Coding with Ozobots

Have you considered doing a class with Ozobots, but weren't sure where to begin? You can do an Hour of Code activity with Ozoblockly, starting out with a Square Walk and working up to a robot dance competition. But be sure to have a backup plan in case calibration fails. Check out the Pasadena Public Library Kids Blog and our latest post on our experiences with Ozobots...and the importance of having a Plan B!!

Propeller Powered Balloon Helicopters - New and Improved Formula!

Last week kids came to Pasadena Library to learn about elastic energy and the Law of Conservation of Energy, and then build a helicopter that would rise up in the air at least briefly before coming down. We attached helium balloons to a homemade helicopter that runs on the elastic energy of a twisted-up rubber band, and since the apparatus itself is heavy enough, the whole thing generally floats gently down. (OK, some kids did have to add a weight in order to counteract the extreme lift of the helium.) Kids had a blast making their helicopters, even though it was not an easy project, and required a lot of tinkering and troubleshooting!

I did this program before at Pasadena Public Library, and shared it on my blog a few years ago. I'm sharing this year's experience because I think I learned some things that might have improved the project back then.

I first found the project in 2014 on You may have to subscribe to get access to all their projects but …

STEAM Team: Make Your Own Electric Quiz!

Last week I visited the Hastings Branch of Pasadena Public Library to present a program to their "STEAM Team," a monthly club they have for kids 9-12 years old. We did a program about electricity called "Make Your Own Electric Quiz." It was so much fun exploring the mathematical principles involved in electrical circuits, such as the inverse ratio relationship between voltage, resistance and current explored by Georg Ohm in the early 19th century. I LOVE anything to do with scientific laws, and we got deep into Ohm's law (I = V/R). Then kids wrote down math questions and answers on post-it notes, placing the post-its next to some brass paper fasteners I had prepped for them on a sheet of cardstock. On the other side, they wound a copper wire from the brass fastener for each question to the brass fastener for its correct answer. To reinforce the things we learned about Ohm's law, I deliberately used a battery source not intended for 5mm LED diodes--a 9V…

Kids' Coding Club: HTML and CSS

On Thursday, March 15, kids came to the Studio on 4th at Pasadena Central Library to learn about HTML and CSS, and build a website that would be an interactive birthday card or greeting for a friend. Most kids did birthday cards but a few had other great ideas, such as a get well card for a sick friend. I've always wanted to do a web design class like this, but eight years ago when I first learned HTML and CSS, there weren't the great teaching tools that we have out there now. I found a lot of great stuff on KhanAcademy but the thing I liked most was the WebLab at which allows you to see your webpage appear simultaneously in a side viewer. It's a great tool for teaching kids how to code! One drawback I experienced was a lack of time. I had a lot of content prepared and could easily have filled a two-hour class with it. We didn't get through much of the CSS in the hour time we had allotted. So we had a file loaded onto our library laptops to give the kids a…

Kids' Coding Club: Coding With Star Wars

Last week was Computer Science Education Week, and to celebrate, Pasadena Public Library hosted our first meeting of the Kids' Coding Club, a monthly afterschool program for kids 8-12 years old to learn about coding and computer science. This club was started by our Virtual Services Librarian, Illyanna Logan, with me and tech specialist Kevin Crain assisting her. We hold this club in our Innovation Lab, formerly the Technology Learning Center, which is being remodeled to be a space that will provide more than just computers but all kinds of STEAM tools! On December 5th, Google just happened to have a Google Doodle that was all about coding, and kids did the activity on Google's homepage as they sat down at the computers. (One kid asked us: "Did you get Google to do that doodle just for your program?" It was cute how innocently he asked it. Yes, kiddo, that's what happened: we just called up the CEO and got him to do us a favor. ;) ) After doing the Google doodl…

Appy Hour at Local Elementary School's GATE Club

On Thursday morning I was a guest at a local school's GATE Club meeting to present some of the apps that we have on our iPads at the library. I brought our collection of 11 iPads with me, along with some handouts and the cable to connect one iPad to their projector. Then I gave kids a quick overview of each app (I chose apps that were STEM-related this time) and allowed the kids to play with the iPads for fifteen minutes before they had to leave for class. Here are the apps we covered: Science Monster Heart Medic - Free - Explores the cardiovascular system and gives you an interactive game helping a monster to achieve a healthier life. iOS, Android, Amazon. Stephen Hawking's Snapshots of the Universe - $1.99 - Explore concepts about gravity, relativity, and how the universe works while playing challenges that stimulate your curiosity to learn more. iOS. NAMOO - Wonders of Plant Life - $3.99 - This stunning and visually engrossing app teaches students about plant biology a…

Epidemiologists: Saving Our Species with Science!

On Monday Oct. 2nd we had a visit from Pasadena's very own dedicated epidemiologist, Matthew Feaster of the Pasadena Public Health Department. He showed us what he does on a typical day, how he responds to reports of illnesses and severe symptoms, and uses math and a lot of interdisciplinary science to determine the cause of the disease. The information he gathers and the reports he creates help our Public Health Department to keep the public informed on how to stay safe, as well as helping them to know where to focus their resources for the prevention of the spread of those diseases.

If any of that went over your head or sounded boring, then I'm doing a bad job of conveying it--because this presentation was NOT boring! Everyone had such a blast and came away having learned a lot in the process. Matthew brought a book he created showing what he does and describing a hypothetical outbreak, and he asked the kids what questions they would ask the patient to determine the cause …