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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.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Young Scientists: Crystal Mining Kit

Because of our interests, we try out a lot of science kits with our boys.  My husband bought the 4M Crystal Mining kit, and it did not disappoint.

In this kit, they got to mine their own crystals.  Since they are both big fans of the game Minecraft, this was very exciting for them.  In fact when got up the next morning,  they got dressed immediately and went right outside to the porch to continue mining.

In the end, they ended up with a total of nine crystals.  It comes with a small pouch to carry them around and a card to help you identify the rocks.

They still continue to play with the crystals on a regular basis and it is pretty cute to hear my kindergartener talk about rose quartz.

If you are interested, you can get one here:

Monday, May 20, 2013

Cool Stuff from Maker Faire: The Othermill

I went to Maker Faire last week, and saw lots of cool things.  I will be profiling them here.

I am going to start with the Othermill.  I saw it and immediately wanted to buy one to tinker with.  Unfortunately the price ($1399 on Kickstarter) was a little high for an impulse buy, but is a good deal for a machine like this.  I hope to get one in the near future.

The Othermill is a portable, computer controlled, 3-axis mill that is specifically designed for use at home or in a small workspace. Our objective is to build a mill that is compact, clean, and quiet enough for use at home, yet is precise enough for high level electrical and mechanical prototyping work. The Othermill will be at home on your desk, in your workshop, or on your kitchen table.

Check it out in action.

The Othermill is the first project out of OtherFab in San Francisco.  According to their website, they are interested in portable, accessible, computer-controlled machines, and how they can help us design our world. With the ability to make custom circuitry, they can now build our own smart objects - medicine bottles that email reminders, shoes that tell you how fast you went, and even glasses that know when you need to put on sunscreen. The Othermill is their contribution to custom circuit design and the desktop manufacturing revolution.

If you want one, or want to support the project on Kickstarter, you have until June 4th when the project ends.  I am excited that they already met their initial goal and are working towards their stretch goals.  I look forward to the other things that they develop.

Starting a New Blog

I have been daydreaming about starting a new blog for a while now.  Today is the day to begin with the introduction of Project Based Mom -- a place for me to share my thoughts on education, my hopes for project based learning, the projects I do with my kids, the projects I do myself,my interest in making and makerspaces, and cool things I hear about.
Education, particularly Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education, is my passion.  I read about, think about, and do work supporting education, and have been wanting to have a place to collect and share my thoughts, so here it is.
Let's start with a bit about me:
I am the mother of two boys (kindergarten and second grade) and I really want them to be exposed to and have fun learning science, technology and engineering. As the focus in elementary school has moved towards math and reading, there is less time for science. So I am interested in ways to get both kids and adults inspired by and interested in math, science, and engineering.

I am a chemist, I got my Bachelor's Degree in Chemistry from Harvey Mudd College and I got my Ph.D. in Chemistry from Rice University. I have a wide-ranging research experience that includes work with x-ray crystallography, computer modelling or protein folding, and scanning tunelling microscopy of magnetic thin films.
I also have a Masters in Teaching from Rice University and am a credentialed science teacher. I taught high school chemistry and physics for ten years, including seven years in San Francisco Unified. I was recognized by the CA section of the American Chemical Society as the High School Chemistry Teacher of the Year in 2004.
I am a teacher educator. I was the director of the Cal Teach program at UC Berkeley to encourage science, math, and engineering students to pursue careers in math and science teaching. I designed and got the program approved as a credential program with the state of California, wrote grants to fund the program, and taught in the program. I also was the director of Math for America Berkeley, a program to provide professional and leadership development to successful math and science teachers in Bay Area public middle and high schools.
I am very excited about the potential of technology and data analytics to transform education. I am the co-founder of an education technology start-up, MySciHigh, which was prototyped and piloted during Summer 2012.
Overall, I am a teacher at heart who loves inspiring and empowering people to love learning and to develop an interest in science, technology, math, and engineering.