Tag Archives: science

Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life Review

hedy_lamarrs_double_lifeHedy Lamarr’s Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor by Laurie Wallmark; illustrated by Katy Wu

Sterling Children’s Books, 2019. 978-1454926917

Synopsis: To her adoring public, Hedy Lamarr was a glamorous movie star, widely considered the most beautiful woman in the world. But in private, she was something more: a brilliant inventor. And for many years only her closest friends knew her secret. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: STEM! Women in science!

Why I finished it: Hedy Lamarr is one of many Hollywood stars that is celebrated for being talented and beautiful, but she also had a brilliant mind to match. Though she worked hard over the course of her lifetime on several inventions and developed one of the most important technologies of the modern age, it was hard to convince people that she was more than just a pretty face. I feel like this is a challenge common to women trying to break into what are traditionally masculine professions. Lamarr’s dedication to her work and her perseverance are an inspiration for all of us. The idea that we should to continue to think big and do good in the face of adversity and rejection is a message that comes across well for readers of all ages. Wu’s illustrations are fanciful and realistic to match the narrative. The contrasts of the Hollywood sepia tones with the bright colors of Lamarr’s workshop help to give the story a larger-than-life feel that seems to match the book’s subject. This is a fun read that is sure to inspire inventors and scientists of all ages.

Other related materials: Hedy Lamarr and a Secret Communication System by Trina Robbins, illustrated by Cynthia Martin; Hedy and her Amazing Invention by Jan Wahl, illustrated by Morgana Wallace; Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code by Laurie Wallmark, illustrated by Katy Wu; Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wallmark, illustrated by April Chu; Lauren Ipsum: A Story about Computer Science and Other Improbable Things by Carlos Bueno; Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women by Catherine Thimmesh, illustrated by Melissa Sweet; Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts-; Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science – and the World by Rachel Swaby; Amelia to Zora: Twenty-Six Women who Changed the World by Cynthia Chin-Lee, illustrated by Megan Hasley and Sean Addy; Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky; Little Dreamers: Visionary Women Around The World by Vashti Harrison

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Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code Review

grace_hopper_queen_of_computer_codeGrace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code by Laurie Wallmark; illustrated by Katy Wu

Sterling Children’s Books, 2017. 978-1454920007

Synopsis: Grace Hopper coined the term “computer bug” and taught computers to “speak English.” Throughout her life, Hopper succeeded in doing what no one had ever done before. Delighting in difficult ideas and in defying expectations, the insatiably curious Hopper truly was “Amazing Grace” . . . and a role model for science- and math-minded girls and boys. With a wealth of witty quotes, and richly detailed illustrations, this book brings Hopper’s incredible accomplishments to life. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: Another book blog that I follow did an interview with Wallmark about this book that sparked my interest.

Why I finished it: Computing and coding are nothing new for the modern reader and the idea that there was a lot of trial and error to get us where we are today is somewhat mind blowing to me. In the twentieth century alone, computer users have gone from needing to switch out programs to perform a given task (for example, switching between a program that would perform addition and one that would perform multiplication) to having all those same programs being just a click away. What inspired me the most about Hopper’s story is that she continued to push forward in the face of adversity and fought the idea that we needed to keep doing things the same way. Hopper did a lot of thinking outside the box, and today we benefit from many of those off-the-wall ideas that perhaps no one else thought would work. I admire Hopper’s perseverance and passion, and how she never let things like her age, or her gender get in the way; it’s a wonderful example of never being too old to do what you want to do. Wu’s illustrations give the larger-than-life figure a softer side, giving the story a sense of whimsy without losing its seriousness. I love the free-flowing style that uses contrast to outline the drawings rather than relying on thick lines to distinguish between objects/people/etc. Though this is a picture book, the story and its message will resound with readers of all ages and surely capture the hearts and minds of a future generation of scientists.

Other related materials: Mathematician and Computer Scientist Grace Hopper by Andrea Pelleschi; Women Who Launched the Computer Age by Laurie Calkhoven, illustrated by Alyssa Petersen; Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wallmark, illustrated by April Chu; Lauren Ipsum: A Story about Computer Science and Other Improbable Things by Carlos Bueno; Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women by Catherine Thimmesh, illustrated by Melissa Sweet; Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts; Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding by Linda Liukas; If: A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers by David J. Smith, illustrated by Steve Adams; Hedy Lamarr and a Secret Communication System by Trina Robbins, illustrated by Cynthia Martin; Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life by Laurie Wallmark, illustrated by Katy Wu; Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science – and the World by Rachel Swaby; Amelia to Zora: Twenty-Six Women who Changed the World by Cynthia Chin-Lee, illustrated by Megan Hasley and Sean Addy

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Welcome to Camp Woggle Review

oodlethunks_3The Oodlethunks: Welcome to Camp Woggle by Adele Griffin, illustrations by Mike Wu

Scholastic Press, 2017. 978-0545732918

Synopsis: School is out for the summer and Oona and her brother Bonk can’t wait to help their dad over the vacation. But now that the kids aren’t in school, Stacy, their pet stegasaurus, is bored. So Oona and Bonk decide to create a summer camp for their pet and the pets of the other kids – Camp Woogle!

Why I picked it up: I loved the idea of having a dinosaur for a pet.

Why I finished it: Clearly I have a thing where I start series not on the first book, which I have referenced before, but that didn’t keep me from enjoying this prehistoric adventure. Oona and Bonk are clever, entrepreneurial young cave people with a can-do spirit and big hearts. They see that Stacy is driving their mom crazy and tearing up the cave, and so the two put their heads together in order to solve the problem of keeping their pet entertained and keeping themselves occupied during the school break. Oona wants to be able to include all of the community’s pets, but runs into a problem when she realizes that one of the newcomers has a pet T-Rex that could potentially eat the other campers. Her ability to create and enforce rules as well as compromise on an effective punishment for rule-breakers shows younger readers that they themselves are capable of creating solutions to everyday dilemmas. Oona and Bonk show a positive attitude in the face of some adverse situations that at first seem discouraging, but in the end turn out okay. Wu’s art reminds me a lot of the animation for the film Inside Out, which seems appropriate since he has done work for Disney. It has a realistic yet whimsical quality that adds to the fun of the story, helping Oona, Bonk, and rest of their friends and family come alive. I’d recommend this book for those of you like me that love strong female characters and for kids who have dreamed of having a dinosaur for a pet – it’s a enjoyable and inspirational story about how we face challenges and overcome setbacks.

Other related materials: Oona Finds an Egg (Oodlethunks, Book 1) by Adele Griffin, illustrations by Mike Wu; Steg-O-Normous (Oodlethunks, Book 2) by Adele Griffin, illustrations by Mike Wu; The Dino Files books by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by Mike Boldt; Dino-Mike series by Franco; Dinosaur Boy by Cory Putman Oakes; Dino Detectives books by Anita Yasuda, illustrated by Steve Harpster; Haggis and Tank Unleashed series by Jessica Young, illustrated by James Burks; Mad Scientist Academy: The Dinosaur Disaster by Matthew McElligott; Who Would Win? Tyrannosaurus Rex vs. Veliciraptor by Jerry Pallotta, illustrated by Rob Bolster

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Listening Now: Brains On!

logo_taglineBrains On!: A Podcast for Kids & Curious Adults hosted by Molly Bloom, produced by Marc Sanchez, writing and reporting by Sanden Totten

http://www.brainson.org/; Available on iTunes, Apple Podcast, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Spotify, and NPR One

Synopsis: Brains On! is a podcast featuring science and kids produced by American Public Media. We ask questions and go wherever the answers take us. Sometimes that means talking to a food scientist or a snake handler, other times that means putting on a play about sound waves or writing songs about sleep. A different kid co-hosts each episode. We talk to them about the interesting stuff they’re doing and the things they think about. It’s a science lesson for your ears – so join us and turn your brains on! – from the website

This podcast is another one of many that has helped to support the STEM movement, helping kids and adults alike get in touch with hard science (psychology is considered a soft science). The hosts tackle things from farts to how airplanes fly to why mosquitoes are so annoying to how our brains read books – and so much more! I also think it is unique to have different kid co-hosts each show that come on and talk a little bit more about their experiences with the topic. One of the episodes even featured some kid inventors that have won national awards for helping to tackle issues that they notice in their everyday lives. It was inspiring to me because there was never anything quite this big when I was growing up and I’m always so excited to hear about how kids are going out and exploring and interacting with the world around them. I remember science fairs being a huge deal when I was in school and in some school districts around the country they still are a big deal. You can also sign up for a monthly newsletter that gives some extra special bonus content to go along with the episodes. It’s a great way to get inspired to get out there – here are so many things to do and explore and showcase their smarts – you just have to know where to look.

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Fun and Games: Science Activities for Kids, Part 2

This was a blog I originally did for the lovely Darlene Beck-Jacobson that was originally posted in two parts – part one is here. I know summer is almost in full swing, so here’s some more ideas to keep your mind active over the school break . Check out Darlene’s blog here.


– Egg Geodes Experiment (from tinkerlab.com):

You will need:

  • Eggs
  • Rock Salt
  • Sea Salt
  • Borax*
  • Other substance that could be tested for crystallization such as sugar, epsom salts, cream of tartar, baking soda, or alum*
  • Mini-muffin pan
  • Food Coloring

* Borax and alum are not food products, and using these ingredients with small children should be closely monitored, as ingestion can be fatal. Please use common sense and close supervision with such substances.

Procedure:

  1. Tap a knife around the top of the eggs to remove a bit of shell, and then empty the eggs and clean them with water. Using a finger, it’s important to gently rub around the inside of the egg to remove the membrane because the membrane can discolor crystals as they form.
  2. If you happen to have a mini-cupcake pan, it’s like they were made for this job.
  3. Heat a pot of water (not quite boiling) and then pour 1/2 cup into a mug. Add 1/4 cup of kosher salt into the first mug and mix it until it dissolves.
  4. In the next mug: 1/2 cup hot water + 1/4 cup sea salt. The sea salt dissolves quickly, so you may want to add a bit more. The idea is to saturate the solution without putting in too much of the dry ingredient.
  5. And then the final mug: 1/2 cup hot water + 1/4 cup borax. Dissolved.
  6. Add a couple drops of food coloring to each mug to differentiate between the solutions. Make a chart so you can keep track.
  7. Pour the liquid into the eggs. Each solution made just enough to pour into two eggs. Perfect!
  8. And then you wait. 5  days for the liquid to mostly evaporate. Salt crystals will start to evaporate through the egg shell to create the geode.

– Elephant Toothpaste (from navigatingbyjoy.com):

You will need:

  • 6% Hydrogen peroxide (1/2 cup)
  • Yeast (1 tsp)
  • Hot water (2 tbsp approx) in a small dish
  • Food colouring
  • Washing-up liquid (dish soap)
  • Empty soda/water bottle (small)
  • Tray to stand the bottle on to catch the foam
  • Funnel (optional)

Procedure:

  1. Pour the hydrogen peroxide into the bottle
  2. Mix the yeast into the water
  3. Add the washing up liquid and food colouring to the hydrogen peroxide in the bottle
  4. Add the yeast mixture to the bottle
  5. Stand back and admire the reaction!

– Oobleck! (from housingaforest.com): If you have never made it before, Oobleck is a mixture of cornstarch and water.  When played with fast it acts like a solid…when allowed to relax it acts like a liquid.

You will need:

To make the oobleck: about 2 cups of Corn Starch to 1 cup of water

To make the oobleck dance:

  • Subwoofer
  • a thin metal cookie sheet
  • a MP3 of an audio test tone ~ you will have to play a bit to see what works best with your equipment.
  • Food Coloring

Procedure:

  1. Place the cookie sheet onto the speaker of the sub, and pour in the Oobleck.
  2. You can download different test tones and play to see what works best for you.  We used 40 Hz, 50 Hz, and 63 Hz, and found that we needed to turn the volume way up.  We tried a number of different frequencies but these three seemed to work the best.  We did a search for subwoofer test MP3.  There are a number of different sites that you can use.
  3. Before you play the MP3 you will need to place your fingers on the edge of the cookie sheet with gentle pressure.  It took a bit of playing to see what worked the best, but the results were amazing.
  4. We decided to add food coloring to see what would happen.  I love how the colors dance together and you can see all the layers of each color.  This was the kids favorite part!

Tips and Tricks:

  • A thicker consistency of Oobleck works best.  Although with that said you don’t want it too thick.  We used a ratio of 2:1 (cornstarch to water).
  • If your oobleck is not dancing, you may need to change the volume on your subwoofer.  You can also try digging your finger in Oobleck to start the movement.  In the video the kids do it a few times just to get everything started.
  • Keep experimenting until you get it to work.  Honestly we played around for a bit until it worked for us.  Everyone will be working with different equipment so what worked for us might be a little different for you.

EVEN MORE fun science-y things can be found on these websites:

lemonlimeadventures.com: blog from a mom passionate about being able to share her relatable successes and struggles with the world. There’s more than just science stuff here, but search the tag “Science Saturday” to pull up everything science-related.

stirthewonder.com: activities and games for toddlers and preschoolers along with teaching tools for parents and educators

pbskids.org/zoom: Site for the PBS Kids show, ZOOM, which features activities and games by kids and for kids. Also has resources for parents and teachers.

fun-a-day.com: meaningful and fun learning activities for kids

igamemom.com: games for learning for kids of all ages!

learnplayimagine.com: outdoor activities, indoor activities, and so much more

growingajeweledrose.com: blog with fun and educational activities for kids

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Fun and Games: Science Activities for Kids

This was a blog I originally did for the lovely Darlene Beck-Jacobson, but I wanted to try something different this week so I am re-posting here. Check out Darlene’s blog here.


When you grow up with a father who is an engineer and a mother who has degrees in both Biology and Geology, science is kind of hard to avoid. Then again, science is pretty hard to avoid in general because it’s happening all around us all the time.

The obnoxiously hot weather? Science.

Trees turning colors as the seasons change? Science.

The reason your dog turns in a circle before lying down? Science.

Making cookies or baking a cake? Science.

Your younger sibling always being with you at the most inconvenient times? Could be science.

There’s a plethora of fun activities and experiments you can do at home with common household items, and like in Math Curse, ideally these can help you stop thinking of science as scary and intimidating and turn it into something fun.

science

After a (largely thorough) scouring of the internet (read: Pinterest), I’ve compiled a list of my own personal favorites along with some of the newer ones I found in my search.

Disclaimer: I’ve tried to ensure clarity of directions in each of these activities, please use common sense when performing these experiments to ensure your own safety and the safety of those around you.

– Erupting Volcano (from how-things-work-science-porjects.com):

You will need:

  • 1/4 cup vinegar (up to a cup if you have a large bottle)
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • cherry jell-o granules

Procedure:

  1. Place the vinegar in the bottle.
  2. Stir the baking soda and enough cherry jell-o mix to make a pinkish powder.
  3. Either wrap the soda mixture in tissue paper or use a funnel to add it directly into the bottle. Tissue helps get all the soda in the vinegar at once, but if the funnel hole is large enough, that method works just fine. Either way, the goal is to get the baking soda into the vinegar as fast as you can.
  4. Stand back and watch what happens – Erupting Volcano!

(Note: There’s oodles more recipes on the site (and the rest of the internet) that can be tried besides the one I have here. Check them all out and then pick your own preferred method.)

– Salt Volcanoes (from whatdowedoallday.com):

  1. Pour several inches of water into a jar.
  2. Add about 1/3 of vegetable oil.
  3. Drop in food coloring and observe what happens.
  4. Shake salt on top of the oil/water/food coloring mixture. Observe, observe, observe.
  5. Pour or sprinkle more salt, as desired. You may want to touch it. (Tip: Have towels handy.)

– Potato Battery (from PBS Kids):

You will need:

  • Potato
  • Plate
  • 2 pennies
  • 2 galvanized nails
  • three 8 inch lengths insulated copper wire, each with 2 inches of the insulation stripped off one end
  • digital clock with attachments for wires

Procedure:

  1. First, cut a potato in half and put the two halves on a plate so they stand on their flat ends. The plate is there to keep your table clean.
  2. Then, wrap the end of one piece of wire around a galvanized nail and wrap the end of a second piece of wire around a penny.
  3. Stick the nail and penny into one half of the potato so that they’re not touching each other.
  4. Next, wrap the third piece of wire around the other penny and put it into the other half of the potato. Put the other nail into the second half of the potato, but this nail should not have wire wrapped around it.
  5. Now, connect the wire from the penny on the first half of the potato to the nail that has no wire on it in the second half of the potato.
  6. Finally, touch the free ends of the wires to the wires coming out of the digital clock.
  7. Does it work?
  8. You’ll probably have to try connecting the wires to the clock in different ways to get the energy to flow through the clock in the right direction.
  9. It’s just like putting batteries into a clock; they have to go in the right way.

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Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab Review

nick_and_tesla_1Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab by “Science Bob” Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith, illustrations by Scott Garrett

Quirk Books, 2013. 978-1594746482

Synopsis: Nick and Tesla thought they were going to have a super fun summer with their parents. Turns out, they’re being sent to live with their eccentric Uncle Newt instead while their parents travel overseas to study soybeans. The siblings are convinced that it’s going to be the most boring summer ever…until Tesla loses her necklace when their homemade rocket misfires and goes over the fence of an old, creepy house. It’s supposed to be under renovations, but neither of them can see any sort of renovating going on. Plus, there’s that black SUV that seems to be following them ever since they left the airport…

Why I picked it up: I’d already read the third and fourth books in the series, so I wanted to go back and read the first two! Also: SCIENCE!

Why I finished it: What I like the most about this series is that it features kids just being curious about the world around them. Yeah, there is some mystery involved too, but the gadgets you can build yourself really sell it. It’s encouraging kids to experiment with everyday things, to create things either just for fun or that have a practical purpose (personally, I’m still trying to figure out how to make a robot that does homework for you). Nick and Tesla could choose to be bored and stare at the walls; instead, they find a way to turn broken pieces of whatever that are scattered around their uncle’s house and turn it into something amazing. STEM is getting more and more popular in schools and libraries, and this series reinforces a lot of the themes that the program is trying to teach. The plot is easy to follow, making it easier for struggling and reluctant readers to get in on the action also. The authors do stress that some of the projects will need to be done with help from an adult, so make sure to exercise safety and caution; see if they can’t be turned into things the family can do together. It’s a quick, engaging read that will appeal to both science and mystery lovers alike. For more science fun, check out “Science Bob”‘s web site and nickandtesla.com.

Other related materials: Nick and Tesla’s Robot Army Rampage by “Science Bob” Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith; Nick and Tesla’s Secret Agent Gadget Battle by “Science Bob” Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith; Nick and Tesla’s Super-Cyborg Gadget Glove by “Science Bob” Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith; Nick and Tesla’s Special Effects Spectacular by “Science Bob” Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith; Nick and Tesla’s Solar-Powered Showdown by “Science Bob” Pflugfelder ad Steve Hockensmith; Robotics: Discover the Science and Technology of the Future with 20 Projects by Kathy Ceceri, illustrations by Sam Carbaugh; Recycled Robots: 10 Robot Projects by Robert Malone; Tinkering: Kids Learn by Making Stuff by Curt Gabrielson; Frank Einstein books by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Brian Biggs; The Math Inspectors series by Daniel Kenney and Emily Boever; Uncle Albert series by Russell Stannard; George’s Secret Key to the Universe series by Stephen and Lucy Hawking, illustrated by Garry Parsons; Lauren Ipsum: A Story About Computer Science and Other Improbable Things by Carlos Bueno

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