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Friday, June 21, 2013

Birthday Party: Life Size Minecraft

My son wanted a Minecraft birthday party for his 8th birthday last weekend.  While planning, my husband and I thought it would be fun to create some life size Minecraft blocks so that they could build real structures.

We went to Costco and purchased 100 boxes.  We went to Lowe's and purchased spray paint.

We put them all together and weighed them (with rocks, pennies, nuts) so they would stack without blowing over in the wind. Then we taped them together and spray painted them.  It was about 5-6 hours of work with all 4 of us working.  I was most proud of the TNT blocks.  I used a piece of a pizza box to cut out a stencil to writeTNT.

 They had fun with the blocks and built a structure that they could go inside.

After they played with the blocks, they had lunch and cupcakes.  Cheese!

Then played Minecraft on the computer and on the Xbox.

The party was a great success, and now they have Minecraft blocks to play with all summer.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Young Scientists: MakersKit

I first learned about MakersKit when I backed their project on Kickstarter.   I was very excited about the idea of monthly DIY kits coming in the mail to do with my kids.  Their kickstarter was successful and I recently received the first kit, Wall Clock.  I was very impressed.

Here is how the kit arrived.

The materials when we unpacked them.

We watched their How To Video Guide, and then my son went to work.

He was inspired by the mustache decals and set to work making a face.

Once he was finished, he added the clock hands.

Then he put it on the wall in his bedroom and he and his brother put the numbers around the clock.

We put the battery in, and it works!

They are proud of their clock, and my youngest son is excited to learn how to tell time.

They are very happy with "Mr. Mustache Man"!

They give this kit two thumbs up!  I look forward to receiving another kit next month.

Order your own kits here and join in the fun.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Young Scientists: Hacker Scouts

Hacker Scouts

I recently heard about Hacker Scouts, and was very excited to learn more and to start a guild in my hometown.

Hacker Scouts is a national non profit organization, founded in the Fall of 2012 in Oakland CA, that focuses on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) education, skill building and community engagement with the aspiration to help our children develop skills in the areas they are truly interested in, abilities that would allow them to dream big and create big. A variety of experts and mentors from the community ensure a well rounded and high level of attention and skill building for all ages through accessible programs that meet the different needs of our young makers.  Hacker Scouts provides open source material and a support program for Hacker Scout programs globally.

I saw that there was a Hacker Scouts Open Lab MeetUp scheduled at Ace Monster Toys on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of every month from 2-5pm.  I took my boys last weekend.

They chose to do the project Crash Test Cars which was being taught by Lance Akiyama from The Workshop for Young Engineers and they loved it!

The challenge was to design a car that can keep an egg (passenger) safe under normal driving conditions and in the event of a crash.

There were a variety of materials out to choose from.

Here are my boys hard at work on their cars.

Ready to Test

Here we go!


Last Minute Preparations

Here's the Test

It was so much fun, and I am even more excited to get a Hacker Scout Guild for my boys.

PS:  If you live near El Cerritto, Lance from The Workshop for Young Engineers offers Summer Camps.  Based on this experience I would highly recommend them.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Teacher Appreciation Quilt

My youngest son is in kindergarten.  I have been helping out in the classroom a lot this year.  We wanted to make a present for the teacher for the end of the year.  We were inspired by the Q is for quilt project where each student drew a picture and put it up onto the wall as part of a classroom quilt.  So we decided to make a real quilt using the same drawings.  I was tasked with making it.

The first step was the "borrow" the classroom quilt for a weekend.  We told the custodian and I took it home so I could scan all of the pictures.  I almost got caught when I was putting it back on Monday.  Thankfully it was the two other kindergarten teachers and not ours.

After I scanned them all, I printed the pictures out onto fabric using my home printer and ink jet fabric sheets that I got from Amazon.  I played with the prints to decide on a design and then went to buy the other fabric.

And then did the sewing.  I am so happy with how it came out.

My son told me that he thinks it will touch her heart.  I hope so.  He has had an amazing year with her and she is a wonderful teacher.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Cool Stuff From Maker Faire: Woolbuddy

One thing you will learn about me is that I am a sucker for all things cute and all things turtle.  So I was really excited to see Woolbuddy at Maker Faire.

This one caught my eye.  I love it.

They sell the kits in their etsy store and I just might have to buy one.

Check out this video about how to make a Woolbuddy showing how to make the penguin.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

DIY Spectrometry Kit

Today I made my own spectrometer.  I heard about the Desktop Spectrometry Kit from Public Lab and had to give it a try. Here is a picture of the pieces that came in the kit which you can buy for $40.

All I needed to complete the kit was scissors, a phillips head screwdriver, and a knife.   It was relatively easy to build.  For me, the most difficult part was prying open the webcam in Step 3.  Although once i got the right tool (a knife!) it was really easy.  This is a picture of everything set up inside before I closed it up.

It worked right away without any issues.  This is a spectrum from a Compact Flourescent Lightbulb in my house.  They have you do that first to calibrate the system.  

I also took one of a Red LED to see what it would look like.

 I look forward to finding new samples to study.  They even have a Spectral Challenge where they are calling on makers, hackers, and DIYers worldwide to tackle real-world environmental problems using low cost, open source spectrometry.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Cool Stuff From Maker Faire: Paper Roller Coasters

I saw Paper Roller Coasters at Maker Faire.  I always like kits that let you take regular materials and turn them into something fun and creative.  These kits use tape, paper, and scissors to make rather impressive roller coasters.

 Check out this video of a 16 foot tall free standing paper roller coaster in action.

I ordered a set  from the website.  I  look forward to seeing what my kids can come up with!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Inspiration: 15-year-old Entrepreneur Got Her Product Into Nordstrom

I am often impressed by what kids can accomplish.  Often times it leaves me feeling like as a society we tend to underestimate what kids are capable of.  For example, Madison Robinson from Houston Texas had the idea to create sea-creature-adorned flip-flops with battery-operated lights when she was 8 years old. Her father helped her get samples made, and now at 15 she has a profitable business with her fish flops selling at Nordstrom.

It makes me wonder what would happen if more kids were inspired and empowered.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Young Scientists:Doodling Robot

This weekend, I spent some time with my older son building this Doodling Robot kit.

He is almost 8, and needed some assistance to put it together.  He got a bit frustrated a few times, but eventually we worked through it. 

Once it was finished, he was very happy and decided to  experiment to see the different types of shapes he could draw by putting the pens in different positions.

An enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Cool Stuff from Maker Faire: Blockly

I am interested in ways to get kids coding from an early age.  I want my kids to be more than just consumers of technology and programming is one of the key building blocks.  At Maker Faire, I saw a tutorial and environment for an open source introductory programming that I hadn't see before -- Blockly.  Blockly is a visual programming language from Google.

They have several sample projects to play with such as Blockly Puzzle and Turtle Graphics.

They also have a developed a maze tutorial for kids to learn to code.

My Kindergartner tested it out.  Once he understood how to drag and drop and connect the commands he was able to help the person get through the maze for the first two levels.  As you progress, it increases in difficulty and adds if and repeat commands.

Test it out and let me know what you think!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Veteran's Day: Veterans History Project

Today as we honor veterans, I wanted to share an interesting resource - Veterans History Project

This project provides access to first hand accounts from veterans and civilians from the following wars:
World War I (1914-1920) World War II (1939-1946) Korean War (1950-1955) Vietnam War (1961-1975) Persian Gulf War (1990-1995) Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts (2001-present)

Looking through the site today, I just found out that my great-aunt was a Second Lieutenant, Army Nurse Corps Veteran in World War II, 1939-1945.  I had no idea.  Unfortunately, the site seems to have some technical issues and I can't get more information about her right now since the link gives me a 502: Proxy Error.  But I am hopeful that these issues will be addressed.

Looking through the photos and letters today is a powerful reminder to honor our veterans for their service to the country today.  

I was also impressed by the resources for students and educators to support them to conduct interviews of veterans to add to the collection.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Cool Stuff from Maker Faire: Glovetopus

One of the cuter things I saw at Maker Faire was the Glovetopus.  They are a cute way to upcycle a pair of gloves.

I particularly like them in stripes like this.

Click to see the video on the (successfully funded!) kickstarter page that shows how to make them.

Or you can purchase a Do-It-Yourself Glovetopus Kit here.

It makes me wish I lived in a colder climate to collect cute gloves from thrift stores to make my own octopi.  

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Inspiration: California Teen Invents Device that Could Charge a Cell Phone in 20 Seconds

I love stories like these.  They always inspire me and show what is possible.

From SFGate's article

"Eesha Khare is the mind behind a super-powerful and tiny gizmo that packs more energy into a small space, delivers a charge more quickly, and holds that charge longer than the typical battery. Khare showed off her so-called super-capacitor last week at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, Ariz. In her demonstration, she showed it powering a light-emitting diode, or LED light, but the itty-bitty device could fit inside cell phone batteries, delivering a full charge in 20-30 seconds. It takes several hours for the average cell phone to fully charge."

It makes me wonder what more kids could do if education was more about projects, ingenuity and creativity, instead of textbooks, facts and tests.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Cool Stuff from Maker Faire: LightUp

Another thing I was very excited to see at Maker Faire last weekend was LightUp out of Stanford. They make kits for kids to learn electronics by building projects.  This project combines electronic building blocks with the first augmented reality tutor app.

There are a couple of things that I really like about it.

1. There is no soldering or breadboards involved.  The pieces snap together magnetically.

2. The LightUp app helps kids learn about the flow of electricity and helps them trouble shoot their circuits. 

  • You take a photo of your circuit

  • And the app will show how the electricity flows through your circuit.

I love that this product is focused on  having people "learn by making", and I would really love to see these show up in schools as a great hands-on way to learn electronics.

If you want a kit, or want to support the project on Kickstarter, you have until June 30th when the project ends.  They are almost halfway to their funding goal of $50,000. I am a backer and look forward to getting my kit and to seeing how this product develops.