Image of a computer with a homemade wind speed machine made from cups and an Arduino. There is an interface with wind speed, temperature and location on the computer screen

STEM lessons & hands-on activities

Build affordable scientific instruments and visualize data across space, earth, life, and physical sciences curriculum with students. Use lesson plans written by teachers to enrich science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) classes with activities and assessments aligned to middle school standards.

Boost middle-school science and math with project-based STEM resources

  • Build scientific instruments from affordable supplies
  • Instructions with step-by-step pictures
  • Estimate time and cost for each activity
  • Grade using rubrics and student journals based on Next-Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for middle-schoolers
  • Extend for high school, simplify for elementary grades

Students will experience hands-on engineering and design, and get an intro to coding to collect and visualize data. We add new activities each month in Earth, Space, Life, and Physical Sciences.

This month: Build machines that emulate humans

Using Computational Thinking to Understand Earthquakes

In celebration of Computer Science Education Week, this month we’re partnering with the California Academy of Sciences and KQED! Explore their lesson plan below titled “Earthquakes and Tectonic Plates”, which introduces students to interpreting seismic data, and teaches triangulation to predict the locations of tectonic plates.

For educators looking to integrate computer science projects into their existing earth science curriculum, we’ve added two additional NGSS aligned activities that use coding in support of scientific inquiry. The first one hour coding activity focuses on building scientific instruments that measure and assist in visualizing seismic activity. The second involves building a testing platform to model how engineers modify structures to mitigate earthquake damage. Finally, there is a 5 minute Excel big data activity that maps 10 years of USGS earthquake data onto a globe revealing the relationship between earthquakes and the tectonic plate boundaries.

Increasing Power Through Design

This lesson emphasizes design as a fundamental component of the inquiry process and introduces prototyping and testing utilized by today's scientists and engineers.

The students will first design a windmill and measure its capacity to lift weight. The next step is to build a wind turbine and engage students in a design challenge that involves prototyping and testing wind turbine blade configurations, for maximum power output. Finally, teams will use Excel to visualize and analyze data generated by their designs and compare their findings to determine the most efficient solution.

Analyzing wind speed with anemometers

Wind varies in intensity from a light breeze to a hurricane. Understanding the impact of wind on weather promotes investigations into its influence on food production and its growing potential as a source of renewable energy.

To understand the phenomenon of wind we’ll make anemometers from everyday objects and use them to calculate wind speed. We’ll equip them with Arduinos to collect, visualize and analyze real-time wind speed data.

Need help? Have questions?

Contact us at: hackstem@microsoft.com

Hacking STEM is made possible by a partnership between the Education Workshop, Hack for Good, and the Microsoft Garage.

What is the Education Workshop?

A small incubation team inside of Microsoft that focuses on developing next generation hardware, software, and services for K-12 education. Our goal is to support teachers in building inquiry and project-based activities that embed computational and design thinking into existing middle school curriculum. We want to democratize STEM for 21st century learners and demonstrate how all schools can provide affordable opportunities to bring ‘making’ and data science in the classroom.

Hacking STEM was originally prototyped by the Education Workshop as a Hack For Good during Microsoft’s 2016 One week Hackathon. Our ‘hacked’ version of Excel brings to life, the fundamentals of science, opens the emerging world of IOT to the classroom and helps educators meet the NGSS and ISTE requirements for data science.

What is Hack for Good?

Just as there is an extremely effective commercial ecosystem that brings the promise of technology to life in the marketplace, there must be a strong societal ecosystem that brings the promise of technology to life in the community space. Through Microsoft Philanthropies, Microsoft is driving greater inclusion and empowerment of people who do not have access to technology and the opportunities it offers and enables. Hack for Good is the community of employees who want to use their technical and business hacking skills to help solve the world's greatest societal problems. The goal is to foster a community that will collaborate, create and build solutions that will empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

Microsoft Philanthropies

The icon for Microsoft garage.

What is the Microsoft Garage?

A resource to Microsoft employees that supports and encourages problem solving in new and innovative ways, ultimately empowering people to achieve more. More than just an innovation space on campus, The Garage is a worldwide community of more than 10,000 passionate employees dedicated to challenging convention, exploring new technologies, and moving their ideas forward.

The Microsoft Garage "Ship Channel" is Microsoft's official outlet for experimental projects from small teams across the company to test a hypothesis, receive early customer feedback, and determine product market fit. The Garage provides expert guidance and a lightweight release process to help teams get their experiments out quickly.

The Garage