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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.