STEMpower - Inspired Science, Technology, Engineering and Math

This Week's Question:

What is a group of water droplets in the air called?
A cloud
A cloud is made of water drops or ice crystals floating in the sky. Most of the water in clouds is in very small droplets. The droplets are so light they float in the air. Sometimes those droplets join with other droplets. Then they turn into larger drops. When that happens, gravity causes them to fall to Earth. We call the falling water drops "rain." When the air is colder, the water may form snowflakes instead. Freezing rain, sleet or even hail can fall from clouds. (Courtesy:

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Previous Questions:

How many people have walked on the moon?
Two people each from Apollo 11, Apollo 12, Apollo 14, Apollo 15, Apollo 16 and Apollo 17 (Courtesy:

What gas makes up the majority of our atmosphere?
Nitrogen it is essential for all plants and animals to survive. Nitrogen (N2) makes up almost 80% of our atmosphere, but it is an unreactive form that is not accessible to us. (Courtesy:

Who invented railroad air brakes?
George Westinghouse
Westinghouse supplied the world’s first commercial pressurized water reactor (PWR) in 1957. Today, there are more than 430 nuclear power reactors in operation worldwide. Westinghouse technology is the basis for approximately one-half of these reactors, giving Westinghouse the world’s largest installed base of operating plants. (Courtesy:

Who was the first Hispanic woman astronaut?
Dr. Ellen Ochoa
Ochoa joined NASA in 1988 as a research engineer at Ames Research Center and moved to Johnson Space Center in 1990 when she was selected as an astronaut.  She became the first Hispanic woman to go to space when she served on the nine-day STS-56 mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1993. She has flown in space four times, including STS-66, STS-96 and STS-110, logging nearly 1,000 hours in orbit.

When were computers first created?
Early electronic computers, developed around the 1940’s, were the size of a large room and consumed huge amounts of electricity. They were vastly different to the modern computers we use today, especially when compared to small and portable laptop computers. (Courtesy:

Who is the Hubble telescope named after?
American astronomer Edwin Hubble is famous for demonstrating the existence of other galaxies, as well as his influential work on astrophysics and his subsequent namesake, the Hubble Space Telescope. (Courtesy:

What is a dwarf planet?
A dwarf planet is an object orbiting the Sun that is large enough to be rounded by its own gravity, but is not gravitationally dominant in its orbital area, and is not a moon. Pluto is now considered a dwarf planet.

How long will footprints and tire tracks stay on the moon? - Forever
Footprints and tyre tracks left behind by astronauts on the moon will stay there forever as there is no wind to blow them away.

What does LED stand for?
LED stands for Light Emitting Diode. LEDs began as exciting but expensive electronic components in the sixties, used in handheld calculators and other similar devices. Through research and development, LED technology advanced, became more efficient and less expensive, until it reached its current form. LEDs can now be used for a number of lighting applications and are available across the spectrum of visible, infrared, and ultraviolet light. Affordable 12V LED lights, for example, are often used as a conventional lighting source in homes, offices, and places of business because they are more energy-efficient, last longer, are more physically durable, and are safer than incandescent lighting sources. (Courtesy:

Eggshells + Inspired Engineering = Rubber
Ground eggshells and tomato peels can be added to rubber to make it stronger and still maintain its flexibility. (Courtesy:

Spinach + Biomedical Engineering = Human Cell Research
Researchers use the complex system of veins and scaffolds in spinach leaves to aid in tissue engineering. (Courtesy:

Rope + Inspired Engineering = Vines
The earliest ropes date back to prehistoric times, and were made from plant fibers, such as vines. The vines were twisted or braided together to form stronger and longer ropes, similar to the way that some vines wrap themselves around a stronger solid support to continue growing. Engineers have designed many different types of rope for a variety of uses and situations. (Courtesy:

Octopus + Inspired Engineering = Suction Cups
The suction cup appendages on the legs of an octopus were the inspiration  for the modern suction cup, patented in 1882. (Courtesy:

Boxfish + Inspired Engineering = Bionic Cars
A concept car was designed by engineers at Mercedes Benz to mimic the streamlined profile and sturdy, boxy frame of the boxfish. The bionic car turned out to be table, fuel efficient, and durable. The company plans to use more of these elements in future cars. (Courtesy:

Kingfisher Bird + Mechanical Engineering = The Bullet Train
A kingfisher bird can dive into water without making a splash.  Engineers designed the front of the bullet train to look like the beak of a kingfisher bird so that the train could move through the air more efficiently.  When a high speed train goes through a tunnel, it builds up a cushion of air in front of it that suddenly expands when exiting the tunnel, causing a loud sonic boom.  The shape of the bullet train allows it to move through the air in a tunnel without building up that large cushion of air, making it quieter when exiting the tunnel. (Courtesy:

Sharks + Inspired Engineering = Racing Swimsuits
The V-notch ridges on a shark's skin reduce drag, allowing it to swim fast with less effort.  Engineers have designed swimsuits made from materials based on the varying shape and texture of sharkskin.  These suits made their debut at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia and are now commonly used in competitive swimming worldwide. (Courtesy:

Termite mounds + Inspired Engineering = Passive Air-Conditioning
African termites keep their mounds cool by constantly opening and closing vents throughout the mound to direct the flow of air from the bottom to the top.  Engineers designed the cooling system of the Eastgate Center in Zimbabwe to mimic the way tower-building termites construct their mounds. (Courtesy:

Ghosts & Flatworms + Engineered Science = Robots that can walk, swim or fly
The ability of several animals to move over terrains such as ground and water by real-time adaptation to the environment has inspired the development of multi-terrain robots, but their working area is limited. Therefore, an autonomous decentralized control scheme for a robot has been created based on a scaffold-exploitation mechanism inspired by flatworms; simulations showed that the robot could move over various irregular terrains.  (Courtesy:

Burdock Seeds + Inspired Engineering = Velcro
In 1948, a Swiss engineer, George de Maelstral, took a walk with his dog and came home with plant burrs (seed pods) stuck all over his pants and his dog.  After examining these burrs under a microscope, he got the inspiration for creating a new kind of fastener - Velcro!  It took eight more years of experimenting to develop and perfect his invention. (Courtesy:

Lotus Leaves + Science + Fashion = Water Repellant Fabric
A lotus leaf naturally repels water.  Engineers have developed a way to chemically treat the surface of fabrics so that they repel water much like the surface of a lotus leaf, making the fabrics more waterproof. (Courtesy: