Children’s Blog

June Workshop - Scratch

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In honor of the Women's World Cup, we built soccer goal keepers this month. Instead of using the LEGO software, however, we programmed our goalies using MIT's free software Scratch


Scratch is a little more sophisticated than LEGO code and brings us a little closer to higher-level text programming languages, such as Python. Some of the concepts, such as the use of variables, might have been a little confusing, but that's okay for now. I'm sure if your children stick with it, it will eventually click. I encourage them to download Scratch to their own computers and start to play around. There are tons of great resources on the web. And, of course, we also have some good books in the library:

  1. Super Scratch programming adventure! : learn to program by making cool games! by the LEAD Project
  2. Scratch programming in easy steps by Sean McManus
  3. Learn to program with Scratch : a visual introduction to programming with games, art, science, and math by Majed Marji
  4. Python for kids : a playful introduction to programming by Jason R. Briggs

TouchTomorrow at Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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"On Saturday, June 13, 2015 WPI will again transform its campus into a family-friendly festival of hands-on technology and exhibits in celebration of the NASA Sample Return Robot Challenge."

Everyday Childhood Encouragement of Experimentation and STEM Discovery

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From Hackbright Academy:

Here are 6 things you can do right now to help your children become more resilient as future innovators and leaders.

April Workshop - Tilting Bird

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The focus of our workshop this month was the tilt sensor, also know as an accelerometer. We talked about how accelerometers use gravity to determine a change in orientation. Older smartphones used accelerometers to automatically change the orientation of the screen, depending on how it was held. The Nintendo Wii remote also uses this same technology for game control. 

Newer phones, like the iPhone 5 and 6, use gyroscopes--or more specifically, MEMS (Microelectromechanical systems) gyroscopes. These tiny gyroscopes (.02mm-1mm) are manufactured using a chemical etching process. I also demonstrated a classic mechanical gyroscope, showing how it balances on a string and how it resists a change in orientation.

We wrapped up the lecture part of the workshop with a short video showing how the inner ear helps us keep our own balance through three semicircular tubes filled with liquid.

The actual LEGO building part involved a model of a bird that made different noises when it was tilted. The sounds were triggered by a LEGO tilt sensor connected to the laptop.

 (Use arrow keys to navigate presentation below Click on pictures to play video..)


March Workshop - Hungry Alligator

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This month, we talked about motion sensors--how they work and how they're used. We also discussed infrared wavelengths and where they fall on the electromagnetic spectrum, how polarizing lens are used to filter out glare, and how bats use echolocation for navigation.

All this background information led to this month's project, which was an aliigator with a moving jaw that was triggered by a motion sensor.


February Workshop - Drumming Monkey

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We started out this month's workshop with the question, "What type of mechanical element links the three videos below?"

The answer is "cams/camshafts/crankshafts." 

The first video is of a "Strandbeest," the creation of Dutch inventor and artist Theo Jansen. There's a good shot of the crankshaft driving the contraption at the 20 second mark. I also brought in a working scale model of a Strandbeest so the kids could get a close-up look at one.

Cam mechanisms are important to this workshop because they are what move the arms of our Drumming Monkey. We explored how varying the placement of the cams on the spinning shaft would change the rhythm of the drumming. We also experimented with lengthening the monkey's arms. Finally, we began to try some more advanced programming using motion sensors to trigger our models.

We'll be covering this last subject in more depth during our March workshop. See you then!