementary school? Email firstname.lastname@example.org! To learn more about the Rosie Innovators program for young women in high school, please visit https://www.rosieriveters.com/rosie_innovators
STEM Night Activities and Presenters
Rosie Innovators Make Bobbin Pulleys by Emma
Rosie Innovators Make Bobbin Pulleys
Rosie Innovators Make Hovercrafts by Hope
Rosie Innovators Make Hovercrafts
Rosie Innovators Build Toothpick Constellations by Kathryn, Julienne, and Kate
Rosie Innovators Build Toothpick Constellations
Rosie Innovators Make Kaleidoscopes by Qiaojing and Emma
Rosie Innovators Make Kaleidoscopes
Rosie Innovators Make DNA Models by Ella and Samantha
Rosie Innovators Make Candy DNA Models
Simple machines make up almost all mechanical systems. They make tasks easier, because the effort is spread over a longer distance – that way less force needs to be applied by you! Pulleys are a kind of simple machine that can be found in systems like elevators, drawbridges, and construction cranes.
In this project created by Emma, a member of the Rosie Innovators STEM program for young women in high school, you’ll be building your own pulley system to lift pennies. When pulleys have more fulcrums, or points where the string turns, it is easier to lift things. Other levers also have fulcrums, like the point where the board balances on seesaws! It would be very difficult to lift someone on the opposite end of a long board, but by placing a fulcrum in the middle, it is easy to make them go up and down.
Ready to make this project at home or in your classroom? Gather the materials listed at the right, and follow the instructions below!
- 3 plastic bobbins or spools
- 1 piece of cardboard (cereal boxes work well!)
- 3 x the length of the cardboard string
- easel (optional)
- double sided adhesive
- hole punch
- mini paper cup
- 10 pennies or other small weights
Take three pieces of tape or three dots of hot glue and stick them to the cardboard piece in the shape of an upside-down triangle. They should be at least three inches apart.
Stick the flat side of one bobbin to each piece of tape or dot of glue.
Punch a hole in each side of the mini cup and run the string through it. Tie one end of the string to the other side just above the cup.
Run the string through the bobbins, starting with the one furthest to the left. The pattern is over, under, over.
Place the cardboard on the easel for stability (optional).
Fill the cup with pennies, and pull gently on the end of the string to lift the cup!
Experiment with different routes for the string through the bobbins to see if you can make a new pulley system!
Note: Friction is a force that works against the direction of an object moving against something else. When objects rub together, it slows the motion down. You might notice that when your cup has more pennies in it (i.e., more weight), it’s harder to lift even with the pulley, because the string is creating more friction with the bobbins. Different kinds of string create more or less friction–try using different types and see what happens!
Real Women in STEM
Not all influential engineers build technologies for spacecrafts. Some, like Vanessa Galvez, have made an out-of-this-world impact in their own communities! Galvez is a civil engineer who became interested in engineering after watching a documentary about levees that stopped working during Hurricane Katrina. As a kid, she loved taking things apart and putting them together. At age 26, she led a project installing bioswales in Queens, NY. Bioswales help absorb stormwater runoff and protect the city from pollution and flooding. Galvez’s work can provide a blueprint for future urban-improvement projects, protecting the environment for generations to come.
This project was created by Emma, a sophomore at Washington-Liberty High School. Emma has loved STEM since she was little, because she enjoys figuring out what makes things work, from plants to airplanes to humans. According to Emma, “If we understand the world more deeply, then we can come up with better solutions to our problems!” She’s most passionate about environmental science, but is always up for learning about something new.
In this project created by Hope, a member of the Rosie Innovators STEM program for young women in high school, you will make your very own “levitating” hovercraft! This hovercraft flies when air pressure in a balloon is released and produces a cushion of air for the hovercraft to float on.
A hovercraft is a vehicle that releases strong currents of air underneath it. When the air gets trapped under the hovercraft, it produces a cushion of air for the hovercraft to glide over. Based on Newton’s 3rd Law – Action and Reaction – when this air is pushed down from the hovercraft, it applies a force on the ground which then pushes the hovercraft up – an equal and opposite reaction. In other words, air down, craft up! The hovercraft’s air cushion reduces friction, or the resistance from 2 objects rubbing together, because the hovercraft doesn’t touch the surface. Instead, it flies above it, making the hovercraft amphibious, i.e., able to travel on/between land and water. It’s like a hybrid between a boat, plane, and helicopter!
Ready to make your hovercraft at home or in your classroom? Gather the materials listed at the right, and follow the instructions below! But be careful – this hovercraft might just blow your socks off!
Cut the milkshake straw to about 3 inches long (or experiment with different lengths).
Use putty to seal the straw to the CD by inserting the straw into the center hole of the CD and securing with the putty (make sure no air can escape!). Only about ½ inch of the straw should stick out the bottom.
Insert the top side of the straw (longer side) into a balloon and secure it with tape (again, make sure no air can escape!).
To fly, blow up the balloon from the ½ inch of straw sticking out on the bottom. When you’re done inflating the balloon, pinch it to hold the air and place the hovercraft upright on a surface. When you’re ready, let go and watch it glide away!
Troubleshooting: If your hovercraft doesn’t fly the first time, don’t worry, this is an important stage in the design process that real life engineers use everyday: testing and modifying. Try experimenting with the amount of air in your balloon, the length of the straw, and the places you have tape or putty (make sure air can only get out through the bottom of the straw. You can test this by blowing up the balloon and clogging the straw with your finger. If you hear air escaping elsewhere, you’ll need to find where it’s leaking and patch it).
For an advanced challenge, try directing the hovercraft’s flight path by confining it in a walled race track or adding weights to certain sides of the CD!
Real Women in STEM
Mary W. Jackson
Mary W. Jackson, born in Virginia in 1921, was the first African-American female engineer to work at NASA. Like most women at NASA in the 1950s, she began in the “computing” pool, but after completing special math and physics classes at the University of Virginia, she became an official engineer, focusing on the ways the boundary layer of air behaves around airplanes. Despite many achievements, Mary was not promoted to the highest levels at NASA because people treated her unfairly due to her race and gender. So, she became the manager of the Federal Women’s Program and worked to increase the number of women hired as mathematicians, engineers, and scientists. Before retiring, Mary received many awards recognizing her efforts to help women in STEM!
This project was created by Hope, a sophomore at Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School. Hope has loved all things STEM since she joined Rosie Riveters in fourth grade. In school, she enjoys advanced math and science classes as she works towards becoming an engineer. In addition to playing flute in both her school orchestra and a local college band, competing on the varsity crew team, and serving her community, she is a member of her school’s engineering and design club and president of the coding club. She loves to merge logic and creativity in STEM, and looks forward to changing the world as a woman in STEM!
Get ready to explore the solar system!
In this project created by Kathryn, Kate, and Julienne, members of the Rosie Innovators STEM program for young women in high school, you will investigate the principles of astronomy by building toothpick constellations! You’ll learn about constellations and their role in our solar system – from the Little Dipper, Big Dipper, Orion, Cygnus, Cepheus – the choice is yours!
Ready to get started? Gather the materials listed at the right, and follow the instructions below! Use these Printable Constellation Flashcards as a guideline for creating your constellations.
- white crayon or pencil
- black cardstock
- 10-12 toothpicks
- constellation templates
Select your preferred constellation from these Printable Constellation Flashcards.This will be your guideline for creating your constellations.
Draw your constellation on a piece of black cardstock. Mark a dot for each star, and connect them with lines that are the length of a toothpick.
Place marshmallows over the dots and connect them with toothpicks.
When your constellation is complete, tape the toothpicks to the cardstock.
Label your constellation on the card!
Real Women in STEM
Annie Jump Cannon
In the early 1900s, Annie Jump Cannon created the modern star classification system, “OBAFGKM,” which classifies stars by temperature. The system was based on her observations of over 10,000 stars. Cannon was a part of a Harvard Observatory group called “Pickering’s Women,” and she cataloged and classified over 350,000 stars. She discovered 300 variable stars, 5 novae stars, and 1 binary star! Cannon received the Henry Draper Gold Medal of the National Academy of the Sciences and was the first woman to receive an honorary doctorate of science at Oxford. Cannon was one of the first women in astronomy and also faced the hardship of being deaf.
This project was created by a team of three Rosie Innovators – Kathryn, Julienne, and Kate!
Kathryn is a junior at Washington-Liberty High School. Her interest in STEM began in preschool science class and has grown into an academic and extracurricular endeavor. In college, Kathryn plans to study biomedical technology or immunology.
Julienne is a ninth grader at Charles J. Colgan Sr. High School. Raised in a family of engineers, Julienne naturally became interested in STEM, which has led to her current interest and participation in VEX Robotics. In college, Julienne plans to study systems engineering.
Kate is a sophomore at Bishop Ireton High School. She first became interested in STEM in middle school when attending a coding camp, and from there went on to attend different STEM-related camps and programs including a camp at West Point! In college, Kate plans to study criminology or psychology.
Did you know that light isn’t a thing (i.e., matter)? That’s right, most objects don’t make their own light, rather we see things because they reflect light! For example, we can see the moon because it reflects light from the sun, our main source of natural light. If an object did not reflect any light, we would not be able to see it!
In this project created by Qiaojing and Emma, members of the Rosie Innovators program for young women in high school, you will make a kaleidoscope! This awesome device creates cool images via the reflection of light from objects on metallic or mylar paper.
Ready to make this project at home or in your classroom? Gather the materials listed on the right and follow the instructions below to build a fun kaleidoscope!
- 1 craft roll
- clear plastic (egg carton, packing material, etc.)
- 1 card stock
- 1 mylar or metallic sheet
- translucent colored beads
- small circular drawings
Place the paper tube on the clear card stock and trace out two circles using the tube as a reference.
Place the paper tube on the white cardstock, and trace out one circle.
Draw a rectangle that is 4.1 in x 3.4 in (10.4 cm x 8.5 cm) on the metallic paper.
Cut out all the circles and the rectangles. Be sure to cut a small hole out of the center of the white cardstock circle to look through.
Fold the metallic rectangle into three equal sections (about 1.35 inches each).
Bring the two ends of the rectangle together to form a prism, and secure the seam with tape.
Place the prism into the tube.
Place the white cardstock eyepiece (circle) on to one end of the paper tube, and secure with tape.
Place one of the clear plastic circles into the craft tube on top of the prism, and secure with tape.
Fill the space between the clear plastic and the uncovered end of the craft tube with decorations (this can be confetti, beads, or anything small).
Place the other clear plastic circle at the top of the tube containing the decorations and secure with tape.
The kaleidoscope is done! You can also decorate it with markers.
Real Women in STEM
Yu-Jung Lu is currently an assistant professor of physics at National Taiwan University. She is a material physicist, meaning that she studies the physical properties of matter in molecules and nanostructures. Her research focuses on devices that investigate harvesting, generating, and manipulating light at the nanoscale. She also works actively to inspire young people to pursue careers in STEM.
This project was created by a team of two Rosie Innovators – Qiaojing and Emma!
Qiaojing is a junior at Washington-Liberty High School. She is most interested in computer science, but physics and chemistry are also her favorites! Qiaojing’s interest in STEM is driven by her curiosity about the creation of things, and the realization of her strength in the domain.
Emma is in ninth grade, and is homeschooled. She is interested in several STEM fields, including engineering, biology, psychology, and physics. STEM intrigues her because it helps her understand the world around her in ways she’d never thought of before!
In this project created by Ella and Samantha, members of the Rosie Innovators STEM program for young women in high school, you will create your own DNA strand out of candy to learn more about DNA structures! Using a template (see below), you’ll organize different colors of candy to create DNA base pairs (adenine with thymine and cytosine with guanine) and connect them with toothpick hydrogen bonds and a twizzler backbone.
DNA is a material in all living things that codes for different traits. The two different pairs of colors that you’ll pair in the DNA models represent different base pairs that make up your DNA. These are like puzzle pieces – as one piece always pairs with another in a puzzle, so does DNA. In these models, just like DNA, in the real world, adenine always pairs with thymine and guanine always pairs with cytosine!
Now that you know about DNA and what makes up its structure, it is time to make your own DNA model out of candy! Gather the materials listed to the right, print out the DNA template, and follow the instructions below!
- 1 plate
- 8-10 toothpicks
- 2 Twizzlers
- 8 gum drops
- 1 DNA template
- hand wipes
Gather the toothpicks, two twizzlers, and gumdrops. Place the DNA Template on your plate.
Sort the gumdrops by color on your template.
Start by putting a toothpick into one side of the twizzler.
Put a pair of gumdrops on that toothpick.
Repeat this with the rest of the toothpicks and gumdrops.
Attach the second twizzler to the other side of all of the toothpicks.
If you want a challenge, twist your twizzlers to create a double helix shape!
Women in STEM
Rosalind Franklin was a key pioneer in the study of the structure of DNA. She was one of very few females in the field, and discovered in the early 1950s that DNA exists in the form of a helix, which is its characteristic spiral shape. Despite Franklin’s discovery, James Watson and Francis Crick are often credited with establishing the double helix structure of DNA. Franklin also contributed to the better understanding of the the structure of viruses, helping to lay the groundwork for the field of virology. Overall, Rosalind was a hard worker, and went on to publish six scientific papers even while battling ovarian cancer.
This project was created by a team of two Rosie Innovators – Ella and Samantha!
Ella is a sophomore at Oakton High School. She’s drawn to STEM because, as she puts it, “whether it’s finding cures for diseases or creating new technology, science has so much application in the real world. It constantly brings new advancements and understandings!”
Samantha is a sophomore at Meridian High School. She is especially interested in biology because it includes numerous opportunities for medical advancements that could improve people’s lives and opens the door to information that increases our knowledge about the world we live in.