Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Tech Challenge is Coming.

This is a program I DEARLY LOVE. 

I've been an adviser since 2013. But after five years of being an adviser, sometimes two teams, I'm taking a break this year. 

I had hope to participate as a volunteer, but a sudden change of events prevented me from doing so. Still, I hope to attend the Showcase next week.

As I noted on my Cal Day 2018 blog, I haven't been able to attend Cal Day, because I was fielding teams in the Tech Challenge. So, if driving to UC Berkeley is too far for you (or taking BART), then you have something else to consider this weekend. Attending the last weekend of test trials at the Tech Challenge!

I know. It's going to be crazy. 

People are going to be EVERYWHERE. But you can't get any closer to the action than this. Especially, if you have small children who are interested in Science/Engineering and would like to see things go and do interesting things, this is the place for you. 

And it's FREE.

Have a great time!

My previous Tech Challenge 2018 post with more pictures.

PS - You might be able to get into the Museum at a discount, too.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

U.C. Berkeley's Cal Day 2018!

I can't deny it. I'm partial, and I can't help it. 

Sorry for the short notice. It's this Saturday.

For a long time after I graduated from Cal, my heart would still beat a little faster when I saw the top of the Campenile when approaching the campus. My years at Cal were hard. Sometimes, I wondered if I could get through the program, but I did. And, along the way, I was blessed with many happy and fun memories of Cal and friends I made here.

But believe it or not, last year was the 1st year I took my daughter to a Cal Day event. Sure, I took them on campus before, but not on a Cal Day. And it was a blast. So much to do and so many things to see.

We sat through a Materials Engineering lecture about Harry Potter's invisibility cloak, talked to engineering students, spent time exploring dinosaur bones, learned about leaf characteristics in tropical plants, etc. It was so much fun, and there are so many things to do for little kids, too. Unfortunately, we couldn't make it until 1pm, so we really had to cram stuff in, but we promised that we'd do it again this year.

I know. Cal Day has an extensive list of events but try to take a little bit of your time and plan things to take advantage of so many fun and interesting programs.

After you take the time to select what's interesting to you, you get this. Your own list of events. Now, you can adjust the schedule to accommodate your priorities. Or you could be like us last year. We walked around, saw something interesting, and spent time there.

Kids activities have bear logo next to it, so it'll be easy for you to spot.

 We also found this informative because we talked to someone about education abroad opportunities at Cal.

I didn't know that you can take cable car tours on campus. I'm not sure if we're going to have time for cable car tours this year, but maybe some other year.

 I wouldn't recommend driving on Cal Day, but if you're planning an early start, you might have some luck finding parking near the campus.

We took BART last year, and we're planning to take BART this year, too.

This is a great opportunity for you and your family to have fun and learn about Cal, even if your kids are young. And the best part, everything is FREE! The museums. The labs. The workshops. Etc. 

Come and join in on the fun!

UC Berkeley Cal Day 2018 Website

PS - Sure. I think Cal is an awesome school, but Cal Day offers middle school and high school students opportunities to find out what they want to study (and in some cases, ask questions to students who are studying the field of their interest) and what it takes to get there.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Extreme Science

This is an amazing website. I usually focus on engineering and project-centric STEM sites, but this site can certainly hold its own.

My nephews are very interested in animals, and I thought of them when I came across this site. I can't wait to share it with them soon.

There are so many interesting tidbits of information when you delve deeper into each tab that you might get lost in it happily.

As you can see, below, the information on this site is eclectic. 

So, why don't you dig in and enjoy a meandering journey of discovery on this site.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

I have to be honest. I never liked Cinderella. I just couldn't identify with Cinderella, but when I read the first paragraph of this refreshing new take on Cinderella, I was hooked.

"The screw through Cinder's ankle had rusted, the engraved cross marks worn to a mangled circle. Her knuckles ached from forcing the screwdriver into the joint as she struggled to loosen the screw one gritting twist after another. By the time it was extracted far enough for her to wench free with her prosthetic steel hand, the hairline threads had been stripped clean."

The story takes place in a futuristic city of New Beijing, and Cinder, the Cinderella of this story, is a cyborg. In this world, cyborgs are second-class citizens, and she tries to hide it from Kai. 

While a war with Luna, a country on the Moon, looms over the citizen of New Beijing, Cinder must navigate her way through a devastating loss, a heart-breaking betrayal, and an astounding revelation.

This is a fun read. Though I didn't enjoy the teenage romance in the book (since I'm not a teenage girl), but I loved the plot twists and how the author had woven the story of Cinderella into this book.

If you're interested in a new take on an old tale, why don't you give this a try?

Thursday, April 12, 2018

MIT's Scratch

My daughter and I were introduced to MIT's Scratch through Help Your Kids with Computer Coding by DK Books. These DK Books were sold at Costco a while back, and I thought it'd be a good way to get our feet wet.

As you can see, it's very kid friendly. 

There are loads of information on Scratch and how to use it 
- for educators and for parents.

Here are some starter projects on the website, but the book also does a great job getting things started.

I'm an engineer who likes working with physical, moving parts, and coding has never been my strong suit. But I think it's important to expose our kids to all kinds of STEM and arts.

I'm not sure if this book is still available at Costco, but if you come across it, buy it. It's a great deal for ~$12 (I think that's what I paid several years ago).

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

LEGO Vehicles - Differential Gears 1 (Contraptions)

This is what we're building today.

Bottom view.

List of Parts we're using today:

Building steps:

I used this piece to make modifications - adding wheels to the back of the vehicle.

Bottom view.

This one was really fun to build, and I think I'll combine this one with one of the mechanism build to create a new contraption. I have to make modifications for the power function placement and add support structures to connect the two. Hopefully, I'll do that soon.

Have a great day!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Alka Seltzer Blast-off 2

This project effectively demonstrates the Newton's Laws of Motion.

First Newton's Law of Motion states that an object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity unless a force acts on it.

  • The rocket is at rest, but when it's acted upon by the chemical reactions of water and the Alka-Seltzer tablets, it has a powerful lift-off. The force of the reaction blows off the film canister lid.

Second Newton's Law of Motion states that Force is equal to mass multiplied by acceleration.

  • Force = mass x acceleration
  • The force of that lift-off is equal to the mass of the film canister, the water, and the tablet inside multiplied by the acceleration provided by the chemical reaction.

Third Newton's Law of Motion states for every action, there is an equal and opposite re-action.

  • As the film canister lifts off, the canister lid, water, gas, and slide experience the downward force of the push. The lid pops off. The water and the gas spread out, but because the slide is secured on the ground, we can't see it move.

The Chemistry behind the project:

  1. Alka-Seltzer tablets contain sodium bicarbonate and citric acid.
  2. When the Alka-Seltzer tablet piece comes in contact with the water inside the film canister, it begins to dissolve. 
  3. This results in sodium citrate, water, and carbon dioxide gas.
  4. The carbon dioxide gas builds the pressure inside the film canister.
  5. Eventually, the pressure inside will pop the film canister lid off.

H3C6H5O7 + NaHCO3  ==========>  NaC6H5O7 + H2O + CO2 + Heat

Citric Acid + Sodium Bicarbonate ========> Sodium Citrate + Water + Carbon Dioxide + Heat

Because Heat is released during the process, this chemical reaction is called an 
exothermic reaction.

Second Newton's Laws of Motion states F = ma. So, different amount of water or Alka-Seltzer piece will affect the take-off time and altitude of our rocket.

Also, take-off time is affected by the surface area of Alka-Seltzer exposed to water. Crushing it will reduce the take-off time significantly.