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Archives: October, 2013

SMILE and Mechanical Engineering  October 24th, 2013

Each year the SMILE program sponsors a Mechanical Engineering (ME) Senior Project, in which three ME students work with the SMILE program to engineer and build a engaging, educational machine that can be shared with middle school students all over Oregon.

Last year, we had a great team who bravely chose to take on this challenge. The team built a fully-functional Rube Goldberg machine that coordinated with the middle school SMILE clubs using videos about the planning and building process. The machine travelled to middle school challenge days around Oregon and students got the opportunity to interact with the machine.

This year, we are excited to work with a new group of ME students and provide new activities for our middle school students! It is our hope that your students will gain knowledge of the engineering and design process, and ultimately plan and build a machine. We also plan to have SMILE students interact remotely with our ME students as they go through their own planning and building process over the coming months. The ME students will be designing and constructing a cable machine that can be used to teach physical science concepts. SMILE students will similarly construct a motorized machine that can perform a specified task (more details to come soon). Then, at the regional Middle School Challenges in the spring, SMILE students will have an opportunity to share their machines, as well as interact with the ME students’ machine.

At the top of this page, you will notice there is a link to a page called “Mechanical Engineering Project.” We will be posting the videos from the ME students on this page, as well as small updates about their progress once they begin building. The page currently features the videos and information from last year’s ME project, and this year’s process overall will be very similar. We plan to feature questions and feedback from the middle school students for the ME students to answer in their videos and to help aid in the middle school students’¬†building process and make the experience more interactive.

Stay tuned for more information on this year’s project. Happy Engineering!

More Family Math and Science Night Activities…  October 4th, 2013

Family Math and Science Night (FMSN) activities are meant to be hands-on, engaging activities for students to do with their families. Students will also have the opportunity to share their knowledge and have a teaching moment with their families and peers. Each activity for FMSN can be easily adapted for use in a SMILE club meeting or to meet the specific needs of each SMILE club. Almost all of the materials are things that can be purchased at a grocery store, which makes these activities easy to prepare and set up for. We hope you and your students find these activities exciting and engaging!

This post includes 5 Family Math and Science Night activities. Each activity is easy to set up and does not require explanation or supervision.



Clink! is a simple example of inertia and gravity.  Materials are simply a penny, playing card and a mug. Participants will set the penny on the playing card and the playing card on the mug; they then have to figure out how to get the penny into the mug without lifting the card from the mug.


Paper Clip Raft

Using a sheet of toilet paper and a paper clip can you make the paper clip float in a bowl of water? By simply placing a paperclip on a single sheet of toilet paper and then carefully guiding it into the water, it will float!


Forehead Rest

Participants will begin by leaning forward and resting their foreheads on the wall. Next they will put their arms at their waists and try to stand upright without bending at the knees or hips. Participants will learn about center of gravity and how it needs to shift accordingly.


Shoulder Hold

Using their shoulder to hold a piece of paper against the wall, participants will try to lift their outside leg. They will be unable to do so because they will not be able to lean into the wall to lift their leg.



Placing a piece of paper arms length away from a wall, participants will stand with their heels against the wall; they will then try to pick up the sheet of paper without moving their feet or bending their knees. Participants will not be able to pick up the paper because their center of gravity will need to shift.