Showing posts from 2015

Curiosity Machine: Magnet Structures

  Everybody knows magnets are FUN, but did you know scientists use magnets when making certain kinds of polymers?  Did you know that magnets can help chemists to sort out the tangled mess of molecules that most polymers consist of? Today's Curiosity Machine class focused on Making a Self-Assembling Structure using magnets, but the class wasn't just about magnets. One kind of self-assembling structure is a polymer, a long chain of repeating molecules that bind to create one super-strong molecule. We learned about polymers and a bit about atomic structure, then we turned our attention to magnets and to making our own structures that would link together using magnetic force. First, watch this video to get the highlights of our class: Here are my slides with recommended books for further reading: Curiosity Machine: Magnet Structures! from AnnMarie Ppl Here are some of those books: We had the table set up with dice of all kinds, pencils, paper, tape disp

Scratch for Experienced Users: Flappy Bat

Today we made videogames using Scratch, based on the infamous "Flappy Bird" videogame that brought its creators notoriety and established them in the halls of memorable bad game design forever :) We followed a tutorial I created and chose new sprites for our flappy character--many kids chose airplanes, fish, or other animals, and a few chose bats. The end code looks something like this (this is just the code for the bat that flies through the pipes): The final product is supposed to work like this (click on the picture and you'll be taken to the game which you can play): If you'd like to see the kids' projects they are posted here: Pasadena Library Kids' Blog The kids did a great job. Even one child who was not really very experienced with Scratch turned out to be quite sharp and able to follow all the difficult instructions. Despite having a lot of technical difficulties, almost everyone was able to go home with a finished game emailed to the

Playing a Record Without a Turntable

Monday's hands-on science program, "The Science Behind Recording Music," challenged tweens to come up with several iterations of a gramophone that could play the sound stored on a vinyl record with only their hands to power it. First, tweens learned about the history of sound recording and its great inventors, from Leon Scott to Alexander Graham Bell, to Edison to Berliner. I engaged the kids in some fun questions to test their critical thinking skills, like: "How many grooves are on each side of a record?" and "How many times a second would a record turn if it's turning at 33 1/3 revolutions per minute?" Here are my slides from that presentation: Science of Recorded Music from AnnMarie Ppl And here is the video I created to give them a sample of what they would be doing: Then we started spinning records of our own. We made a gramophone out of a tin can, aluminum foil, and a pin, and lowered the pointy end of the pin onto the

Some videos of STEAM programs we've had lately at Central Library

We recently had a few STEAM-related programs at the library that I wanted to share on here. The first was called "Tablets and Tech for Kids," and we were using the library's iPads and robots to learn coding, as well as using the library's iPads and Osmo game systems to complete physics and geometry challenges. Then we had another program about making musical instruments, which encouraged kids to try to experiment and find ways to design their instruments to play better. Kids and parents struggled to make great drums with very taut balloon membranes. Children also tried to make their rubber-band guitar strings more taut, and played with different kinds of rubber bands to get the design they wanted.

The Science Behind Making Music

This afternoon we had a program at Pasadena Library about how to make a musical instrument--something that would produce not just noise, but definite pitches that you could change or manipulate.  We learned about aerophones, chordophones, idiophones and membranophones, and then got a chance to make our own DIY instruments. Here was my setup: Not shown: a large container of water, which we needed for some of the instruments. First, we talked about the properties of sound and experimented with a "head harp," which is made by putting a string through a wire hanger and holding both ends up to your ears to hear what sounds it made when we let the hanger hit the wall.  Without the strings being close to your ears, all you hear is a faint click, but when the strings are held up to your ears it sounds like a gong or a church bell.  This helped to convey a lesson about how much faster and better sound moves through solids than through air. After some more d