Saturday, 9 December 2017

The Home-Made STEM Toys Of Christmas with Konnie Huq &the IET

If you watched Blue Peter any time between 1998 and 2007 you'll be familiar with longest-serving female presenter Konnie Huq. Konnie hasn't given up crafts and this Christmas has teamed up with the Institution of Engineering and Technology to bring us a series of easy and fun STEM toys that you and your child can make at home very inexpensively.


Head of Education from the IET, David Lakin has highlighted a significant shortage of engineers in the UK, which is posing a threat to the economy. The STEM toys of Christmas is designed to inspire children’s natural curiosity about how things work and why – a key principle in engineering. We were asked if we wanted to have a go at one of the projects and as soon as I saw the list, I knew which one I was choosing.


Marble Run - learn about engineering and physics. Cut foam tubes in half lengthwise and see how long a marble run you can make in your lounge! Pipe insulation is easy to find this time of year and isn't very expensive.

Smartphone Projector - Using a magnifying glass taped to a hole in a cardboard box, you can put your phone into the box and project a large screen image onto a plain wall.

Balloon Boat - A sponge boat which is powered by a balloon. Slip a thin tube or straw in the neck to direct the propulsion the way you want. We used balloon power for a car and Balloon Rocket with the Nickelodeon Experimake set.

Icosahedron Bauble - Use circles cut from card and formed into triangles to create a bauble or room decoration (see below).


Living Gingerbread House - well, okay, not gingerbread but cress. Sponge shapes and cocktail sticks form a house, add cress seeds and keep it damp...

Magnetic Slime - White PVA glue and liquid laundry detergent make slime, add magnetic powder (iron filings - you can find a bag on Amazon for £3.50ish). Amazing to watch the slime suck metal objects into itself.

Dissolving Egg - Glitter and baking soda mixed together with oil and a little citric acid is your basic bath bomb recipe. You have an explosion of fizz waiting to happen. Add a toy in the centre for a surprise!

Bouncy Balls - Balloons are basically just thin rubber. Part fill one and tie it, then cover it with 5 more and you have a bouncy ball that'll really bounce. What happens if you keep adding balloons?

Kaleidoscope - A kitchen roll tube has a triangular folded piece of mirror card inside (or card with foil glued to it). Poke a straw through card with a pretty pattern and then tape it to the edge. Turn the card to make a very effective kaleidoscope.

Make Your Own Christmas Decorations:
Icosahedron Baubles

When I was a young girl I vividly remember making Icosahedron Baubles at school and also with  my Grandmother. We didn't call them that and our technique was a little different, but it's a fabulous thing to do together while you chat.


I had some gorgeous card left over from when I did some home-made Christmas decorations a few years ago. One of the best things about this Christmas craft though is that you can use any stiff paper or card. It's a brilliant way to recycle last year's Christmas cards. Slightly thinner card is actually better as it folds more easily.


An icosahedron is a polyhedron with 20 equilateral triangle faces, and you need 20 equal circles to form the shape. A plastic beaker is a good size to start with, but you can use bigger or smaller circles to vary the size of your Icosahedron Bauble.


Draw an equilateral triangle on the back of each circle and fold the 3 edges inwards sharply. 5 of these glued together into a dome make both the top and bottom of the shape and the final 10 need sticking together in a straight line to form the belt joining them.


You can use tape, glue, staples or whatever is handy. If you use glue, stick the flat shapes together, let it dry and then fold into the 3D shape and glue the last parts - or you'll get into a mess unless you have 5 hands.


When you stick the first dome onto the belt, you have the advantage of being able to get inside the shape. Sticking the other end on is a bit harder. Double sided tape is the easiest way we've found.


If you take your time and make all of your triangles and bends perfectly, then you'll have a near perfect shape. I had young assistants, we weren't perfect and we think ours is pretty cool.


If you want to attach a ribbon or thread to hang the bauble on your tree or ceiling then do that BEFORE you stick the last side on.

For a much easier-to-make version, but it won't roll quite the same, fold the edges of the circles outwards instead. Trim off any messy bits before you hang up or display your Icosahedron...


Home made decorations are almost always the most precious....


You can find out more about the Institution of Engineering and Technology, and careers in Engineering, on the IET website...





We were sent a shopping voucher to buy the things needed for this craft. 

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