A week before the 2020 STEAM Tank Challenge was scheduled to host three regional competitions in March, COVID-19 forced New Jersey schools to close. Consideration was given to a virtual competition; access to technology, team designs, and prototypes led to the tough decision to cancel the 2020 STEAM Tank Challenge. However, regional finalists will be recognized later this year.  Despite the circumstances, the NJSBA STEAM Team and the U.S. Army charted an exciting new direction and created the “STEAM Tank at Home Challenge.”

The “STEAM Tank at Home Challenge” focuses on families creating solutions to current problems and engages students while encouraging participation from all family members. It challenges families to collaborate as creative thinking teams and incorporates the usual STEAM Tank problem solving, entrepreneurship, sustainability, and innovation skills. Families need to use their imagination and demonstrate ingenuity when looking at situations that need resolution. In other words, this is a STEAM Tank family edition that will provide continuity of learning in the areas of STEAM and sustainability.

To date, several challenges have been created and are available online.

For example, here is a challenge with a music theme:

Design, develop, and produce music that inspires and promotes hope, positivity, fun, and emotions of general wellbeing through music. Your creation can include lyrics, dance, other family members, such as brothers, sisters, parents, pets, and grandparents. Try to reference some form of New Jersey culture in your production. 

Option 1. Students discuss music history with your parents or grandparents and select a song that has significant historical meaning for them. Then, as a family, recreate a version of the song using your unique style and talent. 

Option 2. Parents, discuss music with your children and select a song that has significant meaning to them. Then, as a family, recreate a version of the song using your unique style and talent. 

Option 3. Students discuss with your friends and classmates a song that you think reflects the way people are feeling right now and recreate it. Discuss why you selected the song and why you relate to it. Once you decide on a song, perform the song using virtual formats of your choice. 

Among the projects, families could try a COVID-19 design challenge that tasks families to come up with solutions to the pandemic in many areas including, societal, emotional, health and wellness, and technological.  An example follows:

Imagine you are part of an NJ COVID-19 family task force where the leadership of New Jersey is asking for your help to research, identify, and create solutions for many problematic situations related to the COVID-19 crisis. Your solutions can focus on the emotional, economic, scientific, engineering, physical safety, and health challenges associated with this pandemic. What will you and your family do to help?

As a result of COVID-19, NJSBA STEAM Team and the U.S. Army will work with the Rutgers Center for Mathematics, Science, and Computer Education to bring professional learning and best practices to schools in the areas of STEM and STEAM.

This is a spinoff from an existing partnership between NJSBA and the Rutgers University Division of Continuing Studies (DoCS) to develop NJSBA’s Online University for Continuing Education.

As a first step, NJSBA and Rutgers teams are designing and posting summer challenges that will be for the students with the option to include the entire family.

Watch this Facebook Live broadcast, which explained the partnership and introduced summer design challenges.

The first of the NJSBA and Rutgers challenges are now available, and bi-weekly, more challenges and problem-solving activities will be available. The team wanted to make available summer problem-solving activities and design challenges to continue the learning. At the same time, students are home as well as guide for parents to assist with fun yet engaging summer-themed challenges.

Here is an example of the first NJSBA and Rutgers design challenges:

Bubble Engineering

You have been contacted by the “Summer Party Products”  manufacturing company to design new bubble-related items that can be used by kids and their friends to add fun with bubbles to any outdoor summer gathering!  If successful, you can share your bubble solution recipes, bubble wand designs, and prototypes, and pictures of the bubbles you are creating!   How can you create and even customize your own bubble blowing solution or recipe?  How can you make your custom bubble wand from materials found around the home, and generate lots of bubbles at once, or even one giant bubble?

The NJSBA and Rutgers partnership will continue to be available to support school districts, teachers, students, and parents in the areas of STEAM and sustainability as they prepare for the start of the school year.

As an additional effort to support parents, the NJ PTA and NJSBA will launch another design challenge for families in mid- July. This is specifically for families to work together to make their homes and communities safer places to live.

The NJSBA and NJPTA challenge, along with many others, will be available here and will remain on the NJSBA website for teachers to use and modify to fit their classroom needs.

For the first time, STEAM Tank will go virtual for the 2021 challenge. Beginning in early October, applications will be accepted in the usual way with a two-minute video of students’ ideas and invention concepts. From there, virtual judging will take place in the three regions, and the winners will advance to Workshop 2021 in Atlantic City. This, of course, will depend on the current status of COVID-19 at that time.

NJSBA will continue to support school districts throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to advance student achievement in the areas of STEAM and sustainability.

For more information, please contact us at steamtank@njsba.org.