Saturday, December 31, 2011

Celebration Helicopters

No, I won't be staying up till midnight tonight, and J's already down.  It's 8:30p on NYE; I'm such a mean mommy.  He has no clue that much of the world stays up really late and throws fun stuff in the air at midnight tonight.

Well, we made these fun paper helicopters to throw up in the air today.  Yay, science!


Earlier in the month, we played with helicopter leaves.  If you are desert dwellers (like me) and you want to play with helicopter-like science, you can purchase helicopter seeds or you can make your own spinning helicopter out of scrap paper.

Our helicopter was ~6x2 inches and started as a rectangle.

Directions:

  • Cut the paper in half about 2.5 inches down on the long side (please use your best judgement when letting your child use scissors).
  • Leave half an inch.
  • Make one slit on each side coming in ~1/3 of the way of the paper.
  • Fold the bottom half (where you just made the two slits) into thirds.
  • At the bottom, fold about 1/2 inch up and attach a paper clip.
  • Fold the blades of the helicopter in opposite directions.
  • Toss up in the air and watch the helicopter whirl down to the ground.
  • Shout HAPPY NEW YEAR!  (or whatever you want to celebrate).





Things to experiment with:

  • Attach different paper clips and note how the helicopter reacts.
  • Make different sized helicopters and note how the helicopter reacts.
    • What if the blades were longer/shorter?
    • What if the paper was wider than 2 inches?
  • Drop it from different heights.
  • Drop it upside down and note how it reacts.
  • Make helicopters out of different types of paper: computer, construction, newspaper, cardstock, tissue paper, etc., and note how each react.  Which one(s) make the best helicopter?
I might edit this post at a later time to add the video of J playing helicopter, but for now, I'm going to enjoy my NYE hot fudge sundae and relax with a movie.

Hope you had a safe New Year's!  I look forward to blogging about more science in 2012!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Too much ice cream


Every once in a while, the hubs and I get to escape.  We went to Fentons, the ice cream parlor highlighted in one of our favorite movies, Up!  Their special was a cookie sundae with chocolate and vanilla ice cream.  Proceeds went to donate school supplies to poor kids, so how could we refuse?  Big J didn't want to share (actually, it was the chocolate ice cream and cold fudge that I didn't want, so I chose an alternate ice cream with hot fudge - that I couldn't finish).

Big J spent a good portion of the date calculating how much ice cream he was eating/ate (see before pic above).  I think he estimated a liter of ice cream through measuring approximate diameter of the ice cream scoops with his fingertips.  He was very determined to finish it.  No wonder he got the chills afterward.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Robot Arm

This is how I spent the first day of my winter vacation:


I'll post video of J playing with it soon. It needs to be bolted down so it doesn't tip over when the arm is pushed all of the way down. We're brainstorming ways to also get it to stop before the motor skips if pushed to its limits. Since it was a cheap kit, it's probably going to be hard to make adjustments. If you are a little more familiar with electronics, suggestions are greatly appreciated.

In terms of what I am hoping to show with it:
  • Robots are cool!
  • Input and response (controls)
    • Make the robot go up/down, side/side, open/close (my 2 yr old can do this)
    • Pick up objects and put them down somewhere else (more advanced)

Other plans to go with robot curriculum
  • Electricity and circuits (still working on how exactly this will play out for the little ones)
  • Gears (yay mechanical engineering!)
  • Controller game (something I'm creating for the 4-7 yr olds to learn how to use programming type language and learn about degrees of a circle and distances - stay tuned)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Shout-out to Home Depot

I took a trip to Home Depot today. I had a list of items for the shake table and a couple of helpful workers that were eager to assist. One of my biggest concerns was cutting the wooden pieces to the correct sizes. They did all of the cutting for me and saved me a few hours of finding a place or the tools to do the cutting. And, since it was cut, everything fit in my small car's trunk.

Upon asking one worker for assistance, I got to talking about my project and grant. It turned out that he was a manager and gave me 10% off too! Awesome!

Here's what I ended up with:


All in all, I was extremely thankful for a pleasant experience (my visit to Radio Shack yesterday wasn't as pleasant).  I have a few more things to purchase, and I'm hoping to have shake tables ready by the end of the month.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Helicopter Leaves

Ok, I admit it, I'm from the desert.  I can name you the type of cacti and the latitudes and altitudes where each one grows (maybe that's another lesson).  However, trees are definitely not my specialty (to give you an example: my thermo prof in undergrad was surprised that I didn't know what an acorn on the ground was, but to my defense it didn't have the cap on it as the cartoons, or in particular Ice Age, depicts since the cap fell off in the drop from the tree).

Anyways, we've been having an extremely long fall (or so it seems).  Leaves are still falling from our trees around here and offer at least a few minutes of science-y fun.  Being from Oregon, John knows much more about trees than I do.  He had pointed out the helicopter leaves to me once in undergrad at UP.  However, I had no idea that we lived next to a tree for almost four years that dropped helicopter seeds until John pointed it out to J recently.

For background purposes: helicopter leaves/whirlybirds are seeded pods (the linked article says they are from S. American Tipu Trees) that are shaped in such a way that they spin on their way down.  My quick Google search is popping up Maple trees give off helicopter leaves too.  That seems a little more common.  Maybe you have them close by!

We've been dropping them off of our balcony lately (as seen by the seeded mess on the pavement below).


Why do the helicopter leaves spin?
Their special shape slows their fall down.  The seeds are shaped like a helicopter blades, catching the air as they fall.  According to a Science article, this allows them to travel longer distances if caught in the wind.

Try at home:
Drop different leaves from a height - note their shapes and how they fall.
Drop a different object (ie a soft ball) from the same height.  How does it fall compared to the leaves?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Bicycles

I may have stretched the science limits on boxes just a little, but I still think they are an awesome learning tool for babies and young children.  Now, I'll convince you that the bike that comes in the box is also science!

Major science points:
*Transfer of energy (metabolic to kinetic)
*Kinetics and kinematics (fancy terms for motion)
*Newton's first law (an object in motion stays in motion - until an outside force, ie. brakes, parked cars, bushes, etc., acts upon it)
*Balance and coordination
*Anatomy - we ALWAYS need to wear helmets to protect our brains.  We might want to use padding on other non-cushioned areas of the body, like the elbows, knees, or shins.

Major engineering points:
*Bike design - point out the parts of the bikes and what each part does
*Bike maintenance - how to take care of your bike so you can ride it for a long time
*How many wheels does your bike have?  Does it act differently if you have a different number of wheels (for example, training wheels vs. no training wheels)

Other important things to discuss (not really science):
*We always wear our helmets, or we don't ride bikes.
*We do not bike without Mommy or Daddy/responsible adult around.
*We always stop and pull to the side if there's a car in motion until the responsible adult says it's ok to go back riding.

Mainly, I wanted to show you that a two year old can ride a two-wheeler (queue proud Mommy moment):


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Bugs!

We had a chance for some quiet family time over Thanksgiving weekend.  We decided to introduce J to board games and pulled out our cheap MB games that we rescued from our parents houses when we "grew up" and officially moved out.

The first one we pulled out was my Giant Cootie!  The pieces are large enough that I don't have to worry about my 2.5 yr old choking.



We explained a little bit of insect anatomy as we built our bugs (the competition part of the game still is a bit above J's level).



Insects have:
  • A head
  • A thorax (middle section)
  • An abdomen (the rear section)
  • Six legs
  • Two antennae
  • Eyes


Other things to discuss:
  • Where do insects come from?
  • What purposes do insects serve?
  • What are helpful insects?
  • What are harmful insects?
  • What do insects eat?
  • What eats insects?
  • How do insects protect themselves?  - We discussed this one as a grasshopper hopped a ride on our car home from church two weeks ago.  It was a giant grasshopper that resembled a leaf!  (Sorry, I don't have a picture).


Other things to try:
  • Collect a bug from outside and study it.  Point out the features you just discussed and release it back into the "wild".
  • Visit a museum with a bug collection on display to see a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and kinds of bugs.

**I don't think MB currently sells Giant Cootie (mine has a copyright of 1986 on the box), but they sure do have regular Cootie (which we also have an updated version from John's family).  I did some internet research over the weekend and they were half off at many toy shops (prob due to Black Friday sales), but they typically run ~$10 non-sale.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!


Choose your holiday science:

  • Measuring, mixing, and cooking/baking yummy feasts = math, chemistry, heat transfer
  • Football = biomechanics/exercise science
  • Napping = physiology
  • The first Thanksgiving feast and why it was so important = gardening/nutritional sciences (plus a little bit of history - yes, I'm also a US history nerd, shhh don't tell my engineering friends)
  • Picking out and setting up Christmas tree = forestry?  (ok now I'm stretching)
Either way you choose to celebrate, have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Confessions

I am a mechanical engineer, but I have an abnormal fear of machines.  They are loud and you can cause some serious damage if you use them wrong.  I avoided the shop in undergrad since I wasn't really passionate about building Baja or Formula cars, and that was the main thing going on down there.  I also couldn't fit the super duper shop class in my schedule in grad school.  I have quite the learning curve for making my curriculum visions reality.  It makes me nervous to join a machine shop, like when you are new to a gym to workout and you feel like everyone is looking at and judging you.  However, I'm looking forward to learning something new and creating something great for the kids!

Wish me luck!


** Thinking about my abnormal fear, I guess I should be more sensitive to J's fears of lawn mowers/gardeners and construction noise and workers.


Edited 2/26/12 to correct spelling error that was bugging me

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

More rockets

We're a little obsessed over here with things that fly, especially if we can make them fly.

Making science out of straw rockets is super easy (and inexpensive) especially when you are given wrapped straws.  It does get pretty messy and can be considered wasteful.

We stopped by our favorite toy store after J's recent haircut.  I went on a search to find the coolest science-y toy under $5.  We found Squeeze Rockets.  The theory is the same as the straw rockets.  The air (this time from squeezing the bulb) pushes against the foam piece, causing it to fly off in the air!



Things to try:
*Squeeze hard and then squeeze soft.  What happens after the different types of squeezes?
*Squeeze the bulb, then place the rocket on.  Can you make the rocket fly off when that happens?
*Aim for objects (I don't recommend shooting at people).  Projectile Motion = FUN Science.
*Shoot the rocket towards a fan.  What happens?
*Shoot the rocket from behind a fan (into the jet stream).  What happens?

Hopefully, when things settle down around here, I can find some ways to make these type of launchers at home.  A quick search suggested 20 oz soda bottles as the launcher.  I was hoping for something more handheld, but I'll have to give it a try in the near future.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Busy Bee

I forgot to mention that I received the Pepsi Refresh Grant funds last month!  I made my first purchase this past week, a robotic arm, which I'll encase and use in a robot unit with the kids.  I'm pretty excited since robots are what got me interested in being an engineer at 8 yrs old.  Maybe, these kids can make up their minds at 3 yrs old.  That would be so cool.

I'm planning on purchasing a website design program in the next week or two and starting to make an online science wonderland.

I apologize for the lack of posts.  We went on a quick trip two weekends ago and caught something on the flight.  It's been passed around.  Hopefully, we're on the mend.  Germs = science too!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Straw Rockets

The waitress was asking for it by putting a handful of straws in front of a group of boys.

However, being a little mischievous (and bored) myself, I started it.

This is also for every action (blowing into the straw), there's an equal and opposite reaction (the straw flies off - preferably hitting an unsuspecting friend/family member).


Note, it works best if you take off one end of the straw wrapper gently (ie, not pounding the straw into the table to get it out of the wrapper).  We ended up reusing the straw wrappers so we weren't as wasteful.

Things to try:

  • Vary the amount of pressure through the straw.  Blow harder, blow softer.  What happens?
  • Aim and shoot at a target - preferably not at people's faces.
  • Try blowing through big straws and little straws with wrappers.  Do you see any differences?  Why do you think that could be?
Science is fun!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Halloween Candy Math

I am one proud Mama right now.  My child can subtract!

After bribing my child with Halloween candy in order to get him to eat his dinner, we had an unexpected math lesson.  Here's how it went.

The lesson first started as J wanted to cut his sandwich in half.  Yay, fractions!

Then in order to get Tootsie Rolls, he had to eat both halves (aka, all) of his sandwich.  There were no complaints, and this was the quickest I've seen him down a PB&J.

After acknowledging the completion of his dinner, I asked if he'd like 2 or 3 mini Tootsie Rolls (a lesson in greater than/less than).  He chose 3 (of course, he is my child).  I unwrapped three Tootsie Rolls and placed them on his dinner plate.  We counted them.  He immediately scarfed one down.  Without asking, he pointed out that he had 2 Tootsie Rolls.  Awwwwww.  Down went the second Tootsie Roll, and he stated about his one left.  Yay, math!

Sugar is good for something!I am one proud Mama right now.  My child can subtract!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!!

We love Halloween (and Nevada Day) around here. My heart was full this year when J decided he wanted to be a scientist for Halloween. After all, scientists are the coolest superheroes of all!

Cute Scientist J



How not to sniff your experiments


Be safe, have fun, eat candy.  I would love to see nerdy costumes if you have pics :-D

Monday, October 24, 2011

Baking Soda + Vinegar Power Boats

Go boat, go!


For every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction.  The action is the chemical reaction between the vinegar and baking soda, which yields water and carbon dioxide (CO2) gas.  The gas wants to escape, and giving it a little hole to escape, powers the bottle across the water (the reaction).

I did this experiment with the 3rd-5th graders in summer camp many moons ago. It wasn't exactly like this, as I don't remember the details. Luckily, there are plenty of sites out there to refresh my memory. I decided to approach it like I do cooking and looking up recipes online: a little from this recipe and a little from that recipe and add a few ingredients of my own.

Directions
  • Take an old 20oz soda bottle (I used a Diet Pepsi bottle from the power vote days) - the type of drink doesn't matter, though I don't recommend water bottles now that they are more eco-friendly and very squishable (yes, that's an official scientific term).
  • Dril a hole through the cap (about the size of a straw diameter).
  • Place about 10 marbles in the bottle to give it weight (since the bottle is buoyant when placed in the water).
  • Fill up the bottle ~1/4 with vinegar (just plain, cheap, generic name vinegar).
  • Add ~1T of baking soda to the bottle (other people suggest rolling the baking soda in toilet paper.  This was VERY messy and frustrating though just dumping 1T of baking soda in the bottle was relatively painless). -This is a great use for your old baking soda that A&H recommends switching out soon with the time switch. **
  • Screw on the lid.
  • Cover the hole in the lid and shake the bottle.
  • Place the bottle in the water and watch it go!

Experiment
  • See if the shape of plastic bottle affects the motion (Mt Dew has a different shape than Diet Coke which has a different shape than Diet Pepsi).
  • Alter the ratio of baking soda-to-vinegar and see what happens (more/less vinegar and/or baking soda).
  • Race - you'd probably need a bigger tub than our small cooler.

Questions
  • What made the boat move?
  • What happened when I put this white powder (baking soda) into this bottle of vinegar (it's also good to ask beforehand too for a hypothesis)?
  • What would happen if I try this again but differently (your choice on different, or let your child experiment)?
  • What happens if we remove the marbles from the bottle?
  • What did the vinegar turn into after the addition of baking soda?  (water + CO2 - but the CO2 is what powered your boat)
  • What else can make your boat move?  (J liked using his hands)

**We've also used old baking soda down the drain and added vinegar.  It magically unclogged our drain.  Not as exciting to a little kid, but it saved us a trip to the store.  Woohoo!  Science!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sail cars

J was getting antsy and instead of letting him destroy the house, I decided to build him a quick sail car.



And then he played around with it, even naming it "Lightning McQueen."  My only guess for the name was due to how fast it went!  Here's a video demonstration.  Have your child blow as though they are blowing out candles on a birthday cake.



Main take away from lesson: for every action (blowing on the sail) there's an equal and opposite reaction (the car moves!).

Here's how you can make your own sail car out of recyclables.

Materials
  • Cardboard box (non-corrugated) - I used an empty contact solution box
  • 2 wooden skewers (for kabobs, or in our case, chocolate fountain dipping)
  • Masking tape
  • Scissors

Directions:
  • Cut out the bottom of a box (keep it intact so you don't have to assemble a body of the car).
  • With the remainder of the box, I cut a sail and 4 circular wheels (I used small playdough containers to trace my circles).
  • Very carefully cut your skewers to a size where they'd make good axles for the car - cut off the pointy side too, for safety, while you are at it.
  • With the pointy side of the skewer, puncture your circles in the middle of the circle (don't hole punch these - you want them to be a tight fit on the skewer so they roll/move with the axle).
  • Attach one wheel to each circle.
  • Single hole punch 4 holes for the axles - 2 in the front and 2 in the back (make the holes relatively straight across from each other).
  • Insert the axles and attach the other wheels.
  • Position your wheels so they aren't touching the side of the car (friction) or falling off of the axles.  You want them to be as straight as possible.
  • Tape the ends of your axles, so your wheels don't pop off.
  • With left over skewer parts (axle "rejects"), tape a piece of skewer to your sail and attach it to your car.  I found masking tape works best.
  • Mark and X or put a sticker where you want your child to blow if they are having problems directing their sail car.

This to play around with
  • Shape of the sail
  • Direction of the sail
  • Where to blow on the sail (use a mini fan if your child can't blow hard enough)
  • Weight in car
  • Weight of car (downsize if it's not working)
  • Race your car(s) - who can go fastest/furthest with one blow?
  • Navigate your car through a maze
  • Decorate your sail car (not sciency, but keeps them out of trouble for a few more minutes and make it theirs)

I'd love to hear feedback of how your home sail car project went.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Scientists!

Yes, this xkcd comic is as old as J.  However, we have it posted in my lab and it still makes me giggle whenever I read it.  Scientists do some neat stuff!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

J's idea of a good party

Me (trying to convince J to put on pj's): Let's have a pajama party.  What do we do at parties?
J (as straight faced as can be): Wear goggles.

That's what all the cool people do at parties.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Baking Soda + Vinegar = Blows up Balloon

I initially wanted to do vinegar + baking soda power boats (which we did too - another lesson), but we had some vinegar and baking soda left over and decided to try blowing up the balloon from the products of the reaction. We got the idea for this experiment from www.apple-cider-vinegar-benefits.com (though we did use normal vinegar).  J was excited to have a balloon for his house.



The products of baking soda and vinegar are water (H2O) + carbon dioxide (CO2).  The CO2 gas is what fills the balloon.

Surprising: Notice how the balloon bounces at the end.  The balloon filled with CO2 from the chemical reaction is heavier than the reaction products of breathing air or helium (the two ways we would normally blow up balloons).  It also sounds different as it bounces.  Tie it off and experiment!  See if your child can tell the differences between a balloon blown up with air from our lungs versus one blown up from the baking soda + vinegar experiment.

Here's what we did for the experiment:

*Fill the balloon with baking powder (we didn't measure - but it was enough to fill up the tip of the balloon).
*Fill the bottle 1/4 full of vinegar
*Attach the balloon to the top of the bottle without letting the baking soda fall into the bottle yet
*Tip the balloon so the baking soda falls into the vinegar
*Watch the reaction
*Comment on the reaction

Vary the amount of vinegar/baking soda/size of balloon and try again!

Edited 1/26/14 to Note: This post has become very popular with Pinterest. The pin links to this blog post, but the picture is not mine (after some research, I found it on Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas and want to give them credit). For the record, I did not start that particular Pinterest pin with someone else's picture nor did I link it as an alternative to helium for party balloons. I apologize to disappoint. I want to ensure you that CO2 is HEAVIER/more dense than air, which means it's heavier/more dense than helium (as stated above in my original post). It will not float. The main point of this experiment is the chemical reaction between baking soda and vinegar. The CO2 gas fills up the balloon and the now water stays in the bottle. It is a fun and easy experiment for anyone who loves science. Enjoy!!

Related Post:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Cookies

It's "C week" at J's preschool, and today was first lab meeting of the school year for me.  I wanted treats for the new faces to think we're lots of fun (which we are).  Not only are cookies are a great way to make friends, they are a great way to do (and eat) science.  There's measuring, mixing, chemical reactions, heat transfer, fractions, etc.  If you want to double the recipe, now you've added multiplication!!

J helped me make chocolate chip cookies for my lab yesterday.  This is our fave recipe which we got from a Ghirardelli bag of chocolate chip cookies many moons ago.  The key is 2 tsp of vanilla = delicious!



Ingredients:

1 cup of butter (2 sticks)                   2 ¼ cups flour
¾ cup sugar                                        1 tsp baking soda
¾ cup brown sugar (packed)             ½ tsp salt
2 eggs                                                1 package of chocolate chips (12 oz - or about 2 cups)
2 tsp vanilla

Directions:
  • Combine butter, sugar, and brown sugar until light and creamy
  • Add vanilla and eggs one at a time
  • In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt
  • Stir the flour mixture slowly into the sugar mixture
  • Slowly add the chocolate chips
  • Drop cookie dough on cookie sheet (in desired amounts)
  • Bake at 375°F for ~ 8 minutes (watch carefully - we like them slightly under baked so they are softer longer)
  • Let cool and devour
Recipe makes ~4 dozen decent sized cookies

Variation: scoop dough into personal pan, bake 11 minutes, top with ice cream and enjoy your pizza cookie.  The pan is extremely hot and not recommended for little ones.  Please remove cookie from pan or cool before serving to little kids.



After I decided that our cookies last night were going to my lab, I asked J what he wanted to bring for "sharing time" this week.  They are supposed to bring something that starts with the letter c.  Bet you can't guess what his answer was.  The Cookie Monster would be so proud.

We went with another recipe, just for variety.  This is my next favorite recipe we found on a Funfetti box moons ago.

Funfetti Cookies
1 box Funfetti Cake mix - yes, it has to be Pillsbury - the other rainbow cake mixes smell like playdough when you make them into cookie dough and just don't taste right.
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 deg F.  Mix ingredients in a bowl.  Scoop cookies out onto cookie sheet.  Bake for 7 minutes (again a little on the under baked side).  Makes 2 dozen Funfetti cookies.

*Cake cookies work really well for quickie desserts.  The general rule is follow the ingredients on the cake box (any brand cake), without the water and minus an egg.  Our next favorite is chocolate cake with chocolate chips added.  We're real dessert people if you can't tell.

Happy cooking!

Have any nerdy pick-up lines?

My co-worker reminded me of: I want to be a derivative so I can be tangent to your curves.


I promise a new post sometime soon.  I was absent for the weekend (which is when I do my best work) due to a work meeting in Tahoe (I know, torture to have a lake view and be stuck in a room discussing work).  J and I are working on cookies this week since he's supposed to bring a C word to his preschool sharing time.  Cooking is totally science.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fan 2011

Good to know that the fan can still keep J's interest over a year later.


He's into kicking the floating ball nowadays, but he likes to keep it floating.

Yes, we did get a new, more powerful fan and the floating ball works so much better (and our house is MUCH cooler - double win!).  The original fan is still in commission on the other side of the apartment hoping for any sort of cross breeze.  And for safety, J knows that he is not allowed to touch the fan.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fan Box

I ordered a bunch of cheap personal fans and they arrived 2 weeks later than anticipated (so I didn't have them for my Sail Boats activity with J's class last month).  However, we had to try them out to see if they worked.  They didn't seem too powerful, so the first thing I picked up to try to blow over was the box it came in.  It worked.

J decided this was a great game to play.


After the camera stopped rolling, J played for 20 minutes with the fan and the box, which was a nice distraction while I cooked dinner.  Then afterward, we had the battle of the fans.  I took a fan and J took a fan.  Then we tried to see who could blow over the box first while on opposite sides of the fan box.  It resulted in much laughter.  Now, every few days, he'll find the fan and it's box and remember this game.

Lessons from this quick science experiment:
*Wind creates forces that can move/knock over objects.
*Where do you aim to knock over the box?
*Can you move the box with the fan without tiping it over?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

It's Official!!

I got this on Friday (9/16) afternoon.

Good afternoon!

The team at GlobalGiving wants to thank you for submitting all of your documentation on time. All of your paperwork was received and reviewed. Now we're thrilled to inform you that you've been approved as a Pepsi Refresh Project Grant Recipient. Congratulations!

...(some technical information)

Best of luck implementing your project, and we wish you much success!


---

So, it's official.  We won $5k!!!

Nerdy Science finished #13 in August in the Pepsi $5k Refresh Grant category. The paperwork is complete and the $$ is on the way!  I'm so very excited.  Please stick with me as I develop curriculum for little kids.

If you have any ideas you want me to try for future blogs, I'd love to hear them too.  I just had a friend email me with an idea that I'll try with J in the near future.  Of course, I'll give you credit for the idea.

Thank you so much for your continued love and support!!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Plants + food

J's first radish

There is nothing better than getting your kids to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. It's a hard thing to do, don't get me wrong.

Luckily, we have a small space in our apartment complex to garden. Unfortunately, my husband and I have beige/pinkish, not green, thumbs. We put most of our gardening space to tomatoes and green beans, but it never got hot this year (no complaints other than the lack of tomatoes and green beans). Something was also wrong with our soil in the planter box, so our zucchini and cucumbers failed early too.

However, we do have this wild blackberry bush that we've been able to keep alive. Actually, it's J's "job" to water the bush whenever we water the garden. He might have the greenest thumb of us all!  He's learning plants need water and light in order to grow.  Some plants also grow yummy food for us to eat!


Though we've picked (and eaten) handful of berries each week, it's not enough to make anything. One Saturday a few weeks back, we decided to go berry picking.

J knows the purple ones are ripe and yummy

Well, maybe more berry eating...


And after mixing a few basic ingredients (chemistry) and some heat (heat transfer), we ended up with:



Children can understand that some food comes from plants.  They need sunlight and water and the right conditions to taste the way they do.  People pick our fruits and veggies for us to eat.  Start up these conversations with your children.

It's also very important to stress from an early age the importance of eating fresh and local.  I'm all for "saving the planet," but honestly, the main reason I like to eat local is that the produce tastes so much fresher. Overall, fruits and veggies are good for you, giving your body the energy, vitamins, and nutrients you need to be you!

We were able to benefit from a friend's vacation and get her CSA (community supported agriculture) box for the week.  We got carrots the size of J's head, celery, and orange cauliflower.




Some activities for kids:

Dissect different fruits and veggies.
-What color is the piece of fruit/veggie?
-Where are the seeds?
-What do the seeds do?
-Does the fruit/veggie have an outer layer/skin/rind?
-What's the purpose of the skin/rind?

Plant something and watch it grow.
-Make it your new "pet".
-Give your kid watering duties.
-Comment on its growth and development frequently.

Taste your product
-What do you taste?
-What does it smell like?
-Do you like it?
-Is it ripe or did you pick it too early?

What kind of bugs can you find in your garden?
-What are their purposes?
-Do you think they help/hurt the plant/soil?  (there might be both kinds around)


----
Please support some September projects that helped me out last month

Presents for low income Medford Kids:
http://www.refresheverything.com/birthdayparties, text 108304 to 73774

NC Elementary Schools:
http://www.refresheverything.com/forestpines, text 108674 to 73774
http://www.refresheverything.com/stoughpta, text 108654 to 73774

There's also a neat project for building a science museum for kids in Baton Rouge:
http://www.refresheverything.com/sciencerocks, text 108949 to 73774

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Swinging

I decided to stick with the park toy theme this week. Parks are full of free science fun!

Thinking about it, swings work with:
-Pivots
-Angular motion
-Momentum
-Transfer of energy
-Friction and aerodynamics


We placed J in the swing and tried to get him to swing himself by "pumping" his legs.



Some things to try:
-How high can you swing from sitting still?
-Don't pump.  How long does it take to stop?
-Do you swing better if you lean back while you go forward with your legs out?
-Pump your legs at different times (one then the other).  What happens?
-Pump your legs in the opposite way than normal.  Instead of out when you come forward, pull your knees in and instead of bent when you go backwards, put your knees out.  What happens?
-If you are comfortable with your child sitting in different positions**, try sideways or standing up or spider (two children on one swing, facing each other).
-Match the swinging period of your swinging neighbor (we called this "shadow" back in the day).
-Twist while swinging.  What happens?


**I am not.  I'm the mean Mommy who won't let my child have any fun like climbing up the slide or swinging sideways or standing up.

----
Please support some September projects that helped me out last month

Presents for low income Medford Kids:
http://www.refresheverything.com/birthdayparties, text 108304 to 73774

NC Elementary Schools:
http://www.refresheverything.com/forestpines, text 108674 to 73774
http://www.refresheverything.com/stoughpta, text 108654 to 73774

There's also a neat project for building a science museum for kids in Baton Rouge:
http://www.refresheverything.com/sciencerocks, text 108949 to 73774

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Seesaws

Don't you ever have a random toy appear in your backyard? Growing up, we found balls and Barbie Dolls thrown over the fences, but we never had anything like this appear:


One day, this old fashion seesaw just ended up in our garden. Thank you to whoever left it back there. It has to be our most fun science toy yet. This toy taps into pivot points and moment arms (read, PHYSICS is written all over it).

If you find an old seesaw, inspect it first to make sure it won't fall apart on you. Then climb on it and start playing.  It works better if the seesawers are closer in weight than J and his daddy.  J climbed aboard with our neighbor girl, who is maybe at most 3-5 lbs heavier and both J and our neighbor girl had a great time transferring their weight back and forth on the seesaw.


Play with moment arms.  Push on different parts of the seesaw and see how the other side responds.  Is it harder or easier to lift the weight when you push further away from the center.



What happens when you lean back?  What happens when you lean forward?  What's the most weight you can lift with the seesaw?

Have fun with science!


----
Please support some September projects that helped me out last month

Presents for low income Medford Kids:
http://www.refresheverything.com/birthdayparties, text 108304 to 73774

NC Elementary Schools:
http://www.refresheverything.com/forestpines, text 108674 to 73774
http://www.refresheverything.com/stoughpta, text 108654 to 73774

I don't think they helped me directly, but there's also a project for building a science museum for kids in Baton Rouge:
http://www.refresheverything.com/sciencerocks, text 108949 to 73774

Friday, September 2, 2011

Thanks so much!

Sorry to leave you hanging, I needed at least one day to recover!

I have been contacted by Pepsi to inform me that I finished in the top 20 for the $5k grant! I started some paperwork while they finish their audit. The announcement of the finalists should be official on the 23rd of this month. I'll definitely keep you in the loop.

I am sooooo excited to get to see my project come to life!

Thank you so much for your continued support and encouragement.


----
Please support some September projects that helped me out last month

Presents for low income Medford Kids:
http://www.refresheverything.com/birthdayparties, text 108304 to 73774

NC Elementary Schools:
http://www.refresheverything.com/forestpines, text 108674 to 73774
http://www.refresheverything.com/stoughpta, text 108654 to 73774

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Playing Science

"Mama, I'm playing science!" ~J on a random car ride the other day.

How my heart just melted. "Playing" in my mind implies "fun," which has been my goal of Nerdy Baby(/Science). Science is important, science is approachable at any age (without much cost), and most of all, science is FUN!

Please take time to vote, one last time for Nerdy Science on Pepsi Refresh. Voting ends tonight (August 31) at 9p PST.



Text 107753 to 73774.


Oh, and email me/comment if you have any idea how to start up a company/non-profit. I'm looking for mentors/brains to pick.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Only two more voting days left!!

Please take the time to vote today and tomorrow. We are down to the wire and have been holding steady at #15 thanks to all of your votes!



**You might have to click the link again once you sign in, in order to vote for my project**


Vote by Text: 107753 to 73774.


Also...

Please use your power votes (codes on specially marked Pepsi products). I'll be happy to use your unused codes too...just send them my way and I'll do the dirty work.


****Feel free to help out other projects! ****

Please use your extra daily votes to support our Partners:

Atwater Classrooms (text 107863 to 73774).

Tech'ing Morganton Day School Classrooms  (text 107954 to 73774)

And very nice supporters, who are giving us lots of votes and encouragements, so please support them with your votes however you can:

Inclusion Project (co-founded by Clay Aiken) (text 108169 to 73774).

Squeeze - Feed, Teach, Nourish (text 107827 to 73774).

Recycling Robot (text 108147 to 73774).

**** Don't forget to use comments, so they know we are supporting them!!! ****

I will also be asking you to support some projects who "paid it forward" and voted for us this month and are competing next month, so stay tuned.

I love you guys. Thanks for all of your support and encouragement! This Refresh Grant has been a blessing in so many ways. I'm looking forward to telling you next month (when "official" results are announced) that we won!

Don't forget to follow Nerdy Science on Facebook to stay in touch with how the program is getting up and running: NerdyScience

Friday, August 26, 2011

Fantasy Friday: Science Fairs

No fancy paint drawings this week, just some verbose program description.

My desire is to bring fun science to kids with multiple visits to the classroom (1/week, 1/mo, or some other determined interval). I would do my lessons and let them experience science through making hypotheses (even if they are wrong) and experimenting. Then we'd discuss why their experiment ended up the way it did with each lesson (and maybe give them a "key science word" to use in everyday conversation because that's what cool nerdy people do).

After the multi-week program, we'd hold an open house, or "science fair." My goal is not to put more work on the parents (truth be told, my mom did a majority of my science fair brunt work - and this is a very young age group), but to have a space where kids can showcase what scientific concepts they have learned to their parents. I'd make the science fair displays with concepts and potential hypotheses and hopefully engage scientific discussions within the families. The kids would demonstrate how the science works (hopefully with gigantic "I did it" smiles).

The lessons would be tailored to the school/classroom's desire, or they can pull from yet-to-be determined themes I'll have prepared.

----
Obligatory vote tag:

Please, don't forget to vote online:



**You might have to click the link again once you sign in, in order to vote for my project**


Vote by Text: 107753 to 73774.


Also...

Please use your power votes (codes on specially marked Pepsi products). I got two 50 "power votes" lately with my soda addiction. I'll be happy to use your unused codes too...just send them my way and I'll do the dirty work.

And Follow us on Facebook: NerdyScience


****I'll be giving suggestions for your other votes here. Feel free to help out others! ****

Please use your extra daily votes to support our Partners:

Atwater Classrooms (text 107863 to 73774).

Tech'ing Morganton Day School Classrooms  (text 107954 to 73774)

And very nice supporters, who are giving us lots of votes and encouragements, so please support them with your votes however you can:

Inclusion Project (co-founded by Clay Aiken) (text 108169 to 73774).

Squeeze - Feed, Teach, Nourish (text 107827 to 73774).

Recycling Robot (text 108147 to 73774).

**** Don't forget to use comments, so they know we are supporting them!!! ****

P.S. I love you guys. Thanks for all of your support!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Nerdy Husband

So, the story goes that my husband has wanted to build a 3-D printer for a while now. I haven't said no, but I never said, "Yes." Well, until he told me that we could create our own cookie/fondant cutters. Sign me up!

The printer making begins

Serious engineering in progress

John's 3-D printer...he already wants a better one

So you ask what else can you make with a 3-D printer (besides expensive cookie cutters)?

Safety buckles

Do nothing machine

Droid bot

Duplos

Nut and bolt

Rattlebacks

Snowmen cookie cutters (since they don't exist)

---
Pepsi Refresh voting information deleted 9/25/12

P.S. I love you guys. Thanks for all of your support!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sailboats with Toddlers

Believe it or not, I had twelve 18-27 month olds attention for 10 minutes!  Science is fun!

I decided that we should just jump into hands-on science.

I had a big box full of fun, relatively non-chokeable things to throw in the water (some that they wouldn't typically get to play with in water).  We had some unsharpened pencils, giant bouncy balls, some foam balls, some other random balls (balls+toddlers = win), pieces of paper, sponges, rubberband bracelets (think "Livestrong"), large rocks, cotton balls, straws, etc.  Without much organization, the kids came to me one at a time for an object to test in the water.  My favorite part was their eagerness to experiment.

After all of the objects had been plopped in the water, we talked briefly about things that float and thinks that sink. I had the kids fish the objects out and put them away in my cubby box that I brought.  This took a few more minutes of their attention.

Then I pulled out the sailboats!!  I chopped off the ends of toothpicks and taped a piece of index card onto the remaining toothpick.  In order to get the flat toothpick in the sponge, I made a hole with a pointy toothpick, then inserted the dull one, with a dab of hot glue - as during my test run, the first thing J did was disassemble my prototype and try to stick the toothpick up his nose.  These worked really well if you are one-on-one.  Twelve two year olds + one me still passing out the boats = chaos.  A few of the boats survived long enough to have some races.  The toddlers liked blowing on the race boats like they blow out a candle.  I think some of the teachers had more fun than the kids ;-).

My fleet of sailboats
Tips:
*Squeeze out excess water so the sponges float better.
*Use more waterproof tape (I used Scotch tape) when attaching the sail to the mast.
*Maybe conduct this experiment with 3 kids, not the flock of toddlers I had (though it was fun).

I don't have pics from the event since photo release forms weren't collected, except for this photo (since it's of J).  10 minutes of science lesson = 15 minutes of water play afterward.  Good thing it was a hot day! **



**Hot = 80s for us...my Vegas roots are shaking their heads in shame.


Anyways, for the pre-schoolers, I created these fun Sink/Float graphics in Word.  I thought I'd share.



Happy Sailing!!

---
Edited 6/30/13 to remove Pepsi Refresh Voting tag. Voting has long since ended.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Top 20!!

Happy Monday!  I'm so excited to announce that we're in the top 20!!  We have to stay there for the rest of the month, so please keep voting.  Stay tuned, later in the week, I'll have a summary about my 10 minute sailboat science lesson with the 18mo-2 year olds at J's school.

----
Obligatory vote tag:

Please, don't forget to vote online:



**You might have to click the link again once you sign in, in order to vote for my project**


Vote by Text: 107753 to 73774.


Also...

Please use your power votes (codes on specially marked Pepsi products). I got two 50 "power votes" lately with my soda addiction. I'll be happy to use your unused codes too...just send them my way and I'll do the dirty work.

And Follow us on Facebook: NerdyScience


****I'll be giving suggestions for your other votes here. Feel free to help out others! ****

Please use your extra daily votes to support our Partners:

Atwater Classrooms (text 107863 to 73774).

Tech'ing Morganton Day School Classrooms  (text 107954 to 73774)

And very nice supporters, who are giving us lots of votes and encouragements, so please support them with your votes however you can:

Inclusion Project (co-founded by Clay Aiken) (text 108169 to 73774).

Squeeze - Feed, Teach, Nourish (text 107827 to 73774).

Recycling Robot (text 108147 to 73774).

**** Don't forget to use comments, so they know we are supporting them!!! ****

P.S. I love you guys. Thanks for all of your support!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Fantasy Friday: Racing ramps

Please, forgive my Paint drawing**  I was going to use enginerdy paper, but I think I'm fresh out...


Anyways here's my brainstorming for this idea.

1. Sturdy interchangeable pieces for designing a fast race car.
2. Starting block that will retract when the race begins. This would allow multiple lanes of race cars to race at the same time.
3.  Pieces to attach to the bottom landing strip with different coefficients of friction (dirt, clay, tile, wood, fake grass, etc).  The top of these pieces would have slate for marking distances the race cars travel (in case the kids want to compare and contrast their results).
4.  Chalk, to mark distances traveled by the race car.

With interchangeable and modular pieces, the designs and learning could go on for hours.  The children could design their car and measure the distance it traveled on the landing strip, and then they can change their car design and try again.  Or, they can try racing their one design on different surfaces.  Or, they can try to optimize with finding the best combination of car and racing surface.  Of course, with multiple lanes, they can also have some friendly competition with their classmates.


**This has to be the best race car I've drawn. J will be so proud of his Mommy.

----
Obligatory vote tag:

As of 9p PST last night, we entered the top 20 for the first time!!!  Now, we have to stay there the rest of August.  Every vote helps!!  Thank you all sooooo very much!!

Please, don't forget to vote online:



**You might have to click the link again once you sign in, in order to vote for my project**


Vote by Text: 107753 to 73774.


Also...

Please use your power votes (codes on specially marked Pepsi products). I got two 50 "power votes" lately with my soda addiction. I'll be happy to use your unused codes too...just send them my way and I'll do the dirty work.

And Follow us on Facebook: NerdyScience


****I'll be giving suggestions for your other votes here. Feel free to help out others! ****

Please use your extra daily votes to support our Partners:

Atwater Classrooms (text 107863 to 73774).

Tech'ing Morganton Day School Classrooms  (text 107954 to 73774)

And very nice supporters, who are giving us lots of votes and encouragements, so please support them with your votes however you can:

Inclusion Project (co-founded by Clay Aiken) (text 108169 to 73774).

Squeeze - Feed, Teach, Nourish (text 107827 to 73774).

Recycling Robot (text 108147 to 73774).

**** Don't forget to use comments, so they know we are supporting them!!! ****

P.S. I love you guys. Thanks for all of your support!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Submarines - more things to do with your power vote bottles

I did Submarines with J and our 3 yr old neighbor friend (not pictured) shortly after I took it to J's school for the 5 year olds last month.  However, because they were so young, I decided to assemble the submarines for them before we were going to play with science.  I made a few modifications.  I decided to use the cap with a hole drilled into it for the straw instead of clay since the clay didn't stick well for long water exposure (note cheap clay was used).  I also created a valley on the aluminum foil wrapped pennies for the rubber bands.  Next time, hot glue the rubber bands and penny stacks.  They still kept falling off.  Here's the final product:

Note the holes in between the rubber bands (3 total)
Use caution when making holes, we used an awl

Let the sub fun begin!

J tosses the sub into the water

Sink sub, sink
J demonstrates what the 5 year olds found out too - that these subs make good fountains, which is also ok since it's still science (pressure differences).

Scientist at work

Science is fun, but how often do you get to do science naked?

Eureka!

Our version of Sink/Float:
Sponges float

J sinks

Sponge Bob shoes float

Bouncy ball floats

Lessons learned: science with kids doesn't necessarily go as planned (see naked baby and fountain sub above).  The idea is to go with the flow and roll with what the kids show interest in.  The 5 year olds loved their sinking subs, but they also liked the fountain it created when pulled out of the water.  If there's a teaching moment you think they'd understand, go for it.  If not, congratulate them for experimenting as ask them if they know what's going on.  Re-direct their attention if you don't like where the experiment is going.


**Now I realize, that is not a Pepsi bottle featured in this article.  I apologize.  We did this experiment in the middle of July.  Yes, I had applied to the Refresh Grant by then, but I had no idea about the craziness of these power vote collections that is needed to win.  (so pass on a power vote code or two if you don't mind).

----
Edited 6/30/13 to remove Pepsi Refresh Voting tag. Voting has long since ended.

P.S. I love you guys. Thanks for all of your support!