Let’s Talk About Food. We All Like to Eat!

Learn all about carnivores, omnivores, herbivores, and more!  In this game, you’ll discover how to spot the different kinds of consumers and learn how all of the parts of the food chain depend on one another.  Find out what some animals like to eat, and how others try to prevent themselves from becoming the next meal.

Can You Tell What I Eat?NGSS Alignment

K-LS1-1: Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals (including humans) need to survive.

K-ESS3-1: Use a model to represent the relationship between the needs of different plants and animals (including humans) and the places they live.

2-LS4-1: Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats.

Green Screen Pictures from the Midwest Museum of Natural History

Click the image below to access green screen pictures taken at the Midwest Museum of Natural History as part of the STEM Read and SMARTspace@NIU hands-on activities.


STEMfest 2014 Green Screen Pictures

Click the following image to access the STEMfest 2014 green screen pictures.  Did you miss you opportunity to take your picture?  You can practice taking a green screen picture from the comfort of your own home.  Need a background?  You can click here to download the STEMfest 2014 background and test out your photo editing skills.

Free Green Screen Tutorial


STEMfest 2014 Green Screen Images

Click the following image to access the STEMfest 2014 green screen pictures.

STEMfest 2014 Green Screen Pic Example

Hello, Sunshine :) Let’s Get SOLAR! Learn About Types of Energy

Learn about energy, fossil fuels, renewable energy sources, and how you can go green and make a difference.

Let's Get Solar!  An Energy GameNGSS Alignment:

  • 4-ESS3-1: Obtain and combine information to describe that energy and fuels are derived from natural resources and their uses affect the environment.

Power Up the Robots

Learn about robots, their benefits and restrictions, and robot types.  Play this online game to exercise your ethical decisions regarding the use of robots and also program a robot to move through a maze.

Power Up the Robots Online Game

Watch a video with NIU’s expert and author of The Machine Question Dr. David Gunkel.  In this video, he discusses how machines/robots are taking action in our world and the related ethical dilemmas and social impacts.


What world problem would you like to see solved? Sketch or build a model of a robot that can help solve this problem.  Send us a picture of your conceptual design because we want to see it! We love showcasing exceptional student work. To send us your work, click the button below and next to Project choose Robots.

Send Us Your Work- Click to UploadEducators

Help your students learn about the importance of robots and design a robot that can perform a given task while learning about the engineering design process. Students will design concept art for their robot designs and work together as a class to choose best robot features and build the bot. The task will only be performed correctly if participants programmed the bot properly.

Download the lesson plan.

Download the handout on the engineering design process.

Preventing the Robopocalypse Campers Robowling
Preventing the Robopocalypse Campers Robowling

Producing Stop-Motion Animation from Creative Writing

The Challenge:

Choose toy characters and write a creative story about a journey upon which your characters embark.  Use a storyboard template to transform your story into a video planning script.  Use a mobile device and PicPac (a free app) to capture your story and create a stop-motion animation video.


Complete the challenge and email your video to smartspaceniu@gmail.com


Lesson Plan and Storyboard Template

What You Will Need:

  • Storyboard Template
  • Bendable figurines, action figures, dolls, or other small toy characters
  • Cardboard or boxes (i.e. cereal boxes, shoe boxes, discarded boxes)
  • Maps, toys, and other items that can be used for background scenes and objects
  • Tape
  • Colorful paper
  • Tablets or phones
  • PicPac (free app for mobile devices for lite version, which is sufficient for this lesson)


Look at examples of inspiring stop-motion animation videos.

Example from Exploring STEM through Art campers

How To Create the Stop-Motion Animation Video

  1. Install PicPac on a mobile device.
  2. Use the camera on the mobile device to take a series of pictures for their story.
  3. Open the PicPac app and do the following
    • Choose Local Photos.
    • Tap the pictures to include and click the right arrow.
    • Tap and hold to rotate or duplicate any pictures as needed. Duplicating will make it last longer than other images in the video.
    • Tap the right arrow when ready.
    • Enter a Title, set the duration of each picture, and click Create Video.
    • Tap record to add narration or click search online (if connected to Wi-Fi) to select free music that is available.
    • Choose a sharing or saving option. If you want to transfer the file to other devices, click the disk icon to save to the device and use a USB cable to retrieve the file on a computer.

Creating Creatures of the Deep

Learn about the interesting biology and physiology of living organisms in the sea/ocean.  Examine fascinating sea and ocean creatures and discuss why they have certain features, possibly for protection, to survive in their environment, or to catch prey.  Analyze the habitats of the creatures and why their physical traits help them thrive in such an environment.

Students, try out the following activities.

Educators, download this lesson plan that is standards-aligned, including NGSS and CCSS.

Creatures of the Deep Lesson Plan

Visit National Geographic’s great site describing unique sea creatures.

Design your own unique “creature of the deep” by considering scientific concepts, such as species physical and behavioral characteristics, environment/atmosphere/climate/weather, etc. Use the following Species Data Chart to help you during the design process.

Species Data Chart 

Sea Creature Example

Creating a Sculpture or Using Software to Design Your Creature

Use resources that you have on hand such as masking tape and newspaper to construct a creature of the deep sculptures.  An alternative to the sculpture project is to use drawing software or other materials and a digital camera to design their creature.  Great programs for this include:

Questions to think about while you are designing your creature

  • What special features and abilities does your creature have?
  • Does your creature’s body help it survive in a certain type of environment? If so, what kind of environment?
  • How does your creature interact with others of the same species?
  • What does it eat, and what eats it?

We would love to see your finished work!  Send pics of your creatures.
Send Us Your Work- Click to Upload

Examples of work

Sea Creature by Exploring STEM through Art Camper
Sea Creature by Exploring STEM through Art Camper
Sea Creature by Exploring STEM through Art Camper
Sea Creature by Exploring STEM through Art Camper
Sea Creature by Exploring STEM through Art Campers
Sea Creature by Exploring STEM through Art Campers

Straight from the Heart- Online Heart Anatomy Game

Learn why the heart is such a vital organ in the body.  By playing this online anatomy game, you will learn the parts of the heart, how blood flows throughout the body, common problems that occur with the heart, and how you can stay heart healthy.  Game activities include labeling parts of the heart, matching heart parts with their functions, answering heart trivia questions, sequencing blood flow throughout the body, identifying heart problems, and sorting items that are good or bad for the heart.

Straight from the Heart- Online Anatomy Game(Preferred browsers: Google Chrome, FireFox, or Safari)


Prepare for Zombies…and the ACT- Math

Are you prepared for the attack of the zombies?  How about the ACT?  This game will give you the skills you need to survive both.

  • Learn algebra, geometry, and more
  • Exercise your logic skills
  • Calculate the rate of infection
  • Consider the probabilities of different choices
  • Use your brain to keep you alive

Can you outlive the zombies?

Prepare for Zombies and the ACT- Math

Just Plane Awesome! Learning What Makes Planes Fly

What makes a plane fly? The four forces that help planes fly (aerodynamics) include:

  • Lift
  • Weight
  • Drag
  • Thrust

Watch a video with engineer Pettee Guerrero to learn more!


Design your own paper plane by using the templates and directions below.

  • Which one flies the fastest?
  • Which one flies the furthest?
  • Does using a heavier paper or different artistic media affect the flight? If so, why?
  • These designs are symmetrical, meaning that one half of the design is mirrored on the other half. Would an asymmetrical design (one that is not symmetrical) work for a plane?

Send us your awesome plane designs so we can see your fantastic work. Click the link below and choose “Airplanes.” We love to showcase exceptional work on our site.
Send Us Your Work- Click to Upload

Bug Plane Thumbnail Bug Plane Template

Dart Plane Thumbnail Dart Plane Template

Glider Plane Thumbnail Glider Plane Template

Jet Plane Thumbnail Jet Plane Template


I ♥ Engineering

Play this online game to learn more about types of engineers and their creations. Build a hot dog dispenser as illustrated in Rosie Revere, Engineer by author Andrea Beaty.

Rosie Revere Engineer Game


Design a Snake-Repelling Hat

In the book Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty, Rosie builds a hat to keep snakes off of her uncle’s head using unusual objects.

  • What kinds of things do you think can help repel snakes?
  • How would you design a snake-repelling hat?

Engineering Design Process

Consider the engineering design process when building your hat.

Engineering Design Process

Send Us Your Designs

Send us your designs. We love to post creative designs. Click the link below and choose “Snake-Repelling Hats.”

Send Us Your Work- Click to Upload


Rosie Revere, Engineer: Engineering & Discovery with Author Andrea Beaty

The Engineering Design Process

Examples of Snake-Proof Hats

Cryptography: Cracking the Code

Online Game

Play this online game to learn more about cryptography, solve puzzles, and escape the maze!  This game explores STEM concepts behind the book The Maze Runner by James Dashner.

Maze Runner Game- Cryptography- Cracking the Code

Cryptography Challenge

Create your own cipher disk and solve a secret message.  Using your deciphered text, assemble the puzzle pieces on the graph paper.  Print the puzzle pieces on transparency paper for best results.  After you discover the answer to this challenge, visit the Check Your Answer page to determine if you’re right.STEM Read Cipher Disk

Design Your Own Cipher Disk

Send us your original cipher disk and design. Click the link below and choose “Cipher Disks.” We would love to showcase awesome designs on our site.

Send Us Your Work- Click to Upload

Learn More about Cryptography

This Introduction to Cryptography was created by Brian Veitch, a NIU cryptography expert, and contains guides, lessons, activities, and resources.


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