Several classes were run this summer. Once again we found it very difficult to get the students to go home at the end of the two and a half hour course periods. It seems they just can’t get enough of this! Here is a summary of their activities:
Most of the projects, such as the crane required some woodwork so a lot of sawdust was flying around in the beginning.
The 4 wheel drive car continues to be a popular project and several were made this summer.
(Seismology = the study of earthquakesSeismometer = device for measuring earthquakesMagnetometer = device for measuring magnetic fields)
One cannot ordinarily record earthquakes via a computer sound card as they don’t respond much to the slow vibrations experienced in earthquakes. (Update: not strictly true. See my latest on this: Simplest Seismometer – Experiments with direct recording through PC sound card) However, with some cheap electronic trickery and clever software, it can be done, and very adequately for the purposes of study. The seismometer above, made by a high school student, in its first night of testing recorded this local 3.8 quake – a magnitude 1 in Taipei:
(click on the pictures for larger versions)
and as a surprise bonus, some filtering of background noise revealed this distant quake as well. It was a 5.9 from 1000 km away in the Philippines.
(Graphics Interchange Format, “GIF” is a computer image format that has become popular on the internet.)
It’s not very difficult to get children interested in computers. (What an understatement.) And if one hopes that their interest can be channeled into something useful, this is a fun way to start. Animated GIFs are a great way to create interesting web pages, blogs email attachments etc., and the ability to create them will be a useful skill in any future internet-related career. It’s not hard to learn how to make them. I’m describing here how I have made them on the Linux operating system. I use it for two main reasons:
1) It is all freely available software, so one will not be tempted to use pirated software and set a bad example.
2) Children are rarely familiar with it so they will not be distracted by their favorite games, chat programs etc.
Sodium Acetate: a chemical compound made by combining acetic acid and sodium bicarbonate, or simply just plain old vinegar and baking soda. It is used as a flavouring ingredient in snack foods and in hand warmers. Chemical formula: CH3COONa.
This is a video of a first attempt at experimenting with sodium acetate. Experiment performed in Taipei, Taiwan.
It was a fun experiment to do. The result wasn’t exactly what we were going for. Better luck next time.
Disclaimer: Kids’ Resource Center or the person who posted this video are not responsible for any harm or injury caused in using the information contained in this video. Use the information at your own risk.
A magnetometer such as this can detect small changes in the Earth’s magnetic field. It can be useful to monitor these changes as they may indicate the occurrence of natural phenomena that can influence our lives. Certain kinds of solar activity for example, have the potential to disrupt communications and power systems. Large earthquakes are also known to produce magnetic changes prior to their arrival. (This project was originally intended to work in conjunction with the search coil magnetometer project for predicting earthquakes.) Continue reading →
Last winter one of our students who had made practically everything, suggested making a small wooden tank. It was basically an exercise in woodworking techniques. This is how it evolved… Continue reading →
This story was put together by two students in about an hour on a previously made paper mache landscape. The two (sisters) had been having a tough time with English in school and were getting further “behind the eight ball” when their parents decided some tutoring might help. The use of clay during the lessons made it more interesting and provided plenty of opportunities to connect the English they were learning to something more real than just words on a page.
magnetometer: n. [Magneto- + -meter]
An instrument for measuring the intensity of magnetic forces [1913 Webster]
precursor: One who, or that which, precedes an event, and indicates its
approach; a forerunner [1913 Webster]
Scientists, particularly in Japan, have for many years been gathering evidence of electromagnetic signals that come from under the ground before earthquakes. The bigger the signal, the bigger the quake is likely to be. This can occur hours before, and in some cases, days or even weeks before the quake itself. Why it happens is not well understood but current theory is that it has to do with rocks creating large electric currents as a result of crushing or grinding under high pressure. Several methods have been used to detect these reportedly erratic, electromagnetic pulses. The method described here is one of the simplest. Technically, it’s called a “search coil magnetometer.” This does not respond to very slow magnetic changes, but it can sense short-term ones, making it suitable for detecting earthquake precursors. Continue reading →
We sometimes wondered if it would be possible to travel around, running handcraft workshops in other locations. I was skeptical because there are so many tools and materials used in our projects. Forgetting one particular sized screw or nail might ruin a whole workshop.
We had also wondered if it might be possible to assemble some of our projects into kit sets. The main concern being that if too much preparation is done beforehand, the child won’t learn as much, and one might as well buy a ready-made one from the local toy store.
Finally we had an opportunity to try these things out on a small scale…. Continue reading →
In my search for educational projects that can engage a kid’s interest, I recently began looking into seismology (from Ancient Greek, “seismos”, an earthquake and “logia”, study of.)
Being a rather high-tech subject, I was skeptical of my chances of reducing it to something kids could do, but I gave it a shot anyway, since it’s very applicable here in Taiwan, where earthquakes average a couple a day. (You can see them on this website: http://www.cwb.gov.tw/eng/index.htm )
The goal was to come up with some kind of a detector; the simplest and cheapest design possible that a student could plug into a computer and record real earthquakes. Although still in progress I wanted to share what I’ve done so far as it’s a fascinating field and full of good, observable data that will give anyone a deeper understanding of the planet we live on. Continue reading →
This project is similar to the 4WD car, not only in that the student is working with wood and electrics, but also that the concept of drive ratios is involved. The crane takes this a little further: one can observe how the winch diameter affects lifting speed and power, and the very useful principle of mechanical advantage gained by the two pulleys. When this is taught in schools, it is normally not easy for kids to really get it as a concept; how the addition of pulleys increases the lifting power and reduces the speed. More often than not they only wind up memorizing formulas so they can pass the test and forget about it. But by making and playing with one themselves, they can see first-hand what actually happens when you add pulleys. They no longer need to memorize anything – they just know it.