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.

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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!

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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 austinkids.org/camps.aspx.





Be a Secret Scientist: Make Edible, Invisible Ink!

3 08 2012

Have you ever wanted to send a secret message to someone? Have you heard about invisible ink?  Invisible ink is ink that cannot be seen until revealed with a secret trick.  If you want to make your own, edible, and invisible ink, follow the directions below!

To make your invisible ink message, you will need the following:

– a few small containers

– at least one of the following:
lemon, orange or grapefruit juice
milk
sugar solution*
baking soda solution*
*(You can make the sugar and baking soda solution by mixing sugar or baking soda with a little bit of water until the water is saturated with the sugar or baking soda.)

– cotton swabs

– a piece of paper

– a heat source, such as a hair dryer, an electric iron, or an oven (set to a low heat, around 250 degrees, and check your message every few minutes!)

– a plastic tray

First, place your piece of white paper on the plastic tray.  Then, dip a cotton swab into one of your invisible inks, write your secret message on your piece of paper, and wait for the message to dry.  I used lemon juice, a sugar solution, and a baking soda solution for my invisible inks.

My wet inks!

Once the message has dried, put it under your heat source (a hair dryer or iron) and watch your message reveal itself!

After being heated, my messages were revealed!

What is the science behind your invisible ink message?

Well, what do all of the inks have in common? Lemon juice, orange juice, grapefruit juice, milk, sugar, and baking soda are all edible (they are all things that you can eat).  Now,  think about when you bake cookies for too long.  They turn brown or black.  Thus, when we  “bake” our edible inks, they become brown or black also!

My lemon juice became a light yellow and my baking soda solution turned a light brown.  My sugar solution didn’t show up very well, and I think it’s because I didn’t mix enough sugar into the water.  If you use the baking soda or sugar solution, make sure you use enough baking soda or sugar!

Which “ink” did you use? Did you try multiple inks? Which did you prefer?





Extreme Planet: Compasses, Scavenger Hunts, and Shelter-Building!

17 07 2012

Last week at the Museum, our full day camp for 7- to 10-year-olds explored the ideas of “Extreme Planet!”

For the first day of camp, we talked about the different things that would classify as “Extreme Planet.”  Not only did we talk about the Earth, but we also talked about the Earth’s extremes: hurricanes, tornadoes, and extreme situations!

After talking about all of the extreme possibilities on Earth, we went on a scavenger hunt to find all of the essential, basic elements that we could use to build a shelter to protect us from inclement (or really bad) weather.

During our scavenger hunt, we followed clues that told us which directions to go in to find our next shelter-building material.  For this part of the hunt, we used a compass! Does everyone know how compasses work?

One of our campers holds the compass during our scavenger hunt!

A compass is essentially a magnet, which reacts to the magnetic field of Earth.  This means that across all of Earth there are magnetic waves that the magnet of a compass reacts to.  The magnet, also called the needle, of the compass has one end marked to show which direction is North.  The reason that the needle always points North is because the North Pole has the opposite charge of the needle in the compass.  You’ve heard it before, but we’ll say it again: Opposites attract!!

Thus, the North Pole has a magnetic force that is opposite to the charge of the magnet in a compass, which draws the North tip of the needle towards the direction of the North Pole.

After finding all of our materials with the help of the compass, we came back to the Museum and built our best forts!

If you want to try to build a shelter to protect against harsh wind, rain, heat, or other extreme situations, just have a scavenger hunt of your own and collect all of these things:

– 1 card stock or thick piece of paper
– 1 plastic bag
– some tape
– 1 pair of scissors
– some string
– 5-10 skewers/sticks
– anything else you think would make a good shelter

Using any or all of these materials, try to build your own miniature shelter that can protect against extreme weather!  Share your photos if you’d like!

Here is what some of our campers came up with during camp!

Team Green went for a basic tent structure with their sticks and then later covered their shelter with the plastic bag to protect from the elements!

Team Blue built a shelter by curling their paper into a cone and covering it with the plastic bag to protect against rain and wind!

Team Red built a cube shape with their sticks and piece of paper before covering it all with their plastic bag to provide shelter from all of Earth’s extremes!





The Science of Juggling and Hula-hooping!

5 07 2012

Last week at the Museum, young boys and girls participated in our Secret Scientists camp.  On Tuesday, we had a field trip to Sky Candy, an aerial acrobatics company based here in Austin. At Sky Candy, two aerial artists, Danny and Winnie, told us about the science behind different parts of their work.

First, they talked about stretching and our bodies’ muscles.  Do you know the names of any muscles?  We talked about many different muscles and how stretching all of our muscles is important before any kind of exercise.

Here we stretched our triceps (the undersides of our arms).

Then, we talked about the science behind juggling. When you juggle, you are working with gravity.  When you throw the balls up into the air, you go against gravity.  Once the balls hit their peak, they no longer have any force against gravity and begin to fall with the force of gravity.

Trying to learn how to juggle!

After juggling with similar-sized balls, Danny, one of the aerial artists, asked if we thought that a larger ball would fall faster than a smaller one.  What do you think?

Danny with two different-sized juggling balls.

Because gravity works the same on every object, all objects fall at the same speed.  It’s only when an object has wind resistance that its speed may change.  This means that an open, flat piece of paper (which has a large surface that slows down its speed) falls slower than a bowling ball or a marble which fall at the same speed (because their shapes do not resist the force of their fall).

After juggling, Winnie talked to us about the hidden science behind hula-hoops.  When you hula-hoop, your body oscillates (moves from side to side).  This movement creates a force, which is called centripetal force, that acts upon the hoop.  Centripetal force is the force which carries an object (the hoop) on a curved path because of the force’s direction towards the center of the curved path. Thus, your hula-hoop rotates around you on a curved path because your body creates a force with its movement.

Here everyone took turns hula-hooping.

Who knew so much science was a part of aerial acrobats? Just by stretching and tossing a few balls in the air or playing with your hula-hoop at home, you can encounter scientific ideas about the muscles of your body, can see how gravity affects objects, and can create centripetal force.  Thanks to Winnie and Danny for teaching us all of this!!





Brain Movies: Scanning the Visual Cortex

18 11 2011

Imagine if you could watch your dreams and the images inside your head like a movie… seems impossible right?

But recently, with a cutting-edge blend of brain imaging and computer simulation, scientists at the University of California-Berkeley, have gotten closer to this impossible idea.

Using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) (brain scans) and a computer, UC Berkeley researchers reconstructed people’s visual experiences. Their computer program recreated an image from inside someone’s mind.

So far, the technology can only reconstruct movie clips people have already viewed. However, the breakthrough is the first step towards reproducing the movies inside our heads that no one else sees, such as dreams and memories. It’s like opening a window into the movies in our minds.

Eventually, the technology could help to understand what goes on inside the minds of people who cannot communicate verbally, such as stroke victims, coma patients or other people with neurodegenerative diseases (loss of brain functions).

In the experiment, they watched two separate sets of Hollywood movie trailers, while fMRI was used to measure blood flow through the visual cortex (the part of the brain that processes visual information). The brain activity was recorded by a computer program that learned to associate visual patterns in the movie with the corresponding brain activity. The computer program then produced a blurry reconstruction of what was seen inside the brain.

Check out the image that was seen (on the left) and the blurry reconstructed image from the computer program (on the right). It looks like a painting, pretty amazing right?

If you find the brain as fascinating as we do, then check out this website: The Secret Life of the Brain they show all the techniques used to look inside the brain, such as the fMRI we mentioned above.

What would your brain movies look like? Would your movie show an action sequence or a cartoon, or something never seen before? Tell us what your brain thinks.





Why Do Golf Balls Have Dimples?

9 09 2011

To Break Wind!

Golf Ball from kainet on flickr

As funny as it seems, golf balls really do have dimples in order to break the wind. How Stuff Works explains the reasoning:

In the early days of golf, smooth-surfaced balls were used until golfers discovered that old, bumpy balls traveled longer distances. The science of aerodynamics helps explain the dimpled phenomenon. The dimples reduce the drag on a golf ball by redirecting more air pressure behind the golf ball rather than in front of it. The higher levels of pressure behind the golf balls force them to go far distances.

The dimples maximize the distance golf balls travel. Dimpled balls travel up to four times farther than smooth-surfaced golf balls!

The dimples change the levels of pressure by bringing the main air stream very close to the surface of the golf ball. The dimples (or “turbulators”) increase the turbulence in the layer of air next to the surface of the ball. This high-speed air stream near the ball increases the amount of pressure behind the ball, forcing the ball to travel farther.

Here at The Austin Children’s Museum we show the aerodynamics of golf balls in our Ready, Set, Roll exhibit. Come check it out before it leaves on September 18th, golf balls have never had so much fun!