STEM is an acronym that stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – four related fields that continue to dominate in our 21st century world. But STEM learning involves more than just learning subject matter – when kids engage in STEM activities at home and at school, they develop crucial skills like problem solving, communication, collaboration and creativity. 

A STEM education also prepares our kids for their future STEM careers, which are growing twice as fast as other industries in Australia. Teach little learners new skills and encourage scientific thinking by setting up challenging STEM activities at home.

SEE ALSO: STEM 101: What Is STEM & Why Is It So Important?

Why a Simple Winch is a Good STEM Activity for Kids

A winch is a mechanical device that’s typically used to wind up a rope. You can find winches on boats, cranes and towing cars, and they’re so useful in industrial settings. By helping your kids to build a simple machine like a winch, you’re providing them with fun opportunities to finesse their fine motor skills, while being creative and learning how things really work. 

This STEM activity is relatively simple, so it’s suitable for kids of all ages – when you’ve got a group together on the weekend or during school holidays, the big kids can even help the younger ones with the trickier parts. Plus, this simple winch can be completed using many materials that would usually go in your home recycling bin. 

You Will Need

Use a spool, paper straws and cardboard tubes to make a winch for this STEM education activity.

SEE ALSO: STEM Activities for Kids: Marble Maze

STEM Project: How to Make a Simple Winch

Step 1: Take a pair of cardboard tubes, like the ones from inside kitchen towel rolls. Using scissors, carefully make cuts to create a pair of u-shapes that face each other on the top of each tube, as shown in the images above. These will support a paper straw to make a bridge across the top of the tubes. (Younger children may need adult help with the cutting – try drawing the u-shapes on the tubes with a marker as a guide for them as to where to cut.)

 Secure cardboard tubes to a sturdy base to make the winch as part of this STEM project for kids.‍

Step 2: Using tape, secure the cardboard tubes to a table or a sturdy, flat piece of cardboard, making sure that the gaps in the tubes line up in a row. You can nestle the straw in the gaps, to help with the positioning and distance of the tubes before you stick them down – they should be approximately 8-10cm apart.

To create the mechanism of the winch in this STEM activity for kids, add a spool to a paper straw.

Step 3: Slip a spool onto the paper straw, and fix it into place in the middle of the straw with some tape on either side of the spool.

Hot Tip: For some extra fun, provide coloured paint and stickers and get the kids to decorate all the parts of the winch.

Step 4: Cut a length of string and attach one end of it to the spool using a small piece of tape. Now carefully wind the string round and round the spool.

Attach string to the spool with tape to make the pulley part of the winch.

Step 5: It’s up to you to decide what you want to attach to the end of your string. You could tie on a small cup or bucket, or attach a hook or peg. Now your winch is ready to be used. Rotate the straw one way to pull up, the other way to lower.

Hot Tip: Give your winch a hand crank by cutting a 5cm piece of paper straw and attaching it to one end of the straw that sits across the two cardboard tubes.

SEE ALSO: STEM 101: Fun Summer STEM Activities for Kids