Future Engineers at Work

Sign Up For Our FREE Daily eNews!

Hands-on learning during February vacation at UNH STEM Discovery Lab. Courtesy Photo

While some kids in Manchester were hanging out with friends or playing video games during the February school break, youth at UNH Manchester’s STEM Discovery Lab were busy cutting, sawing, gluing, soldering, designing, testing and building cars and underwater vehicles. Not bad for a week’s vacation, right?

During the week-long camp, youth challenged themselves and learned a slew of new science and engineering skills in two programs: Mousetrap Powered Cars, where they had to design, build, and test a small car powered by a standard mousetrap; and SeaPerch, where youth built and tested their own underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV).

Kids enjoyed learning how to use tools to construct their inventions. Courtesy Photo

In the 4-H Mousetrap Powered Car Challenge, participants build a basic cardboard car and learned, through trial and error, how to power it using a mousetrap. Campers had so many different ideas of cars that they ran out of time before building them all!

Mousetrap car testing.

Cars were made out of balsa wood, cardboard or plastic, and some even included all three materials. The project culminated in a friendly competition to see which car could go the farthest. By the end, participants were frantically hot-gluing ball bearings on wheels (for smooth gliding) and straightening axles. Some cars covered 30 feet of distance! Participants will compete across the state at various 4-H events and some will compete at the 4-H state activities event on May 19 at Manchester Community College.  

Testing an ROV inside a swimming pool.

During the SeaPerch activities, campers were challenged with building an underwater ROV, also known as a SeaPerch. Although instructors helped guide this challenge, campers used drills and soldering irons to meticulously connect wires and control buttons while making control boxes to operate their ROVs. The campers worked collaboratively and all made a working SeaPerch. On the last day, the campers tested their ROVs at a pool in a downtown Manchester hotel.  

The SeaPerch program requires navigating an obstacle course.

SeaPerch is about more than just getting the ROV in the water. The competition requires each SeaPerch to make its way through an obstacle course and complete a specific challenge. Some campers’ SeaPerches malfunctioned and they had to make some quick fixes, but luckily, everyone tested and drove their ROVs. Several campers will be competing at the regional SeaPerch competition on April 13 at UNH in Durham.  

We can’t wait to see what these youth build for future competitions and in the STEM Discovery Lab’s upcoming summer programs. Enrollment is open now. Some scholarships are available for qualifying students. Scholarship application deadline is May 15. Click here for more information.

Sarah Grosvenor is a Field Specialist with UNH Cooperative Extension in Science Literacy and an Affiliate Specialist with the STEM Discovery Lab at UNH. Sarah received her B.S. in wildlife biology and her M.A.T. in middle level science education from the University of Vermont. In her role as a Field Specialist with UNH Cooperative Extension, Sarah is responsible for promoting STEM education in the state of New Hampshire. As an Affiliate Specialist with the UNH STEM Discovery Lab, Sarah is responsible for the STEM Discovery Lab program development for UNH Manchester community and NH youth and adults, through youth programming and professional development. Sarah resides in Concord with her husband, son, and dogs and enjoys being active in the NH outdoors.


Megan Glenn coordinates and manages the STEM Docent program. She helps to recruit and train STEM Docent volunteers and professional educators as well as working with classrooms and out-of-school-time programs that want to offer STEM modules to their youth.  Megan’s previous experience includes volunteer management and teaching for informal education programs in the subjects of marine ecology, biology, biotechnology, and history to youth and adults. She holds an MS in Marine Biology from the University of New Hampshire and a BA in Environmental Science from the University of Pennsylvania. 

About this Author


Sarah Grosvenor and Megan Glenn