Hi STEM Sparkers! We have so many feelings this month in our house about current events, and I found the best way to for us to express these feelings is through a STEAM activity: DIY shrinky dinks. I first saw DIY shrinky dinks on the site Goldieblox a month ago, and I’m excited that Jack, Bobby, and I finally got to make some shrinky dinks that truly express how we are feeling.
Clear Plastic Lids
Hole Puncher (optional)
Baking Sheet/Baking Pan
Parchment Paper/Tin Foil
String/Pipe Cleaner/Wire (optional)
1. Set the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Kids, make sure you have parent permission to use the oven. Parents, please supervise kids using the oven.
2. Using scissors, cut the plastic lids into desired shapes. If you want, punch a hole into the plastic shape with the hole puncher. Note: type 1 plastic will work, but type 6 plastic (as designated by the recycle symbol) works the best.
3. Color the plastic shapes as desired using Sharpie markers. It has to be a Sharpie/permanent marker, otherwise the color will come off.
4. Place parchment paper (or tin foil) on the baking sheet and then place the plastic shapes on the baking sheet, leaving space between plastic shapes.
5. Place the baking sheet in the oven. Bake the plastic shapes for only 2 minutes. At minute 1 the plastic shapes will curl up. At about minute 2, the plastic shapes will uncurl.
6. Take the baking sheet out of the oven and let the plastic shapes cool on the sheet for about 10 minutes. The plastic shapes should have shrunk some, and now you have shrinky dinks!
7. If you punched holes in your shrinky dinks, you can use some string, wire or pipe cleaner to make bracelets and necklaces.
Shrinky dinks are a really fun STEAM activity where art meets science! This activity also reminds me of my childhood: watching the "magic" of shrinky dinks in my parents' 80's brown oven. What I wish I knew was that the "magic" was really science! Here is a great explanation on the magical science of shrinky dinks from the Smithsonian.
On a personal note, I want to take a minute to acknowledge how my naïveté and privilege blinded me to the discrimination within the engineering profession when I was a fresh faced newbie. I don't say this with shame. I don't say this with pride. I say it with truth. Over the many years of my career I’ve witnessed first hand the direct and indirect discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, parental status, and age within the engineering profession, and thus I decided to become part of the solution. By staying naive and ignoring my privilege, I was propagating the problem, and so I sought how I could be a better ally of diversity and inclusion within my profession. One way I sought to be part of the solution was to become a supporter of the following engineering organizations either through membership or donation; some for years, some more recently. I believe in these organizations’ missions to bring equity to the field of engineering, ending discrimination in the STEM professions, and I highly encourage you to check them out and give them your support (they also have great STEM educational resources for K-12!):