Posts

water, kids activities

Teach Your Children to Conserve Water with Fun Science Activities

Connect kids with Water Conservation

When you get hot and thirsty playing outside, a cold glass water can really cool you down. But your child may not know that kids in other parts of the world don’t always have clean drinking water. This summer, teach your child the importance of conserving precious resources. You can start by learning more about fresh water scarcity. With 97 percent of the world’s supply being salt water, conservation is a great way to make a global impact.

One route to freshwater sustainability is desalination, or removing the salt from salt water. There are more than 16,000 desalination plants(1) across the globe, and that number is growing. To begin learning how desalination occurs, try Connections Academy’s educational activity with your child– and create freshwater from salt water using a few household items!

Why is Fresh Water Important?

Fresh water is an essential part of life. Water helps nutrients and oxygen in the bloodstream move around the body. Humans are generally made up of about 45 to 65 percent water.

water, conservation, child, activities, science

Water is essential to life – and is increasingly scarce.

Fresh water is a key to good health. When your body doesn’t have enough water, it is dehydrated. Dehydration can keep you from doing your best at sports, school, and whatever else the day may throw your way.

Fresh water keeps crops growing. About 70 percent of the available freshwater on earth is used to feed crops, which, in turn, feed us.

How to Conserve Water

Have your child help you check for leaks around the house.

Let the lawn grow a little longer than you normally would. This will promote retention of freshwater (from rain or sprinklers) in the soil.

Help your child plant native plants. Plant species that are native to your area which should thrive with the amount of rainfall your garden will receive and need little additional watering.

plant, garden, water, conservation, kids

Use plants that thrive naturally in your environment and don’t require a lot of additional water.

Encourage your child to cut his or her shower time by two minutes each day. Two minutes every day is 730 minutes per year. That’s a little change that can make a big difference!

Visit the Connections Academy blog to find more fun learning activities.

Colorado Connections Academy is a network of tuition-free online public schools for students in grades K-12.

 

1 David Talbot, “Desalination out of Desperation,” MIT Technology Review (December 2014), accessed March 25, 2015, http://www.technologyreview.com/featuredstory/533446/desalination-out- of-desperation/.

Curious, tv, steam fest, science, media

Stay Curious with CuriosityStream!

CS_Montage_STEAM_2000x700

What sparks your curious side?

Robotics? The mysteries of the universe? Science and creativity in action? You can find something for all curious folks of all ages at CuriosityStream.com – the world’s first and best spot to find engaging and entertaining programs to watch on your schedule, totally commercial-free.

CuriosityStream offers over 1,300 programs – more than 500 hours – of quality, nonfiction documentary-tyle shows that you can watch on any of your connected devices… from your smart phone to your tablet and TV. We have streaming apps across Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV as well as Android and iOS. And you can take CuriosityStream wherever you go… the service is global, in 196 countries worldwide.

Are you curious about a deep sea adventure?

Travel along as scientists explore the unknown in Deep Ocean: The Lost World of the Pacific. And continue your own exploration of the oceans with world renown marine biologist Dr. Sylvia Earle in The Health of our Oceans.

Interested in robotics?

Check out CuriosityStream’s comprehensive coverage of the DARPA Robotics Challenge, as teams from around the world compete in the biggest robotic showdown on the planet.

For younger curious minds – join the team from Quarx, three teenage pranksters who challenge the laws of physics with their superpowers, putting an entirely new spin on science education. Check out what happens if your pet black hole ends up eating the entire world!

There’s also the wild adventures of Baron Munchhausen, who takes a quirky look at the greatest inventors in history. Mind Blowing Breakthroughs puts the Baron right in the middle of those flashes of genius that changed the course of humankind…from Leonardo da Vinci to the Wright Brothers.

Curious, tv, steam fest, science, media

CuriosityStream can be viewed from any internet-enabled device!

And coming soon: an exclusive production – Big Picture Earth. Take a journey with CuriosityStream to some of the world’s most spectacular locations. See Stonehenge, the Acropolis, New York’s Central Park, the Gateway Canyon of Colorado and more in ultra high definition 4K… visuals so stunning, you’ll be inspired to learn more about the human role on our planet.

For friends of Maker Bolder and visitors to the STEAM Fest this year, check out all that and much, much more on CuriosityStream with a complimentary 60-day trial subscription. Visit CuriosityStream Signup and use the code: STEAM.

Stay curious!

space, astronauts, international space station

Story Time from Space – International Space Station Astronauts Reading Boulder Author’s Books

Space – The Perfect Place for a Bedtime Story!


Story Time from Space was contributed by Dr. Jeffrey Bennett.  Learn more about Dr. Bennet at Rocky Mountain STEAM Fest.

Story time from Space

The International Space Station (ISS) enjoys a thrilling view of Earth.

What you cannot imagine, you cannot do.
— Astronaut Alvin Drew (STS-118, STS-133)

How many people are living in space right now? I’ve found that since the end of the Space Shuttle program, most Americans think the answer is zero. But it’s not. There are generally 6 people living aboard the International Space Station, including Americans, Russians, and usually at least one crew member from another nation. All the astronauts currently get rides to and from the station on Russian rockets, but it’s still an international outpost. There’s lots of great science going on there, involving not only professional scientists but tens of thousands of students who have participated in the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program. And now, there’s another way for kids, parents, and teachers to be a part of the human adventure of space exploration: Story Time From Space.

Story Time From Space is a program designed to combine literacy and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education. The basic program plan is to send children’s books and related science demonstrations up to the International Space Station, where astronauts video themselves reading the books and conducting the demos. The edited videos are then posted on the web, along with suggested activities (for kids, teachers, and families) and curriculum materials that can be used in the classroom. Thousands of teachers have already signed on to make use of the Story Time From Space program, and because it is freely available on the web, it has the potential to reach tens of millions of children around the world.

I have the good fortune of being involved with the Story Time From Space program, thanks to the fact that program founders Patricia Tribe (a long-time director of education at Space Center Houston) and astronaut Alvin Drew chose my first five children’s books as the first set to send to the International Space Station. The books launched in January, 2014 and continue to orbit over head every 90 minutes, at a speed of some 17,000 miles per hour – which means they’ve now logged almost 300 million miles of travel.

story, space, astronaut, children's book, reading, international space station

Story Time from Space books that feature educational stories read by astronauts

 

A second set of books was launched in December 2015. It includes my new book, I, Humanity, and books by Levar Burton (of Star Trek and Reading Rainbow fame), Andrea Beaty, “Lost my Name,” former astronaut Danny Olivas, and two books by astronaut Mark Kelly — which were read by his brother Scott during his “year in space” mission that just ended.

space station, story, reading, astronaut

Dr. Jeffrey Bennett’s book featured in the second set of children’s books launched to the ISS.

The first set of science demos was launched last June (2015), but unfortunately that was aboard the SpaceX rocket that was unsuccessful. The demos have since been rebuilt and are being prepared for a launch this summer (2016).

Here’s a brief bit of text and a video introducing the  overall program:

Imagine Astronauts on the International Space Station reading stories to the children of Earth as the world rotates below.

Imagine videos of the readings accessible via the web to everyone in the world, along with additional videos of educational science demonstrations conducted in weightlessness, all accompanied by lesson plans and classroom activities that teachers or families can use. .

Imagine a community of educators, scientists, and artists all working together to make this dream a reality…

Now, imagine no more…it’s Story Time from Space!

Wondering how you can get involved?

Here are a few ways:

I believe that for any form of education to be successful, we need to focus simultaneously on three things, which I like to call education, perspective, and inspiration. The education piece is the specific content that we want students to learn. The perspective piece should show them how what they are learning will help them gain perspective on their own lives and on our place in the universe. The inspiration piece should make them care about what they learn, ideally in a way that makes them dream of how much better the world could be if they get an education and become part of the solution for the future. Story Time From Space encapsulates this education-perspective-inspiration approach better than any other education program I’ve ever seen. I hope you’ll become a part of it.

 

Disclaimer: While I am now part of the team supporting Story Time From Space, I do not receive any compensation from this program. I support it because I’m honored to have had my books selected by the program, and because I so strongly believe in its goals.

Learn more about Dr. Jeffrey Bennett by visiting his website.  You can also meet him at STEAM Fest.

Dr. Tony Wagner, Author, Innovator, Educator

Dr. Tony Wagner – STEAM Fest Keynote Speaker on April 30th at Boulder Fairgrounds

Dr. Tony Wagner, Author, Innovator, Educator

Dr. Tony Wagner, author and innovator, will be the keynote speaker at STEAM Fest 2016

Dr. Tony Wagner has been shaking up education (and parenting), for years.  His six books, including bestselling Creating Innovators and The Global Achievement Gap, now in its Second Edition, are printed in over 14 languages and have sold millions of copies around the world.

He was recently the Strategic Education Advisor for a major new education documentary, “Most Likely to Succeed,” and co-authored the book by the same name with Ted Dintersmith.  Dr. Wagner joins us at Rocky Mountain STEAM Fest to expose us all to ideas about how we can prepare our children (and ourselves), to be more creative and capable in the Innovation Era.

Dr. Wagner’s Seven Survival Skills for Careers, College and Citizenship

In his work as Expert in Residence at Harvard University’s new Innovation Lab, Dr. Wagner asserts that there are seven survival skills that we all need to not just succeed, but actually thrive in the Innovation Era.  These include(1):

  • Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving
  • Collaboration Across Networks and Leading by Influence
  • Agility and Adaptability
  • Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
  • Effective Oran and Written Communication
  • Accessing and Analyzing Information
  • Curiosity and Imagination

America is caught between a “rock and a hard place” according to Dr. Wagner, because we need new skills to be successful in our careers. But more and more, students are not graduating from our schools with these skills.  What’s more, they are motivated to learn differently as a result of growing up in the “Net Generation.”  Our schools have not changed as quickly as our students have.

What Motivates the Net Generation?

Many things are different for a student that has been raised with instant access to information. The Net Generation has also shopped with stores like Amazon.com – where they are treated personally and are “served” relevant products based on their shopping behaviors.

Young people have come to expect a personalized experience in all interactions.  They are also accustomed to being able to explore areas that they are interested in through independent exploration. They surf YouTube, find special-interest sites, and connect to other people that share their interests.

This web of connections is ever growing and changing.  Young people are exposed to new tools every day and they are not intimidated by the rapid change in their world.  They want to learn from their peers, but don’t necessarily respect authority.  Their best learning often happens outside a traditional classroom.

What’s Next for Education? How can it Keep Up?

author, achievement gap

Three of Dr. Wagner’s six internationally bestselling books.

Dr. Wagner’s specific prescriptions for adapting education systems include a fresh look at critical topics to zero in on developing the seven survival skills mentioned above.  He advocates for activity-based (also known as project-based or problem-based) learning which increases classroom discussion and engagement, and often deepens learning.

The courses suggested, “aim not to draw students into a discipline, but to bring the disciplines into students’ lives… in ways that link the arts and sciences with the 21st century world that students will face and the lives they will lead after college.” (2)

Join us for Dr. Tony Wagner’s Presentation

Saturday, April 30th at 2pm

Your ticket to STEAM Fest includes admission to Dr. Wagner’s presentation.

Purchase tickets to STEAM Fest HERE.  Seating at Dr. Wagner’s presentation is limited and is first-come, first-served.  Arrive early to ensure your seat.

 

(1) Dr. Tony Wagner, Copyright 2010. http://www.slideshare.net/thinkglobalschool/tony-wagner-nais-presentation-11351911
(2) Harvard General Education Homepage: http://www.generaleducation.fas.harvard.edu/icb/icb.do

Robotics, workshops, science, experiences, innovative, boulder, robots

Meet: Watershed School

A recent headline in Wired magazine put it simply: “Schools are preparing students for a world that doesn’t exist.” After all, how many times have you found a job memorizing historical dates or filling out worksheets? That kind of education is no longer relevant.

At Watershed School, our mission is to build the character and the ability of students to take on the world’s greatest challenges. For us, that means teaching them to create original solutions to real-world problems – 3d printer studentsand develop the ability to adapt, collaborate, and create.

At Watershed, this looks very different than students sitting in rows. It means

  • Starting a small business in an economics class
  • Using Arduino circuits to solve a problem in engineering
  • Learning Spanish by navigating the streets of small town Guatemala
  • Using design thinking to reduce the amount of waste headed to landfill

As a result, kids love coming to school. Your children are natural born inventors, entrepreneurs, and creative problem solvers. Giving kids the tools to express it makes them happier and more successful.

We support STEAMFest because STEAMFest is about this different way of learning. In Boulder, we are lucky to be part of a community of technological problem-solvers, educational innovators, and open-minded parents looking for something different.

11922958_1016768991675554_256434779100010393_o(1)And after STEAMFest, check us out at www.realworldlearning.is, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter at @watershed_co. You could even call us on an old-fashioned phone. We’d love to show you a different kind of school.

Earth to Pluto – Cathy Olkin, Planetary Scientist to Speak at STEAM Fest

Rocky Mountain STEAM Fest is honored to present Cathy Olkin, of the Southwest Research Institute, at 4pm on Sunday, September 6th.

Cathy is a planetary scientist at Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, CO.   Her main topic of research is the outer solar system, specifically planetary atmospheres and surfaces.

Cathy enjoys chasing the shadows of stars to learn about planetary atmospheres through ‘stellar occultation’ observations. These events have taken Cathy to many exotic locations from Hawaii, to the Marshall Islands, Australia, South Africa and Switzerland.

She also enjoys studying the ices in the outer solar system.  On Pluto, Triton and other bodies, molecules that are usually in gaseous state on Earth are solid at the cold temperatures of the outer solar system.  Using infrared spectroscopy, spreading infrared light into its separate wavelengths, we can learn about these ices including methane ice, nitrogen ice, carbon monoxide ice and ethane ice.03_Olkin_01

Cathy didn’t always know that she wanted to be a planetary scientist.  As a child, she was interested in many different subjects including how things worked.  She liked to take household items (like the phone) apart.

Cathy attended MIT where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Aerospace and Aeronautical engineering in 1988.  She then proceeded to Stanford to earn a Masters degree in the same field.  After that, Cathy took a job at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) where she worked in the Navigation section on the Cassini mission (well before it launched).

Motivated by the exciting science of the Cassini mission, Cathy decided to go back to MIT to study planetary science.  She obtained her PhD at MIT in 1996 based largely on airborne astronomical observations used to study the atmosphere of Neptune’s largest moon, Triton.

From there, she worked at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona investigating the rings of Saturn and using data from the Hubble Space Telescope to measure the mass ratio of Charon (Pluto’s largest moon) to Pluto.

NH_NationalAirAndSpaceMuseumCathy now works at Southwest Research Institute where she is currently the Deputy Project Scientist for NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto.  Working on New Horizons is the perfect job for her, combining her background in engineering and her scientific interests. The spacecraft traveled more than 9 years and 3 billion miles to reach the Pluto system. This summer, New Horizons spacecraft flew through the Pluto system taking the first ever high-resolution images of Pluto and its surface.  The data from the encounter with the Pluto system is continuing to be returned to the ground, and we can already see that this information has transformed our understanding of the Pluto system.

Meet a Maker: HyPars

denny and elliotMeet Denny, Isaac and Mitzi Newland, The startup team for HyPars LLC. We are two dads, a mom, a husband and wife team, a semi-retired nuclear engineer, a very retired customer service manager, a tech support specialist and soon, professional toymakers!isaac and mitzi

What do you make?

HyPars, the cool name for hyperbolic paraboloids. They are geometry based building toys that we hope the world will soon come to love.

How did you get started making and why?

Denny invented the toys and needed a lot of help getting them to market. Mitzi got involved with the technical writing and Isaac pitched in. We’ve just been taking on more roles as they come up. Turns out there are a lot of hats to wear.

bloom bouquetWhat’s the most amazing, unusual (craziest) thing anyone has ever done with or told you about what you make?

When Denny started, he thought he had put together every type of creation possible with HyPars. As soon as we showed them to new people, the ideas began flooding in! It’s great to see that everyone has amazing ideas and we’re happy to share in them. Mitzi’s favorite so far is the Helical Coil that a future geneticist made. Love it!

What is your advice to creators looking to do what you do or make what you make?

Perseverance is required

What is your favorite part about the maker movement?

Seeing the ideas that people have come to life firsthand!

Where do you see your making going in the next 3 to 5 years?twisted

Hopefully, we will be creating our toys in our brand new building in Longmont, Colorado. We’ve secured land just east of Sandstone Ranch and should be breaking ground on the building within the next year!

What do you wish you could make but don’t know how to (yet)?

Hyperbolic paraboloids do not always lend themselves to creating the exact shapes you want. We still haven’t found a good way to make a cube shaped box, but we’re working on it.

Bonus question: Who would you like to see answer these questions?

The owners of Zometools! We’re huge fans.

The Lessons of Lock Picking

maxresdefaultAt the Boulder Mini Maker Faire, we hosted a lock picking table.  Adults and children alike sat for hours experimenting with locks and practicing their lock picking skills.  One of the parents at the event questioned our judgement stating that lockpicking is promoting illegal behavior.

That really got us to thinking.  Is she right?  Why would we encourage illegal behavior?

We sat down and examined the sport of lock picking (called locksport – see http://locksport.com/), and the value and virtue of lock picking as an activity.  Here are the reasons that we love lockpicking and why we’ll have it again at The Rocky Mountain STEAM Fest in September.

Criminals don’t take time to pick locks.  Statistics show that crooks don’t pick locks (technically “non-destructive entry”), they break windows, kick doors, or cut padlock hasps (“destructive entry”). The criminals don’t have the patience to learn a skill which will slow them down in the act of stealing things.

Locksmithing is a legitimate profession.  Locksmithing — the art of fixing locks, which often means picking them — is a legitimate, sometimes profitable, legal profession.  One of the goals of our STEAM Fest is to connect young people that are exploring their career options – or adults that are looking for a new career, to possible professions.

A lock is a complex mechanical device. Really, a lock is a puzzle. Our lockpicking exhibit has “open sided” locks that allow participants to see the insides of a lock. Participants have an opportunity to see how the tumblers and locking mechanisms actually work — this familiarizes them with the functionality, and gives them insight into why these devices protect their belongings and property.  It might also help them to identify locks that are not as secure, as well as those that are.

Because locks are complex mechanical devices (puzzles), they require problem solving skills to both open, and close.  A younger child will enjoy closing and opening a lock with a key (which was also provided at the table), while his or her older sibling, (or any one of the dozens of adults that were interested in the locks), will enjoy multiple approaches to solving the puzzle at their fingertips.  Problem solving is a critical skill (in life), and a skill that has been identified by dozens of career success reports as lacking in American adults.

It’s important to learn persistence.  Part of being a proficient problem solver (and of being a productive member of society), is the skill of failing, and learning to persist and to try again. If you visit a lock picking exhibit, you will observe all of the participants are failing many times, until they find a solution that works — and then they’ll do that two or three times (often with an expression of delight on their faces).  This determination and persistence is important to learning outcomes, and lock picking is a terrific way to give kids (and adults), a taste of it, without being so frustrating that they are angry.

Everyone likes the joy of accomplishment. Because lock picking exhibits typically include some relatively easy locks to pick, most people got to enjoy success with the task — giving them a sense of pride, joy, and accomplishment — as great event-planners, we want folks to get as many of these opportunities as possible.

There is a large contingent of people around the world that participate in the sport of lock picking — check out http://locksport.com/ – they have competitions around the globe — these are all sporting and professional men and women who love the challenge of a good puzzle — they are not criminals, nor are they advocating or participating in destroying security, privacy, or personal property.

Activities like lock picking can stimulate great conversations. Any child (or adult), that is concerned about the illegal uses of lock picking, can facilitate a great conversation about “good” activities and “bad” ones — some lock picking is illegal and NOT OK — but that same activity, in a legal and constructive environment, can be a fantastic learning tool. We’re also excited to provide activities like this that get people talking about important and complex issues.

Join us at Rocky Mountain STEAM Fest and try your hand at a lock or two yourself!

Kids’ Social Connection Trumps Academic Achievement in Making Adult Happiness

Feeling good was good enough for Janis Joplin and her Bobby McGee, but most parents want a little more for their kids, perhaps including a sense of coherence, positive coping, social engagement, and pro-social values. In short: well-being. A study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies shows how children and adolescents get this well-being as adults.

In short, social connectedness massively overwhelms academic achievement.

Read more

Events

battling robot competition

Combat Robots at STEAM Fest – Sunday

LET’S GET READY TO RUMMMBLE!

Bring your 1lb or 3lb Combat Robot (SPARC Compatible), to the Rocky Mountain STEAM Fest for a battle of EPIC proportions!

Two full days of combat, classes and robotic fun, and watching it all is included in your STEAM Fest ticket!

My Robots Wanna Battle! How do I register?

Do you have a one-pound or three-pound combat robot that’s SPARC Compatible (see rules here), then we want YOU to sign up and show up for the fun (and some serious competition!).

Register below, and we’ll reach out to you with all the details. Hurry, and register today – each battle category is limited to 30 participants and we’ll fill up fast! (Waitlists will be accepted when weight categories fill up.)

Lodging in Longmont – STEAM Fest discounted hotel rates

Not from Longmont? Be sure to secure a STEAM Fest special discounted hotel room. Visit our HOTELS Page today to book your room with the special STEAM Fest discount rate.

I just want to watch all the crashes and smashes!

Get your STEAM Fest TICKETS today. Your STEAM Fest ticket includes access to all the battle robots and more!