Gravity Well

12 09 2011

Watch the coin orbit!

The Gravity Well here at The Austin Children’s Museum teaches us about energy. When the coin drops lower into the well some of its gravitational potential energy is converted into kinetic energy. As the coin drops down it has higher velocity. Also, the coin goes around in smaller circles the lower it gets. So you can see how the coin completes orbits much faster near the center of the well, just like a planet would orbiting around the sun!

Make your own gravity well:

What you need:

  • large piece of paper
  • pencil
  • ruler
  • scissors
  • various balls
  • tape
  • paper tube

Experiment with balls or marbles of all shapes and sizes and send us your results. Do the heavier ones travel faster? What about the smaller ones?

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Send us your pics of your homemade gravity wells!


Technology Camps in the House!

18 07 2011

Here at ACM, our mission is to equip and inspire the next generation of creative problem solvers. Our robotics and technology camps are good examples of the fun ways we inspire creative problem solvers.  This summer we held three such technology camps at Silicon Labs.  At the conclusion of every camp, campers presented their their work for their parents and friends to see.  See a slide show of our work here on the ACM Vimeo Channel.

Program, Animate, and Create!

Programming the robots.

Campers designed games and animations using Scratch (see our post about this children’s programming language here).  At their final presentation, parents got to play camper’s games, watch their animations, and explore what they made using circuits, motors, lights, and more.

Robot City demo

Campers demonstrate their robots in Robot City

Mindstorming a Lego Village

Our Lego Village camp focused on designing an interactive LEGO Mindstorm village.  Our village included a flower garden, a zoo, a car wash and an airport.  Campers also completed various challenges by learning how to program sensors and motors for their robots.

Treasure Hunters!

During this camp, campers had to build a special kingdom for Queen Nandua.  We programed robots to find and retrieve treasure without falling into traps that were set for them.  Imagination and creativity were a necessity for this camp!

Test run

Test running the robots.

We had a great time at this year’s Technology Camps and will be offering more next summer. See you there!

Special ASL Science Sunday Program – “Snakes, Slime, and Science” this Sunday

8 07 2011

This Sunday at the Museum, from 3 – 5pm, we are holding a special event for Deaf, Hard of Hearing and ALL families called Snakes, Slime, and Science!  UT’s Pam Cook will be in the Museum rotunda hosting an assortment of fun science learning activities relating to polymers.  Even more special, she will be accompanied by her summer high school research students from LBJ High School’s LASA* and the Texas School for the Deaf (TSD) as well as two American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters!

Pam has led Science Sundays for almost five years in addition to working with TSD elementary and high school for four years. This Sunday she will bring everyone together for a lot of learning, ASL and fun activities with the biggest and most entertaining molecules in the lab: Polymers!

Polymers are fun to make!

To learn more about polymers, check out the Polymer Science Learning Center.  For some easy, at-home activities check out this flubber experiment, or this activity using milk to make polymers.

To brush-up on your ASL, visit Handspeak for the ASL alphabet as well as watch ACM’s own Josh Clements demonstrate how to greet one another and say Science in sign language:

Join us for Snakes, Slime, and Science on Sunday, July 10th, 3 – 5pm.

*Liberal Arts and Science Academy

If you give a kid a spatula…

16 06 2011

… they will want a large bowl, some cookie dough and chocolate chips.

Cooking With Math is a half-day camp being held this week at the museum and the kids get the chance to work with food and numbers. Every day the kids get to make two recipes while developing their math skills.

Today they read the book

One of My Favorite Books

and learned all about making Mouse Cookies.

If you’d like to learn how to make these delicious cookies check out our recipe

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You can also see the kids enjoying their Trail Mix Energy Snack where they mixed 5 animal crackers, 6 pretzels, 7 mini marshmallows, 8 goldfish, 9 raisins, and 10 pieces of popcorn into a zip-lock baggie.

At the Museum we like to experiment with food. Vicki Cobb has written a fantastic book called Science Experiments You Can Eat. The book includes recipes along side explanations about the science behind the ingredients and their reactions to each other. One recipe teaches us how to make biscuits out of sour milk and another about how syrups are solutions that don’t crystallize.

Let us know if you make delicious Mouse Cookies or some Trail Mix Energy Snack. If you’d like to spend some time with math and cooking please sign up for our next Cooking With Math camp here!

Peep Battle!

29 04 2011

Before Microwaving

We had quite a few marshmallow chicks hanging around and getting stale, so we named them, armed them with toothpicks, and let them battle in the microwave!

Check out the video below to see what happened.

We wanted to know more about what was going on and found a great explanation from the Exploratorium. Marshmallows are basically made of sugar and water (plus gelatin) that are wrapped around a bunch of air bubbles. When a marshmallow is heated in the microwave, two things happen. First, the heat of the microwaves softens the sugar. At the same time, the heat makes the molecules in the air bubbles move around faster, making them push into the walls (of softened sugar). This pushing makes the gas bubbles expand, and that makes the whole marshmallow expand!

You can try this at home with any type of marshmallow (not just ones shaped like animals). Be sure to place your marshmallows on a plate or paper towel, or you’ll end up with a molten mess in your microwave! Our marshmallows were fully expanded in 45 seconds, but depending on your microwave, it should take between 30 seconds and 1 minute.

Note: This experiment should be done with adult supervision.

From a Liquid to a Solid

9 04 2011

It’s no secret that at ACM we love to play with our food. It helps us with build upon our math and science skills. Plus, it is just so much fun!

We have an experiment that will turn one of your favorite beverages into plastic.

All you will need is:

  • 4 ounces of milk
  • 1 teaspoon of vinegar
  • a small pan
  • a small, clean jar

First, you will put the milk in a pan and heat it on the stove until it curdles. This happens when the milk begins to form lumps. Next, you will slowly pour off the runny liquid. Then, put your lumps in the jar and add vinegar. Let it stand for about an hour.

After an hour, you will notice the milk has turned into rubber! Finally, you can shape the lump into a ball or some other simple shape. Be sure to pour out any excess liquid before playing with the rubber. After doing this, let it sit on a paper towel for a few more hours. Once it is completely dry, you will now notice the milk has finally turned into plastic!

You can also paint your new plastic toy like these at Discovery Kids.

How did this experiment work? When milk and an acid (the vinegar) mix together, the milk begins to change properties. The milk begins to separate into a liquid and a solid. The solid material consists of minerals, fat, and a protein called casein. This protein is made of long molecules. Those molecules allow us to bend the lumps like rubber until it hardens and resembles plastic.

Let us know what shapes you managed to create with your milk.

To learn more about proteins and milk or to find new ways to play with your food, visit some of our other experiments.

St. Patty’s Day Experiment

17 03 2011

People often think of the color green when they think of St. Patrick’s Day, but rainbows are also a big part of this day. Leprechauns are always looking for pots of gold on the other side of the rainbow.

Though we don’t have pots of gold, we do have what it takes to make our own rainbow!

Continue reading after the jump to see how to create this rainbow density column.

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