Superhero Science: Summer of STEM (Week 7)
Join Science Buddies this summer for virtual summer camp! Each week, we'll have a fun STEM theme for kids of all ages, suggestions for simple hands-on activities, book picks, and more. With our Summer of STEM, we'll keep you and your kids inspired all summer with creative and innovative science and engineering activities — for free. This week: up, up, and away with superhero science!
Superhero stories appeal to people of all ages. Whether they fly, climb, jump, shapeshift, have super strength, control the elements, or have other superpowers, superheroes use special skills and abilities to solve problems and save the day.
The activities in Week 7 of our Summer of STEM tie in with superhero storylines and mythology. We don't have activities that can really help kids fly, shapeshift, or even climb tall buildings, but all of these activities play nicely with classic superhero themes. We hope your kids have fun trying these activities as part of their imaginative play and worldbuilding this week! They'll be using and learning more about science and engineering while spending time playing creatively. (For older kids, we have extra recommendations this week for exploring electronics and e-textiles.)
Tip: This downloadable PDF contains a summary of the ideas for Week 7. Print this out and use it as a check-list for activities you try this week! You can also print and use our simple activity log (PDF) if you want to encourage your younger students to reflect on their activities.
ASK: Science Questions for Week 7
Use these questions to prompt conversation and reflection this week about the science behind the superhero-themed science activities:
- Who are some of your favorite superheroes? What special abilities or powers do they have?
- Can you simulate or explore those abilities using science or engineering? Why or why not?
- Which science or engineering activity did you try? What did you learn?
- What kinds of STEM jobs are related to the superhero STEM activities you explored this week?
DO & EXPLORE: Superhero STEM Activities
- Make a Parachute: superheroes almost always have cool suits or uniforms, and many classic superheroes have capes. Capes can provide drag when flying or falling, which means they work a bit like a parachute. Kids can explore how parachutes work by making their own and testing with toy animals or figurines. (Tip! Kids can also practice taking and recording measurements and weights and test with different sized parachutes or figurines of different weights, like this kid did.)
- Build a Robot Hand: not every superhero ability is biological or supernatural. Lots of superheroes spend time in a lab working on the design of costumes, gadgets, tools, and gear. Iron Man, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Green Arrow are four superheroes you might associate with special or high-tech equipment, but there are lots of other examples of technology being used to enhance or control powers. Think about Cyclops' visor and Rogue's glove in X-Men and Black Panther's vibranium suit. In this activity, kids design and make their own simple robot hand from straws, play dough, and other craft materials. How well does it work? What features would make it truly epic?
- DIY Face Mask: superhero face masks come in all shapes and sizes. This activity involves making a face mask that covers the mouth and nose, particularly useful in helping slow the spread of viruses. It's easy to build this mask exploration into superhero-themed play. Kids can try different styles of masks, decorate them, and even experiment with ways to make them fit better for their own use.
- Curl Metals With Heat! and Use Chemistry to Lift Ice Cubes: kids won't need superhuman strength for either one of these activities, but watching metal curl in the heat of a flame can be mesmerizing, and lifting ice with a string definitely looks like a superhero skill!
- Build A Vortex Cannon!: being able to direct a forceful blast of air when needed can be a powerful superhero ability! In this activity, kids make a simple vortex cannon from a balloon and a small cup. They can use the device to make small blasts of air. On a hot day, this might feel especially cool!
- Make Sprinkles Vibrate with Sound: some superheroes can control sound either with sonic blasts, high-pitched noises, or other forms of sonokinesis. Think about Banshee and Siryn in the X-Men, Black Canary, and others! In this activity, kids explore how sound waves create vibrations.
- How Does a Wind Meter Work?: Wonder Woman fans know that (in addition to the Invisible Jet) she is able to ride on air currents. Kids can learn more about wind by making their own anemometer! (Note: use the step-by-step directions on the "Procedure" tab along with the video for assembly.)
- Colorful Patterns in Melting Ice: one of Superman's abilities is freeze breath, which means he can blow air cold enough to freeze something. Kids won't be able to instantaneously freeze the water used in this activity, but once frozen, it's fun to watch the patterns appear as the large ice structures melt. (Tip: If your kids think of icy science fiction planets, this melting ice activity can also be connected to that. With colorful orbs of melting ice on hand, you can set the stage for fun superhero storytelling!)
- Build a Balloon Car and Build a Rubber Band-Powered Car: Batman, especially, always has a cool car. Kids can get creative with the design of their own superhero-style cars by making either rubber band-powered or balloon-powered cars. Which style best suits a favorite or made-up character? What special features does it have? (Tip: If your kids experiment with planes instead, be sure and consider the awesome paper airplane launcher activity, too!)
- Make A Candy DNA Model: some superheroes are born with their superpowers, and some superpowers are gained by exposure to certain elements or events. (Think about Spiderman!) Superpowers often go along with different (as in from another planet) or mutated DNA. In this activity, kids can explore human DNA by building a model using candy. With a candy model in hand, they can think about what it means for DNA to mutate.
- The Aerodynamics of Flying a Frisbee: superhero tools come in all shapes and sizes. Captain America's shield is made of adamantium and vibranium, but as a disc, it operates a lot like a frisbee when thrown! (Note: the shield isn't shaped like a disc in every movie or story appearance.) Kids can head outside with a frisbee to explore the aerodynamics of throwing and, sure, pretend they are superheroes at the same time!
- How to Make Slime: you can think about slime in a superhero world in all kinds of ways. By making their own slime, kids can experiment with colors and different properties of their slime like adding glitter or making magnetic or glow-in-the-dark slime. How will slime fit into the stories they tell?
- Grow Rock Candy Crystals: this kitchen science activity doesn't match a specific superhero or ability, but growing your own rock candy crystals seems like a great fit this week! Kids can experiment with flavors and colors for their custom rock candy creations. (Note: the candy crystals grow over a period of days. Start this activity early for a fun treat at the end of the week!)
NEXT STEPS: Ideas for Older Students
Older students can delve more deeply into the superhero mythology with more advanced projects that focus on engineering design and the development of high-tech costumes, capes, and masks. The following projects all use electronics and circuit-building in ways that can challenge and inspire kids to brainstorm and create their own innovative solutions:
- LED Dance Glove: Get the Party Started with Your Own Interactive Light Show: in this project, students use conductive thread to sew wearable circuits for light-up gloves. How could this kind of circuitry and e-textiles approach be used in superhero costume or uniform design? (See the LED Traffic Glove: Build a Safety Device to Direct Traffic project to experiment with adding switches to a wearable circuit.)
- Make a Heart Rate Monitor: in this project, students use Arduino™ to brainstorm, design, build, and program a heart rate monitor. The sample shown is a "headband" model that lights up. How could this approach be used to create other helpful wearable monitoring tools?
- Sewing Electronics: Wearables that Light Up: building on the wearable circuits described in the LED Dance Glove: Get the Party Started with Your Own Interactive Light Show project, kids can sew their own light-up patches for bookbags, backpacks, jackets, or other uses. Extending this kind of project to add other features (like sensors, better on-off mechanisms, etc.) is something kids can try as they customize their own e-textiles. For other examples, see: Wearable Electronics: Sewing an LED Patch and Red, White, and Blue with Soft Circuits.)
WATCH: Videos for Week 7
These videos demonstrate activities highlighted for Week 7's Superhero STEM theme:
EXPLORE with KITS
The following Science Buddies Kits fit in with this week's Superhero Science theme. These science and engineering kits provide the specialty materials kids need for a variety of fun explorations, including robotics, computer programming, and electronics:
- Bristlebot Kit: explore robotics and build your own superhero sidekick with the Bristlebot Kit. The kit contains specialty materials needed to build ArtBot, Brushbot, Bristlebot, or Junkbot robots. (With the Junkbot activity, kids can use assorted recycled and craft materials to design their own robots!)
- Raspberry Pi Projects Kit: kids can learn more about electronics and explore coding with Scratch to create interactive projects like a motion sensor alarm (highly valuable in a superhero base!). The Make a Motion Sensor Alarm with a Raspberry Pi project is one of 8 creative, interactive activities for the Raspberry Pi Projects Kit. (View the progressive series of 8 projects.) (Note: if you already own a Raspberry Pi, see the Circuit Building Kit for Raspberry Pi.)
- Electrolyte Challenge Sensor Kit: set up a circuit to measure the electrolytes in juices, sports drinks, and other beverages. Which drinks contain the most electrolytes? Can you invent your own power-up beverage based on what you discover?
- Veggie Power Battery Kit: superheroes often draw power from unexpected sources! With the Veggie Power Battery Kit, kids can experiment to find out how different types of produce can be used to generate power. Potatoes are just one vegetable kids can experiment with. How will other fruits and vegetables compare?
Learn more about Science Buddies Kits and see our 7 Science Kits for Summer Science Experiments and Discovery recommendations.
WATCH: Teen Team with STEM Superpowers
Global Problem Solvers: The Series is a free animated series that features a team of teens each with a real-world superpower. The GPS team works together to use STEM-based problem solving and social entrepreneurship to create solutions to problems. The diverse team of characters in the series emphasizes the value in different kinds of skills and abilities and inspires kids to find and use their own superpowers.
If you wanted GPS: The Series Season 1 as part of Week 6's Water Play theme, pick up with Season 2 this week to continue the fun as the GPS team helps create a solution for schools that have been closed due to a local hurricane. Watch Season 2 below or view the individual mini-episodes.
Global Problem Solvers: The Series is a free animated video series from Cisco's Corporate Social Responsibility team. Videos are also available on the Global Problem Solvers: The Series YouTube channel. (At YouTube, all videos are available in English, Spanish, French, and Hindi.)
To learn more about using this animated series with students, see 5 Reasons Global Problem Solvers: The Series Will Inspire STEM Interest in Your Students and Use the Free Global Problem Solvers Video Series with Kids at Home.
READ: Books to Pair with Week 7's Superhero STEM Theme
- Lucia the Luchadora by Cynthia Leonor Garza (Author), Alyssa Bermudez (Illustrator)
- Lucia the Luchadora and the Million Masks by Cynthia Leonor Garza (Author), Alyssa Bermudez (Illustrator)
- Lyric McKerrigan, Secret Librarian by Jacob Sager Weinstein (Author), Vera Brosgol (Illustrator)
- Body Oddity Projects: Floating Arms, Balancing Challenges, and More (Unplug with Science Buddies ®) by Rebecca Felix
- Even Superheroes Have Bad Days by Shelly Becker (Author), Eda Kaban (Illustrator)
- My Principal is a Superhero by Joey Acker (Author), Melanie Acker (Author)
- Jinx and the Doom Fight Crime! by Lisa Mantchev (Author), Samantha Cotterill (Illustrator)
- Even Superheroes Make Mistakes by Shelly Becker (Author), Eda Kaban (Illustrator)
- 30-Minute Robotics Projects (30-Minute Makers) by Loren Bailey
- The Magical Yet by Angela DiTerlizzi (Author), Lorena Alvarez (Illustrator)
- Big Monty and the Cyborg Substitute by Matt Maxx
- The Proto Project by Bryan R. Johnson
- Superhero for a Day Paperback by Dustin Brady
- Epic Zero: Tales of a Not-So-Super 6th Grader by R.L. Ullman
- Everyday Superheroes: Women in STEM Careers by Erin Twamley (Author), Joshua Sneideman (Author)
For other great STEM stories for summer reading, see our Book list for science-filled summer reading! post. Also, don't miss this roundup of creative STEM activities for storytelling and imaginative play.
Summer of STEM Posts
- Week 1 - Carnival Science
- Week 2 - Gadgets & Gizmos
- Week 3 - Wizards & Magic
- Week 4 - Artists & Makers
- Week 5 - Fireworks & Picnics
- Week 6 - Water Play
- Week 7 - Superhero Science
- Week 8 - Strange but True Science
- Week 9 - Mission to Mars
- Week 10 - Backyard Science
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