Friday, August 31, 2012

Win a School Visit from Mayim Bialik: STEM Girl Friday

Since her days on Blossom (and the movie Beaches before that), I've always been a fan of Mayim Bialik. Today she's better known as Amy Farrah Fowler, Sheldon's girlfriend on the hit show Big Bang Theory. It's not her role on the show that gives Miss Mayim her STEM cred, though. No, that comes from her PhD is neuroscience. (ahem)

For a child star, she's grown up to be an incredibly grounded woman. Some might say a bit too grounded and earthy-crunchy, but I think she's pretty cool.

The folks at Texas Instruments are betting that people a lot younger and hipper than me think that Mayim's pretty cool, too. They are offering schools a chance to bring the Emmy-nominated actress to teach an integrated math/science lesson. The winning class will also receive a bunch of coll stuff from Texas Instruments, including some TI-Nspire CX handhelds, devices with more computing power than the green screen TRS-80 that I used while Mayim was still cutting her teeth.

The entry process is pretty simple, just answer two basic questions on a special tab on the TI Education Technology Facebook page. Basically, students are asked to share (in less than 200 words) how math and science students will benefit from having the devices. I'm guessing entrants must be 13 or older, since that was part of Facebook's TOS last I checked.

 
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Kim MoldofskyKim Moldofsky
Kim is a blogger, vlogger, baker, and maker, as well as a trend spotter and founder of #STEMchat. She is passionate about raising STEM-loving kids. to your Google+ circles.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Learning Vacations

via engineeringsites.org
When my family travels, sure, we enjoy hanging by the beach or pool a bit, but DH and I tend to keep things pretty active. We like to see and do and learn. We've checked out science centers and museums, done our share of hiking and seen more than our share of factory tours.

In fact, a few years ago I was on assignment for the site Traveling Mom in Lousiville, Kentucky. Over the course of just a few family-friendly days my boys scrambled around a fossil park (on the Indiana side of the state line), watched glass being blown by a Matthew McConaughey look-alike (video below), saw baseball bats being made and had a close encounter with a vat of fermenting mash (click for video) that would soon be turned into Maker's Mark Bourbon.

Which is a long-winded way of calling attention to A Sightseer's Guide to Engineering, a fun site from the National Society of Professional Engineers and National Engineers Week. Just click the state you want to visit on the site's interactive map and it will provide a few worthy spots to add to your itinerary.

No destination in mind yet? Use the search tool to find sites to explore you favorite type of engineering. If nuclear is your thang, for example,  perhaps you want to visit Groton, CT or head to Chicago to see The Maker Family before stopping in Batavia, IL.

Go ahead, geek your travel. And be sure the let me know about fun learning adventures that you family has enjoyed.




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Kim MoldofskyKim Moldofsky
Kim is a blogger, vlogger, baker, and maker, as well as a trend spotter and founder of #STEMchat. She is passionate about raising STEM-loving kids. to your Google+ circles.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

STEM Fest at Northern Illinois University


STEM logoPut down that beer stein and grab a few capacitors; October is all about STEM celebrations in the upper third of Illinois. I already told you about OSMOCES, now a little bird with a new book passed along details of STEM Fest at Northern Illinois University.
Scheduled for October 20, 2012, the same day as the Morton Grove Library's Tech Fest, where The Maker Mom will be hosting a kid-friendly display about circuits. Because I've not been cloned yet, it sounds like I'll have to pass on STEM Fest.

But you don't have to miss it. 

NIU's STEM Fest is free and it looks really fun. They're hosting a science video contest for K-12 students, a Sci-Fi Teen Read contest for aspiring writers grades 8-12, and a variety of STEM activities.

It appears they are still accepting exhibitors and it looks like they have some mini-grants to assist student groups.

Although there's no cost for admission, the organizers would appreciate advanced notice in order to accommodate school groups. Click for FAQs and driving directions.

If any Maker Mom readers would like provide reportage on the event, let me know!


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Kim MoldofskyKim Moldofsky
Kim is a blogger, vlogger, baker, and maker, as well as a trend spotter and founder of #STEMchat. She is passionate about raising STEM-loving kids. to your Google+ circles.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

American Science and Surplus Science Night and Surplus Sale in Chicago

American Science & Surplus warehouse sale and science nightThe American Science and Surplus annual warehouse sale is coming soon. Mark your calendar for September 8 and 9, 2012 and head to 7410 North Lehigh Avenue in Niles, Illinois if you're in the market for LEDs, old greeting cards, out-of-date military gear, and other flotsam and jetsam.

The goods really run the gamut at this sale, but for $20 or less you'll have a fun time* (if you like searching out a diamond in the rough as much as I do) and you're sure to find an item (or 6) that you never knew you needed. Don't miss out!

If you enjoy a little more order in your life, stop by the actual store at 5316 N. Milwaukee in Chicago, which is not far from the warehouse.

Thanks to the folks at Chicago Parent, I learned that the always interesting store is going to take it to the next level with live demonstrations and activities the evening of August 31, 2012.

According to the AS&S site, there will also be a telescope workshop from 6-7, a microscope workshop from 7-8 and viewing from 8-10.  Bring this coupon to get a special bonus (with purchase) for the kiddos.

*Round off your experience with a stop at the deliciously quirky Chocolate Shoppe ice cream parlor just a couple miles south of the warehouse.


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Kim MoldofskyKim Moldofsky
Kim is a blogger, vlogger, baker, and maker, as well as a trend spotter and founder of #STEMchat. She is passionate about raising STEM-loving kids. to your Google+ circles.

Monday, August 27, 2012

#STEMchat Summary: How to Raise Kids who Love Science

#STEMchat
The other day I posted a Tweet by Tweet transcript of the recent #STEMchat on how to raise kids who love science, but I sense that only the most curious among you dare read it. A Twitter chat is similar to a cocktail party, which means there are multiple conversation threads and voices overlapping one another.

Jen Merrill of Laughing at Chaos blog and author of the new book  If This is a Gift, Can I Send it Back? did me the favor of sifting through the discussion streams separating the virtual wheat from the chaff. (Okay, I paid her for the favor, but not a lot, so buy her book, please.)

Highlights and Links from The Maker Mom's First #STEMchat 
featuring me (@KimMoldofsky), @KitchPantrySci, @ScienceGoddess and @YvonneinLA August 2012


Q1: Do you think all kids have a natural curiosity about the world?

Kids ARE naturally curious, & learn through play. Keeping the play alive as they age encourages learning.

Give them freedom to explore/experiment!

I think young kids are naturally curious but as they get older their curiosity may move away because they aren't encouraged.


This homemade science lab is cheap (buy stuff at Target) and safe for kids to explore on their own.

Kim MoldofskyKim Moldofsky
Kim is a blogger, vlogger, baker, and maker, as well as a trend spotter and founder of #STEMchat. She is passionate about raising STEM-loving kids. to your Google+ circles.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

#STEMchat Transcript: Raising Kids Who Love Science

The first #STEMchat was fabulous thanks to our fabulous panelists and those of you joined in!

You can read the full #STEMchat transcript here. But if you're the kind who likes to sort through a cocktail party-like conversation that twists and turns with people coming and going, hang tight and I'll have a highlight reel for you eventually. People shared many great ideas and links and my hope is to capture those in a summary post.

I have a couple of dates in mind for September and October, but I'm waiting to see how a few things before I fully commit to them.

#STEMchat

#STEMchat brings parents, educators and STEM professionals together to build community and share ideas. If you have ideas for future #STEMchat topics or want to recommend a panelist (go ahead, nominate yourself) drop me a note.

Thanks again for making the inaugural chat a smashing success!

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Kim MoldofskyKim Moldofsky
Kim is a blogger, vlogger, baker, and maker, as well as a trend spotter and founder of #STEMchat. She is passionate about raising STEM-loving kids. to your Google+ circles.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Origami USA with Debi Pfitzenmaier

Aaron, David and Byriah fold an oversized modular 
during the Origami USA convention
Photo credit Debi Pfitzenmaier
Yesterday's #STEMchat was great; I'll be back with a summary soon. Today, I'm delighted to welcome by BlogHer11 buddy and fellow National Wildlife Federation Founding Mom, Debi Pfitzenmaier of San Antonio Busy Kids as this week's guest poster. Debi shares insights into the world of origami

Started in the 17th century, origami continues to evolve through the study of the mathematical properties of the craft. And this is where origami is finding its resurgence among youth.

Every June, a group of nearly 400 adults, teens and kids gather together at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and spend hours folding paper at the Origami USA Conference. For four days from morning to midnight, they fold their way through modulars, tessellations, wire frames, flowers, birds, mythical figures, mobiles and puzzles.

After classes all day, everyone gathers in the Great Room. Some fold, others visit, many teach. The origami moms sit and share tales of the stacks of origami units and explosion of colorful papers piled high on bookshelves, on floors, in boxes and in every nook and cranny of our homes. Everyone shares tips, tricks and tactics until they are kicked out at midnight. The conversations continue in coffee shops and hotel lobbies until eyelids, heavy with exhaustion, finally fall shut into dreams of units, paper and fold patterns.

But there’s more to this story. Origami is not just a hobby. It can be a stepping-stone to a future career. Just look at the work of Erik Demaine at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in DNA folding, Robert Lang's work on space telescopes. Origami can help children understand the concepts of geometry and, as they advance, push the limits of their calculations.

Happily, it’s not a solitary art. There’s a vibrant and respectful Flickr community where origamists share their folds, comment on each other’s designs and collaborate on new units.

Have I caught your attention now? Here’s where you can explore deeper:


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Kim MoldofskyKim Moldofsky
Kim is a blogger, vlogger, baker, and maker, as well as a trend spotter and founder of #STEMchat. She is passionate about raising STEM-loving kids. to your Google+ circles.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Silkworm Science Fun with Little Ones: #STEMchat


In keeping with the theme of tomorrow night's 8/21/12 #STEMchat on Twitter, raising kids who love science, I thoughts I'd share an experiment (gone partially awry) that we did six years ago when my newly minted 7th grader was just a wee elementary schooler. Inspired by Linda Sue Park's wonderful book, Project Mulberry, and my young boys' classroom study of the Silk Road, we decided to raise silkworms for a science fair project.

My blogs on the topic were so notable that I received a shout-out on major silkworm resource site.

Looking back, yes, my posts were informative and funny. And, yes, this is a good home project to take on if you don't mind a bit of work and occasional odor. The only thing you need to know, and for the love of Mother Nature please heed my advice, do not hatch more than 10 eggs at a time. Okay, 20 if you're curious and don't like to take unsolicited advice. But I can assure you that you unless you want to decorate your family room/dining room/basement with silkworms, do not go beyond that or you will live to regret it and some of your silkworms will face an early death.

Here's how we got started. By the way, I ordered the eggs from Carolina, the company, not the state. A Bunch of Tiny Eggs in a Petri Dish 

A Silkworm is Born  I was sent about 3 times the quantity of eggs I ordered, so I didn't expect them all to hatch. But they did.





Care and Feeding of Silkworms


Sophie's Choice, or Playing God to the Silkworms

Seven Silkworms Spinning  Actually there were closer to 40 silkworms spinning, and that was after I culled the population.


silkworm cocoons
pretty cocoons

Harvesting the Silk
 
making silk from silkworms

Seven Moths A-mating We harvested many eggs which sat in a baggy in our fridge for several months until we found a willing friend with a budding young scientist of her own.

I hope you'll join in on Twitter tomorrow night and share some of your family science fun! Look for #STEMchat at 9 Eastern, 8 Central, and 6 Pacific.

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Kim MoldofskyKim Moldofsky
Kim is a blogger, vlogger, baker, and maker, as well as a trend spotter and founder of #STEMchat. She is passionate about raising STEM-loving kids. to your Google+ circles.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The KOFO, Kim's Old-Fashioned Office

It seems to be there's a fine line between a hackerspace and a hoarder space. I've picked up several items for my space on the cheap from garage and estate sales. Estates sales are the best because in my aging suburb I tend to find many vintage items.

My thought is that once the boys and I know a bit more about electronics, we can hack them into cool devices. But they're still a novelty in their original form.

The hackerspace in my basement also provides me with an excuse to save everything.

You know, just in case I have a great idea and we can upcycle a few items

At any rate, as I'm setting up shop in the dark nether regions of our basement, I thought I'd have a little fun, so I repurposed the wallpaper we stripped from the teen's room and set up Kim's Old-Fashioned Office, or as my younger son has named it, The KOFO.

The desk used to belong to my grandfather, the rotary phone was $2, the cassette player and sand timer are DH's from back in the day and the typewriter was $5. Depending on how you look at it, the wallpaper cost a couple of hundred thousand dollars or was free. (I say free. We bought the house in spite of the old decor, not because of it.)

I plan to use this area as a soldering station, but I think we'll still call it The KOFO. I love it!
What do you think?

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Kim MoldofskyKim Moldofsky
Kim is a blogger, vlogger, baker, and maker, as well as a trend spotter and founder of #STEMchat. She is passionate about raising STEM-loving kids. to your Google+ circles.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Save the Date for #STEMchat

The Maker Mom's #STEMchat
The Maker Mom is launching a monthly #STEMchat on Twitter that will focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. We're launching this coming Tuesday evening, August 21, from 8-9 PM Central (6 Pacific, 9 Eastern) we'll be talking about how to raise kids who love science.

Join me and fabulous panelists:
 to learn more and share your ideas on how to spark a love of science in your children!


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Kim MoldofskyKim Moldofsky
Kim is a blogger, vlogger, baker, and maker, as well as a trend spotter and founder of #STEMchat. She is passionate about raising STEM-loving kids. to your Google+ circles.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

OSMOCES for Makers, Engineers and High School Students in Chicago's Western Burbs

I caught wind of this delightfully geeky event at the Evanston Mini-Maker Faire. OSMOCES stands for (deep breath) Open Source Mechatronics Outreach & Creative Exchange Symposium. Kind of like a hackerspace meet up (I think). The event will take place in Wheaton at the IIT Rice Campus on October 13, 2012.

There will be workshops and demonstrations. You'll see Arduino and 3D printer, try your hand at soldering, high school teams can receive mentoring on their robotics projects. All good stuff.

According to their site, which does not seem to have been updated to reflect many details about the upcoming event:
Organized by the Fox Valley ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) the target audience [consists of] High School Students/Instructors,  Scientists/Engineers and the Open Source/Maker Community.
There will be an entrances fee for the event. Figure about $10(ish) per person with special deals for school groups.

If you'd like to display at OSMOCES, drop me a note and I'll put you in touch with the right peeps.

Is your interest piqued? Mine is! I'll share additional details as I learn them.

Do you like to talk about things like making and science? Join for #STEMchat on Twitter, Tuesday, August 21 at 8 PM Central. In August we'll be talking about how to get your kids to love science.

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Kim MoldofskyKim Moldofsky
Kim is a blogger, vlogger, baker, and maker, as well as a trend spotter and founder of #STEMchat. She is passionate about raising STEM-loving kids. to your Google+ circles.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Science Fair Season: A Book Review

science fair season book by Judy Dutton
I recently picked up Science Fair Season from a local library and brought it on a family trip. You know how that goes. The book sat in my bag the entire time. I was delighted when I saw a review of the book on my friend Adrienne's blog and even happier when she gave me permission to repost it from Baby Toolkit. Adrienne also blogs and podcasts about family games.

At first blush, Judy Dutton's Science Fair Season: Twelve Kids, A Robot Named Scorch. . . and What It Takes To Win looks like Spellbound recast with science geeks.  Don't be fooled.  While Science Fair Season explores the lives of a handful of contestants in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, it deftly illustrates artful parenting and success in learning as well.

The high school students' projects are sometimes mind-boggling in scale (like building a reactor for nuclear fusion).  I expected the top achieving high school students to be working on an undergraduate level, but these noteworthy projects more clearly resemble post-graduate research.  Because the students approach their inquiries with fresh perspective, they see possibility and challenge where more conventional researchers might not explore.

While no two contestants' stories are remotely identical, patterns do emerge that speak to science education and parenting young children.  So often the students' stories begin with an early spark of interest in something (horses, electricity, cars, astronomy) which parents encouraged with exploration.  Though the kids' interests didn't usually mirror parental interests, the parents went out of their way to feed their child's curiosity and enthusiasm.  Time after time, parents provide opportunities (like a homebrew chem lab, a borrowed Geiger counter, or time with horses) and find mentors with similar interests.  Granted, not every child is going to become a super-competitor in science by the mere magic of parental support, but these stories clearly illuminate a parent's ability to multiply interest into inquiry and fascination.

Yet the book is not populated with Tiger Moms or Stage Fathers, the burgeoning interests are consistently directed by the kids (and I say kids because this explosion of interest seems most common in early childhood).  These biographies are full of freedom and exploration.

The other looming discussion is that of how students come to love science learning.  Halfway through the book I became painfully aware that, although some "outsiders" come to science interest in junior high or high school, most of the kids with scientific fervor (and the resulting knowledge) fully embraced science long before most schools begin to seriously teach it.  We, as a nation, are missing the critical window where kids fall in love with science.  Thanks to budget cuts and lack of advocacy, science is barely taught when young students are making decisions about what they love.  When schools finally start teaching science in junior high, the approach is often dry and makes the very foundation of existence seem irrelevant and esoteric.

During the space race, science charged into unsuspecting homes through popular media.  While the media marveled and quaked at Sputnik, rocket scientists became the heroes of coal mine town boys like Homer Hickam (NASA engineer and author of Rocket Boys).  This book reminds me that not only are science heroes present today, they're still coming of age (though in increasingly shorter supply).  Our tech role models need to be more than wealthy boys with killer apps (Apple's Steve Jobs, Facebook's Mark Zuckerman).  Kids would be better served to know about Pluto Files atrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson and science humanitarian Amy Smith.

In my life as a university academic advisor, the most frustrating academic trajectories were those of students with no real interests. A student sorting through a abundance of passions brimmed with energy, but one without a single definable interest made me want to bang my head against my desk.  I knew then that, should we ever have kids, I wanted them to deeply love some thing that challenged and expanded them.

Science Fair Season left me with a long to-do list.  I want Ranger, Scout, and the Detective to gain exposure to math and science beyond what they'll get in the elementary classroom, and I also want those opportunities to be available for their friends and classmates.  My mom's fifth grade class had this amazing interactive experience put together by an orthopedic surgeon dad; the dad set up hands-on stations where the class could use real orthopedic tools to meet objectives (like screwing a nut on a bolt) through obstacles (inside a bottle) to simulate surgical challenge.  My mom believes that one presentation converted more students to science than any other single event of her long teaching career.  This it the type of early experience I want for my kids and as many other kids as we can involve.

I think the future, not just of our kids' educations, but of the country and the world, may lie in the opportunities we offer our kids in their early years.

Well written and entertaining, Science Fair Season is going to have the broad voyeuristic appeal of subculture documentaries like Word Wars and The Farmer's Wife, but it also has the seeds of one of the most critical educational discourses of our generation.


Hyperion, hardcover $25 MSRP, $15.99 on Amazon.
Read excerpt at author's site.



Do you like to talk about things like making and science? Join for #STEMchat on Twitter, Tuesday, August 21 at 8 PM Central. In August we'll be talking about how to get your kids to love science.



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Kim MoldofskyKim Moldofsky
Kim is a blogger, vlogger, baker, and maker, as well as a trend spotter and founder of #STEMchat. She is passionate about raising STEM-loving kids. to your Google+ circles.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

6 in 1 Solar Robot Kit

6 on 1 solar robot kit
We found this 6 in 1 educational solar robotics kit, unopened, at a garage sale. It was quite a score at only $2. The kit normally retails for anywhere from $8 - $20.

In an ideal world, I would have sat down with my tween and built the robot together so I could write about the experience. What happened, though, was that I blinked and suddenly he was on his third robot project.

He needed some help holding some small pieces in place and he tried to fit a wire in here or there, but I was never asked for any other technical assistance. That's usually my job, anyway. I mean I'm the asker, not the answerer.

Using the visual instruction booklet provided, my son built the solar windmill, solar airboat and the solar puppy you see below.

We'll save the snap-together pieces so he can revisit these projects, but we might swipe out the solar module to use for other maker projects in keeping with my theory that kits are the gateway drug to further exploration.

solar robot puppy
solar robot puppy
The 6 in 1 Educational Solar kit is recommended for ages 10 and up. As with most products, I'd say that under the watchful eye of an adult, a much younger child could build these bots, though they might need assistance.

Do you like to talk about things like making and science? Join for #STEMchat on Twitter, Tuesday, August 21 at 8 PM Central. In August we'll be talking about how to get your kids to love science.
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Kim MoldofskyKim Moldofsky
Kim is a blogger, vlogger, baker, and maker, as well as a trend spotter and founder of #STEMchat. She is passionate about raising STEM-loving kids. to your Google+ circles.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Chicago Children's Museum Maker Month

August is Maker Month at the Chicago Children's Museum! The Chicago Chldren's Museum is always a good time, but this month they're taking it up a notch with special Maker activities.

Features include:

CATAPULT! with Patrick Downs
Friday, August 17
2-2:30 pm (The Launchinator)
2:30-4 pm (Mini-Catapult Workshop)
Witness our giant catapult, The Launchinator, in action, and then make a mini-catapult to take home! You’ll experience the laws of physics and learn a little about how rocket scientists do their job.  (Ages 4 and up)

What little boy wouldn't love to see The Launchinator in action? (Sorry, I don't have girls, so I'm less able to predict their reactions.)

Nifty Kits (NOT for girls only)!
Monday, August 27, 2-4 pm
CCM’s own circle of knitters will be on hand to teach basic stitches. (Ages 4 and up)

Cardboard Technology with Charlie O’Neil
Tuesday, August 28, 2-4 pm
Paper iPods! Cardboard televisions!  Make your own cardboard creation with 11-year-old paper expert Charlie and his dad, Sean. (Ages 4 and up)

I love that a tween is leading the class; what a great role model for the little ones.

The Maker fun doesn't end there, a little bird told me that CCM is going to open up a fabulous new exhibit early next year that will provide hands-on tinkering fun for museum guests.

Click for Chicago Children's Museum ticket and membership info. Thanks to Target, children age 15 and under are free the first Sunday of each month and courtesy of the Kraft Foundation, everyone gets in free on Thursday evenings from 5-8 PM.

Do you like to talk about things like making and science? Join for #STEMchat on Twitter, Tuesday, August 21 at 8 PM Central. In August we'll be talking about how to get your kids to love science.

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Kim MoldofskyKim Moldofsky
Kim is a blogger, vlogger, baker, and maker, as well as a trend spotter and founder of #STEMchat. She is passionate about raising STEM-loving kids. to your Google+ circles.

It's Girls' Week at MakerCamp (Week 5)

Maker Camp on Google PlusI just checked in to see what's up this week at MakerCamp and I'm thrilled to see several women heading things up. Week 5 features:
  • Basket weaving with old maps led by Tiffany Threadgould
  • Robot Grrl and robot birds
  • Anne Marie with squishy circuits
  • Limor Fried of Adafruit fame talking about CompSci
And Friday's field trip will take campers on a virtual visit to CERN, home of the world's largest particle accelerator.

Maybe I'm especially excited because my boys are back from nearly 3 weeks at sleepaway camp and I'm excited to have some "camp" time of my own with them, but I think this is going to be one of the best weeks yet at MakerCamp.

Do you like to talk about things like making and science? Join for #STEMchat on Twitter, Tuesday, August 21 at 8 PM Central. In August we'll be talking about how to get your kids to love science.

Disclsoure: This post is not sponsored, though I previously did do a sponsored post for MakerCamp.

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Kim MoldofskyKim Moldofsky
Kim is a blogger, vlogger, baker, and maker, as well as a trend spotter and founder of #STEMchat. She is passionate about raising STEM-loving kids. to your Google+ circles.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Ladies who Tech: STEM Girl Friday

As part of a series on woman entrepreneurs, American Express Open is shining the spotlight on founding women in tech. Check out this list of women making headlines and profits online and in tech.


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Kim MoldofskyKim Moldofsky
Kim is a blogger, vlogger, baker, and maker, as well as a trend spotter and founder of #STEMchat. She is passionate about raising STEM-loving kids. to your Google+ circles.

The Science of the Summer Olympics

Clearly I'm finding out about this two weeks too late. Then again, it's never too late to learn about science. Right? Check out these videos that explain the scientific and engineering principles behind the performances of top Olympic athletes. Bonus: they come with free lesson plans from the National Science Teachers Association.


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Kim MoldofskyKim Moldofsky
Kim is a blogger, vlogger, baker, and maker, as well as a trend spotter and founder of #STEMchat. She is passionate about raising STEM-loving kids. to your Google+ circles.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Evanston Maker Faire Success!

Mini-Maker Faire Evanston, IL
Last weekend's Mini-Maker Faire in Evanston was a hit. This first-year effort went well and I can't wait for next year's bigger and better event.

As I mentioned, I organized the volunteers at the MAKE booth. I'm pretty sure I found the best group ever. Brian, Joan, Angela, Kathryn and Lauren were cheerful, interesting and helpful, too. In fact, I so enjoyed talking with them and the folks who visited our booth that I didn't walk around as much as I'd expected. Uh, our table was longer than expected, too.

 Mini-Maker Faire Evanston, IL

I did wander around long enough to observe a lock-picking station and, hooray!, a some 3D printers in action, as well as other cool things.

Mini-Maker Faire Evanston, IL 3D printer MakerBot
Other booths featured maker projects like this one, The Big Bad Breadboard. It's like a magnet version of Snap Circuits writ large. That is, large enough to be the size of a classroom smartboard. The BBB would be a great tool not only for teaching, but to open up the world of circuits and electronics to children with special needs who lack the fine motor skills to solder on a circuit board or even snap in the parts on Snap Circuits.



The Faire featured DIY activities like free screen printing.

Mini-Maker Faire Evanston, IL activities for kids

And of course, a highlight for many, the culmination of the Midwest Power Wheels racing series. These vehicles are built by teams at hackerspaces around the country using kids' power wheels cars. The electric vehicles are hacked at a cost of up to $500 to be race-ready. Good times!

Mini-Maker Faire Evanston, IL power wheels racing series

A big thank you to the City of Evanston and the Chicago's Pumping Station: One hackerspace for launching what I hope will be a fabulous annual event!

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Kim MoldofskyKim Moldofsky
Kim is a blogger, vlogger, baker, and maker, as well as a trend spotter and founder of #STEMchat. She is passionate about raising STEM-loving kids. to your Google+ circles.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Fun with The Center for Gifted Summer Program

This is a guest post from Asian Mommy, a Chicago-area mom/blogger with gifted children. Not all geek camps are created equal. Some focus more heavily on curriculum than others and some camps hire only teachers or experienced professionals as opposed to teens or college students. There's no saying which camp is right for your child, because it depends so much on the personality, interests and temperament of the child in question.

I’m always looking for ways to enrich our kids’ minds, and there are many summer options for gifted kids in the Chicago area. We chose The Center for Gifted, a Northern Illinois University partner, mainly because it’s nearby and fit nicely into our schedule.

This was our second year with this program. In the past, we’ve done camps at the Brookfield Zoo, Morton Arboretum, and local park district. Last year, we even did a Chinese Folk Arts camp. I find that the kids are stretched a little more at The Center for Gifted, and I love that the program helps my children challenge their brains while having fun at the same time.

Summer Wonders & Worlds of Wisdom and Wonder at the Center for Gifted are 2-week programs for gifted kids entering grades PreK-8.  There are locations in Buffalo Grove, Burr Ridge, Chicago (Beverly, Lakeview East, Lakeview West, Oriole Park), Elmhurst, Grayslake/Prairie Crossing, Naperville (North & South), Oak Forest, Oriole Park/Park Ridge, and Skokie.  Most programs are half-day; some are full-day.
Our kids did a 2-week, half-day program with 3 classes each. Our 3rd-grader chose Bubble-Ology and learned about air, density, and surface tension. She also picked Theater Club, where she got to help create the set and perform in 2 plays.

Our 5th-grader had Computer Lab I, where she used Power Point to design her own computer game. She also chose Creative Writing, where she wrote poetry and stories to be published in the camp magazine.

Both girls took Lego Robotics I, where they were able to program Mindstorms robots using a computer.

There are many more class offerings, including Mandarin Chinese, Crime Lab Chemistry, Painter’s Studio, The Art of Math, Chocolate-Ology, Geometric Design and Construction, Going Very Green, Combustion and Pyrotechnics, Drawing from Inside Out and Upside Down, Chess Club, Harry Potter-Ology, and more. My daughters had a great time, learned a bit, and are eager to return next summer.  I’m impressed by how much the kids accomplished in such a short amount of time.

There was also a parent seminar and book sale on one morning of the session. Scott Hobson, an educational consultant, spoke on “Practical Ideas for Parents to Foster Critical and Creative Thinking.”  We learned about using logic stories to encourage divergent thinking. One example he used was this:
“Bambi did not have shelter on the day of the terrible rainstorm, but not a drop of rain fell on her.  Why?”  Can you figure it out?  Let me know if you do!

If you’re looking for a camp like this, talk to your child’s teacher or school gifted coordinator, as well as parents of other gifted kids in your community for recommendations.

We recieved a 10% off discount on the course by signing up in May, so be sure to look for early bird discounts.

Other Gifted Summer Programs in the Chicago Area:

Center for Talent Development at Northwestern University*
Summer Lab at University of Chicago Laboratory School
Summer@IMSA (Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy)
Summer Adventures at Science and Arts Academy*
College of DuPage Talent Search Program
ID Tech Camps*
Avery Coonley Summer Program

Click to read more about parenting gifted children.


*Yikes, my teen has attended all of these, including Center for Gifted.


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Kim MoldofskyKim Moldofsky
Kim is a blogger, vlogger, baker, and maker, as well as a trend spotter and founder of #STEMchat. She is passionate about raising STEM-loving kids. to your Google+ circles.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Snap Circuits New "Light" Set

snap circuits light kit best toy of 2012
courtesy of Snap Circuit
When the Snap Circuits new Light set unexpectedly arrived on my doorstep the other day, I mistakenly told my Facebok fans that it was a glow-in-the dark of Snap Circuits. I was wrong; it's even more exciting.

With my own kids at sleepaway camp, I was grateful when a friend popped over with her 3rd grade son and 5th grade daughter- just the people I needed to help dive into the kit.

They went nuts for it and I mean this is the best possible way. I told them we were going to do some experiments and asked them if they were good at following Lego instructions.

They said yes, so I explained that, as with Lego, we'd be following a diagram, only we would be doing an experiment with light and electricity.

Will it be dangerous? the boy asked hopefully.

I told him that if we were careful, no one would get hurt and nothing would get broken.

He was disappointed.

But then we got busy. Both of the kids were eager to find and place the snap-in parts on the circuit board. We started with experiment 1, the simplest of all, lighting up a small, color-changing LED. Then they swapped in different lights from the kit, and then we placed on of the kit's three special fixtures over the tiny LED. Behold:



Fun, but not enough to satisfy them, so we jumped ahead a few experiments and found one in which the light would react to our voices. This design was more complex and required a bit of troubleshooting, but eventually all the right components were in all the right places and they had a blast talking, singing, and yelling to see how the light reacted to their voices, as you'll see in the video.

Much to their chagrin, I shut down the operation after that, but they're eager to return and experiment again. Heck, I even have a handful of women waiting for me to host a mom's night out so we can play with the kit.

Snap Circuits Light experiments

In addition to the components needed to build more than175 experiments (that all store neatly away into a single box), the kit also comes with a colorful experiment guide. The guide includes several pages of educational material about how we see and interpret light.

The set also includes:
    Infrared Detector (it's really cool!)
    Stobe Light
    Color Changing LED
    Lighted & Glow-in-the-Dark Fans
    Strobe integrated circuit (IC)
    Fiber Optic communication
    Color organ controlled by iPod® or other MP3 player, voice or finger
    Pre-punched patterns for motor

I'm a big fan of the Snap Circuits line. It's a educational product that can grow with your child. The set recommended for ages 8 and up, but I could see buying this for a curious and well-supervised kindergartener. The set retails for $79.95

We rate this product a 5/5 gears!

The Maker Mom gives Snaps Circuits our highest rating
5 gears for Snap Circuits Light Set

Disclosure: This product was sent to me by Elenco with no stated expectations. I enjoy sharing products that help kids love science.

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Kim MoldofskyKim Moldofsky
Kim is a blogger, vlogger, baker, and maker, as well as a trend spotter and founder of #STEMchat. She is passionate about raising STEM-loving kids. to your Google+ circles.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Get Lost in a Good Book--or 250,000 of Them

My friend Liz Dwyer, who brings the awesome to the education posts at GOOD, shared the most unique great books project ever. Go read about the London Book Maze.

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Kim MoldofskyKim Moldofsky
Kim is a blogger, vlogger, baker, and maker, as well as a trend spotter and founder of #STEMchat. She is passionate about raising STEM-loving kids. to your Google+ circles.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Mama's First Arduino: STEM Girl Friday

boarduino arduino compatible kit
Today's STEM Girl Friday features, well, me! I built my first Arduino last night. Technically it's an Arduino compatible "Boarduino" constructed from a kit by AdaFruit*. I signed up for the Arduino for Newbies class thinking we'd solder a couple of things and then program our Arduino units to do cool things, a relatively simply process, but not one I've pushed myself to learn independently.

Instead of a complete Arduino microcontroller, this is what students received.

In case you didn't notice, that's a circuit board and pile of components. The bulk of the class was spent assembling it.

Although convinced that I was the biggest technospaz in the room, it was a pretty packed room, so at least I didn't stand out. The students were a mix of men and women (mostly men), with one father-son combo and a light sprinkling of ethnic diversity.

In my limited experience, that's seems to be maker crowd in a nutshell.

My son tried to teach me to solder a few months ago, but I didn't do very well. I realize now that one of my issues was our set up, but that should change now that we're getting our basement makerspace into shape. Also, I finally got bifocals, which also, too. But I think I still need a magnifying lens. Those components are tiny!

At any rate, Mitch Altman's Soldering is Easy comic book was a good guide, and it's open source, so read it, copy it, share it. In then end, rather than soldering a few connections, I soldered closer to 100. (Okay, maybe closer to 70, but it felt like more.)

I not only built my skills, but got a hands-on lesson in capacitors vs. resistors vs. transistors. And I learned what a solderless breadboard is and how to use it. That's especially handy given that I picked one up at an estate sale last week. A local retired engineer is moving to Florida and selling off the pieces of his basement workshop.

So yes, I learned, I built skills, but I would not call it a fun experience. It was stressful and frustrating. I felt like I needed a cigarette when I was done and I don't even smoke. In fact, I've never smoked a cigarette in my life.

On the other hand, I was so focused on what I was doing that my mind was blissfully clear of, well, pretty much everything else as I tried to fit the various small components into place.

Ah, the beginner's mind.

As we neared the end, I noticed one of my tablemates made a mistake on his board. Then I realized the other folks did, too. And then I realized I was the one who made the mistake.

Imagine spending an hour or two soldering what seems like hundreds of connections only to realize that it was all ruined by a single connection.

I was ready to head to my car and cry. It was almost midnight, I was tired and I worked hard only to fail. FAIL.

But it turned out the problem could be fixed. Mitch did it for me, but I was pleased to see that his fix involved something I'd started doing, but didn't think would work out. Maybe my instincts aren't so bad, even if I am still a technospaz.

And if I keep at it, maybe in a few months I won't even be such a technospaz.

Here's is my finished Boarduino:

boarduino
Boarduino top


boarduino
Boarduino bottom

P.S. It works!

* Note to self: Lady Ada would be a much more compelling subject for SGF than I am. Request an interview.

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Kim MoldofskyKim Moldofsky
Kim is a blogger, vlogger, baker, and maker, as well as a trend spotter and founder of #STEMchat. She is passionate about raising STEM-loving kids. to your Google+ circles.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Finding My Arduino Mojo

arduino logo
After years of wondering just what this Arduino thing is, and just months after buying one, I'm getting serious. Tonight I'm headed to Chicago's Pumping Station: One hackerspace to get on my Arduino groove.

Between a bit of reading I've done and watching my son start to play with the unit I own, I hope to follow along without becoming a pesky old lady who asks too many questions.

Then again, the session is called "Arduino for total newbies." It's okay to be clueless. It's okay to ask questions.

I'm allowed to make mistakes. Heck, I'm supposed to make mistakes.

Failure is always an option, right?

In case you're even more of a noob than I am, Arduino is a microcontroller. It's a kind of tiny computer that can be used as the basis for developing all sorts of cool, interactive electronic items and games, without having to dive deep into electronics. It uses an open-source system, meaning in part, that there's a lot of sharing, which will hopefully make it easy to learn. Read more about Arduino from the people who actually know what they are talking about.

Tonight's session will be led by Mitch Altman, AKA Johnny Hackerseed, as part of his Hackers on a Train tour, a nearly two-month trip around the USA visiting hackerspaces and sharing his wisdom.

I expect to feel a little out of my element, certainly more so than if I was at the BlogHer conference right now, but I recall something management guru Peter Block said about the best learning taking place when we're feeling a bit vulnerable. I'll let you know how that works out.

Do you have a new project you're hoping to take on or skills you want to build? Tell me about it!

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Kim MoldofskyKim Moldofsky
Kim is a blogger, vlogger, baker, and maker, as well as a trend spotter and founder of #STEMchat. She is passionate about raising STEM-loving kids. to your Google+ circles.

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