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Scientific Life Hacks

STEAM-Powered Life Hacks

November 8 is National STEAM Day, and we’ve been thinking about all the ways science, technology, engineering, art, and math affect our lives. Flexing our STEAM muscles gives us the creativity and critical thinking skills to take on everything from small challenges in our households to the big challenges of the world we share. Experiment and get creative by trying some of these STEAM-inspired hacks!


We’ve all stood in front of a sink wondering how we’d ever get an especially dirty pan sparkling clean again—but little did we know our laundry held the answer!

Fill your next grimy or scorched pan with warm water and a squirt of dishwashing liquid, then place a dryer sheet on top. Let it sit for minutes or hours, depending on how stuck-on the mess is. The conditioning properties of the dryer sheet will soften the food residue so it can be removed with minimal scrubbing. Give the pan a final wash with dishwashing liquid and clean water and you’re done!


If you don’t have a speaker and want to play music from your phone, set your phone faceup in an empty metal bowl. The curvature and vibration of the metal will amplify the sound, providing a low-tech speaker.


Paper egg cartons are designed to hold each egg in place, absorb any shock, and protect them from bouncing against each other in transport. But we’ve also found that they’re the perfect place to germinate seeds. Just cut off the lid, fill the bottom compartments with soil, and plant your seeds as directed. When the sprouts are big enough to transfer, cut the cups apart and plant them in the ground. (The paper pulp of the carton breaks down in the soil over time.)


Speaking of reusing, lots of stuff that usually ends up in the trash can be put to work in an artful way. You can keep used wrapping paper, tissue paper, and magazines on hand for impromptu collage projects. Craft foam on hand? Cut shapes out of leftover pieces to make DIY stamps to dip in paint.


A foot unit of measurement is 12 inches long, but how long is your foot? If you memorize the length of it (or your hand or your arm or the width of your thumb, etc.) you’ll be able to figure out an approximate measurement even if there isn’t a ruler or measuring tape nearby. 

Looking for more inspiring experiments for kids? Spark new discoveries with our award-winning science subscriptions and activity kits.