STEM Resources

Examine collections of the Museum's key resources on major themes in American history and social studies teaching.  Additional resources can be found in the main search areas of the website.

STEM Resources

Explore the science in history and find science, technology, and math-integrated resources with this STEM-theme. 

AbioCor Total Artificial Heart

Grade Range: K-12
Resource Type(s): Primary Source, Artifacts
Date Posted: 10/27/2008

AbioCor Total Artificial Heart is the first electro-hydraulic heart implanted in a human. Approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for clinical trails, the AbioCor was implanted in Robert Tools by cardiac surgeons Laman Gray and Robert Dowling on July 2, 2001, at Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. The historic operation marked the first time an artificial was used as a permanent replacement for a human heart since the air-powered Jarvik-7 artificial heart was implanted more than fifteen years before.

The AbioCor is a two-chamber pump designed to perform like a natural human heart. It is powered by batteries, and pumps more than 2.5 gallons of blood a minute to the lungs and then to the rest of the body.

Tools, who suffered from irreversible congestive heart failure, chose to have his diseased heart removed and replaced with the plastic and titanium pump. He lived for five months, well beyond the clinical trial's goal of sixty days.

The development of the AbioCor involved a team of engineers, scientists, and physicians from across the United States. Completely contained within the body, no tubes protrude through the skin, nor is the patient tethered to a noisy bedside console, as with air-powered hearts. Instead the heart is powered by rechargeable batteries and microcomputer technology that regulates the heartbeat according to the patient's activities.

Artificial Anatomy: Body Parts

Grade Range: 6-12
Resource Type(s): Interactives & Media
Date Posted: 7/7/2008

Students learn anatomy by matching images of body parts to their location on Jerome, a papier-mâché anatomical model. It is part of the online exhibition entitled Artificial Anatomy: Papier-Mâché Anatomical Models.

Invention Playhouse

Grade Range: K-12
Resource Type(s): Interactives & Media, Lessons & Activities
Date Posted: 9/9/2008

Through the use of four interactive games, students will learn how play-the ordinary and everyday "work of childhood"-connects to the creative impulse of both historic and contemporary inventors in the Invention Playhouse. This resource is part of the Invention at Play online exhibition from the Lemelson Center.

Steam Locomotive, John Bull

Grade Range: K-12
Resource Type(s): Primary Source, Artifacts
Date Posted: 8/10/2009

The steam locomotive "John Bull" was built in 1831 and ran for 35 years, pulling trains of passengers and cargo between the two largest cities of the time, Philadelphia and New York. The locomotive propelled trains at 25 to 30 miles per hour...

Tuning Forks Demonstration

Grade Range: 6-12
Resource Type(s): Interactives & Media
Duration: 4 Minutes
Date Posted: 3/23/2012

Meet Steven Turner, curator at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, as he discusses the Smithsonian's scientific instrument collection. This video focuses the science behind and uses for tuning forks, including demonstrations of tuning forks on resonators, the Grand Tonometer, a medical tuning fork, and a beats apparatus. This is the third video in a series of five.

Chladni Plate Demonstration

Grade Range: 6-12
Resource Type(s): Interactives & Media
Duration: 2 Minutes
Date Posted: 3/23/2012

Meet Steven Turner, curator at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, as he discusses the Smithsonian's scientific instrument collection. This video focuses on the plate developed by the 18th century scientist Chladni whose instruments create visual representations of wave patterns. This is the fourth video in a series of five.

History on Stage Pop-Up Lesson

Grade Range: 5-8
Resource Type(s): Lessons & Activities
Duration: 135 Minutes
Date Posted: 2/9/2011

This lesson plan, developed in support of the exhibition Paper Engineering: Fold, Pull, Pop, and Turn, introduces students to the variety of mechanisms included in movable books and encourages them to build their own pop-up in support of a social studies lesson. Making pop-ups subtly reinforces students’ understanding of mechanical movement and helps budding architects, designers, and engineers begin to envision objects three-dimensionally.

Exploring the Sky Homepage

Grade Range: K-4
Resource Type(s): Lessons & Activities, Reference Materials
Date Posted: 11/4/2009

People around the world have studied the stars and shared stories through constellations and astrology. By using this OurStory module, children and adults can enjoy exploring history together through children's literature, everyday objects, and hands-on activities. Focused around Maria's Comet, a work of children's literature about a young girl who longs to study the stars, the module includes links to hands-on activities and a list of recommended readings for further exploration.

Extract DNA

Grade Range: 1-6
Resource Type(s): Lessons & Activities
Duration: 15 Minutes
Date Posted: 9/4/2012

DNA is inside the cells of every living thing, including you. This experiment lets you see the long, twisting molecules of DNA inside cells. This activity from Spark!Lab includes step-by-step directions, a worksheet for documenting the experiment, discussion questions, and ideas for extending your learning. Spark!Lab activities encourage young learners to explore the invention process, from creative ideas all the way to successful marketing.

Make a Lightbulb

Grade Range: 3-6
Resource Type(s): Lessons & Activities
Duration: 25 Minutes
Date Posted: 9/4/2012

Thomas Edison changed our world with electric lights and an entire system that produced and delivered electrical power. Try your hand at making your own light bulb. This activity from Spark!Lab includes step-by-step directions, a printable chart to record the experiment, and discussion questions. Spark!Lab activities encourage young learners to explore the invention process, from creative ideas all the way to successful marketing.

Life Cycle of the Poliovirus Animation

Grade Range: 3-12
Resource Type(s): Interactives & Media
Date Posted: 6/10/2008

This activity will help students understand how polio affected the lives of Americans throughout the 20th century. By viewing the animated Lifecycle of the Polio Virus, students will learn how the poliovirus begins the infection process. This game is part of the online exhibition, Whatever Happened to Polio?

COBOL

Grade Range: 5-12
Resource Type(s): Reference Materials
Date Posted: 5/25/2012

This online exhibition tells of the development of COBOL, a computer programming lanugage, and how it changed the commercial, banking, and defense industries. Fifty years ago, each computer maker used its own programming languages to tell a computer what to do. In 1959, a group of programmers devised COBOL, a COmmon, Business-Oriented Language. Programs written in COBOL could run on more than one manufacturer’s computer. In a 1960 test, the same COBOL programs ran successfully on two computers built by different manufacturers. 

History Explorer Podcast: Fifty Years of Lasers

Grade Range: 6-8
Resource Type(s): Interactives & Media, Worksheets
Duration: 16 Minutes
Date Posted: 9/23/2010

In this episode of the History Explorer podcast, curator Hal Wallace talks about the development of the laser, an invention that has as many practical uses as portrayals in science fiction and fantasy.  In addition to audio, this resource includes related images and a teachers guide.

YORICK, The Bionic Skeleton

Grade Range: K-12
Resource Type(s): Primary Source, Artifacts
Date Posted: 10/27/2008

Yorick is a plastic male skeleton imbedded with electronic and mechanical devices used to replace worn body parts. Yorick was created by Ed Mueller, an engineer in the Division of Mechanical and Material Sciences at the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in Washington, D.C.

Yorik often made appearances at schools, Scout meetings, and hospitals to educate students about bionics and current research on implant design development.

Some of the devices implanted in Yorick are: cranial plate, silicone nose, carbon tooth root, interocular lens, cochlear implant, heart valve, artificial heart, cardiac pacemaker, infusion port, vascular grafts, urinary sphincter prosthesis, artificial patella, bone plate, artificial tendons, bone growth stimulator, and artificial hip, knee, elbow, and finger joints.

Building Beautiful Buildings Homepage

Grade Range: K-4
Resource Type(s): Lessons & Activities
Duration: 120 Minutes
Date Posted: 6/30/2013

Architects design the buildings we use every day. Their designs solve problems, like how to make a sturdy building, and reflect their ideas about beauty and history. By using this OurStory module from the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, children and adults can learn about architecture and problem solving through children's literature, museum objects, and hands-on activities. Focused around Julia Morgan Built a Castle, a work of children's literature about Julia Morgan’s studies and successes as an architect, the module includes links to hands-on activities and a list of recommended readings for further exploration.

Dear Benjamin Banneker

Author: Andrea Davis Pinkney
Reading Level: Early Elementary School
Genre: Non Fiction

Banneker, an 18th-century astronomer and mathematician, was a free African American who corresponded with Thomas Jefferson about ending...

Maria's Comet

Author: Deborah Hopkinson
Reading Level: Pre-School, Early Elementary School, Late Elementary School
Genre: Fiction

Loosely based upon the childhood of Maria Mitchell, America's first woman astronomer, here is story of a girl who yearns for adventure.

The Spirit of Steam

Author: William L. Withuhn
Reading Level: High School
Genre: Non Fiction

An illustrated account of steam railroading.

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