My sweet friend, Michelle, is a woman with a passion for STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics). She is a STEM specialist and is an inspiration to kids and teachers. Michelle previously shared her Arbonne work with Casa Bouquet and now she has agreed to share some of her exciting STEM engineering design cycle activities for students.
Now, here’s Michelle to share her hexbug engineering design challenge with us:
Supplies for hexbugs challenge
- paper or notebook for recording results, pen
- rulers, meter sticks, protractor
- various types of adhesive- scotch tape, duct tape, packing tape, hot glue, Elmer’s glue, super glue,
- card board, paper towel or toilet paper tubes, foam board, construction paper, any items from the recycling bin
Hexbugs are a fun toy familiar to most children ages 6-16. There are many different kinds of Hexbugs but I recommend using the Hexbug Nano and the Hexbug Nitro for this activity. The Hexbug Nano and Nitro look similar but the Nitro has appendages on the top and the bottom.
Safety note: Be sure to explain safety precautions to children. Disclaimer: All information provided on this site is for entertainment and education purposes only. Using any information from thecasabouquet.com is at your own risk.
Engage: (5 min)
Introduce Hexbugs to students. Let one crawl around on your desk to pique student interest.
Explore: (15 min)
Divide students into groups of 3 or 4. Hand each student group a Nano or Nitro Hexbug. It is important that students don’t realize there are two different kinds in your “population” (box of Hexbugs). Ask students to learn about the Hexbug assigned to them and record observations about their specific Hexbug in their notebooks. Ask them to give their Hexbug a name.
Questions to explore:
- How high can my Hexbug climb? (degree of incline)
- Does the Hexbug move in a straight line?
- Does my Hexbug like to turn in one direction over another? Does the Hexbug crawl better on certain surfaces?
- How fast does the Hexbug move?
Explain: (10 min)
Show students the “population” and ask them if they think the Hexbugs are all the same. Allow time for each group to introduce their Hexbug and share findings from the exploration.
Help students understand that the hexbugs may look similar but they have different external features such as coloring and also behave a bit differently. This should be clear from the observations; highlight this. This is a great place to discuss adaptations of biotic organisms (even though hexbugs are abiotic). Also, discuss how scientists use modeling and how you can use hexbugs as a model of how biotic organisms work.
Challenge students to build a “habitat”/maze for their Hexbug that will give the Hexbug an enriched environment. Remind students that we are using the hexbug as a model of how a biotic organism behaves. Hexbugs are abiotic but we are pretending that it needs an enriching habitat as if it were a biotic organism.
(Constraints) The habitat must have at least one (more is better) of the following:
- incline (high as possible),
- decline and
- end in a shelter (closed area).
It should have at least three different turns in different directions.
Students should use the engineering design cycle to complete the challenge. They should start with imagine/planning their habitat maze. They should collect their materials and agree on an initial blueprint for construction during this lesson.
Provide time for individual planning; then individuals share their plans with a partner or group. Groups or partners should come to consensus on a final blueprint to construct tomorrow.
During the Create and Improve phases, students send their Hexbugs through the habitat they built and improve as needed until the habitat meets the constraints and the Hexbug can complete it.
Student groups take turns demonstrating their habitat mazes and sharing about the design challenges they had to address.
Once every group has demonstrated, rotate the Hexbugs to different groups and have students observe. Were the Hexbugs able to complete a maze or habitat that wasn’t specifically designed for them? Were the Hexbugs able to “survive” in different habitats?
Students will see that some Hexbugs will be able to complete the other habitats and some will not. This can lead to a great discussion of the different adaptations of Hexbugs. Ask students which adaptations are the most advantageous. For example, Hexbug Nitros can climb inclines better than Hexbug Nanos. Hexbug Nitros have appendages on the top which provides additional friction for climbing.
Lead students to understand how advantageous adaptations can help organisms survive and if they can survive they will be more likely to reproduce and pass on the favorable adaptation to their offspring (aka- natural selection).
What is the science?
Content: model, trait, adaptation, habitat, natural selection, engineering design
Hexbugs are abiotic but can be used to model biotic bugs. Models are used in science as a physical representation of a concept, process or system. Models simulate these ideas.
Hexbugs have different colorations, numbers of appendages and movements. These can be used to model adaptations present in a population. Adaptations are body parts or physical features that help a species survive and function better in its environment.
The fact that some of the adaptations help the Hexbugs complete the mazes better can be a great example of advantageous traits (helping an organism survive). Those adaptations that inhibit the Hexbug from completing the habitat maze can be called disadvantageous adaptations. A habitat is the home or environment of an organism. Natural selection is the process by which an organism that has an advantageous adaptation is able to survive longer and thereby reproduce more offspring, passing on the advantageous traits to their offspring.
Resource links for hexbugs
- The Engineering Design Process from Science Buddies
- General Lab Safety resources from Flinn Scientific. Be sure to check out the Student Safety Contract.
- The 5E lesson plan model from Next Generation Science Standards
- Legos and hexbugs from Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls
“Hey, friends! I’m Michelle Benigno and I am a mom, a science educator and an Independent Consultant/District Manager for Arbonne. I am based in the Asheville, NC area. I love science, cows, musicals, hiking and family time. I love teaching and sharing the excitement of science with others. Contact me at mtbteacher[at]gmail[dot]com”
Thanks for the fun activity, Michelle. I love how children of many ages could enjoy the hexbugs.
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