6 Reasons to Invest Big in STEM for Your Homeschool
I received a Tetrix Max Base Kit to explore and extra parts were not free. This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!
Science. Technology. Engineering. Math. STEM.
That’s the buzzword in the world of science education.
One probably cannot argue that it’s a waste of time.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Exposure to STEM concepts makes big thinkers and problem solvers.
Especially for homeschoolers who may not have access to resources.
So, if you’re a homeschooler who wants to get your students involved in STEM, how do you do it?
You could look for shared resource opportunities.
Or you could invest in STEM.
Six Reasons for Investing Big in STEM
STEM exploration requires a lot of tools and resources. We’ve put a lot of time and money into STEM over the years.
We continue to do so.
If you have a student who can’t get enough of STEM experiences, consider making the investment in a big ticket item. Or two.
It seems like so much at once. Why wouldn’t you find a workaround?
Here’s my big 6:
- One Time Investment– versus the ongoing cost of activities and memberships to STEM spaces. So, there is a big outlay of cash to start, but less as time goes on.
- Total Cost is Comparable– to the many years invested in other activities and resources such as sewing and art supplies (especially when you include machines and sports equipment, etc).
- Lack of Opportunities– or lack of the right opportunity for your student.
- Distance is Prohibitive– for joining a STEM team or doing activities. The distance can be too far to be reasonably involved.
- Allows for Self Directed Learning Experiences– and individualized learning. Your student can learn and challenge herself at her own pace.
- Gifted Learner Benefit– If you have a gifted learner, then you know that they may not be as team or group oriented. Or they may want to challenge themselves beyond what the group is able to do.
Benefits of Tetrix Max Robotics System
As a family already heavily invested in Mindstorms, what does the Tetrix offer? That’s easy:
It’s really all about scale. – Joshua, 12
The Tetrix Building System is made with aluminum parts that are held together with screws and bolts. You can build bigger robots. The motors can handle larger loads. Your robot can do heavier tasks.
- Larger scale building materials– aluminum channels are the building blocks and you can build big robots that are meant to do bigger things.
- More sturdy robot– lift more and do heavier duty tasks
- Variety of Additional Components– add to the learning with the base kit
- Prizm controller– is an Arduino based computer for controlling the robot
- FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC)– uses Tetrix components so this is a piece to that pretty awesome puzzle.
- Program in C++– Programming in this language is more flexible than using drag and drop program. You get to create the individual pieces of the programming. Our youngest prefers the ultimate control over what he programs, so this is a pretty big win in his book.
Special Tetrix Parts
As we got to know Tetrix Max, my techy kids enjoyed some of the unique pieces.
Prizm– the computer that controls the robot which is based on and is compatible with Arduino. This means you can use Arduino components as well if you wanted to add to the fun.
Omni Wheels– a wheel that lets you move sideways and move forward and backward. This way you won’t slide when you turn.
Aluminum Channels– These are fairly large and sturdy allowing your robot to perform some hard work. They are held together with bolts and the channels have many attachment points, so there are many ways to configure your designs.
Tool Set– the Tetrix Max kit comes with its own tools for assembling the robots. They fit nicely into the storage box.
Big Gears– Remember our discussion about gears? The gears that come with the Tetrix Max set are large, metal gears ready to do a lot of work and take on a lot of torque.
The video shows how the robot following a line using the ultrasonic sensor attached to the robot- more on line following in a future post.
It’s more real and less toy. – Isaac, 15
The base Tetrix Set lets you do some basic programming and building. Once you learn more about how the system works and you can add on to your experience.
The manual that comes with the set gives a lot of instruction and information about the the components and programming the robot.
Plus, my kids have been enjoying RoboBench videos from the Tetrix Robotics YouTube channel.
Our Next STEM Investment
We’ve already picked out some components we plan to purchase so we can do some specific projects. They include:
- Motors with Encoders– provides feedback from the motor on the robot so that you can precisely control its movement. I’ll be sharing how we characterize our robot when they arrive.
- Rack & Pinion Linear Slide Set– allows you build in lifts, conveyors, sorters, etc to your robot
- Continuous Servo Motors– Servos are very precise. They let you have motion all the way around instead of a limited range of motion.
Future STEM Plans & Hacks
I’ll be honest. Our kids can’t just let stuff be. Our youngest must do his own thing and find the work around for his big ideas. He’s already started with this set.
- Spybot– this bot has a Raspberry Pi camera mounted on it and he configured it to stream the video to his Kindle Fire.
- Spybot II– he wants to further the set up so he can control the Spybot with his Kindle Fire as the remote control.
- Robot Characterization– when the encoders are on board the robot, we can get motor feedback and make exact measurements of the robot’s movement. This is helpful when programming the robot to do tasks.
Other STEM Posts at Blog, She Wrote
Resources for Putting the Technology in STEM– A list of some of our favorite STEM resources in books, media, software, and hardware.
The Beginner’s Guide to Learning about Gears– This post is Gears 101 with some simple exercises.
The Beginner’s Guide to Experimenting with Torque– Learn all about torque with an experiment and calculate the torque in a simple apparatus.
Science Quest: Calculating Density– Determine the volume of an irregular object, measure the mass of the object, and calculate density.
Make STEM Connections with Gravity Jousting– Learn about kinetic and potential energy in this activity with household objects.
STEM concepts are worth the investment for your family.
What will your techy kid do next?
OOhh! We have been looking into some STEM kits and I am dismayed a bit by their costs but thought they might make a wonderful Christmas gift idea for my oldest who just loves to tinker. These look fabulous. Pinned.
They are really nice and you can add on as they get more skilled. It’s true they cost a lot, but I know we easily spend more over time on other items. They have a lot of support materials too.
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