In celebration of the UN International Day for Girls and Women in Science, CIS recently partnered with the Singapore Committee for UN Women to host an event to promote science as a motivating path for learning, advanced studies and career leadership. Primary aged female students from CIS and other local community schools participated in the energising Saturday afternoon STEAM workshop held at Tanjong Katong campus.

As the girls and their parents arrived, they were set the task of building a functional mechanical structure from an array of materials and tools (including simple machine elements such as levers, linkages and cams) that were displayed across the gymnasium. Although this sounds like a simple task, it was not, as although teams could build any structure they wanted to using any of the parts, they would be unable to test their designs to see if they actually worked before the end.

With many sights, sounds and textured parts to consider, teams needed to observe, analyse and ask questions about how each individual piece may work, then decide how to use the pieces to build a functional complete end-product, which could perform any mechanical function. The task really was open-ended with many ‘possible solutions’. Still, without being able to test, teams had to be bold, discuss options, make assumptions, be innovative risk-takers by committing to construct the item, before they knew for sure that it worked.

This challenge called Cardboard Automata is a STEAM task that involves interaction with simple materials, but builds to become increasingly complex as teams put their creative ideas into action. At different stages of the design process, spontaneous questions were raised about the process of design and many were closely related to broader PYP concepts, some of which included:

Form: Which materials do we need to create the Automata based on the final product cycle?
Causation: Why do size, texture, shape and weight have an impact on mechanical movements?
Function: How will we combine different tools, materials and design steps to achieve mechanical goals?
Connection: How do we connect all the parts of the Automata to increase efficiency?
Perspective: What are different ways to approach the task?
Change: How do the design choices we made have an impact on the efficiency of the Automata?
Reflection: What have been the best moments of collaborating with my parent or child on this project?

Since the efficiency and functionality of final products could not be determined ahead of time, the STEAM workshop genuinely challenged all participants to achieve a common goal in unique and innovative ways.

Parents and their daughters worked well beyond the time assigned for the STEAM task, which showed the high level of interest by all! In the final stages, a collective sense of accomplishment and pride was felt, and many teams expressed a strong desire to participate in similar STEAM workshops in the future!

We thank all students and their parents for attending the event, and participating with such enthusiasm.

Special thank you’s are extended also to Mr Ben Cooperman, CIS TK’s STEAM facilitator, for his expertise and creative insight in planning for the event, Mr Tim Studlo, CIS TK’s Digital Literacy Coach, for technical and logistical support at the workshop and Mrs Stephanie Cooperman, who bought her valuable experience as an entrepreneur to help participating families through practical aspects of the process.

Community connections

This event has created a number of meaningful connections with our community that extend far beyond this one activity.

Immediately following the event, two of the UN Committee members (including an engineer and another youth initiative representative) graciously accepted guest invitations to return to TK later the same month as judges for the annual Grade 4 Physics Olympics day. We look forward to this and other collaboration opportunities in future.

CIS acknowledges the PIE Institute resource guide used as inspiration for this event, which includes the work of a range of contributors supported by the National Science Foundation.

Find out more about the Singapore Committee for UN Women, a non-profit organisation working towards women's empowerment and gender equality in the region at www.unwomen-nc.org.sg.

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