Get Excited for Summer Camp

24 04 2013

The school year is almost over and that means it’s time for SUMMER CAMP. Have you made your plans yet?

We are gearing up for an awesome summer filled with new discoveries, fun activities and memorable field trips. This is the last year we’ll be hosting camp at our Museum downtown, so you don’t want to miss it.

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ACM offers half day camps for ages 4-6 and full day camps for ages 7-10 from May 28 – August 16. Full day camps include field trips all around the Austin area.  Camp topics range from science, engineering, art and more. Most of our half day camps are already filled, but there are plenty of spots left in full day camps.

This year, we are excited for our full day camp, “Get a Clue.” Together, we’ll investigate and gather evidence to discover the hidden mysteries around town. Field trips include an investigation at the Driskill Hotel where we’ll reveal the haunted history that lies behind the spooky walls, and a behind-the-scenes visit to the Austin Police Department where we’ll meet real investigators.

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Inside the Museum we’ll extract DNA, experiment with blood typing, solve riddles, decipher codes and navigate through a laser alarm system. At the end of the week, we’ll use our problem solving skills to solve an art heist.

Check out all of our camp topics and register online at


Ready, Set, Roll! Is Back: Build Your Own Roller Coaster at Home

30 01 2012

Have you ever watched skiers going down their track, or gone so fast down a slide that you never thought that you would stop?

With the welcome return of the Ready, Set, Roll exhibit, we thought that we should investigate how you could create your own working track from materials that can be found in your own home.

What you will need:

-Tubing for example: Toilet paper roll, wrapping paper tubes, insulation tubes

-A variety of balls (sizes and weights)




-Books (used to raise height)

We had fun experimenting with different tubes to see how crazy our roller coaster could get! Check it out:

First we built a simple ramp (like a ski jump). The aim of this track is to allow the ball to pick up as much speed (acceleration) while it is traveling down the ramp and finally to land in one of the cups at the bottom.

From this we then tried the same ramp with different balls of different sizes and weights. Would the different sizes/ weights of the balls make a difference?

The image below shows a more advanced track, this time including a loop in the middle. In order to make it around the loop, your ball needs to gain enough velocity. What can you do to make sure your ball builds enough speed to conquer the Loop d’Loop?

To add an obstacle to your track, try adding a jump to see if your ball can make it across the gap.

For our jump, we used paper cups to hold up the track. Do you think you could make a wider gap for your roller coaster?

Finally, you can add a spiral cone to catch the ball in at the end of your track! It is very easy to make–Just draw a circle on a piece of paper, then either cut out a circle or have an adult do it for you. Next, you tape both of the sides together and add your finishing touch to the track!

You can make your roller coaster as long, loopy, or extreme as you want! See how adventurous you can get.

Once you’ve created your own coaster, you can try out ours at the Museum!

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!

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!

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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