Gravenstein students in TK-2nd grade have been doing lots of fun experiments and engineering projects this fall. 1st and 2nd graders made solar ovens with some very creative reflectors. Kindergartners made super long chains out of pipe cleaners, mixed up chemicals (non-toxic) in test tubes, and launched Alka-Seltzer rockets. Right now the 1st and 2nd graders are building rockets too. They started by making strawkets, and now are working in teams to build cardboard rockets that will launch with real rocket engines. If your family would like to build and launch your own model rockets, I recommend Jake’s Performance Hobbies in Rohnert Park. Jake has been making rockets for many years, is generous with his advice, and also has a good deal on rocket engines. By law, launching rockets in California needs to be done at a permitted site, with permission from the land owner.
Our second summer camp, taught by engineers at the Chimera Makerspace, was a huge success. This year we added 3D printed rockets, smart solar ovens and laser robots to the list of projects campers completed. We’re gearing up for more camps next summer, which will be similar to this year, but with more robotics: BuildHackMake
We’ve been making slime at Gravenstein (where I’m known as Mr. M), and students are bringing a bag of slime home. We are just using washable school glue and cornstarch, sometimes with shaving cream and food dye added in. The recipe below includes Borax, which we aren’t using since it can be a skin irritant. If you want to make your slime thicker at home, you can try adding warm water, baking soda dissolved in warm water, or contact solution.
Gravenstein 4th grade students designed and built thermoses with plastic bottles, newspaper and tape. Each class was competing for 1st place, the winner having the coldest thermos. “The Freezer” won, having the largest ice cube after 75 minutes at .3g.
I’ve done a similar competition with high school students, who designed and built houses out of cardboard. We placed a temperature sensor/logger inside them on a hot day, and the coolest house won.
Gravenstein first and second graders built rockets using paper towel rolls, tape, card stock and foil. I went to Jake’s Performance Hobbies in Rohnert Park and got some model rocket engines and a launcher, plus great advice. After making a cardboard sleeve to hold the engine, we launched them at my sister’s farm and were amazed by how well they flew.
Strawkets: (these can be made with household materials, and kids get really creative with them) : https://www.calacademy.org/sites/default/files/assets/docs/calacademy-sah-rockets-strawkets-210415.pdf
Alka Seltzer Rocket Materials and Instructions:
Film canisters: Must have a rubber seal, which many sold by Amazon do not. Shutterbug in Santa Rosa said they have a ton of film canisters that work for rockets and they would be happy to give them to Gravenstein parents for free: https://shutterbugcamerashops.com/contact-us
An online source: https://www.teachersource.com/category/s?keyword=film+canisters
Alka seltzer: drugstore generic brand also works fine.
Directions: Fill the film canister halfway with water. Add one alka seltzer tablet, close the lid tightly, shake, put the canister on the ground upside down and stand back.
We talked about Newton’s Third Law and how the carbon dioxide produced in the canister builds up until it causes the canister to burst open. The gas pushes down on the ground and the ground pushes the rocket into the air- every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
Solar ovens: We’re also making solar ovens, using this guide: https://solarschoolhouse.org/solarcooking/
Mealworms: Students have been learning about the mealworm lifecycle. Mealworms eat almost anything that used to be alive. Food scraps, leaves, flour, dogfood, etc. Students are taking home mini terrariums with soil and mealworms. Eventually they will turn in to pupas, and then beetles. Fried mealworms are a delicacy in some cultures. Mealworms can be purchased at Sebastopol Hardware, or any pet shop.
Mealworms don’t need water, but they do need some moisture. Small amounts of fruit will work. I put my mealworms in a plastic container full of oatmeal and a piece of pear. This variety of mealworm (king) cannot hibernate, so the mealworms need to remain around room temperature.
Our first Build Hack Make summer camp at the Chimera makerspace was a huge success. Students built fan cars, synthesizers, strobascopes, keyboards and a robotic finger. Looking forward to adding 3D printed rockets to the next summer’s camp.
All of the parts for the robotic hand, plus instructions, can be found here: https://inmoov.fr/hand-and-forarm/
In June 2021, I organized some Mind of a Scientist alums to work on designing and 3D printing electric motors. This is a collaboration between Sonoma State professor Daniel R. Soto, Lawrence Livermore Lab test engineer Jacob Aman, Medtronic mechanical engineer Geoff Orth and Roblox software engineer Alex Katz. Jacob designed a working model using FEMM (Finite Element Method Magnetics). We are working on figuring out how to guide students in tweaking the motor’s design. Much of the work has been done at Chimera makerspace in Sebastopol, but Geoff has also been printing motor parts at Medtronic for us (one is pictured below). We were just awarded a Medtronic grant to purchase more motor parts.
We designed the first motor to be as simple as possible, to demonstrate the principles of electromagnetism. Orchard View science students have built and tested five motors so far. Eventually, the goal is for students to build stuff with the motors they design, such as automated plant experiments and a device for a solar oven to track the sun.
I’ve teamed up with Maker Music Festival founder Joe Szuecs to create a summer camp at Chimera, which will include building motors.
Jacob explains how electric motors work in this video:
Science camp (AKA Eco Kids) at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts featured solar oven building (https://solarschoolhouse.org/solarcooking/). We had a competition like this: https://www.bravotv.com/the-daily-dish/jose-andres-top-chef-solar-power-clean-cookstoves The camp was a chance for me to try out some lessons I’m planning for 6th grade science at Orchard View in the fall.
We designed and built fog catchers similar to these: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4GHGBov15U&list=PL6-8azVpUKW4TJG-pbf7Wl9HIqajRCiwk&index=4
We played ecology bingo, in which students observe and sketch parts of an ecosystem on bingo cards: https://www.mcguffey.k12.pa.us/Downloads/Bingo%20Card.pdf
Additional resources: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbwliZJiHe8
Mind of a Scientist is a partnership with the Sonoma County Library and librarian Rosalie Abbott. The program features live presentations with scientists and engineers each week.
Here’s our page on the Sonoma Library site with all our videos, worksheets and answer keys: https://sonomalibrary.org/mind-of-a-scientist
We have featured Sonoma State, UC Davis, Sonoma Water, Dow Labs, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, Bodega Bay Marine Lab, plus Medtronic and Keysight engineers.
Recently we’ve had climate scientists Rob Nelson and Katherine Wentz (From NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and Remote Sensing Systems respectively). NOAA marine biologist Steven McKagan Zoomed in from Saipan. Laguna Foundation wildlife biologist Shelly Spriggs presented as well as data scientist Shawn Boye and NOAA meteorologist Zach Tolby.
Recently, I have been creating decision making scenarios with our speakers for students to work on. Here are a few examples:
Conservation Biology Scenario: Imagine you are an environmental scientist developing a conservation plan for a preserve on a North Coast estuary. You have been asked for your expert opinion on the best approach to trail access along the estuary and how to minimize impacts to natural resources. State which option you recommend and why, and identify one method of minimizing – or mitigating for – that option’s impacts on wetlands or wildlife.
|Option||Impacts.||Cost||Connectivity to Other Trails.|
|1. Build a short boardwalk |
to a wildlife viewing platform.
|2.Build a long boardwalk |
that provides a full trail connection along the river to the north.
|3. No boardwalk; instead, |
work with other agencies to build a paved trail along the highway – a long-term project.
Electric Motor Scenario: Imagine you are a car company executive in charge of launching a new line of electric trucks. You must choose a motor that will please customers as well as be practical and efficient. It’s important that a lot of people buy the truck, but you also face fierce competition from other exciting models. After discussing, choose which type of motor to use in this new truck.
|Type of Motor:||Pros:||Cons:|
|1) High torque, lower |
|Good for |
|2) Low torque, high speed||Faster, more |
|Poor tow rating, more maintenance|
|3) Medium torque, medium speed||All around |