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!


Refrigerator Fun!

23 02 2011

We made a marble run on our refrigerator!

All you need to make one on your refrigerator is:

  • toilet paper or paper towel tubes (plus scissors to cut them)
  • an empty egg carton
  • a marble
  • magnets

We built a circuit that lights up an LED light into the end of our track. What other cool things can you come up with to include?

Static Magic Trick

10 01 2011
Yesterday was National Static Electricity Day and we just can’t seem to stop celebrating. You’re probably familiar with static electricity. Have you ever gotten a shock after wearing socks on carpet then touching a friend? Have you ever combed your dry hair and noticed it stick up in the air? That’s static electricity at work.
So what exactly is static electricity? To understand static, we must first understand a little about atoms. Everything is made up of atoms. Atoms are tiny particles that are made up of protons, electrons, and neutrons. Protons have a positive charge, electrons have a negative charge, and neutrons are neutral.
Since everything is made up of atoms, and atoms have charges, all things have charges. Opposite charges attract and like charges repel (magnetic train sets are a good example of this attraction and repulsion). Most of the time, the positive and negative charges in an object are balanced, so the object overall is neutral.
Static electricity occurs when there is an imbalance of negative and positive charges in an object. Rubbing certain materials together can transfer negatively charged electrons and cause an imbalance. When you rub your socks on the carpet, you pick up extra electrons. The extra electrons want to be released, but can only leave your body when you come into contact with something else that conducts electricity.

We tried a not-so-shocking static magic trick here at the Museum.

All you need is a plastic straw in a paper wrapper (or, a plastic straw and a paper napkin).

Tear off the ends of the straw’s wrapper (or wrap your straw tightly in the paper napkin) and slide the straw band and forth through the paper quickly. Keep sliding the straw, about a dozen passes through the paper.

Take the straw out of the paper and hold the straw in your hand. Slowly open your fingers, and the straw should be “stuck” to your hand.

When you rubbed the straw, you made the straw negatively charged. Bringing the straw close to your hand causes your palm to become positively charged, and since opposite charges attract, the straw sticks to your hand.

Rub the straw again – see if it will stick to other items around the house – a wall, a door, etc.

Engineering Saturday: Operation Game

12 11 2009

While Natural Sciences was going on, engineering students from UT also came to make toys with electric circuits, similar to the Operatation game!

playing Operation

hard at work!

After coloring pictures of Spongebob Squarepants, Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, and others, young engineers connected wires to  batteries and resistors to create an electric circuit. By touching their tweezers—covered in aluminum foil—to other aluminum foil spots on their game boards, a buzzer would go off and the characters’ noses would light up!

Why aluminum foil? Aluminum foil is a very conductive material. Conductivity is the measure of a material’s ability to conduct electricity. Since aluminum foil is considered a highly conductive material, an electric current can easily pass through it.

Interested in making your own Operation game?

The students provided the instructions for the circuit board, which you can download here.

Things you’ll need:

-Coloring book page or your own illustration

-Cardboard big enough for the illustration

-Aluminum foil


-9 volt battery holder

-360 ohm resistor (Radio shack)

-Standard LED,  for the light-up nose (Radio Shack)

-Piezo Buzzer (, #KPI – 2210-L)

Electricity and YOU

28 08 2009

If you’ve been to the Museum lately, you may have seen one of our gallery educators playing with an energy ball:            

Read on to learn more about electricity and the discovery that our bodies are conductors…


Have you ever heard of Luigi Galvani? What about Count Allesandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta? They are two scientists who changed the way we look at our world today.


Galvani was a doctor, and he used frogs to study how the body works. Galvani used an iron scalpel while working with his frogs and this iron scalpel hung from a brass hook. When the scalpel touched the frog’s leg, it twitched! He thought this confirmed that there was an electrical fluid in the body that made the muscles move. He was almost right, but not completely. Even though Galvani was wrong, he inspired many others to explore this idea. He showed that studying science is not always about being right, but about using our imaginations, and trying things even though they might be wrong.


Galvani’s friend, the Count Allesandro Volta, who disagreed with Galvani’s electrical fluid idea, saw that the electrical twitch in the frog’s leg was actually produced by the combination of metals Galvani used: a brass hook and an iron scalpel. From there, Volta was able to discover which metals conducted electricity the best. Then he invented one of the first forms of a battery by stacking pairs of metal disks that had wet cloth between them. Volta showed that in science it is important to question things. Galvani thought he was right, and Volta disagreed. He questioned him, and he discovered how metal can be used to produce energy by conducting electricity!


Question things, and explore! We now know that our muscles do use electricity, just not exactly the kind Galvani was talking about. But his ideas led to the exploration of electricity in our bodies.


Another fun fact: Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein, got her ideas from Galvani’s research in electrical fluids. Science is everywhere!