SLC Young Ambassador Blog: Week 2

22 07 2013

Hello, my name is Alana Zamora from San Marcos, Texas. This year, I was selected as a 2013 Smithsonian Latino Center Young Ambassador; Up to twenty-four graduating high school seniors are selected each year and are given the amazing opportunity to intern in a museum/cultural institution in their local community for four weeks. Currently, I am interning here at the Austin Children’s Museum. I will be posting weekly blog posts to describe my journey here at ACM, as well as, insights into the different summer camps that we offer at the Museum.

This week, I helped lead the ‘Young Scientists’ half day summer camp program for children, ages 4-6. For every half day camp, we have story time, hands-on activities and free play in the Museum. I assisted in leading science and art activities, playing with the children in the Museum and supervising them throughout their time at the camp. At this week’s camp, I had the opportunity to prepare the activities for each day, so I was able to see how much work goes into organizing a camp. Also, I was able to give feedback in ways to improve the activities for next ‘Young Scientists’ camp.

On Monday, July 8th, the theme for the day was measurement. The children learned about time, weight, temperature and length. Some of the activities for that day were, measuring and weighing sand, taking the temperature of warm and cold water, and creating a clock. Another activity that we had the children do was draw a picture of what they think a scientist looks like.


On Tuesday, July 9th, we learned about chemistry, reaction and slime. Camp leaders demonstrated baking soda experiments and helped the children create slime. The slime activity was very messy, but so much fun!Image

     On Wednesday, July 10th, the theme was color and magnification. Some activities that we had were, color mixing with paint, making a solar bead bracelet and Play-dough mixing. One of my favorite activities of the day was creating our own ‘rainbow’ using a flashlight and glass prism.Image

     On Thursday, July 11th, we learned about architecture and electricity. We had the children build houses out of wooden blocks and we had them create their own circuits.

     On Friday, July 12th, we learned about flying. The children learned about bats and made their own ‘bat hats’. They also created their own kite and roto-copter.

     Again, this week was amazing! I enjoy working with the children and watching them learn. Also, my fellow interns and volunteers are truly great individuals! I am amazed with all the learning that takes place during camp and I really do wish that I had the same opportunity at a younger age that all of these children are having now. Learning is fun!

     If you haven’t had the chance, check out my blog post from the first week of my internship!

Celebrate Chemistry Week with Lava…

6 10 2011

…in a cup! 

Did you know that volcanoes are just a bunch of lava?

Lava refers both to molten rock expelled by a volcano during an eruption and the resulting rock after solidification and cooling. Volcanoes form after the eruption of molten lava cools and leaves a raised platform, after repeated eruptions the volcano gets bigger and bigger. We find lava and volcanoes endlessly interesting here at ACM, we even have a featured volcano in our current exhibit Dinosaurs: Land of Fire and Ice.

So what’s happening in this experiment? First of all, the oil floats on top of the water because it is lighter (less dense) than the water. Since the salt is heavier (or more dense) than oil, it sinks down into the water and takes some oil with it, but then the salt dissolves and the oil heads back to the top.

The lava in the cup is demonstrating something you might learn in chemistry class: density. Density refers to mass per unit volume of an object. Most objects have a fixed density, however temperature sometimes can affect this. For example, as lava cools it becomes harder and more dense, neat huh?

If you like this experiment, then you should check out the Museum on Sunday, October 9th, where you can get your hands on your own chemistry activities in honor of National Chemistry Week!

Women’s History Month: Marie Curie

25 03 2011

Photo ACJC,
For Women’s History Month, we are once again recognizing a woman who has made huge advances in science: Marie Curie.

Marie Curie was the first woman to ever receive a Nobel prize, and the first person to receive two (one in physics, one in chemistry)! She won her first Nobel prize in Physics in 1903 for research she completed with her husband, Pierre Curie, in radioactivity. The idea of radiation and the word radioactivity were invented by Marie Curie herself!

Today we know that there are lots of different kinds of radiation. The light from the sun is radiation! So are x-rays, a stronger kind of radiation, which doctors use today to be able to see our bones through our skin. Light radiation is too weak to pass through objects (like our skin) but the types of radiation (like x-rays) that Marie Curie worked with can. Marie and her daughter, Irene Joliot-Curie, helped pioneer the use of x-rays in medicine during World War I.

Marie Curie’s discoveries set the foundation for atomic and nano research, and today allow us to understand much more about atoms, the tiny particles that make up our bodies, our planet, and our solar system. It is because of Marie Curie that we can even have NanoDays here at the museum!

Even though radiation is all around us, it can be harmful. For example, the sun’s radiation can give you a painful sun burn. Sadly, Marie Curie and her daughter both died of leukemia (a type of cancer) because they had been exposed to too much strong radiation.

To learn more about atoms, the way they behave, and nanotechnology, join us this Sunday, March 27th from 12 to 5 pm!

How to Keep Apple Slices Looking Fresh

9 12 2010

Last Friday we learned about how copper in pennies reacts with oxygen in a process called oxidation, making the pennies darker.  Oxidation also causes apple slices to turn brown.  We are going to experiment to see what liquids can prevent apple slices from browning.

After cutting the apple, I submerged each slice in a different liquid.  I used one slice as my control sample, this slice was not placed in any liquids. Once the control had turned brown I compared it to the other slices. In the photo below the two slices on your right are the control.

Lemon juice contains citric acid which slows down the oxidation process so the slices do not turn brown. The lemon lime soda also contains lemon juice, so it has a similar affect. Can you think of any other mild acids that you could test?  The corn syrup coated the slice shielding it from the oxygen, limiting the oxidation process.

Try this experiment at home and leave a comment describing your results.

Polishing Pennies

3 12 2010

Have you ever noticed that new pennies are shiny and old pennies are darker and sometimes even green. When copper is exposed to oxygen it oxidizes creating a darker layer of Copper Oxide on the outside of the penny. I experimented with several liquids to see if they could make the pennies shiny again.

Get several clear cups and dirty pennies. Try to find pennies that are similar in color, so you can compare how the liquids affect the pennies. Put a different liquid in each cup. I used lemon juice, vinegar, water, and dishwasher detergent mixed with water.

Put the pennies into the cups and wait of five minuets. I put two pennies in the liquids, so I could see if they came out the same. You could use more or only one. After the five minuets I took out the pennies and cleaned them off with a paper towel.

Look how shiny the pennies that were in the lemon juice are! Lemon juice has acidic acid which dissolves the copper oxide. Share your results with us in a comment. What liquids did you use?

W. Lincoln Hawkins

19 02 2010
For Black History Month, we would like to recognize an African-American who invented technology still used today.  W. Lincoln Hawkins was a chemist who would help make telephones universally possible with science. Here’s his story.

Hawkins worked as a chemist for AT&T’s Bell Laboratories, part of the telephone company. At the time, telephone cables on telephone poles were made of a plastic that didn’t work very well.  Because of the coating on the wires, the wires wouldn’t last in different weather, like extreme heat or cold.

Telephone cables.

In 1956, Hawkins created a new kind of plastic that wouldn’t be destroyed easily.  The telephone company could now put up telephone lines where they wanted without worrying about animals or weather. Although this technology has advanced since then, this polymer is still used for other kinds of cables.

Like telephone cords made of polymer that W. Lincoln Hawkins created, we can find polymer in many parts of our everyday life. In this experiment from Carnegie Mellon University, you can create a polymer.

Gumdrop Polymer


Package of flavored gelatin powder like Jello (cannot be sugar-free)
Bowl or cup
Small, shallow dish, less than 2 inches wide
Plastic fork
Paper plate


1. Place the gelatin in the small dish, less than an inch deep.

2. Pour your water into a bowl or cup. Take your eyedropper and extract some water from the bowl or cup.

3. Drop the water in the center of the gelatin.

4. After the first drop is absorbed, drop another one in the same place. Keep doing this for 6-8 more drops.

5. Take your fork and scoop under the drops in the gelatin. Lift the lump out of the gelatin and place it on your plate. You just made a gumdrop, which is a natural polymer! (Remember, as yummy as it looks, this polymer gumdrop is like most parts of experiments and cannot be eaten.)

For more fun with polymers, click here to see how we experiment with polymers at the Museum, or here to see how someone else experiments with them. Information and history on W. Lincoln Hawkins courtesy of the Lemelson-MIT Program.

Creating Clouds

7 07 2009

Last week, UT’s Patty Estep introduced our Girls Explore Science campers to the exciting world of chemistry! In this experiment, hot water is poured into a tub containing very cold liquid nitrogen. When they mix together they create a giant cloud of water vapor. A similar reaction can be found in our environment. For example, when hot and cold air mix, it can form severe weather like tornadoes! Watch the reaction between hot water and liquid nitrogen:

Nitrogen is the most abundant element in Earth’s atmosphere. We breathe nitrogen in it’s gaseous state everyday. The air we breathe is 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and 1% water vapor, carbon dioxide, and other gases. Nitrogen can also be in a liquid state. Liquid nitrogen is very cold and dangerous to touch with your bare hands. To make liquid nitrogen, air is cooled and compressed. It takes 80 liters of air to make one liter of liquid nitrogen.