Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Science with The Kitchen Pantry Scientist

Halloween eggspirement
Mad props to the folks at Target for featuring my friend Liz Heinecke, AKA the Kitchen Pantry Science Mom and co-creator of the Kid Science App as well as one of the first #STEMchat hosts, in their BullsEyeView online magazine! Liz shares 3 easy science experiments for Halloween.

Liz makes science so accessible that you can stock up on many of the items you need for her experiments at Target or your local grocer. Next time you're stocking up toothpaste, socks, and eye drops (admittedly all items I need to buy) put science on the shopping list.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go check on my Liz-inspired Alien Monster Egg.

Happy Halloween!

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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, October 30, 2012

Vibrabots and Bristlebots

make a vibrabot and the vibrabot will make you a drawing
I was chided by one of the Maker Kids for not doing much making, so I'm trying to walk away from the computer now and then to explore my stated blog topic. I made robots! Well, actually robot-like devices, vibrabots and bristlebots.

After catching a YouTube segment from the World Maker Faire in NYC featuring writer and Geek Mom Kathy Ceceri, I headed to the library to pick up her book, Robotics.

During her Maker Faire talk, Kathy mentioned that her approach was fairly low-tech and that most of the projects in her book could be accomplished with several household objects and just a few electronic ones. Written for kids, I knew it would be accessible to a noob like me.

It was.

And yet I didn't fully follow her directions exactly on my first project. Why make it easy on myself? Still, Kathy's book did inspire me to make a vibrabot.

The only electronics required for a vibrabot are a battery, a small motor and two small pieces of wire to connect the motor to the battery.

First, you choose some kind of platform, Kathy recommends a overturned plastic cup, I upcycled a foam tray from the grocery store. When you tape the battery and motor atop the platform and connect them, the platform will get a bit of a buzz. Adding a cork atop the motor makes for a less balanced, more fun jiggle.

To make the project a bit more exciting, Kathy and I attached legs, consisting of colored markers to our platforms. (I was also channeling a project I remembered seeing on Radio Shack's Great Create.)

Et voila!



You can see how it turned out. After I excitedly posted the picture of My First Robot (-like device) on The Maker Mom's Facebook page my inner critic chimed in. "I can't believe you posted that! Look at it; admit it, it's pretty lame."


I will admit my inner voice was right, it is rather pitiful looking. But you know what? I'm new at this. I don't have to apologize for my first try. (Thank goodness my friends are posting pictures of their fabulous vibrabots. But I think that's be a different sort of meme, anyway.)

A couple of weeks after the vibrabot attempt, we picked up a kit for a Bristlebot, which is kind of like a DIY hexbug. As you can see in the video, it's fun, simple, and thanks to the googly eyes, really cute.

Kathy's book is a great help to get you and your maker kids started on basic robotics. I have about 19 Robotics projects left to explore with my tween, but with the Geek Mom book on its way to me, I suspect my to-make list is going to get a lot longer.

Tell me, what have you made lately?


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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, October 29, 2012

STEM Clubs for Tweens (and Teens)


STEM clubs and competitions for tweens and teens
One of many STEM clubs for tweens
When my oldest was in first grade, he was very upset because, in his words, “there’s no science!” at school. I calmly tried to explain that documenting the life of a pumpkin from seed to fruit was, indeed, science, but he wouldn’t hear it. He wanted drama and, if possible, explosions. So we started the Potion Club. We met after school once a month with a small group of curious friends to explore exciting concepts like non-Newtonian fluids (i.e., Oobleck) and static electricity.

A few years and a couple of schools later he was involved in Science Olympiad, one of the many competitive and educational STEM clubs available to tweens.I wrote about these clubs in my STEM Mom blog over at KidzVuz and I'm reposting it here with permission.

Kids with a natural curiosity and inherent love of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) might want more than a typical grade school classroom provides. Maybe they want to go beyond the curriculum. Or maybe a focus on rote memorization and prepping for state tests has taken the fun on out STEM.

STEM-focused clubs and competitions can spark their love.


Just hanging with peers who think STEM is cool can go a long way in supporting a geeky kid in our sports-obsessed society. And the added layer of competition can help kids focus and try to be their best.

Below are national and international organizations that work with youth nationwide and though some of them work with teens, you can create an unofficial feeder group for tweens. If you’re not in a position to open up your own home to a group, connect with a local school, library or parks facility to see if they’d be willing to host your group.

Destination Imagination  Students hone their team work and creative problem solving skills as they join together to solve open -ended challenges and present their ideas at tournaments.

First LEGO League Based on the idea that it should be exciting to watch a science competition, this program for 9-14 year olds in North America (up to 16 elsewhere) involves kids in robotics.

Future Problem Solvers  With a mission to “develop the ability of young people globally to design and promote positive futures using critical, creative thinking,” this program is more exciting than it may sound.

Odyssey of the Mind Another even that focus on finding creative solutions to challenges, but this one is a bit different in that some challenges require students to invent and build and other require them to script and act.

Science Olympiad This school year will be our family’s fourth involved in Science Olympiad, which at my boys’ school relies heavily on parent involvement (call me Coach Kim!). Students compete in a variety of events, some of which focus heavily on building and others which focus more on learning facts. Our kids love that their participation earns them a spot at the state competition.

Do you have experience with these or STEM clubs or competitions? How have your kids have grown through their involvement?



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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, October 26, 2012

So This Happened

VEX competition kitI returned to my home office after a busy morning of meetings and my work-from-home husband was updating me on the morning's events. There wasn't actually much to tell. As I settled in at my desk, I noticed a small stack of VEX Robotics boxes.

"Oh, those came," he said nonchalantly.

How could he be so blase'? I just registered my team last weekend thanks to a generous grant available to Illinois residents and was warned that the kit could take two weeks to ship. In order to meet the grant obligations and not interfere too much with Science Olympiad, which kicked off last week, I signed my VEX team up for a December 1 tournament.

That means we have five weeks to engineer our butts off to make a decent showing. Thank goodness the kit arrived quickly.

I've assembled a team of four eager middle school boys and the hope is to spend about 4 hours together each weekend. We'll see how it goes. The Maker Tween and one of the boys built a VEX bot (he thinks) in a summer engineering program a couple of summers ago.

The Maker Teen is on board to be the programming coach and I'm mostly the facilitator. After all, it's not like I bring any expertise to the table. Still, I'm glad to make this happen. 



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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, October 25, 2012

The Drawdio

We happened upon the Drawdio, the pencil-based device that turns anything that can conduct electricity into a theramin (you know that odd instrument from the Beach Boys' song Good Vibrations?) after learning about Makey-Makey. You can buy the Drawdio pre-assembled or in kit form.

We opted for the kit from AdaFruit, which The Maker Teen then assembled, not without a few moments of frustration. Still, he saw the project through from start to finish on his own in one sitting. (What? Like I would have been able to help him?)


Take a look at how the finished product works and then I'll show you how we my son got there.




We opened the kit and my son checked to make sure we had all the components. It turned out we were missing a resistor or capacitor, which AdaFruit would have replaced at no charge, but the part was so inexpensive, we opted to run to a nearby Radio Shack and pick it up for less than $1.






There's a lot of matching up and soldering tiny parts.


After placing and soldering the components per the kit instructions, he had to get the speaker in place and soldered down. I actually helped with this part. There is an easier way to do this, but my boy went for the challenge of the more elegant speaker placement.


The circuit board was then attached to a graphite pencil, as shown below. The pencil was later wrapped in copper tape and a metal pushpin was inserted into the graphite at the top of the pencil.




Once we added a battery, we were good to go. As you saw in the video above, the Drawdio is a fun device and it's a great tool for explaining how circuits work and how electricity flows, as well as what objects it flows through, such as people.


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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, October 22, 2012

Geek Mom Book Giveaway!

Image courtesy of Random House, Inc.
My copy of the new book Geek Mom is en route to the Maker House, but knowing (in a bloggy sense) several of the authors behind the book, I'm certain it's going to be a winner in the eyes of readers of this blog.

And one lucky blog reader is going to be a winner of this book.

The kind folks at Random House are providing a copy of Geek Mom for a friend of The Maker Mom.

Given that the topic of the October #STEMchat is libraries as makerspaces, I thought I'd run the giveaway alongside the chat.

You know- libraries/books, makerspaces/family projects- the planets aligned and we all win.

Or at least one of you does.

To enter to a copy of Geek Mom:

Comment once before October 28, 2012 November 3 at 10 PM Central* sharing a geeky activity your family enjoys (or any old thing, really). I must have a way to contact you, so be sure to include your email, Twitter handle or blog link. Deadline extended due to CAPTCHA comment problem.

That's it! It doesn't get any easier.

The giveaway is open to US residents over the age of 18. The book retails for $19.99. Prize fulfillment will be handled by the publisher. Winner will be chosen by random.org.

Though not required for entry, you are encouraged to follow The Maker Mom on Facebook, subscribe to our monthly newsletter and/or our YouTube channel. Karma, people.



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 National Chemistry Week

national chemistry week 2012 focus on nanotechnology
Apparently I'm not the only one talking about nanotechnology because it's National Chemistry Week and this year's focus is, yep, nanotech.

Click to find an NCW event near you, but don't feel bad if there's nothing going on in your area. After all, you can download this booklet with its great overview of nanotechnology and is suitable for late elementary schoolers on up. Make your own chemistry party, and by all means, flex your kitchen science muscles by baking a cake.

For more information, ideas and resources, click over to NISE, the Nanoscale Informal Education Network, the NCW partner.

#STEMchat is tomorrow night! Join us on Twitter at 9 PM Eastern to talk about Libraries as Makerspaces.


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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, October 19, 2012

Finally, a Robot that Folds Your Laundry

Willow Garage personal robots
This one's for Kelly, Shelley, and all of my other friends who wish they had a robot to fold their laundry. I see topic this pop up in my Facebook stream on a regular basis. Well ladies (sorry, I've never seen guys share this desire), it already exists. Check out this laundry-folding robot.



A few months ago I caught the end of a story on personal robot purveyors, Willow Garage, on NPR and I was fascinated. You may already have robots in your home in the form of a rice cooker or vacuum cleaner, but Willow Garage's personal robots are more akin to Rosie from the Jetsons.

I'm guessing it's going to be a decade or more before these kind of robots trickle down to affluent, cutting-edge consumers and another decade or so to reach mainstream consumers. This means those kids making messes in our homes today might be designing and programming the household assistants of tomorrow.

Watch this video to see a robot clean up after a party and also gain an understanding of some of the challenges of programming a household robot.

Imagine that one day you have a robot and when you're exhausted from watching it do all the housework, grab a beer have the robot grab you a beer and relax!



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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, October 18, 2012

#STEMchat Libraries as Makerspaces

STEMchat on Twitter brings parents, educators and STEM professional together to share ideas and resources.
Join in for the next #STEMchat Tuesday evening, October 23 from 8-9 Central (9 Eastern, 6 Pacific). Breaking from our pattern (admit it, it was getting old) we're talking Libraries as Makerspaces thanks to our sponsor, the American Library Association

I know Maker Mom fans are fond of libraries and no doubt have the well-worn library cards to prove it. Sure, libraries are full of STEM resources in the form of books, periodicals and reference materials, but some go beyond that with tech spaces and hands-on facilities.

With real librarians(!) as our guides, we'll learn more about cutting edge makerspaces, tech labs and hand-on programs across the nation. We'll share tips and inspiration for helping some of that happen in our own 'hoods, as well.

Panelists:

Jenny Levine @Shifted is a strategy guide for the American Library Association and tech-forward thinker with a gaming background. She blogs, too.

Steve Teeri @Telephase works with young adults in a most amazing makerspace located in a Detroit Public Library.

---> Just added: Lisa Kurt @lisapisa77 is the Emerging Technologies Librarian at the DeLaMare Library at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR). She is liaison to art, computer science and engineering, journalism, and any other makers she can find in the Reno area. She blogs at Lisa Kurt and at ACRL TechConnect.

Kimberly Coleman @FoodieCityMom loves libraries and recently attended the World Maker Faires in New York City. She is the author of the lifestyle/food blog Foodie City Mom and Mom in the City covering good deals and fun things for families to see and do in NYC.

Sarah Auerswald @SAuerswald is a mom of busy tween boys, blogger at Sarah and Sons, and co-founder of the regional mom blog, MomsLA.

Me, @KimMoldofsky, a library card holder since 1973, blogger, instigator, maker of messes, children and cool stuff.

If you want to do a little pre-chat prep:

And if talking about libraries makes you feel warm and fuzzy, share a favorite library story with the ALA.

See you Tuesday night!

Sign up here for a monthly #STEMchat reminder delivered right to your inbox.

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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.

How to Prepare to Teach Nanotechnology

Last week I shared a bit about Nanotech Connect, a conference on nanotechnology held at a Chicago-area high school. And I mentioned that a nanometer is 10 to the -9th of a meter. Over the weekend the significance of the conference date 10/9 hit me like a ton of nano bricks.

My mind has a hard time grasping things like deep space (so vast!) and nanotechnology (so very tiny!), and apparently I'm not alone here, so understanding the nanoscale is one of the first issues to address when teaching nanotechnology.

I think Little Numbers by Edward Packard is a great book to introduce nano, but it's out of print. You can read it online, though. Suitable for kids and easily intimidated adults, it provides a fun look at the small stuff. (Anyone know of a good nanotech primer app?)

Because the nano concepts are first being introduced school-wide at Wheeling High School, the goals are modest, focusing on helping students understand the basics. For example, Wheeling high school students traced their bodies and cut out the images to produce a "me." Then they drew a similar image reduced by a factor of ten, to create a mini-me. And in chemistry, they're focusing on concepts like the difference between size and scale.

The physics classes (typically made up on juniors) are going a bit deeper. The teachers have developed a fantastic webquest to introduce the student to many nano concepts.

The school has different expectations for different levels of classes. For instance, in the prep (most basic) level, the students will learn about products made with nanotechnology. In general ed classes, the students will learn to describe the technology aspects, as well. Students in the honors track will learn more about the science and what happens at the nano level, the impact for society and next steps in nanotechnology.

In a few years, the school hopes to offer a senior elective in nanotech that will provide a rich experience and allow for dual credit in partnership with a local community college.

As for teachers, they attended summer classes, took on internships or attended boot camps from NanoProfessor, a Skokie-based provider of nano curricula and tools for schools.

In going nano, the school is taking a large leap and the teachers and administrators are enthused about the new worlds they are opening up to students.

Has your teen or tween been introduced to nanotechnology at school or through enrichment classes?


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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, October 17, 2012

Museum of Math in Manhattan to Open Soon

Museum of Math logo
In addition to meeting great new peeps through #STEMchat, I love learning about new resources. During our September chat on math, a participant mentioned the soon-to-open Museum of Mathematics. An entire museum devoted to math?

Yes!

It's opening on December 15, 2012 in New York City. Specifically, MoMath is located at 11 East 26th Street. Museum hours are 10AM-5PM, and admission to opening weekend will be through advance ticket purchase. Adult tickets are $15; children’s tickets are $9.

So what exactly does one do at a math museum? I'm sure some of you might be worried this could be a snoozefest.

If the Math Midway, a traveling exhibit developed by MoMath, is any indication visitors to the museum are in for a wild ride, like one on a tricycle with square wheels.

MoMath's mission is to bring math alive and spark curiosity and it looks like they're going do both quite well.

Join in the October #STEMchat  on 10/23. Sponsored by the American Library Association, we're talking libraries as makerspaces. The fun begins at 9 PM Eastern on Twitter!


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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, October 16, 2012

Google RISE Awards: Deadline October 31

I've been hanging out on Google+ recently and came across this exciting initiative from Google. Google RISE (Roots in Science and Engineering) Awards promote and support STEM and Computer Science (CS) education initiatives with students K-12.

The ideal recipient for one of the awards, which can range from $5,000 - $25,000 USD, is a program or initiative that engages "socioeconomically disadvantaged students, girls, and under-represented minorities" in STEM or CS activities.

Awards are offered in the US, European Union and Sub-Saharan Africa. See the RISE site linked above for details.

Good luck!


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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, October 15, 2012

Paper Chromatography, A Guest Post

chromatography for kids
Today I'm happy to have Daisy of Compost Happens share instructions for doing simple paper chromatography that doubles as art art project. After all, some people like a little STEAM with their STEM. I think this project would go over especially well with girls who like to make flowers and butterflies. (I say that as a mom of boys who favor flames, throwable objects and weapons. Your mileage may vary; please share your views in the comments below.)

The words that follow belong to Daisy, but the photos are mine as we tried this ourselves.

Paper Chromatography

chroma - color
-graphy - writing

chromotagraphy = color writing, or color drawing.

I've always been a proponent of integrating the arts into curriculum whenever possible. This activity is an example of art and science merging very well. It's easy enough to do at home with a few simple materials and tools, and doesn't make (much) of a mess.

There are two options: permanent markers + rubbing alcohol or water-color markers + water. Both options use filter paper or coffee filters and small glasses or cups. I've used average size filters and the larger, commercial size. Both yield good results.



Gather your materials: filters, markers, alcohol or water, cups or glasses (these will wash out just fine later).

Draw a heavy circle in the middle of each filter with one color.


Pour a small amount of water or alcohol into each glass or cup. Place each filter in a glass so the filter is wet, but the entire filter is not underwater.


 Allow time for the liquid to wick up through the entire filter, separating the colors of ink from the marker.



Take filters out to dry.

Art extension: Examine the filter when dry. Using your imagination, what do you see in the filter? Does the design suggest a picture, a design, a drawing? Infinite possibilities exist.

I've seen students create rainbows, tacos, comets, flowers, and many other works of art based on colorful coffee filters.

flower from chromatography for kids


Language extension: Find other words based on chroma- or -graphy. Define. For example, autograph, biography, and more. 

Another fun extension: Solve a mystery! Use a black marker to write "I stole the treasure!" on a coffee filter. Use chromatography to examine the colors in the marker used by the guilty party. Then send students to other teachers (or kids to your neighbors!) to gather sample black markers. After separating the colors for each marker and examining the results, compare with the marker on the note found at the "crime scene." Who is the guilty one? What was the treasure? What now? You decide.

My daughter remembers when I was her sixth grade teacher and we did this in science class. I dropped her off at a friend's house one day, and as the other mom and I chatted, both girls ran up and asked for a coffee filter. "Why?" asked the other mom. "I'm out of here!" I exclaimed, and ran for my minivan, grinning. I love it when science class comes home with my students.

My daughter, by the way, is now 25. She uses art, science, and language in her work. She is a photographer - journalist. 
 

Daisy's BIO: I began blogging as a way to express myself and deal with everyday stresses. I continue to blog because it’s cheaper than therapy and an outlet for the creative writer in me that still raises its hand now and then and says, “Me! Call on me!”

In real life, I have a great job: I teach online. This virtual form of schooling continues to evolve as education and technology grow and develop. I enjoy continually learning new ways of mixing technology with the personal touch to help my students reach their greatest potential.


For a chromatography experiment with a season twist, check this post from The Kitchen Pantry Scientist

We put a small blue LED under one of the dried filters and snapped this ghostly shot.
 
chromatography for kids


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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, October 14, 2012

Start a VEX Robotics Club for Free!

Vex robotics team starter kitWe had a good time at OSMOCES yesterday. We came, we saw, we soldered and I walked away with a cool LED blinkie and only a small third-degree burn. Yeah. One of the exciting aspects of my day was meeting Marc Couture of the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation. He's a VEX evangelist and his organization has grants to help up to 10 groups start a VEX team for free. Free meaning the grant covers the team's $75 registration fee and provides a competition robot "starter kit" valued at around $1,000.

Of course, there's some fine print.

The clubs must be in Illinois, Wisconsin or Minnesota (updated 10/16; sorry for any misunderstanding this caused. Our region consists of these states, but the grant is only for IL.) and must be made up of middle or high school-aged kids. The team can be sponsored by a school, community or civic organization, library, or simply be a neighborhood or home school group.



  • Shipping for the starter kit is not covered and will cost roughly $50.
  • The club must participate in at least one sanctioned VEX event in the next year (not sure of exact deadline).
  • The club must pay their own registration fee for the required event and any other events (figure $50-75 for a local contest).

The grant is designed to encourage ongoing participation in the VEX league. Therefore, the starter kit is not a gift, but rather a long-term loan that will remain with the group as long as they are active in the league.

Teams should expect to budget $500 or more in their second year of competition for league fees, contest fees, and equipment (i.e., damaged parts and new pieces to add to the mix). Travel to state, national, or international tournaments will add to the overall costs, of course.

Click to contact Marc or your regional coordinator to learn more or find out if similar grants are available in your state or province.

Vex competition 2012-2013 Sack Attack
Sack Attack is the 2012-2013 Challenge
The Maker Tween had a blast trying his hand at Sack Attack. Science Olympiad season is kicking off, so don't tell my husband, but you might by reading the blog of one of the new grant recipients. Or maybe by the time I decide, the grant opportunity will be a thing of the past. This is a great deal, so if you've ever thought about getting a robotics team together, now is the time to do it!

BTW, the LED Blinkies were provided by MuseCon and 2DKits.

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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.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Great Create Halloween Contest From Radio Shack

Image via RadioShack
RadioShack is slowly reclaiming its reputation as the go-to source for hobbyists who dabble in electronics, folks who are now called Makers.

In 2011, they rolled out the Great Create in partnership with WIRED, Make, Instructables.com, Popular Science and Popular Mechanics. Many of those magazines find their way to my house, so I'm familiar with the variety of projects Radio Shack has been offering for makers with a range of abilities.

I've been to a couple of stores near my house now to pick up LEDs, capacitors, and motors with special names that I cannot recall. I'm always pleasantly surprised that the employees, whom I expect to know more about cell phones plans than circuit diagrams, seem to find me what I need.

The Great Create is holding a contest. Are you ready to Hack Halloween?

See the Radio Shack site for full details on how to win the grand prize, a $250 RadioShack gift card. Here's the contest in a nutshell:
  •     Come up with a Halloween-related project keeping in mind that it will be judged on creativity, inventiveness and use of RadioShack parts.
  •     Take a video or some fab pics of your completed project and post them on the Great Create through October 31, 2012 at 5PM CT
  •     Be sure to comment here to make your entry official. 
Our skills are still pretty basic here at Chez Moldofsky, but that $250 gift card could really help finish off  our makerspace, so maybe we'll play around and see what happens.

How do you plan to hack Halloween?


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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, October 12, 2012

Design Squad Nation from PBS: Engineering Fun for Tweens

The wheels are difficult to detect because they are clear CDs.

I spotted Design Squad's Rubber Band Car via Facebook a few weeks back and suggested to my tween that it would be a good project. Because I keep a well-stocked makerspace*, The Maker Tween was able to send me to quickly find all the materials needed to build this car. But as usual, he didn't wait for me** to take pictures of the process.

This post was lingering in the behind-the-screen "draft" section of the blog, but then I received a note from the Design Squad Nation folks about a website overhaul.

Holy shizzle, it's awesome!

The tween-oriented site features project ideas, how-to videos, engineering contests, and so much more. Design Squad Nation ties engineering into just about every childhood interest in a way that's fun, engaging and easy to digest in bite-size chunks. Those with longer attention spans can watch archived episodes of Design Squad. I might have spent almost an hour checking it out.

Hoping to build a sense of community, the revamped site provides opportunities for kids to share designs and ideas, and submit questions to engineer-hosts Nate Ball and Deysi Melgar who respond in short videos.

Kids can also "join" Design Squad Nation for free and earn points by contributing to the community by sharing ideas, sketches, and photos of the projects they do or envision. They can also track their creative contributions via their profile page.

As members share their ideas, they are also encouraged to cheer on their peers, creating a supportive environment of dreamers and do-ers.

In addition to the vast number of low-cost tween and family-friend projects in quick engineering lessons, I appreciate the site's multicultural approach and lack of advertising (go PBS!).

Click to find a weekend project and let me know how it goes!



*It seems there is a fine line between a maker and a hoarder. Perhaps making only justifies feeds my packrat tendencies.

**I'm not kidding when I say that every teacher he's had since preschool has advised us to make the boy slow down.

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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, October 11, 2012

Open House Chicago: More Weekend Fun

Chicago Architecture Foundation 

OSMOCES isn't the only way for Chicago metro folks to fit STEM fun into this weekend, Open House Chicago is this taking place, too. Sponsored by the Chicago Architecture Foundation, Open House Chicago provides behind-the-scenes glimpses and tour of many of Chicago's architectural gems.

The free(!) public event runs throughout the weekend. Feeling spontaneous? Great! No reservations are needed. Just show up at one of the 150 venues around the city and look around.

CAF provides a useful selection tool that let's you choose a site based on neighborhood or category such as family friendly, skyscraper, sacred space, accessibility, etc.

Follow along on Twitter via the hashtag #OHC2012.


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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, October 10, 2012

Nanotechnology in Schools, or How to Play Soccer on a Grain of Rice

NanoConnect teaching nanotech in high schools
A nano carbon tube made from balloons. Not to scale.
I spent yesterday morning at Nano Connect 2012 at Wheeling High School in Chicago's northwest suburbs. This two-pronged conference on nanotechnology consisted of sessions by and for high school students with a complementary track for educators and professionals.

The future is small, really small (10 to the negative 9th of a meter small!) when you're talking nanoscale, but the payoff is big.

How small is 10 to -9th? Head 1 minute and 52 seconds into the video below for a sensible explanation.



Nanotechnology is going to change medicine and manufacturing in amazing, mind-blowing ways. (Not sure what all these teensy particles will do to our environment and such, but let's focus on the good for now, shall we?)

When you bring materials down to the nanoscale, things get curiouser and curiouser. Check out the photo below: on the right, you'll see sparkly gold flakes as you know and love them. On the left, observe the pink nano-gold solution. What the what?

NanoConnect teaching nanotech in high schools, nanogold

So, yeah, things get a bit odd in the nano world, so maybe it's not surprising that one of the first general (as opposed to selective admission) public high schools in the USA to incorporate nanotechnology into their curriculum hosted a nanotech conference just weeks into implementing said curriculum.

On the one hand, one could accuse the emperor superintendent of not wearing any clothes. (Of course, if you had the right kind of microscope, you'd see the nanotech suit clearly, but it's invisible to the naked eye.) I mean, why is everyone getting so excited about a program of study that has just been introduced? It's a little early to call it a success.

On the other hand, it did make a convenient setting for Illinois Governor Pat Quinn to announce a new statewide Nanotech Initiative. And certainly, it's a clever PR move for the Wheeling to show off their unique program at the beginning of the school year. 

The program is certainly moving the school in a positive direction given that they already have a STEM focus, and it left me wondering what my son's high school is doing along the lines of nanotech. You know, keeping up with the Joneses and all that.

Right...I thought the Jones kids went to New Trier, too. As a high school with a minority-majority population and many kids coming from low income homes, it's pretty cool that Wheeling High School gets big bragging rights for this teensy STEM topic.

I'll be back to share more about the content of Nanotech Connect as well as resources for hoemschoolers and curious parents (and their kids).

Oh, and nanosoccer? It's totally a thing. Just don't ever put me in charge of a team. I'd probably lose 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.

Monday, October 8, 2012

STEM Fun Alert: OSMOCES is this Weekend

Learn Arduion at OSMOCES
The Arduino-like device I built (mostly) by myself.
I gave you a heads up about OSMOCES a few weeks ago. Presented by Fox Valley ASME*, The Open Source Mechanatronics Outreach and Creative Exchange Symposium is taking place this weekend and it looks like a geeky good time.

When I first posted, the details were sketchy, but the blanks have been filled in and there's something for everyone, everyone being middle schoolers on up.

OSMOCES will take place this Saturday, October 13, 2012 – 9:30 am to 3:30 pm (confirmed correct time) at the IIT Rice Campus, 201 E Loop Road in Wheaton, Illinois.

Steve Collins, Cruise Attitude Control System Engineer for the Mars Curiosity mission from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, will be kicking things off with a keynote presentation. No, that's not a typo. Google reassures me there's no missing "L" in there and now I must attend OSMOCES if only to learn what it means to manage a spaceship's attitude. It also leads me to wonder if managing the attitudes of my teen and tween children is indeed as complicated as rocket science.

Participants can also learn about soldering, Arduino, Raspberry Pi and more though OSMOCES workshops.

The entry price varies based on the size and composition of your group. Click for registration details.

Let me know if you'll be there!

*I believe ASME stands for American Society of Mechanical Engineers, but might refer to Magazine Editors or Music Educators.

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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.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Reflections on the Global Cardboard Challenge Day of Play

Our hard work creating and preparing cardboard arcade games paid off; this morning's global cardboard challenge was a hit!

Our first visitor was an engineer from St. Louis came to town to hit the Chicago events. He was wearing his Caine's Arcade "staff" shirt and everything.

He asked to buy a fun pass, a formality we'd passed over, but he insisted. So The Maker Tween hastily drew one up and offered it to him for free because we weren't allowed to collect money at the market. (Want to donate? Click here.)


Oh, and he brought a robot.


With broken arms.The Maker Tween fixed it right up. My boy not only rigged them up, he made joints so the arms could move rather than be fixed in place.

The visiting engineer wasn't the only person who brought something exciting. A local boy brought this:


Rock, Paper, Scissors like you've never seen it before.

It was fun knowing that we were participating in a global event. People from more than 40 countries signed up to host events for Cardboard Challenges and Play Days.

The best part though, was explaining our games to kids and encouraging them to make something. The initial reaction was typically rather reserved.

Who? Me?
No, thanks.
I don't have any ideas.


But with the help and encouragement of my mini-makers, they'd move from watching to thinking to doing.


What a fabulous concept for an American child--making your own toys and games.

Like The Maker Mom on Facebook. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter. Follow us on Pinterest and YouTube.

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, October 5, 2012

Dell Education Challenge and Trending Ed Tech Stories


My old-fashioned office.
I'm noticing a lot of education technology stories since my return from MIT. I don't think there are more of them per se, the topic is just more top of mind. So here are a few ed tech stories that are trending, at least trending for me.

First, I neglected to mention this in my wrap-up post. Dell is again sponsoring the Dell Social Innovation Challenge, a university-level competition designed to affect positive change in K-12 learning environments.

I agree that technology can be a great boon for education, but it's not without pitfalls and, frankly, it's not for everyone. That's why I'm shocked and a concerned that the state of Idaho will now require public high school students to take at least one online class.

Here's a piece from NPR (bonus: you can listen or read!) about teachers that want students to "play" with their smartphones during class.

Here's my favorite post. In the gifted community, we say that grouping children by age can be as arbitrary as grouping students by height, so even though it will be too late for my boys, it's exciting to consider how technology will cause schools to rethink age-based classrooms.

This is not about tech, but it's a good read from a school administrator who has the nerve to talk frankly about the dangers of our public school system's over-reliance on high-stakes standardized testing

If you have any good reads, please share them in the comments.

I am part of the Dell Dozen Ambassador Program. I am compensated for my participation in the program and recently attended two programs at MIT related to technology in education thanks to Dell. All opinions and typewriters above are my own.

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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, October 4, 2012

Siemens "We Can Change the World" Challenge

siemens we can change the world student challenge
Siemens and partners like Discovery Education announced the launch of  the We can change the world challenge. Running September 13, 2012 through March 5, 2013, teams of K-12 students are challenged "to create sustainable, reproducible environmental improvements in their local communities."

The competition is broken down by age groups: K-5, 6-8 and 9-12. Click for details.

And while you're clicking, check out the free resources for teachers (older students and curious parents may find value in it as well) on the Siemens STEM Academy site.

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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, October 3, 2012

Oh, The Things You can Make with Cardboard

Tank image via Kimberley Clayton Blaine
of TheGoToMom.TV
You child might not be happy if you gave him a shoe box as a birthday present, but if box suddenly appears and scissors and tape are handy, chances are he'll have a lot of fun making something great. The Chicago Children's Museum captures the creative spirit of cardboard in their new exhibit, Unboxed: Adventures in cardboard.

chicago children's museum unboxed

I told my peeps at CCM that a fabulous group of tween makers produced a whole lot of awesome to share at the Morton Grove Farmer's Market in honor this weekend's Global Cardboard Challenge and asked if they'd provide a family pass* to CCM and Unboxed for us to award to one lucky visitor.

They said yes!

So come see us at the market from 9 - noon this Saturday! It takes places at 6210 W Dempster in Morton Grove, just a hop, skip and a jump west of the Edens Expressway.

Play the games my helpers dreamed up**, create your own cardboard game, toy, or piece of art, and enter to win a family pass to the Chicago Children's Museum!

marble maze made from cardboard
Marble Maze via The Maker Teen

*Family pass is valid for up to four people.
**All activities are weather permitting.


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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, October 2, 2012

#STEMchat recap: Raising kids who love math

STEMchat sponsor texas instruments
A big thanks to everyone who participated in the September #STEMchat--we trended on Twitter, people! Thanks especially to Texas Instruments for sponsoring the talk, Jen Merrill for preparing the summary below and fab panelists Amy Mascott, Jeanne Bernish and Miss Lori.

Next month's chat will take place on Tuesday evening, October 23 at 8 PM Central and we'll be talking about libraries as makerspaces thanks to the American Library Association. How cool is that? Sign up for the STEMchat newsletter and receive a monthly reminder along with top posts from The Maker Mom blog.



And now, the highlight reel of How to Raise Kids Who Love Math. There are tons of useful links below that apply to a range of age groups; click away!

Q1 A LOT OF PARENTS CARRY MATH "BAGGAGE." WHAT'S IN YOURS?

*My "math baggage" was low confidence.
*I'm the opposite, math minor in college. I LOVE math. My kids not so much and I don't understand why!
*Grew up with being told boys are better than girls at math.
*I did okay up until calculus, but that blew me away. Now my brain is full of cobwebs.
*I do carry this baggage: in elementary school I could NOT pass those timed tests.
*I hated math as a kid because my teacher did not explain it well.
*I was told most of the stuff we learn in high school math we won't use in the real world.
*I was absent the day the class learned long division and I always felt like I was missing a trick to  do it.
*Oftentimes, especially in elementary school, teachers are not comfortable with math themselves. So it affects how they teach. I think many don't understand the WHY--but they understand the HOW. 



Q2 DID YOUR LITTLE ONE HAVE AN INTUITIVE UNDERSTANDING OF MATH OR DID YOU HAVE TO TEACH IT?

*I think many kids start out with an intuitive understanding: Lemonade stands? Biggest slice of pie?
*My kids are pretty good at math. But we do a ton of foundation work. Since I homeschool I can take time to do that.
*Having a good teacher is pivotal. But also having the time to get enough repetitions of a lesson is important too.
*Having the teacher who shows math in the real world & teaches the kids why they need to know math is crucial.

Q3 WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE BOOKS, SITES, OR OTHER RESOURCES FOR EARLY MATH?

*Computer games that were geared toward their age group that made math fun: Math Blaster, Power My Learning, Bedtime Math, @TeachMama's math resources, Khan Academy, Living Math, Sum Dog Ko's Journey
*Books are always important to us. They loved this book, Big Numbers, sadly, it's out of print.
*My kids have always loved puzzle books also (secret codes and such)
*We're HUGE fans of the ThinkFun games like RushHour, RushHour, Jr. Just got ShapeOmetry & Math Dice.
*LEGOs also allows for kids to be creative, which gives another connection: math and creativity. LEGO Education also has great math/STEM hands-on programs.
*Dice. I bought a bunch on sale from a store that was closing and my kids made up games with them.


Q4 WHAT SURPRISED YOU ABOUT ELEMENTARY MATH NOW VS. WHEN WE WERE KIDS?

*I'm surprised at how little the teachers actually teach and just expect the kids to "know it."
*The acceptance of calculators at such early grades, & how much info is accessible through the Net.
*My kids know so many more math terms/concepts by name than I ever did when I was their age.
*It also seems more intense at the elementary age. I'm not sure that's a change for the better though.
*The incessant testing. Math minutes are of the devil. :/ Some people's brains just can't move that fast.
*The estimating! I want them to learn how to do math the old school way. ;)
*I hate Everyday Math with the passion of a billion white hot burning suns.
*As a kid math was boring, now with manipulatives, iPad games, cool calculators, the sky is the limit!
*I learned that the math classes in high school are more advanced now than they were when I was going to school.
*Spiraling is terrible for kids who are good at math. For how many years do they have to learn telling time? UGH!---Spiraling is terrible for #gifted kids. Yet again, learning stuff they learned years ago. :/ ---Gifted kids are often left to their own devices, but they still have holes in their learning that can't afford to be overlooked. 



Q5 WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE MATH RESOURCES FOR ELEMENTARY KIDS?

*Anything that allows them to touch, move, dance, sing or have fun.
*Tutors!
*Vi Hart videos on YouTube.
*We love the games on PBS Kids and PBSKidsGo! Fun interactive STEM learning online and through the apps!
*We used squinkies for a graph lesson the other night. And anything w/ cooking-involved math as a family!
*My daughter loves flashcards, thinks they are so much fun! And I won't tell her any different *wink*!---I made GIANT flashcards for my daughter when she was little. She said she felt it must be important because they were so big.
*I always found my LEGO's the best for math... I had square roots down by age 4.


Q6 LET'S BE HONEST, HAVE YOUR CAUGHT YOURSELF TALKING NEGATIVELY ABOUT MATH IN FRONT OF THE KIDS?

*<raising hand> I'm not good at math and the kids know it.
*@MissLori’s ‘nspiring’ post about her decision to not fear math after the TI @BlogHer breakfast:
*No, I pretty much love math BUT I do tell them if I forgot how to do something or I made a mistake so they know mistakes are ok.
*Let your children see your learning process. It will go long way towards helping them establish their own.
*It can be a challenge. I heard friends on FB last night saying they are frustrated by the new methods and when they tried to teach the older methods we learned, the child balked, because it was the wrong way.
*My kids know math wasn't my strongest subject, but I do tell them it's important.



Q7 WHAT ABOUT RESOURCES FOR ADVANCED MATH? ANY TIPS?

*Math fans, don’t rule out 4H for your kids, it's not just farming, there are robot categories, etc etc!
*Texas Instruments’ Student Zone offers study help including free homework help from Tutor.com! Learn more:
*I always recommend mentors, online or in real life.
*The TIP program is a great opportunity for advanced learning. (Kim's note--anybody have the link?)

*Girl Scouts have their own STEM activities/curriculum also!
*Khan Academy has been great b/c Sal breaks down complex topics so even young kids can understand---I like that Khan Academy has the science too, giving math some real-world context.
*My son really loved the SODA Constructor site too - more engineering
playing chess, checkers, card games, & strategy games also help build STEM skills! (Kim's note--is this the right link?)
*Texas Instruments’ Math Nspired center offers lessons & tools to help students expand their knowledge & understanding!
*Here's a GREAT post @KimMoldofsky wrote for KidzVuzParents on STEM resources for clubs and schools!
*Monopoly has done a lot for math in my house!
*Khan Academy, watch TEDtalks (9 Ted Talks to Get Your Teen Excited About Math), find a robotics club.
*Museum of Math opening in Manhattan in December.


FINAL Q: KIDS HAVE ATHLETES, MUSICIANS, AND ACTORS THEY LOOK UP TO, BUT DO THEY HAVE A STEM/MATH ROLE MODEL? WHO?

*STEM role model: @neiltyson, Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking.
*I know a lot of the #dcmom gals' kids looked up to our friend @whymommy -- a STEM superstar.
*My nephew is a research scientist with every Xbox game - my son thought that was awesome so he wanted to be one too!
*There's no reason why you can't be an athlete and a "math person!" We call them mathletes!
*My daughter loves the Nancy Drew Interactive games - great girl role model for STEM activities
*There are STEM role models, but they everyday people doing amazing things in our towns.
*Every parent has the chance to be their child's STEM/math role model by introducing it to them early on & making it fun!


GENERAL #STEMchat TIPS:

*Brainstorm the benefits that math brings to your everyday life and share examples with your children daily.
*My daughter's teacher has started #MATH centers similar to reading centers. Kids love it and show improvement!
*Do your children collect anything? Whether it’s cards or stuffed animals, you can help them count their collection!
*Remember to speak positively about math in front of your children. After all, you’re their role model!
*Raising kids who love math means giving them the confidence that they can do it, math can be fun, & building basic skills for success.
*Make elementary math fun. Most kids decide by 4th grade if they love or hate math. And once they decide, it's hard to change.
*Do not wait for Middle School to re-engage your child in math! They will lose interest!
*Sometimes learning how a mathematician does math is better/different/necessary than how a teacher does math.
*Kitchen Pantry Scientist has family-friendly science experiments.
*Struggling to help your child with their math homework? Five ways to help via Math for Grown-Ups.
*Next #STEMchat will be Tuesday, Oct. 23rd and we'll be talking libraries and maker-spaces with the American Library Association!



Anything you'd like to add? Suggestions for future #STEMchats? Leave a comment below.


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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, October 1, 2012

The Excitement is Building

Global Cardboard Challenge
Seriously, the excitement is building and imagining and creating and making stuff. But our enthusiasm is growing, too. This Saturday, October 6 is the Global Cardboard Challenge! Check out what my teen and tweens helpers (and another mom) made yesterday.

I'll be bringing these items to the Morton Grove Farmer's Market this weekend, so more kids can play with them. I've got enough leftover cardboard and tape that kids at the market will get to try their hand at making as well.



The Imagination Foundation is trying to build something even bigger than what my group of kids or even Caine did. They seek to bring project-based learning/building projects to schools around the world.

They need money to do that.

I'm trying to raise $100 for the Foundation and would appreciate a personal donation of $5 from you, dear reader. Click to give. It makes mama happy, and when mama's happy, well, you 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.

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