EeeeK, A Mouse – 5th Grade STEM

The 5th graders have been working with mice…Yikes! Insead of dissecting a mouse in science, we are dissecting a mechanical mouse in STEM. We started off our adventure with a discussion of the history of computer mice and their engineered improvements over time. The first mouse was invented by Dr. Douglas Engelbart in 1964. It was made of wood and could only move up and down. We discussed the different types that we have today and how they are useful for different situations. The purpose of the mouse is to translate human motion into a message that the computer understands. To demonstrate this to the students, we studied a simple roller ball mouse. The roller ball functions by moving 2 disks within the mouse that have holes that control light pulses. These are converted to “X” and “Y” positions. This coordinate system is recognized by the computer as the 2 dimensional screen. Computer software is installed that sets the size of the screen and a way to determine distance and direction of the mouse as it is moved. This is translated to a cursor on the screen. The click that you hear when you press the mouse is for navigation on the screen and to improve human/computer connection. When we hear the click, we know that we have communicated our need to the computer. The students were put into groups of 4 and asked to disassemble their mouse to see how it is put together and how it functions. They were to find one thing that they thought was a weakness of the mouse. Thinking about that weakness, they came up with a way to improve it. They were given thread spools, straws, rubber bands, rulers, and tape. Some of them made new mice and some incorporated the new materials in the existing metal and plastic. Some of the ideas were a sliding thumb rest for multiple sized hands, a computer on and off switch on the mouse, a mouse that can be used on concrete, and a mouse with a speaker to allow disabled people to move the cursor with their voice. This was a great project and the students did an amazing job with their alteration of an extremely important piece of technology.