As the temperatures drop and the days grow shorter, it’s all too easy to succumb to lethargy and boredom. For kids in particular, it can be challenging to stay entertained and stimulated during the winter, so parents and guardians have to work double time to come up with engaging and entertaining activities—especially for those days when it’s too cold or gloomy to play outside. Fortunately, there are loads of STEM activities out there that kids and their families can enjoy during the winter that are both fun and educational.
Winter STEM Activities
Here are some of our favorite indoor activities from the Sphero team and community of educators that allow students to practice STEM subjects like coding and robotics while still getting into the winter spirit.
The snowplow activity invites kids ages 9-14 to come up with a snow removal solution to prevent a “snow day.” You don’t need much to do this activity at home: just a few bags of cotton balls (or crumpled up paper), masking tape, some building supplies, and a Sphero robot. To set up the activity, tape a large circle on the floor and place the cotton balls around it. From there, kids will have to think about how to transform their robot into a snowplow, come up with a prototype, and test and improve the prototype until it functions well. You can then time how quickly the “snowplow” can push all the “snow” into the circle and try to improve on that time. If you have multiple robots, you can make this into a friendly competition. This activity helps students practice the engineering design process as well.
Snowball Fight with Sphero Ramps
In this fun winter STEM activity, suitable for ages six and up, kids get into two teams to have a “snowball fight.” To set this game up, you’ll need some lightweight plastic balls in two colors, Sphero ramps (or homemade ramps), and two Sphero robots, like Sphero BOLT. Assemble the ramps back-to-back in the middle of a table or floor and place the balls of each color in a row on either side. From there, get your kids to engineer an adaptation for the Sphero robots so that they can push the “snowballs” over the ramps. The goal for each team is to push as many snowballs as possible onto the opponent’s side. The winner is the team that sends all its snowballs to the other side the fastest. This fun activity can get a bit rowdy, but still has an educational element, as kids are tasked with designing a snowball-pushing robot and controlling the Sphero bots.
Autonomous Vehicles with RVR+
For teenagers (11-15), Sphero’s autonomous vehicle activity, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) and the RVR+ programmable robot, is a great way to spend a chilly afternoon. The main objective of this activity is to program the RVR+ robot so it can drive through a maze on its own. The programming process begins by controlling the robot as it drives through the course (which can be created by taping construction paper to the floor). From there, the RVR+ must be programmed to make emergency stops when it is going off course, and automatic turns using color events (based on the color of construction paper). Once the first maze has been achieved, kids can then design different courses to see how the robot performs. This is a great activity for teaching young teens about self-driving vehicles as well as practicing the iterative programming process. If this activity is a hit, here’s another that integrates AI with the RVR+: Image Recognition.
BOLT meets ChatGPT
Sphero’s BOLT meets ChatGPT is another great indoor activity for teens. It invites them to use the AI chatbot to generate code for and program their BOLT robot. Since it was launched, ChatGPT has been a challenge in schools, particularly for writing and plagiarism. This activity takes another perspective and offers a productive entryway for learning about the chatbot and how it works, as well as identifying the tool’s opportunities and shortcomings. In this Sphero activity, teens practice programming BOLT with the code written by ChatGPT, and ultimately seeing if the generated program was successful or not. If the program didn’t work as intended, it’s a good exercise for them to find where the coding error is and how they can fix it. This activity can also provide some context for discussing artificial intelligence and the ethical questions it raises.
(Security note: Student access to ChatGPT is not required for this activity as the code is pre-written and available within the activity in the Sphero Edu app.)
Why STEM Activities are Great for Winter
There are many reasons parents should consider STEM activities for their kids over less-engaging hobbies (like watching TV or TikTok) during the winter. Perhaps most obviously, hands-on STEM activities like the ones mentioned above are highly stimulating, requiring kids to use different faculties and work on their problem-solving and critical-thinking skills.
It’s also highly beneficial to get kids to apply concepts and knowledge they’ve learned in school outside the classroom. Encouraging kids and teens to participate in STEM activities will enable them to understand these concepts in a practical, concrete way and help them make more connections between the classroom and the real world.
Winter STEM activities are also great for socializing. By bringing these activities inside this winter, siblings or friends can work together on problem-solving and compete in fun activities like the “snowball fight.” This allows them to put their collaboration, brainstorming, and communication skills into practice. Adults can also get involved in STEM activities, sharing their own knowledge as well as learning from their kids. It can be very validating and confidence-building for kids to show parents and teachers what they’ve learned in a tangible way and be supported in their interests. Above all, STEM activities can be tons of fun and leave kids with fond memories.
Try Winter STEM Activities Today
STEM activities, such as those enabled by Sphero’s STEAM kits and robots, are a great way to keep kids of all ages engaged and entertained during the colder months. For many more activity ideas, check out our other educational resources.