Monday, January 21, 2013

2 years of Nerdy Fun

WOW! I kept this up two years! I can't tell you how much fun we have as a family doing science.

My goal in 2011 was to blog once/week about science that is all around us (and not science through expensive kits). It's amazing what comes up when you have a curious kid! Basically everything can be related to science.

A look back, post from:
1 year ago
The beginning

Where we are today:
- From April through October 2012, I held monthly gatherings, Science Saturdays in the Park, at no cost for local families. Each had turn-outs of 20-30 people. I halted for the holidays and until the weather warms up a little more since I am a wuss when it comes to "cold" weather.
- I volunteered in a few preschools, bringing science to little kids. Their smiles and giggles are the best!
- The blog was featured in NBC Universal's parenting website, ivillage, for fun activities to do with young kids. They initially contacted me regarding the sail cars, but they ended up highlighting the balloon racers we did at our first science in the park day.
- I worked with a friend to get a super cute, official logo for Nerdy Science.
- I still work as a Research Engineer in the biomedical engineering field. I enjoy research.
- Point above is part of the reason I have yet to make the official website live. The blog is easy to do with little time and html experience.

Where I want to be a year from now:
- I want to be still blogging weekly about the wonderful scientific world around us.
- I want to continue Science Saturdays in the Park, hopefully starting back in February or March.
- As J grows, I want to establish worksheets, puzzles, and games that keep his mind active and help him learn new science and math concepts. These would be shared with my blog followers.
- I want to learn how to draw to help with the worksheets and activities listed above.
- I hope to have a website to go along with this blog.
- I hope to have time to join the bigger community of Mommy Bloggers. There's so much we can learn from each other.

Most popular posts to date:
- Balloon Racers in the Park
- Toilet Paper Tube Sail Cars
- The Scientific Method

Thanks for sticking with me!! It's fun to have nerdy friends.

What has been the favorite thing that you learned from Nerdy Science this year?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Visualizing Numbers 1-100

Early this week, we were driving to our favorite hamburger restaurant with an impatient 3 year old. We told him it would take 5 minutes. He started to count to 5, and both Big J and I began to laugh. We told him 1 minute is 60 seconds. For 5 minutes, he'll have to count (slowly) to 60 five times or 300. To my surprise, he starts to count. The last time he counted aloud he got to 39, so I was surprised to hear him get to 66 without assistance. I helped him with 67 and the 10's after that. We got to 113 when he stated that he wasn't really good at counting. I chuckled and said that he did a VERY good job with his counting.

I have to admit that I was thoroughly impressed with how far he got with very little prompting, but I knew then what my next lesson was going to be! I got home and created a chart of numbers 1-100 for J using Excel. I decided to start with 0 and go with the 10's on the top, so everything in that column would have the same first part of the number (ie. twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two, etc).

I waited till this morning to print it out.

I used another sheet of paper and covered the columns (the vertical set of numbers) except for the 1's column. I called J over to look at the numbers. I pointed at the numbers in order, and he stated the number. Then I had him guess what comes after 9 (10), and I uncovered the next column (the 10's). I continued to have him guess the next column until 70 (where he was having difficulties a few days ago). I uncovered the 70's before he got to it. He didn't need prompting with any numbers until 100!

I knew he knew the numbers visually, 0-10, but I wanted to see if he could recognize larger numbers if I wrote them out. I wrote out 25 on the piece of paper I used to cover the columns in the previous part of the lesson. He knew the numbers separately, but he couldn't say it was "twenty-five". We found 25 on the chart and counted from 20 (which he recognized) down to 25. This led to another lesson, addition. 43 is 40+__ (three). He caught onto this concept fairly easily, so it was easier to find the bigger number on the chart. We did that with a few other numbers.

Other numbers we had him find on our chart: all of our ages, how old we'll be after our birthdays this year, grandma and grandpa's ages, and how old they'll be after their birthdays this year.

How do you help your little one understand numbers and sequences?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Hover Balloon

I did this activity during my first outreach with the Society of Women Engineers as a sophomore or junior in college. They were hosting an science/engineering event for the Girl Scouts. I was placed at a table where we tried to make helium balloons neutrally buoyant. In other words, we wanted the balloon to not sink or float; we wanted them to hover.

I really didn't remember the specifics, just a helium balloon, a small cup, and items to weigh it down.

Remembering that the activity was fairly simple, I recreated it with J and John this afternoon. J was thrilled to have a floating balloon around.

Get the balloon to hover in the middle of the room without rising to the ceiling or falling to the ground. 10 seconds in about the same spot would be ideal.

1 helium balloon with string (this is a great activity for after a party!)
1 small Dixie-like cup
Hole punch
Various size paper clips or other small, light objects (ie. string, rubberbands)

How to do it:
1. Fill balloon with helium, tie off the balloon, and tie the string to the balloon (if you don't have a balloon already ready).
2. Punch 2 holes across from each other on the cup.
3. Tie the balloon string to the cup - we threaded ours through the two holes and then to the string (think triangle).

4. Ask your kid if he/she thinks the balloon will float or sink when you let go of the balloon. Point out that there is a cup on the end of it. Repeat this question after you add each piece of weight.

Ours floated to the ceiling

5. Add large paperclips one by one. Ask whether you think the balloon will sink or float with this paperclip.

6. When you add enough weight that the balloon sinks to the ground, you've added too much weight. Remove the last item you added and add something smaller.

Too many paperclips!
7. When you get close, use something like string or yarn that you can cut little pieces off of to remove weight little-by-little as needed.

Ours floated with:**
2 large paper clips
3 small paper clips
Piece of balloon string/ribbon that we kept cutting until we got it perfectly hovering in the middle of the room

**Note that not every balloon is the same. It'll depend on the amount helium in the balloon, size of the balloon, weight/length of the balloon string, size/weight of Dixie-like cup, and the weight of everything that you place in the cup to get it to hover.

Videos: (since pictures are a moment in time)

Too little weight:

Too much weight:

Just right:

This activity might just be our next Saturday Science in the Park Day lesson.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Why do we have brains?

This was the first question from my 3 year old this morning. My immediate answer (while I was getting ready for work) was, “Our brains help us do everything we want to do. Without your brain you wouldn’t be able to move, eat, speak, think, and lots more.” I of course then said, "We need to do all we can to protect our brains, so we can continue to move eat, speak, and think. If we injure our brains, we won't be able to do the things we want to do." In other words, I think helmet wearing is super important. J responded, "We wear helmets to protect our brains!"

Thinking about it from a biomedical engineering prospective (older kids/adults), our brains are the most amazing command center controlling our bodies! As we grow and learn, connections from one part of your brain to another are formed. Sometimes connections are easier than others (ie, when you are young, you can learn a foreign language better). Regions of the brains are responsible for different things, so if you injure specific regions of your brain, you might lose different abilities to do things.

On a personal note, I was 25 yrs old and experiencing some pretty persistent, bad migraines that were giving me "mass effects" like blurred vision and numbness. I was diagnosed with a defect called arteriovenus malformation (AVM) in my brain. It's where the veins and the arteries are directly connected, basically a useless vein since the oxygenated blood doesn't go through the capillaries to my tissues, just straight to the vein and back to my heart. Part of the problem is that the arteries are a high pressure system and veins are low pressure. The high to low pressure switch can cause eddies (turbulent flow), which can lead to the formation of aneurysms (where the artery wall balloons out) and bleeds. Talk about a scary diagnosis! Luckily (if there's something to be lucky about), it's a birth defect (so I've lived peacefully with it for a long time), it's gigantic and "diffuse" (5x5x5 cm), and I have inherently low blood pressure.

Here's a picture. You can see the AVM in both views here (look for asymmetry and squiggly lines). The AVM is in my left frontal and parietal lobes of my brain. 5x5x5 cm is a pretty large portion of the brain, and I've been declared neurologically normal, which to me is amazing proof of the adaptability of the human brain (and cardiovascular system too)...

Despite its quirkiness, I love my brain.

**Edited on 1/12/13 to add:
AVMs can be found anywhere in your body. AVMs in the brain are particularly scary since a problem there can lead to a very big problem. I think they are more common than we know. Many people live their lives with AVMs and don't even know they have it. I could have treatments to get rid of the AVM, but the risks of treatment outweigh the benefits since I do not have aneurysms.