Category Archives: Science

It Ain’t Rocket Science

“You think that video game is fun to play?  How about inventing one?”  This is a quote on Part 3 of Episode 4 of It Ain’t Rocket Science.  In this segment, you will see a FIRST Robotics competition and the winner of the first “Wouldn’t It Be Cool If…” contest.

It Ain’t Rocket Science is a project from Time Warner Cable as part of its Connect a Million Minds program, which endeavors to get more young people involved in STEM activities and studies.  According to TWC, the series of videos hosted by Adam Balkin,  “introduces parents and kids alike to some of the coolest opportunities, events and careers in STEM.”

So far there are 24 episodes, which you can watch on Time Warner Cable or access on the website for the show.  The 30-minute episodes are divided into bite-size pieces so you can sample them or show them to a class.  This is another great resource for getting students excited about STEM.

Screen Shot from Episode 4 of It Ain't Rocket Science
Screen Shot from Episode 4 of It Ain’t Rocket Science

Phodable Phun

For today’s Phun Phriday post, I bring you three examples of the impact the ancient art of origami continues to have in the modern world.

Check out this story from the New York Times, which includes a video of a robot that starts out flat, then folds itself into a 3-D creature.
Check out this story from the New York Times, which includes a video of a robot that starts out flat, then folds itself into a 3-D creature.  The video is amazing!


Or, get yourself a metal origami sculpture that you put together yourself - starting from flat pieces delivered in the mail!
Or, get yourself a metal origami sculpture that you put together yourself – starting from flat pieces delivered in the mail! Back this Kickstarter project, Poligon, if you love this idea! (You’ve got to watch the video to see this awesome concept!)


Richard Byrne just published a post about an app and a website that you can use to make your own paper foldable creations.
Richard Byrne just published a post here about an app (Foldify) and a website (Paper Toys) that you can use to make your own paper foldable creations. Read his post for a cool idea for what to do with your finished products!


For my Phun Phriday post this week, I am writing about an augmented reality app called Zookazam.  There are actually 3 downloadable iPhone apps in this series: Zookazam Lite, Zookazam Pro, and Zookazam Zoo Atlanta.  The first and 3rd are free.  Zookazam Pro currently costs 99 cents.  However, I think I got it for free one day through Apps Gone Free – as I somehow have it on my device and don’t remember paying for it.


All of the apps are iOS only.  They are iPhone apps, but will work on the iPad as well.  To use them, you need to print out the appropriate target page – based on which app you are trying to use.

With the Lite version, you will only be able to view one animal – a deer.  Zoo Atlanta offers you 6 different animals: Lion, African Elephant, Zebra, Giraffe, Giant Panda, and Eastern Black Rhinoceros. The Pro version will give you more options, of course.  It includes bugs.  You can see all of the animals here.

Though I don’t usually offer education integration ideas on Phun Phriday posts, it might be a neat lesson to have students build habitats around a particular Zookazam creature.

Zookazam is a fun novelty.  You can choose the weather conditions for your animal, and take photos of it enduring rain, snow, and cloudy days.  What also distinguishes it from some of the other AR apps is that it gives you the opportunity to take video in the app.  This allowed me to amuse myself by watching a few pandas cavort right in front of my bulldog’s nose…


Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 8.07.58 AM

Help Kids Code

It hasn’t been that long since I started collecting resources for teaching kids how to program on my Pinterest Board, but it seems like I already have enough links to keep any interested child occupied from Kindergarten to Adulthood. helpkidscode-logo-100x100 I recently ran across an online magazine, Help Kids Code, that offers even more support for anyone that has a passion for learning how to program. According to the “About” page for the site, the people behind it are well aware that there are many kids who may be introduced to coding and find that it isn’t their niche: “If you find coding fun, learning a programming language is only a start. You also need to know how to debug code, choose technology, define and solve problems, and many other skills and concepts. Help Kids Code provides a high level view of what new coders need to know to become great coders. With links to learn more. If coding bores you, Help Kids Code can help you dive into computer science concepts, problems, and challenges in a friendly way. You can learn the limits of technology, as well as what makes technology so amazing.” The magazine is published monthly, and an annual subscription costs $12.  From what I can tell, you can access the current issues for free.   The June/July 2014 issue has tons of intriguing articles that I’m still investigating – including a treasure trove of “unplugged” activities for learning about computer science.  I’m particularly interested in the problem called, “Santa’s Dirty Socks.” I am impressed by the sophistication and the depth of this site, and think that those of you who are looking for ways to satisfy the curiosity of young people with a passion for computer science will find many valuable links and articles here.

Lego's new mini fig star!

Lego Female Scientist Set

image from:
image from:

I am really pumped about the new Lego set to be released this August, 2014! It was just announced that it will be called, “Research Institute” and will feature three female scientists: an astronomer, a paleontologist, and a chemist.  I must admit that I never really looked at Legos as anything but silly toys for boys until I was called on to co-sponsor a robotics club last year.  Now I have seen the creativity that they can unleash, and I am really excited to see that the company is going to create a set that will not only encourage girls to see this as a more gender-neutral toy, but will also encourage them to consider S.T.E.M. careers.  Congratulations to Dr. Ellen Kooijman (a geochemist) who submitted this concept on the Lego Ideas site and now gets to see her dream turned into reality!

Are you interested in all things Lego?  You might want to check out my post, “Build Something Awesome.” Or, if you are interested in other educational games and toys, take a look at my Pinterest Board of recommendations.


Elephant Toothpaste and Vortex Cannons with Jimmy Fallon and Kevin Delaney

Click here to see the awesome science tricks Kevin Delaney performs on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon!
Click here to see the awesome science tricks Kevin Delaney performed on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon!

For today’s Phun Phriday post, I direct your attention to a recent segment from The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.  His guest, Kevin Delaney, is the Director of Visitor Experience at the Museum of Discovery in Little Rock.  You can read about how Kevin ended up on the show here.  After watching this amazing demonstration, I predict that Kevin Delaney will be making many future appearances on the show!



Screen Shot from Leafsnap app
Screen Shot from Leafsnap app

My Kinder GT students are learning about “Scientist Thinking.”  This includes looking at things closely and trying to put them into groups based on their attributes.  Around this time last year we had a plethora of ladybugs in the field behind my classroom, and my then-Kinder GT students had a grand time collecting them, examining them, and trying to identify them.

Strangely, the ladybugs have not graced us with their presence this year. However, we do have a plethora of leaves all over the ground (and pollen).  So, we decided to go leaf hunting.

I am horribly inadequate when it comes to naming plants and trees.  For this particular situation, I decided that, rather than risk misinforming my students, we would use the Leafsnap app on the iPads for this activity.

First, the students gathered a few different leaves each during an outdoor walk.  Then we came back inside, and I showed them how to use the app to take a picture of each leaf on a white piece of paper. Once the user clicked “Snap It” the app contacted a database of plants and generated a list of possibilities.  The students could then look at the list and determine the most likely label to give each leaf.  They worked with partners, and it was interesting to listen to their conversations as they consulted each other and debated the true identities of their leaves.

Leafsnap is a collaborative project from Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution.  They are working to include trees from all over the continental United States, but began with trees from the northeastern portion.  Therefore, the app might have difficulty recognizing leaves from other regions.  We live in Texas and, overall, I think the app was pretty accurate.  Of course, just about the only tree I can be relied on to identify regardless of the season is a palm tree :)

Leafsnap is free.  It currently appears to be available only on iTunes, although I did find some mentions of it as an Android app as well.  It’s not a new app.  According to my research, it has been around since at least 2011.  (If you learn that it is available for Android, I would appreciate it if you would comment below with the link.)