Playful Engineers

a CILC Content Provider

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As a teaching artist/engineer, maker/tinkerer, musician, recording artist, and educator, Jay Mankita has worked with kids and families for over 30 years. His workshops and presentations are experiential and inspiring. Jay is a life-long learner, with a passion for engineering, especially using repurposed toys and household objects. 

Jay has presented thousands of STEM related, hands-on programs since 2015. Jay is also a touring musician, a Parents' Choice Award winning recording artist, and a songwriter with songs that have traveled the world.




Honorable Mention


Programs by Playful Engineers

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Chain Reactions from Household Materials, Toys, and Tools: Presentation!

CHAIN REACTIONS FROM HOUSEHOLD MATERIALS, TOOLS & TOYS: Live Presentation!A Rube Goldberg-inspired romp into the world of building complicated chain reactions to accomplish simple tasks, from our own ordinary stuff. Artist/engineer Jay Mankita...


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Introduction to Mechanical Automata: Presentation Only or Hands-on Workshop

A mechanical automaton is an automated puppet or scene made to resemble humans, animals, or other objects in motion, using gears, cranks, cams, and linkages, transferring force, and transforming motion. We'll look at historical, and present day...


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Jay Mankita in Concert

Artist/Engineer Jay Mankita puts on his other hat as a masterful guitarist, humorist, and songwriter - his maker space workshop is also his recording/live-streaming studio. Jay's songs travel the world - he's a seasoned veteran of the children's...


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Maker Space Build Along: Stick-eometry!

Using pencils or other sticks, plus tape and rubber bands or elastic, students make their own toys that can transform from triangles to trapezoids, and from to pentagons, pentagrams, and square bottom pyramids! Post-session guide encourages...


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Maker Space Build-Along: Chain Reactions!

Maker Space Build-Along: Chain Reactions!Hands-on workshops!A virtual Rube Goldberg-inspired, STEAM-powered romp into the world of building complicated chain reactions to accomplish simple tasks, from our own ordinary stuff.Using toys, along with...


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Maker Space Build-Along: Mechanical Automata!

This hands-on workshop is the follow-up to Jay's 'Introduction to Mechanical Automata' presentation. A mechanical automaton is an automated puppet or scene made to resemble humans, animals, or other objects in motion. After the presentation, this...


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Maker Space Build-Along: Stick-eometry! Video Only

Using pencils, tape and rubber bands, students make their own kinetic toys that transform from triangles to trapezoids, and from to pentagons, pentagrams, and square-bottom pyramids! Advanced options include cubes, dodecahedrons, and other amazing...


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Mechanical Linkages from Craft Sticks!

Playful Engineers presents: Mechanical Linkages from Craft Sticks! Students make scissor, reverse motion, and parallel motion linkages from ordinary materials. Students learn about, make, and modify linkage constructions to build their own...


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Simple Machines Primer

A fun and quirky primer on the six classical Simple Machines, and how to spot them, understand them, and use them to our (mechanical) advantage!Simple Machines are everywhere - in our bodies, and the world around us. They help make our work easier...


More About This Provider

Type of Organization

Independent Provider of Content


Jay Mankita
310 Montague Rd
Amherst MA 01002
United States

Primary Disciplines

The programs of Playful Engineers cover:

Problem Based Learning
Problem Solving
Cause and Effect
Force and Motion
Engineering Practice

Awards, Quotes, Testimonials

Creativity and ingenuity are brought to light in a fun and engaging way for all students no matter their ability or materials on hand. Jay was fabulous encouraging even the most reluctant students to begin and try.” Jessie Cardarelli, 5th grade Teacher, Burkland E.S. 

“I want to thank you again for all of your help and patience. One of the last meetings we had was an all staff reflection on content area work. We, the science teachers, used the video from one of our students (his dog rang a bell that triggered a marble that travelled down to release a dog treat) as the highlight of our year and the end of our presentation. We marveled as this shy young man found his voice through engineering, design, and construction. A big assist from you for making that happen.” Jack Czajkowski, Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School 

“That was SO MUCH fun! The kids very obviously loved it, as did I!” Megan Dehmelt, Burlington County Library 

“Your program was so much fun, and I had a great time seeing all of your creations- they are truly inspiring!” Katrina Ireland, Northborough Public Library 

I would absolutely recommend this program to others. Jay was engaging, knowledgeable, and did a wonderful job encouraging the students while also giving very helpful feedback and suggestions. He was also extremely patient and supportive when speaking with the children, while still giving them helpful feedback on what to improve.” Jillian Bennet, Children’s Librarian, Harvard Public Library 

Jay works so hard to customize the session to the need of the students. He is able to adjust the expectations for the students as he navigates the content. The students had fun and were engaged throughout. Amazing session.” Mali Bickley, Connected North, Nunavut, Canada

I learned a ton! As a kid, I don't remember being encouraged to learn through play and as an educator I find it so engaging and effective for students. Jay is able to weave in scientific and engineering principles in such a subtle way that the students didn't even realize they were learning… 

…Over the course of our time together I could hear different engineering terms the students picked up like "transfer of force" and the names of simple machines and how they worked--which we haven't even learned yet in science class. Jay was also kind enough to tailor his presentation on the fly when I mentioned we were learning about potential energy and later again with sound energy. He seamlessly picked up that thread and was able to show my students that concept through their chain reaction builds. I was so pleased with every aspect of this presentation…

 …I particularly enjoyed that Jay was so effective at teaching remotely. He had put the time into rigging up different cameras to show the kids views from every angle. He was adept at utilizing the Zoom features to bring a student up to "center stage" and make them the focus of the group when they wanted to show their work. He understood that kids can listen and build at the same time...which is developmentally appropriate for my 4th graders....and particularly helpful for those little tinkerers who always need to have something in their hands…

…I loved that it was hands-on....from beginning to end. I thought it was great that my remote students who were learning from home were encouraged to use materials from around their own homes. This means that even after the presentation is over, the students could still continue to build on their own with their books, blocks, canned goods, index cards, rubber bands, and dental floss…

…I also love that this program focuses on an area of science that I don't feel particularly strong about teaching. Jay has given me so many practical ideas for ways I can go forward demonstrating scientific principles in an easy to understand way. They were excited about learning! After a year of staring at only my face through a computer screen, it was great to have a guest teacher join us. I was able to coordinate our unit on Energy along with Jay's visits so that what he was doing with the students reinforced our learning in science class…

…Because I was teaching remotely for the first time this year, it was hard for me to bring in that hands on aspect of science class online. I was worried if I asked students to purchase supplies to conduct experiments at home, it would create an inequity among my students because not everyone had the same access....and so I avoided asking them to do that. Because of that, I feel like it made my science classes a little flat, as I relied mainly on videos and readings...

…I was thankful to Jay for showing me ways I can teach science remotely using simple supplies anyway would have at home. Jay's patience and love for children shown through all of his interactions. It's clear that he enjoys working with children, and seeing those AHA! moments shine through their eyes. He's a wonderful educator.” Keeley Lombardi, Burkland Elementary