Test-Drive a STEM Career with Fun Science Experiments
Kids can learn more about science and engineering careers and "test-drive" their interest in certain careers by trying one of these science experiments related to popular STEM career paths.
Test-drive These Exciting STEM Careers
Many kids are interested in popular science and engineering careers they hear about, but do they know what it's really like to go to work in that career? What kinds of tasks, projects, and experiments does someone in that job really do? Trying out projects, experiments, and activities related to specific career paths is a great way to help students more clearly understand different science and engineering fields. This kind of exploration also helps students see that within the umbrella terms "scientist" and "engineer," there are lots of interesting and exciting career paths and opportunities!
We've paired 10 popular STEM careers below with exciting hands-on activities that make it fun for kids to test-drive careers of interest. Which ones will they enjoy most?
Doing one of these activities with students or kids at home might get them started on a future career path!
1. Robotics Engineer
Robots are popular in movies and books, and many students are intrigued by the idea of building, designing, or programming robots. Robotics engineers work with robots of all sizes, including very small robotic "bugs" and large robots, robotic equipment, search-and-rescue robots, and even robots designed to function in space.
Students who think designing and building robots sounds like fun may enjoy the work of a robotics engineer. They can test-drive this career, by building junkbot robots from recycled materials. For a non-electronic test-drive, students can explore the engineering design of specific robot functionality by building a robot hand from craft and recycled materials. (Note: The Robotics Projects, Lessons, and Activities for Teachers collection contains free resources for educators exploring robotics with students.)
Related career! Learn about the Robotics Technician career.
2. Aerospace Engineer
Want to be a true rocket scientist? Being an Aerospace Engineer involves applying engineering skills to projects related to flight and space. Aerospace engineers might work on the design of planes, satellites, spacecraft and rockets, or other equipment used in space.
Do you enjoy the science and engineering related to aerospace engineering? Test-drive this career by exploring the science behind designing helicopters that might work on Mars. In this activity, students explore how the spinning of a helicopter's blades creates lift and investigate the role lift and gravity play in how a helicopter flies. These are important issues aerospace engineers have to consider when designing aircraft that might work with the atmosphere on Mars.
Related career! Learn about the Aerospace Engineering & Operations Technician career.
Do you enjoy looking at the stars or trying to catch a glimpse of a Venus transit, the Perseid meteor showers, or an eclipse? Do you wonder about black holes, exoplanets, different galaxies, and the composition of stars?
Kids who enjoy space and the night sky might have a future as astronomers! Test-drive this career by searching the night sky to see if you can detect satellites that are orbiting the Earth. What direction are they moving? The Stargazing for Satellites activity helps students better understand what they see in the sky and differentiate celestial bodies from manmade satellites and other aircraft.
Be inspired! Learn more about Annie Jump Cannon and her work classifying stars.
4. Marine Biologist
Do you enjoy studying marine life and marine habitats, learning about organisms that live in the water, and thinking about how to protect and preserve these spaces?
Kids who are intrigued by marine creatures and ocean or sea life may be interested in being a marine biologist! Test-drive this career by learning more about how fish are able to control their buoyancy in the water. In the How Fish Sink and Float activity, students model a fish's swim bladder to see how it enables fish to control whether they float to the surface or sink lower in the water.
Related career! For a career working with organisms that live in freshwater (instead of saltwater), learn more about the Aquarist career path.
Are you curious about chemical reactions that happen when you combine ingredients, the properties of synthetic materials, how products we use every day (like shampoos, soaps, and lotions) are created, or even the process of making medicines? Chemicals are involved in everything we use, and chemists study chemicals, their properties, and how different chemicals can be used together.
Kids who are interested in using knowledge of chemistry to develop and improve products may enjoy the work of a chemist! Test-drive this career by exploring a chemical reaction that transforms milk into casein (a plastic)! In the Turn Milk into Plastic activity, students use milk and vinegar to create casein plastic that they can then use to make small beads or sculptures.
Related career! Learn more about the Chemical Technician career path.
6. Zoologist and Wildlife Biologist
Kids who are interested in animals sometimes think that being a veterinarian is the only way to work with animals, but there are many other careers that focus on animal health, safety, tracking, and conservation.
Kids who are passionate about animals and the protection of animals may enjoy the work of a zoologist or wildlife biologist! Test-drive this career by making water striders out of wire and investigating how they appear to walk on water. How does the shape of a water strider help it walk or skip across the top of the water's surface? What role does surface tension play?
Be inspired! See how this family experimented with homemade water striders and tried making both big and small ones!
7. Mechanical Engineer
Are you interested in the design of products and objects and how machines and devices work? Have you ever used a product and thought there were things that could be made better or awesome features that could be added? Or do you have ideas for inventions that you would like to make?
Kids who are interested in making things and tinkering with gears, Rube Goldberg machines, toy cars, and other devices may enjoy the work of a mechanical engineer! Test-drive this career by making a model differential using a building toy like K'Nex. How does a differential allow wheels to spin at different speeds?
Related career! Learn more about the Mechanical Engineering Technician career path.
8. Park Ranger
Are you concerned about the environment, interested in conservation, and also enjoy animals of all sizes? Park rangers are government officials who help protect and preserve natural spaces and the animals that live there. They also work to educate the public about park and animal conservation.
Kids who like animals and also enjoy outdoor adventures and hiking may be interested in the kind of work a park ranger does! Test-drive this career by building a bug vacuum to find out how many different kinds of bugs and other small invertebrates are in a local habit. By estimating how many species live in a certain area, scientists are able to evaluate the biodiversity and health of an environment. (Note: The Teach About Biodiversity with Free STEM Lessons & Activities collection contains free resources for educators exploring biodiversity with students.)
Do more! For other Earth science and conservation-focused experiments, see the Earth Day Science Projects and Activities collection.
Are you fascinated by changing weather patterns and curious about the tools used to forecast and monitor weather events, from everyday temperature and precipitation to hurricanes and tornadoes?
Kids who are intrigued by weather science (and potentially interested in changing climate patterns) may enjoy the work of a meteorologist! Test-drive this career by building a homemade thermometer and using it to investigate temperature. (Tip: Students can assemble their own Weather Station by building additional weather monitoring tools, like an anemometer, hygrometer, and barometer. (Note: The 17 Weather Science Projects and Lessons collection contains resources for educators exploring weather science with students.)
Related career! Learn more about the Climate Change Analyst career path.
10. Civil Engineer
Are you inspired by bridges and marvel at networks of highways and roads that run throughout cities? Do you think about ways that cities ensure safe drinking water for residents and how community structures are built to withstand earthquakes, floods, and other natural disasters?
Kids who are interested in improving city spaces, planning and building roadway systems to improve travel, and designing other important buildings or systems to improve and protect a city may enjoy the work of a civil engineer! Test-drive this career by experimenting to see what happens to buildings built on landfill during an earthquake. In this experiment, students make model houses from candies and peanut butter, a simulated landfill foundation, and a homemade shake table and then see what happens to the houses during shaking. They may be surprised to learn that landfill is solid at rest but may behave like a liquid during shaking. What does this mean for housing development?
Related career! Learn more about the Civil Engineering Technician career path.
Explore Other STEM Careers
To learn about lots of other science and engineering careers, browse the Careers in Science resource.
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