Lenox students explore engineering through STEAM


Fifth graders at Lenox Elementary School displayed their earthquake proof building creations, after learning about how to solve problems through engineering last month.  

Approximately 45 fifth grade students at Lenox Elementary School finished constructing Earthquake-Resistant Building models, to explore how to tackle real world problems through engineering and encourage young students to work in STEAM — an education focused on science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics. 

Lynette O’Brien, Elementary STEAM Educator, worked with students on creating earthquake resistant building models after learning about the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck the Caribbean nation of Haiti in 2010.

Using the earthquake in Haiti as an example, the students examined how poorly enforced building codes affected the construction of homes and other structures, which contributed to the massive destruction and loss of life during the 2010 earthquake in the nation. 

“Its important to learn to solve problems that exist globally, that don’t affect our daily lives directly,” said O’Brien. “Here you can see them working together to better understand and learn to solve these problems.”

O’Brien said over the last few weeks, students worked on building towers out of straws, pens, toothpicks, and paper, to work in teams and develop solutions to this real-world challenge together. She said they used a program called Engineering is Elementary from the Boston Museum of Science, which helps kids to learn the engineering design process to better understand how to apply it.

Students showcased their designs on Nov. 18, and took turns rotating around the gym with clipboards, asking questions about their classmates’ designs, and the improvements they made to create a successful structure.

Alisha Cadet, a 10-year-old fifth grader, said she found the engineering design process, and the construction of her team’s tower to be a difficult but stimulating challenge. 

“I think I might want to be an engineer one day, and design buildings and structures for a construction team,” said Cadet.

O’Brien said through communication and teamwork, students successfully wrote building codes and created an earthquake resistant building that showcased their creative thinking skills.   As a culminating event, students combined their shake tables to make a “city” that experienced a 7.0 magnitude earthquake. 

Ava Drinkwater-Louverture and Liya Lyttle, two 10-year-old fifth graders said they had a lot of fun creating and building their structure, along with exploring all of the different ways they can approach the buildings designs. Liya Lyttle said this project reminded her of how she used to build and design homes on the popular video game Roblox, which reminded her how much passion she has for engineering and design.

Ava Drinkwater-Louverture said she’s also considering engineering but is more inclined towards becoming an inventor.

“I’d like to design and invent new things to make our lives better at home,” said Louverture.

O’Brien said she feels strongly that showing learners that they are capable of engineering technologies that make a global impact, is important. She said with continued exposure to STEAM, she hopes that students are encouraged to go down the engineering pathways in the future.