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Archive / September, 2014

5 Groovy Fall-Related STEM Projects

Crisp cool weather, spice-scented rooms, and fun fall-related activities are a sure sign of autumn.  Check out these five groovy STEM-related projects to kick off the start of your STEMist’s fall season.

5 Groovy Fall-Related STEM Projects

#1. Pumpkin Math

There are numerous activities that STEMists can do to hone their math skills.  STEMists can use estimation to compare pumpkins by weight.

  1. Gather three pumpkins that vary in size
  2. Lift each pumpkin and estimate the weight.
  3. Weigh the pumpkins on a balance.
  4. Record the actual measurements in a table.
  5. Graph the estimated weight versus the actual weight.

Are the estimated weights close to the actual weights of the three pumpkins?

Other groovy ways to build math skills with pumpkins: Measure the circumferences and compare them to the weights of the pumpkins.

#2. Metric Fun with Apple Crisp

Following directions to make a recipe is a tasty way to learn about units of measurement.

Metric Fun with Apple Crisp

Apple Crisp Ingredients – below the units of measure are given in both the Metric System (groovier) and the Imperial System.

      • 4 medium-sized apples, thinly sliced
      • 118 grams (1/2 cup) packed dark brown sugar
      • 30 mL (2 tablespoons) lemon juice
      • 80 grams (1 cup) Quick Oats
      • 188 grams (1 ½ cups) flour
      • 150 grams (3/4 cups) sugar
      • 2.84 grams (1/2 teaspoon) salt
      • 113 grams (1/4 lb. – 1 stick) butter, cold and sliced
      • 2.6 grams (1 teaspoon) cinnamon
      • 1.95 grams (3/4 teaspoon) nutmeg
  1. Mix apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon juice and arrange in a shallow baking dish.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, make a mixture of oats, sugar, flour and salt. Add cold butter slices and stir with a fork or use your hands to create a groovy crumb topping.
  3. Drop the mixture over apples in the baking dish. Melt a small amount of butter, then drizzle over the top. Sprinkle cinnamon evenly over the top.
  4. Bake the apple crisp in a 175 ºC (350 °F ) oven for 35 minutes, or until bubbling and golden brown.
  5. Serve warm and top it off with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, for a groovy fall treat.

Did You Know…According to the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, there are three countries which have yet to adopt the International System of Units (SI/metric system) as their official system of weights and measures in the entire world!  They are: Burma, Liberia, and the US. It’s important to remember, STEMists always use the metric system when doing STEM! 

Countries that have yet to adopt the metric system: Burma, Liberia, and the US

Countries that have yet to adopt the metric system: Burma, Liberia, and the US

For more measurement fun, have your STEMist convert other imperial units to the metric system here.

#3. Impressionable Leaves T-shirt

Materials:

      • T-shirt (any type, any color but white)
      • Small spray bottle
      • Bleach
      • Water
      • 2 tall buckets (tall to avoid splash)
      • Piece of large cardboard
      • Leaves

Procedure:

  1. Collect different leaves from a nature walk, or your own backyard. 2.
  2. Discuss the various leaves you and your STEMists collect, acknowledging their color-changing properties that occur during the fall season.
  3. Fill a bucket with some cold water (approximately 1/4 full), enough to rinse a T-shirt.
  4. Place a piece of cardboard inside your T-shirt and lay on a flat surface.  Then place your leaves on the T-shirt to create an artistic design.
  5. With the help from a groovy grown-up while using bleach, spray a solution of 3-part water, 1-part bleach over leaves; spray enough to lightly saturate the design.
  6. Let the bleach solution set for a few minutes, then carefully lift leaves from the shirt. Note the pigment change of the T-shirt from the bleach solution.
  7. Hand rinse in a bucket of water, and then soak the shirt in your second bucket of water for approximately 5 minutes.
  8. Remove the shirt from the bucket and squeeze out the water.
  9. Use a laundry dryer on a hot setting to dry your t-shirt. Then, wear your T-shirt design proudly!

GROOVY NON-BLEACH OPTION: Instead of bleach, use fabric paints and markers, and have your STEMists trace the leave onto the T-shirt.

#4. Flying Ghost Rockets

STEMists will love this groovy activity from Growing a Jeweled Rose blog that demonstrates science at its finest.

Flying Ghost Rockets

Materials:

      • Safety goggles (can be found at any hardware store.)
      • Film canister(s)
      • Corn starch
      • Water
      • Black marker
      • Alka Seltzer
      • Stir stick

Procedure:

  1. Place canister(s) top down.
  2. Use the marker to draw two eyes and a nose on the canister to make a face for your ghost.
  3. Remove cap and fill canister 1/3 full of water, add corn starch and stir.
  4. Break the Alka Seltzer and drop a piece into the canister.
  5. Quickly put the lid on, flip the canister upside down onto the pavement and move out of the way.

STEMists can watch science in action as the ghost launches into the sky!

#5. The Vampire Population

In celebration of Halloweens’ cast of characters, check out Do Vampires Really Exist?, a math and social sciences activity created by Microsoft.  In this activity, students work with an Excel spreadsheet template to determine the vampire population over a period of time, considering the legend that vampires bite, in relation to the current human population.

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For more groovy educational activities, check out the Groovy Lab in a Box monthly subscription Your STEMists will receive boxes full of everything you need to learn about and do hands on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) experiments.

Groovy Fun with Clouds

Most everyone at some point has looked up to the sky to admire the fluffy white clouds floating by, or have been threatened by dark, gloomy storm clouds preparing to soak the earth.  How often, though, have you and your STEMists thought about clouds, how they are formed and their purpose?

Groovy Fun with Clouds

Clouds have several important functions.  They provide rain and snow, and help the earth’s atmosphere retain heat, similar to a blanket keeping you warm.  When you look up to a clear starry night sky, you may find the temperature outside is cold, whereas if the night sky is filled with a blanket of clouds, the temperature may be warmer.  On the other hand, clouds keep you cool by providing shade as they block out the hot sun.

How do clouds start?

Clouds are formed when warm air, or heat energy, rises then cools as it expands into the atmosphere.  Water vapor in the air condenses on small solid particles like dust and sea salt, creating water droplets that form into clouds.  And, it is the temperature of the atmosphere and the height at which the clouds are forming that will determine if the cloud you are looking at is composed of ice or water droplets.

Types of Clouds

STEMists should be able to identify the three main types of clouds—Stratus, Cumulus, and Cirrus.

  • Stratus clouds are the lowest forming clouds and look like a crinkled flat sheet across the sky.  Stratus clouds often mean an overcast day, especially near coastal and mountain areas.  You can expect the air to be damp and a day of steady rain, or drizzles and mist.  These clouds can hang overhead for several days before dissipating or moving on.
  • Cumulus clouds are the fluffy clouds that look like puffs of cotton that sit on a flat base. They are the most common clouds and are some of the prettiest that form over land on bright sunny days.  Cumulus clouds form close to the ground, about 3,000 feet, and are the ones that you often feel you can reach out and touch.  Cumulus clouds grow upwards, but beware of cumulus clouds that grow tall, especially if they appear before midday.  These clouds can bring sudden rains, hail and thunderstorms. Shorter cumulus clouds indicate fair weather.
  • Cirrus clouds are some of the highest clouds in our atmosphere and look like wispy streaks of feathers.  These clouds are made of ice particles because they are so high in the sky.  Cirrus clouds scattered across a clear blue sky indicate fair weather.

Cloud Activities for STEMists

Cloud in a Jar

Items you will need for this groovy experiment are glass jar with lid (or small plate or bowl); ice; dark colored paper; aerosol air freshener or hairspray; and a flashlight is optional.  Fill the bottom of the clean glass jar with hot water (130-145 degrees) approximately 1 inch deep.  Swirl water in jar to warm the sides of the glass.  Place ice cubes in the lid (acting as a bowl) and place it on top of the jar.  Watch the condensation and notice the absence of a cloud.  Then, spray a small amount of your air freshener into the jar and quickly replace the ice-filled lid. Now hold up the dark colored paper to the glass and look for wisps of cloud to start swirling inside. You may also want to shine a flashlight inside the jar to see the cloud better. Finally, remove the lid and let the cloud rise out of the jar so that you and your STEMists can touch it.

Check out this video for an alternative way to do this experiment:

Edible Cumulus Sky

Use a Mason-type jar for this activity—small for individual serving sizes or a large jar for sharing.  Ingredients needed are whipped topping, like Cool Whip, blue-colored gelatin, ice and water. In a bowl, mix one small package of gelatin with one cup of boiling water.  Add one cup of ice cubes, and stir until the gelatin thickens to a consistency between liquid and firm.  Then begin to layer whipped topping and the gelatin.  Use a spoon to plop and push the topping along the side of the jar.  Continue to layer the ingredients until you have various shapes and sizes of white puffiness among a clear blue gelatin sky.  Let the gelatin completely set in the refrigerator for another 30 minutes or so.  Be sure to let your STEMists admire the shapes and remind them about the characteristics of the cumulus clouds. Bon Appétit!

Does your STEMist love science, math, engineering and technology? Order your Groovy Lab in a Box and get STEM fun delivered right to your doorstep!

Extreme Weather Exhibits for STEMists


Weather is a daily event that we cannot control.
It is the reason we choose to wear a sweater, bring a jacket, carry an umbrella or dress in layers.  Extreme weather often causes fear, panic and anxiety, and in its wake, major devastation.  STEMists tend to have an innate curiosity about weather events such as hurricanes, windstorms, tornadoes, hail, lightning and thunderstorms, and wonder why and how they occur.

Extreme Weather Exhibits for STEMists

Here are three groovy weather exhibits where STEMists and their families can interact with the science of weather.

Chicago Science Storms

STEMists will experience the perfect storm at the Science Storms exhibit in the Museum of Science and Industry located in Chicago, Illinois. Science Storms is a journey that takes STEMists and their families from wonder to inquiry, curiosity to observation, and investigation to understanding. Science Storms helps STEMists make sense of the scientific process behind seven natural phenomena—lightning, fire, tornados, avalanches, tsunamis, sunlight and atoms in motion.

Science Storms exhibit in the Museum of Science and Industry located in Chicago, Illinois

STEMists will learn about the conditions required to create a tornado at the 40-foot vortex live science experience; view the dramatic high voltage lightning charge while sitting beneath a large tesla coil; and investigate how fuel, oxygen and heat combine to create a flame. The exhibit is home to more than 50 experiments that span over two floors and 26,000 square feet, and attempt to help STEMists gain an understanding of the scientific process, physics and chemistry behind powerful Mother Nature.

San Francisco Earthquakes

The California Academy of Sciences Earthquake exhibit in San Francisco, California, is your ticket to understanding and exploring how seismic science has shaped Earth’s evolution.  In its walk-through Earth exhibit, STEMists can examine geologic specimens, and learn how earthquake waves can give us a better understanding about the inner workings of Earth’s solid core.

California Academy of Sciences Earthquake Exhibit

The San Francisco Shakes exhibit lets STEMists and their families experience simulated tremors of the two biggest earthquakes in the city—the Loma Prieta quake of 1989 and the 1906 Great San Francisco quake.  Visitors gather inside a Victorian-era home replica that stays true to its era— even the chandelier in the dining room has LED light strips to simulate incandescent lighting of 1989 and the flickering gas lights of 1906. During the three-minute earthquake simulation, visitors will notice various brightly colored household items rattling and shaking against the white walls.

The CAS website also entices visitors to read the titles of the books located on the bottom shelf of the book case in the dining room to reveal the bigger idea behind the entire Earthquake exhibit.  STEMists and their families will walk away from the San Francisco Shakes exhibit having experienced the difference between a 7.1 magnitude (Loma Prieta) versus a 7.8 magnitude (Great San Francisco).

The Earthquake Engineering Movie, also part of the Earthquake exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences, is an event you won’t want to miss.  The movie explores how scientists are using seismic science to build stronger, safer buildings.—a must-see for any investigative STEMist!

Florida Hurricanes

Hurricanes are a distant relative to the tornado and much stronger, affecting greater area both on land and sea.  Heavy rains, lightning, and hail with top-speed winds and tornados all accompany a hurricane, and is perhaps one of the most curious of the extreme weather events. Hurricane research is conducted throughout the U.S.; however none compare to The Wall of Wind (WOW).

The Wall of Wind

WOW, located within at Florida International University’s (FIU) International Hurricane Research Center (IHRC) in Miami, Florida, is capable of simulating a Category 5 hurricane.  The Wall of Wind is housed in the most powerful university research facility of its kind, and consists of 12 enormous fans generating high speed winds that replicate CAT 5 levels– the highest rating on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Researchers and engineers are convinced WOW will greatly influence the engineering and design of our future.

The IHRC also holds an annual Wall of Wind Challenge competition for teams of high school students who provide a solution for wind-related problems.  The WOW Challenge consists of a written paper, oral presentation and a physical test of their mitigation strategy. If your STEMists are fascinated by hurricane-force winds, FIU should be on the top of their college choice list.

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Does your STEMist love science, math, engineering and technology? Order your Groovy Lab in a Box and get STEM fun delivered right to your doorstep!

More Than a Game: STEMists Get Groovy with Minecraft


STEMists in the classroom are using the Minecraft video game to learn physics, math, history, language, team building and more! 
As the top-selling app on both iPads and iPhones in 2013, according to the Mirror, Minecraft continues to prove to be more than just a game.  Teachers, students, boys and girls are learning STEM with Minecraft—a phenomenon all its own with over 100 million users.

More Than a Game: STEMists Get Groovy with Minecraft

What is Minecraft?

Players use building blocks, much like LEGOs, to create almost anything the imagination can think of— in a virtual world.  From simple buildings to block-head animals, castles, dragons  and whole cities, Minecraft fosters the creative genius in anyone who plays the game.

Creative Mode

In Minecraft’s creative mode, your STEMists will construct buildings and worlds using building blocks, decorating blocks, tools, plants and other materials in a 3D environment. The creative mode gives the player a sense of control in an environment where there are no rules.

Players learn how to identify and work toward goals —skills that are transferable to the real world. Manipulating objects in a space to create dynamic structures, visuospatial reasoning and problem solving – often through collaboration – is another educational benefit of Minecraft. The game itself encourages working with friends to build a groovy space!

Minecraft coliseum

Survival Mode

The survival mode more closely resembles a more traditional video game where players need to survive through various worlds and elements.  Blending building and adventure, your STEMists will harvest their own food and build shelters with raw materials such as stone and wood.  Minecraft STEMists must mine for rare materials to build more elaborate structures, and to uncover instructions to craft torches, doors, tables, shelves, and windows. These activities inspire architectural creativity as STEMists build more complicated shelters such as castles, skyscrapers, mega fortresses, complex labyrinths and more.

Your STEMists will face adventure in the mountains, swamps, forests and icy tundra, trying to mine for resources to avoid demise by the game’s “bad guys.”  Parents should be aware that in the survival mode, STEMists must craft weapons to survive attacks from flame-throwing and sword-yielding characters, zombies and skeletons.

City made in Minecraft

Should parents be concerned?

Minecraft can become all-consuming for STEMists, and although Minecraft can be considered educational, time limits should be set for daily play.  Safety is another factor with children playing against other players they don’t know who log in to the server.  Parents need to be sure their kids are educated on the possible dangers of gaming in an online forum. Gaming rules should be set by parents and followed by their STEMists.

Using Minecraft for learning

Minecraft Japanese architecture

Teachers and homeschooling parents have successfully integrated Minecraft into their curricula for STEMists. Here are a few resources to check out to see how you can use Minecraft in your STEMists’ everyday learning:

Minecraft is available as a computer game for your PC, and has been developed for Xbox, iPhone, iPad and Android devices. Just like the monthly-themed Groovy Lab in a Box, Minecraft, when played according to family rules, fosters creativity through discovery and engineering design.

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