Set Off a Chain Reaction of Fast-Paced STEM Learning

Posted by Emily Leong | Lakeshore Marketing Manager

Kirk Iwasaki

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When you were a kid, did you ever build a wobbly tower of household objects to reach your mom’s secret stash of cookies? That was some good problem solving, huh? Children are natural problem solvers. They confront obstacles with dauntless imagination—whether they’re searching for a lost earring or creating a makeshift fort. Every day, kids are making incredible things happen—so just imagine what they might do if we gave their innate problem-solving skills a boost!

That’s what Lakeshore’s R&D team had in mind when they developed the Create-A-Chain Reaction STEM Kit – K–Gr. 2! It’s a fast-paced and totally addictive way to help kids develop 21st-century skills like problem solving as they create chain reaction courses…then watch them come to life! I sat down with the kit’s lead developer, Kirk Iwasaki, to learn why kids can’t get enough of this kit.

Create-A-Chain Reaction

EL: For starters, can you tell us how the Create-A-Chain Reaction STEM Kit works?  

KI: I can do more than tell you—I can show you! Just take a look at the Create-A-Chain Reaction STEM Kit in action!

Basically, kids set up their very own chain reaction tracks made of ramps, pendulums, hammers and more. When they’re done building, they’ll drop a ball on the track to test their design. If the ball misses the goal, kids have to figure out what went wrong and fine-tune their course until the ball makes it all the way through.

EL: What inspired the Create-A-Chain Reaction STEM Kit?

KI: I’ve always been inspired by the work of inventor and cartoonist Rube Goldberg.  He illustrated crazy contraptions that really got me thinking: what if we brought his contraptions to life? His inventions would be the perfect way to teach STEM concepts…and I knew kids would go nuts for them!

EL: What will kids love about this product?

KI: Getting the ball to the goal! With each miss, kids have a priceless “so close” moment that motivates them to make tweaks and try again. When the ball hits home, they feel a huge rush of accomplishment. Next thing you know, they’re asking, “What can I do next…?”

Kids might have to design, test and redesign their track many times before they get it right. But that’s a normal part of the process…and a key to building STEM skills!

Create-A-Chain Reaction
EL: Why is the process of testing and redesigning so important for building STEM skills?

KI: The design process is a major component of STEM, which simply stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The process teaches kids to work through mistakes, learn from them and strive for successful solutions. It’s all about perseverance—an essential 21st-century skill!

EL: What special considerations did you make to design this kit for children in kindergarten, first grade and second grade?

KI: For one, we made super-durable pieces to stand up to years of active play. We also made the pieces chunky so they would be easy for kids to handle and manipulate.

Even the design cards are perfect for kids! Each card shows kids how to build a chain reaction step-by-step and outlines how to use each piece. Plus, we leveled the cards, so kids can take on more challenging chain reactions as their confidence grows. When they’re ready, kids can graduate to our Gr. 3-5 kit!

EL: What happens if a child masters every track?

KI: Then they have mastered the kit, but the fun doesn’t stop there! Kids can keep inventing their very own chain reaction tracks—the possibilities are endless!
Create-A-Chain Reaction Kids

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