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  • Michelle Mohrweis

STEM Books + STEM Projects for some summer fun!

If you know me, then you know I love books. I also love STEM projects, especially ones that can be done at home. So, I present to you all the results of my 5:00am hyperfixation… a guide to my fave STEM books and the STEM projects I think fit them well!

A graphic showing a white wooden background with blueprints scattered across it. At the top, in black text, it says: STEM Projects and STEM books. Beneath that is a picture of three books (Hana Hsu and the Ghost Crab Nation, Maya and the Robot, Yusuf Azeem is not a Hero), as well as a rubberband helicoptor bird, a toothbrush robot, and a screenshot from the Scratch website.

Each suggestion will come with a wonderful STEM book and a bit about it, a matching STEM project and my reason for choosing it, and links to where you can find how to do the project. Here we go!



A graphic showing a white wooden background and black text saying: Hana Hsu + Rubberband Helicoptors. Below the text is an image of the book Hana Hsu and the Ghost Crab Nation and a rubberband helicoptor decorated to look like a mechanical bird.

Rubberband Helicopters with Hana Hsu

In the book Hana Hsu and the Ghost Crab Nation by Sylvia Liu, we see the main character, Hana Hsu, make the most amazing flying automatons. So why not make your own using rubberbands and hook nose propellers?


This is a super popular project that is relatively easy to do. I made a tweet about it last year here and you can find a step by step guide to a Hana Hsu themed version of the project in the teacher guide for the book here.


While you’re at it, be sure to fly into the book. It’s a truly fun middle grade scifi read full of STEM, virtual reality, Chinese culture, family and friendship, problem solving, and more!



A graphic showing a white wooden background and black text saying: Yusuf + Programming. Below the text is an image of the book Yusuf Azeem is not a Hero and a screenshot of the Scratch programming website.

Programming with Yusuf

In the book Yusuf Azeem is Not a Hero by Saadia Faruqi, Yusuf is frequently seen programming using the website Scratch. This website wasn’t made up for the book: it actually exists! Scratch can be a fun way to learn programming while creating animations and games.


Want to give it a try? Check out this tutorial about how to make a pong game here.


Or maybe you’d like to make a pet, like how Yusuf is designing and programming a cat for his sister? Then check out the tutorial for making a virtual pet here.


While you are learning to program in Scratch, take some time to read Yusuf Azeem is not a Hero. The book is a brilliant story full of lego robotics, programing, family, community, and the impact of 9/11 on the Muslim community.



A white wooden background with the words "Kingdom of Secrets + Catapults" at the top. Below the text is a picture of the book Kingdom of Secrets as well as a popsicle stick catapult.

Popsicle Stick Catapults with Prismena

In Kingdom of Secrets by Christyne Morrell, Prismena takes part in all sorts of cool STEM projects, including a giant catapult! Want to make your own? Popsicle sticks make a great start for that!


There’s a lot of ways to build a popsicle stick catapult, though you’ll find one of my favorites here.


In my own classes, I enjoy having the students do the above build. Then, after they have some hands-on experience with building that simple popsicle stick catapult, I challenge them to come up with their own better design!


While you are at it, be sure to launch yourself into Kingdom of Secrets. It’s a delightful middle grade fantasy full of friendship, found family, hot air balloons, catapults, and more!




A graphic showing a white wooden background with the words "Clues + Rockets" at the top. Below the text is the book "Clues to the Universe" as well as a red and blue paper rocket.

Paper Rockets with Ro

In Clues to the Universe by Christina Li, future inventor Ro spends a lot of time designing a rocket. While model rockets take a fair few supplies and time, there are easier and fun alternatives!


One project you can do this summer is make stomp rockets! This project uses air power to send paper rockets soaring, and is so much fun. The educator guide from NASA has some great ideas for how to get this project started here.


While you partake in leaping, jumping, and stomping on the rocket launcher to make your paper rocket fly, be sure to also read Clues to the Universe. It’s a beautiful book full of space engineering, friendship, family, Chinese culture, art, and more!




A graphic showing a white wooden background with black text that says "Maya + Toothbrush Robots". Below the text is an image of the book Maya and The Robot as well as a purple and yellow little robot made with the bristles of a toothbrush.

Toothbrush Bots with Maya

In Maya and the Robot by Eve L. Ewing, we open on a scene of chaos: A food fight in the cafeteria is ruining the science fair, and Maya’s robot is at fault! This seems like the perfect time to do a project involving wacky, wild robots!


How do you do that? By creating bristlebots! These fun little robots make for a great at home STEM project, and can be created with just a few simple supplies. I love this guide from Science Buddies here.


This version of it, called a rattlebot, is great too and can be done with just a dollar tree electric toothbrush: here!


After making your wacky robots, read all about how Maya handles her much more advanced robot friend in Maya and the Robot. This adorable book is full of robots, friendship, family, Black girls in STEM, and a love of science!



A graphic showing a white wooden background and black text that says "Molly + Robotic Hands". Under the text is the book "Molly and the Machine" as well as a carboard robotic hand made with straws, string, and cardboard.

Robotic Hands with Molly

Speaking of robots, another great robot themed book that released recently is Molly and the Machine by Erik Jon Slangerup. This book is so much fun, and right from the start we see a mysterious figure piloting a robot… a robot that Molly will soon be mixed up with!


The mysterious figure uses a series of levers to control the robot, which makes the traditional cardboard robotic hand project perfect for this book! Make a robotic hand that you control through a series of pull strings, then see how many things you can grab with it. This guide from the Buffalo Science Museum has a great walkthrough of how to build one here.


While you’re grabbing items around the house with your new robotic arm, don’t forget to grab a copy of Molly and the Machine. This book is a delight full of robots, 80s exploration, fun animal friends, sibling dynamics, and more!



A graphic showing a wooden white background and black text that says "Mary Underwater + 3D Design". Below the text is the book Mary Underwater, as well as a screenshot of the TinkerCAD 3D design software.

3D Design with Mary

In the book Mary Underwater by Shannon Doleski, we see Mary challenging herself by building a real, working submarine! As part of this, Mary learns about CAD design and uses 3D design software to make part of her sub. So what's a better way to experience that than to do your own 3D design project!


Tinkercad is a great free website for this. If you are new to 3D design, they have a slew of great tutorials here.


Then, once you’ve mastered the basics, try making your own model submarine! While you are expanding, rotating, and resizing your awesome model, be sure to take a look at Mary Underwater. This stunning book tackles tough subjects like abuse while still giving heartwarming moments of first crushes, STEM design, determination, and more.



A graphic showing a white wooden background nad black text that says "How to win a slime war + slime". Green slime is dripping down below the text and on top of the slime is the book "How to Win a Slime War".

Sliiiiiime with Alex

In How to Win a Slime War by Mae Respici, Alex finds himself embroiled in a slime making war at his school. Which makes this a perfect time to learn how to make your own slime!


Slime can be so messy and fun, and there’s many ways to do it. There’s a million tutorials online for slime, including this easy one here.


While you mix and mold your slime, make sure to flip through How to Win a Slime War! Not only does this delightful middle grade novel feature several of its own slime recipes, but it’s also full of friendship, STEM, businesses, and more!



A graphic showing a white wooden background and black text that says "Sir Fig Newton + Lemon Batteries". Beneath the text is a picture of the book Sir Fig Newton and the Science of Persistence, as well as two lemons with metal and cords coming out of them, powering a LED light.

Lemon Batteries with Mira

In Sir Fig Newton and the Science of Persistence by Sonja Thomas, the book starts with Mira creating fireballs with grapes in the microwave! While it’s not an activity I’d recommend at home (unless you are willing to risk your microwave!) there are a lot of great food based projects that the scientifically minded Mira would likely love.


One of these is a classic: Lemon Batteries! Can you make an LED light up using just power from a lemon? It’s a tough yet fun project and so cool when you get it to succeed. This tutorial here walks you through what to do here.


While admiring the glow of your lemon powered LED, be sure to read Sir Fig Newton and the Power of Persistence. This delightful book is full of science, a cat to save, girls in STEM, navigating friendships, and more!



A graphic showing a white wooden table and black text that says "The House that Lou Built + Marshmallow Structures". Below the text is the book, The House that Lou Built, as well as a small structure built from toothpicks and marshmallows.

Building Structures with Lou

In The House That Lou Built by Mae Respicio, we see Lou determined to build a tiny house. With her engineering mindset, Lou would probably love the marshmallow and toothpick tower challenge too!


The challenge is simple: using toothpicks and marshmallows, can you build a tower strong enough to hold a heavy object (like a dictionary or three)? How tall can you make it? Check out this look at the challenge here.


While you are constructing your right angles and triangular support structures, don’t forget to read The House That Lou Built! This story is full of engineering, Filipino family, friendship, and community!

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