STEM Students Solve Real Life Problems

STEM Students Solve Real Life Problems
Posted on 02/01/2018
shark tank project

Got a problem that drives you up the wall?  Find a solution!  That is how sixth grade after school STEM Instructors, Chris Gude and Brad Reiman, pitched their plan to their students, tasking them to think about a problem they have.  “If you have ever watched Shark Tank, most of the people who go on have a problem, and now it is their job to create a solution to the problem,” said Mr. Gude. 

For inspiration, Mr. Gude showed the students one of his inventions to help with a water problem in his garage.  He used a muffin tin and melted down plastic pop bottle lids into little feet like pieces to raise items off the ground.  This invention was necessary due to water that gets into the garage when it rains, and the solution prevents the bottoms of boxes, stored in the garage, from getting wet.  “The sharks would eat me alive on this idea because they would look at this and think it is the most ridiculous thing ever, but to me, it’s a good thing because it solves a problem.  I have this problem, and this is the way I am going to go ahead and solve the problem,” explained Mr. Gude. 

As students started to brainstorm ideas, they started out big, but Mr. Gude encouraged them to think smaller, to find that nagging problem.  The ideas represented a broad spectrum of inventions, and many truly did solve everyday problems.   Sixth grader, Trevor, prefers a sharp pencil, so he created a self-sharpening pencil.  When asked how he came up with the idea, he stated, “Because I am in school, and it is very important to me.”  Another problem solver, Blake, also took the approach of a school item.  His idea was to customize lockers to maximize the space.  He would also like to upgrade the padlock into a higher tech system.

Other ideas included the Micro Mini, a portable microwave powered by a solar panel; the No-Gnat 5000, aimed at ridding houses of gnats and mosquitos; a shatterproof phone case and portable charger; Cloud Wi-Fi, a portable Wi-Fi system; The FIP, a chip used for finding things and accessed by a phone app; and R.C. Trash, a remote-controlled trash can that can be operated with a phone app.

Project partners, Gabby and Keegan, created a cooking tool that has a main body to which the consumer can connect six different types of utensils, eliminating many utensils that take up space in a drawer.  Their idea stemmed from hunger.  “We were trying to come up with a problem we have in our life, but we got off track because we were hungry.  We started talking about tacos and how my mom makes tacos and uses so many dishes.  When she washes them, it is hard because all of the handles get in the way, and we figured out how to shrink the handles,” shared Gabby.  The pair is even contemplating how to put spices on the inside of the handle.  Though they have a solid idea, they are still working out the details and trying to come up with the perfect name.

Students will spend the next couple of STEM sessions putting finishing touches on their innovative projects in preparation to pitch their ideas to a panel of volunteer sharks including Jay Van Gelder, Lottie Slawson, Bob Whittenburg, Liz Kluver and Alis Golembeski.