Tag Archives: science

Hill Country Science Mill Raffle Winner

Congrats to Tom Kilgore (@Tom_Kilgore), winner of the Family 4-Pack to the Hill Country Science Mill!  He and his family have an awesome experience in store for them!

Thanks to all who participated.  I hope that you will still find the time to take your family to this fabulous interactive museum.  It is well worth the trip!

Maker Space Essentials – Squishy Circuits

The next adventure for our after-school Maker Club will be circuits. I’ve already mentioned Little Bits, a great product for creating all kinds of circuits using interchangeable magnetic parts.  Those will be at one of our stations.  Another station will include “Squishy Circuits.”

Squishy Circuits image courtesy of Lenore Edman
Squishy Circuits image courtesy of Lenore Edman

Squishy Circuits are made using conductive dough.  You can find the recipe for the dough, as well as for insulating dough here. A Squishy Circuits kit, which includes the recipes and “hardware” is available for $25 here. You can probably find the items somewhere else, but I felt like this was a pretty good price that saved me the time of hunting for individual parts.

If you scroll to the bottom of the Squishy Circuits purchasing page, you can see two videos that show this product in action. As you will learn, this is a great way to introduce electrical circuits to young students.

I did a practice run this weekend with my daughter and some family friends.  One of the things that is really fun to watch is the natural curiosity that arises once you show them an LED lighting up. Suddenly, “What if” questions begin to flow, and “I wonder what would happen” becomes the beginning of every other sentence.

I did learn a few things from this Squishy Circuits rehearsal:

  • If you don’t have food coloring in the house, egg dye can work in a pinch – but it’s going to make your dough smell like vinegar.
  • There is a reason the recipe calls for distilled or deionized water for the insulating dough.  We didn’t have either, so we used spring water.  Our sugar dough – though less conductive – still had some power.  This turned into a great lesson, though.  (“Why” became the next favorite sentence starter.)
  • The buzzer sounds are extremely irritating to adult ears, but highly giggle-provoking to youth.

I found a few other resources for those of you interested in using Squishy Circuits.

As you can see, there are lots of ways to use Squishy Circuits.  If you have any other suggestions, please fill free to add a comment to this post. And, if you want to see some other Maker Space  Essentials, check out my “Make” Pinterest Board.

Maker Space Essentials (6)

Science by the Dull Eyed Llamas

For today’s Phun Phriday post, I am sharing a Rube Goldbergian feat by Ariel Llama.  Set to the music of “Science” by the Dull Eyed Llamas, you will see an elaborate set-up designed to open a door. Here is part of the summary on YouTube:

“This Rube Goldberg machine took almost 1 year to build, and 2 weeks of intense troubleshooting and filming to finish. It’s amazing what one crazy musician can build in his living room.

I wanted to show my students that you can make a pretty fancy machine out of cardboard and popsicle sticks, straws and dowels, found objects, duct tape, and perseverance. Et voila!”

I think perseverance might be the understatement of the year!

from Science by the Dull Eyed Llamas
from Science by the Dull Eyed Llamas

Elements 4D Lesson Plans

You may remember a post I did earlier this year on the Elements 4D Cubes by Daqri.  These augmented reality cubes, which you can print on paper (I would recommend cardstock) for free, are an awesome way to learn about the Periodic Table. And, yes, the app that brings these cubes to life is free, too!

Several teachers, including me, were asked to create some lesson plans to use with the cubes.  (Full disclosure – we received compensation for this.)  Daqri just released the plans last week. And guess what! Yep, the lessons are free to download! I’m talking Science Standards, printable worksheets, video links, and games.  ALL FREE!


Once you start playing (and learning) with these cubes, you are probably going to wish you had a more durable set – like the wooden ones Daqri originally offered on Kickstarter.  You can sign up on this page to let them know that you would like to be notified when the new ones are available for purchase.  (Okay, so that’s not free, exactly, but it doesn’t cost anything to sign up – so that’s practically free, right?)

Feel inclined to create your own augmented reality content using the Daqri 4D Studio?  You can sign up and get fabulous tutorials here. Totally free! (See?  Back to the free stuff again.)

As you can tell, I’m a bit pumped about this.  Thanks to Drew Minock and Brad Waid, the Daqri 4D Evangelists who made all of this possible, as well as all of the teachers involved in the various plans! This is a great resource for teachers, homeschoolers, parents, and anyone else with curiosity and an interest in science.

If you want some more augmented reality resources, check out this page on my blog with activities, lesson plans, and recommended apps.

Lego Female Scientist Set

image from: ideas.lego.com
image from: ideas.lego.com

UPDATE 11/6/14: This set has been sold out since this summer.  You can find pieces of it for sale, and even the whole set for an exorbitant price.  Lego states on its site that they are looking into producing more.

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.)