Daily Discovery: Annie The Railroad Dog

Post written by Heidi Fuhrman, Discovery Camp Coordinator.

Daily Discovery: Annie The Railroad Dog

Here at FCMoD we love Annie the Railroad Dog! Learn more about who Annie was and complete a fun activity to celebrate the special animals in your life!

Supplies:

  • Assorted craft materials/recyclables
  • Crayons, colored pencils, or markers
  • Imagination!

Who was Annie?

Annie the Railroad Dog was a very special animal who lived in Fort Collins a long, long time ago! She has a very special story—check it out through our video on Annie The Railroad Dog or explore the story through our online Archive collection.

After learning more about Annie’s story do the activity below to celebrate her or some other special animal friends in your own life!

Celebrating Our Special Animals

Annie was one special dog and we celebrate her friendliness with a statue of her that sits right outside of the Old Town Library! Maybe you’ve seen her there or given her paw a little shake (I have!). What special animals do you have in your life? Maybe you have your own dog, cat, fish, or other pet! Maybe you have a type of animal that you really love! Today we’re going to create some of our own statues or drawings of our favorite animals!

Instructions:

  1. Gather up all your materials! You can use craft supplies like construction paper, string, fabric, paint, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, etc… or you can use recyclables! Maybe an old cereal box can be the body and a paper towel tube could be a tail… use your imagination!
  2. Create! Use your supplies to make a statue of the special animal you’re thinking of! Will it look the same or a little wonky? If you don’t want to make a statue you can draw a picture of the animal instead!
  3. Share! Show someone in your house or a friend or family member (maybe over video chat) your creation. Explain why that animal is special to you and maybe tell them the story of Annie! You can also share your creations with us @focomod!

Level Up:

Annie lived here at the C&S Railroad Passenger Depot! Where does your special animal live? When you’re done creating your animal can you create a home for them to live in? You could use recyclables, add
it to your drawing, or construct it out of legos or blocks!

Discover More:

Annie isn’t the only special Fort Collins Animal! At the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery we take care of a bunch of animals—such as the very special Black Footed Ferrets or our Fancy Rats! Learn more about our animals through some of our Discovery At Home Activities and Videos (find them on our website at fcmod.org/blog) or by visiting us someday at the museum!

The museum isn’t the only place to see and learn about animals, there are animals all across Fort Collins! Keep your eye out next time you’re hiking, at a park, or playing in your backyard. . .you never know what creature!

If you liked our story of Annie The Railroad Dog, you might also like the book A Lucky Dog: Owney, U.S. Rail Mail Mascot by Dirk Wales or Owney, The Mail-Pouch Pooch by Mona Kerby, they both tell the story of another railroad dog, Owney, who had another very important job!

Want to download these directions? Click here for a handy PDF!

Follow along with our Daily Discovery! Click here for all activities that you can do at home.

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Daily Discovery: Imagining Life

Post written by Sierra Tamkun, Learning Experiences Manager. Adapted from the National Informal STEM Educator’s Network (NISE Net).

Daily Discovery: Imagining Life

Have you ever looked up at the night sky and wondered what other life might be out there, circling other stars? If so, you’re thinking like an astrobiologist!

Astrobiologists study how life began and evolved on Earth, and what conditions are needed to make other worlds habitable. Part of their research includes the study of extreme Earth environments where life exists, and they use this information to make predictions about where in the universe we might find other life, and what those life forms might be like!

Explore some different extremophiles (living creatures whose habitats are too extreme for us!) and make your own predictions about what life might exist on another planet!

Supplies:

  • Drawing sheet (linked in PDF below) or blank piece of paper
  • Markers or colored pencils
  • Extremophiles Cards (linked in PDF below)

Instructions:

  1. Take a look at the different extremophiles cards and learn about organisms that thrive in places too extreme for humans.
  2. Imagine a planet or moon in the universe where the  environment is too harsh for people. Is it very hot? Very cold? Is the air too thick, or very thin? Is it too acidic? Use the provided drawing sheet or your own piece of paper to draw the landscape of your imagined world!
  3. Think like an astrobiologist! What sort of organism would  survive on your planet or moon? What adaptations would it need to live there? Would it look like an extremophile of Earth, or something completely different? Draw your life form in its extraterrestrial habitat!

Are we alone in the universe?

We don’t yet have scientific evidence for life in other parts of the universe, but there are some exciting possibilities in the Milky Way galaxy— and even our own solar system! Astronomers have found many potentially habitable planets in the Milky Way using NASA’s Kepler telescope. These “Goldilocks” planets are just the right distance from the stars they orbit—not too close and not too far—to allow liquid water to exist on their surfaces, a critical ingredient for life as we know it. Citizen scientists also participate in Kepler’s
research through the Planet Hunters project!

Astrobiologists expect that alien life forms—if they’re out there—will be specially adapted to their environment. Most of the alien worlds we’ve explored so far are very different from Earth, so any living things we find beyond Earth will probably be very different, too.

Want to download these directions? Click here for a handy PDF!

Follow along with our Daily Discovery! Click here for all activities that you can do at home.

Image credit: earthsky.org

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Daily Discovery: Shadows! / Descubrimiento en casa: Sombras y siluetas!

Post written by Hannah Curtis, Education Assistant.

Daily Discovery: Shadows!

The simple relationship between light and dark. Shadows are everywhere, and we all have a shadow, well sometimes! Explore the realms of natural light during the day and artificial light at night and experiment with how shadows change.

Supplies:

  • Sunlight
  • Toys or objects around your house
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Sidewalk space
  • Flashlight
  • Paper
  • Coloring utensils

Instructions:

Natural Light Shadows

  1. During a sunny day, find space on the sidewalk to which you can draw with chalk or use paper and coloring utensils.
  2. Place a household object or a toy on the sidewalk and check out the shadow that is created. Move your object around and observe how the shadow changes.
  3. Find a spot where you will leave your object all day. Draw the shadow the object on your canvas. Check back every 30 minutes or hour to trace the shadow at that time without moving your object.
  4. At the end of the day before the sun goes down, pick up your object and see the different shadows that were created by one object over the course of the day!
  5. You can also experiment with the shadows of nearby trees or even family member.

Artificial Light Shadows

  1. After the sun sets and there is not more sunlight, you can create your own light and shadows using a flashlight or lamp.
  2. Turn off indoor house lights and direct the flashlight onto a bare wall or ceiling.
  3. Using your hands to form different shapes, you can create different shadow images onto the wall. Test out these different hand shapes or create your own shadow puppet shows.
  4. Try taping a piece of paper onto the wall, and draw the silhouette of a family member.
  5. Discover what happens when you bring objects closer to the flashlight, what about further away? How does the shadow change?

Want to download these directions? Click here for a handy PDF!

Follow along with our Daily Discovery! Click here for all activities that you can do at home.

Image Credit: Rookieparenting.com

 

Traducido por Károl de Rueda y Laura Vilaret-Tuma.

Descubrimiento en casa: Sombras y siluetas!

La relación entre la oscuridad y la luz es muy simple. Las sombras están por todas partes, y algunas veces, ¡hasta nosotros también las proyectamos! Vamos a explorar la luz natural durante el día y la luz artificial por la noche para experimentar cómo se forman las sombras y cómo se cambian las siluetas.

Artículos necesarios:

  • Luz natural
  • Juguetes/objetos que tengas en casa
  • Una acera o banqueta
  • Tiza o gis para la acera y/o utensilios para colorear
  • Una linterna o lámpara eléctrica portable
  • Papel

Instrucciones:

Para formar sombras en la luz natural

  1. Durante un día soleado, busca un sitio en una acera o banqueta donde puedas colorear con tiza o usar papel y utensilios para colorear.
  2. Pon algún objeto o juguete sobre la acera y mira la sombra que forma. Mueve y gira tu objeto para observar cómo esta cambia.
  3. Busca un lugar donde puedas dejar tu objeto todo el día, y colócalo encima de una hoja de papel. Dibuja su silueta sobre este, y regresa cada treinta minutos o cada hora para trazar una nueva silueta en ese tiempo sin mover tu objeto.
  4. Antes del anochecer, recoge tu objeto y observa la evolución de las sombras que dibujaste durante el curso del día.
  5. ¡También puedes experimentar con las siluetas o sombras de los árboles alrededor, o hasta con algún miembro de tu familia!

Para formar siluetas usando luz artificial

  1. Después del ocaso y cuando ya no haya más luz natural, podrás crear tu propia luz artificial usando una lámpara o linterna.
  2. Apaga las luces de un cuarto y enciende la lámpara dirigiéndola hacia una pared o hacia el techo.
  3. Crea diferentes formas con tus manos y colócalas al frente de la lámpara para hacer diferentes imágenes. Más abajo te damos algunas ideas para crear personajes ¡y organizar tu propio espectáculo de sombras!
  4. También podrías pegar un papel blanco sobre la pared y trazar la silueta de un miembro de tu familia.
  5. ¿Qué pasa cuando acercas o alejas tus manos de la fuente de luz? Descubre cómo cambian las sombras y siluetas, mientras te diviertes en familia.

¿Te gustaría descargar esta actividad? Haz clic aquí para obtener un archivo PDF.

Para encontrar actividades, ideas y mucho más descubrimiento en casa, ¡síguenos!

Educational opportunities like this are supported in part by Fort Fund.

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Daily Discovery: Singing Glass / Descubrimiento en casa: Copas musicales

Post written by Eisen Tamkun, Music Programming Lead.

Daily Discovery: Singing Glass

Wine glasses aren’t just for wine. Learn how to make them sing!

Supplies:

  • Wine glasses – the more the better (not all work – experiment to see which work best!)
  • Water
  • Tape
  • Pen

Instructions:

  1. Wash your hands to get any dirt off so they are squeaky clean.
  2. Fill the glass about half way with water.
  3. Take your pointer finger and dip it into the water; then with slight pressure, run your finger in a circular motion along the rim. If it feels too dry, just give you finger another dip!
  4. The key is maintaining the same amount of pressure as you move your finger along the rim. And pretty soon you will have a new musical talent! Just remember the three things needed to make that glass sing: moisture, pressure and glass type.
  5. Now that you have mastered making your glass sing, it’s time to start experimenting! Using the tape, mark where the water level is. Add or take away some water and listen to
    how the sound changes.

Nicely done! You have gained a new musical talent. Practice creating different tones with multiple glasses and water levels, and host a singing glass concert for you family!

Want to download these directions? Click here for a handy PDF!

Follow along with our Daily Discovery! Click here for all activities that you can do at home.

 

Traducido por Károl de Rueda y Laura Vilaret-Tuma.

Descubrimiento en casa: Copas musicales

Las copas de vino no se usan solamente para beber. ¡También pueden hacer música! Aprende cómo hacerlas sonar siguiendo unas instrucciones sencillas.

Artículos necesarios:

  •  Copas de vino vacías, mientras más, mejor. (Hay algunas copas que no suenan, así que primero prueba para ver cuáles sirven mejor para esta actividad)
  • Agua
  • Cinta adhesiva
  • Pluma

Instrucciones:

  1. Lávate las manos hasta que estén super limpias.
  2. Llena una copa con agua hasta la mitad.
  3. Mete la punta de tu dedo índice, sácalo del agua y después, con un poco de presión, mueve el mismo dedo en forma circular sobre el borde de la copa; esta debe emitir un tono musical. Si se siente un poco seco, simplemente moja tu dedo en el agua otra vez.
  4. La clave para mantener este sonido es el aplicar la misma cantidad de presión sobre el borde de la copa. ¡Ya estás adquiriendo una nueva habilidad musical! Solo recuerda los
    tres elementos para hace música con las copas: humedad, presión, y el tipo de copa que usas.
  5. Ahora que ya has hecho música, ¡es hora continuar el experimento! Llena otras copas con diferentes cantidades de agua y usando cinta adhesiva, marca el nivel del agua en cada una. Aplícales presión con tu dedo índice como aprendiste en esta actividad, y ¡observa cómo cambia el tono musical!

¡Bien hecho! Ya has ganado un nuevo talento musical. ¡Organiza un concierto de copas musicales para tu familia!

¿Te gustaría descargar esta actividad? Haz clic aquí para obtener un archivo PDF.

Para encontrar actividades, ideas y mucho más descubrimiento en casa, ¡síguenos!

Educational opportunities like this are supported in part by Bohemian.

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Daily Discovery: Engineering at Home – Bouncy Ball Challenge

Post written by Sierra Tamkun, Learning Experiences Manager. Adapted from EEK.

Daily Discovery: Engineering at Home – Bouncy Ball Challenge

Engineers often use things called “polymers” as part of their inventions. Though the word may sound unfamiliar, you interact with polymers every day! Plastic is a polymer that’s in everything from toys to toothbrushes. Engineers and scientists even use polymers in building spacecraft, and study how the environment of space effects these materials in different ways. Make your very own polymer, and then modify it to make the bounciest ball possible!

What are polymers?

Polymers are made from big molecules, but these big molecules are really many small molecules linked together in a pattern. Just like how a single braid is made of many strands of hair!

What makes polymers special?

The interesting thing about polymers is that you can change the big molecules by changing the small molecules. Just like changing a recipe makes a cookie taste differently, changing the ingredients can make a polymer behave differently.

Supplies:

  • 2 cups Borax
  • Corn Starch
  • Elmer’s glue
  • Warm Water
  • Measuring cups/spoons

Instructions:

  1. Begin by making a borax solution! Pour 2 tablespoons of warm water into a cup. Add 1/2 teaspoon of borax. Stir until the borax dissolves.
  2. To make your bouncy ball, pour 1 tablespoon of glue into the second cup.
  3. Add 1/2 teaspoon of the borax solution and 1 tablespoon of corn starch. DO NOT STIR for 15 seconds!
  4. Now stir! When it gets too difficult, pull the mixture out and begin kneading it! It’ll start off sticky, but soon you’ll have a bouncy ball. Tip: Unlike a regular bouncy ball, this can dry out, so make sure you store your ball in a plastic bag or container.
  5. Now it’s time to experiment with different types of polymers! Make 2 more bouncy balls. This time change the amount of one of the three ingredients (borax solution, corn starch, or glue).
  6. Time to test! Which ball bounces best? Use a ruler or tape measure to find out. Record your results in a chart like in the PDF!

Want to download these directions? Click here for a handy PDF!

Follow along with our Daily Discovery! Click here for all activities that you can do at home.

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Daily Discovery: What’s With Weather? – Wind

Post written by Heidi Fuhrman, Discovery Camp Coordinator.

Daily Discovery: What’s With Weather? – Wind

You’re on your way to becoming a junior meteorologist! Today we’re going to learn more about another ingredient for weather—wind! Learn what causes wind, why it’s important, how scientists learn about wind before doing your own experiment to see what’s blowing in your neighborhood, and building another tool for your weather station! (If you haven’t checked out “What’s With Weather: Forecast It!” you might start there first!)

Supplies:

For Wind Experiment

  • A few plastic lids
  • petroleum jelly
  • Yarn
  • Hole punch
  • Magnifying glass (optional)
  • A windy day!

For Anemometer:

  • 5 small dixie cups OR 1 egg carton
  • Scissors
  • Hole punch
  • Tape
  • 2 straws OR wooden dowels
  • 1 push pin
  • 1 pencil (with eraser)
  • Electric fan (optional)

What’s With Wind?

We’ve already learned that weather is the mix of events that happen each day in our atmosphere. We know that there are many different pieces that make up weather, but temperature, atmospheric pressure, wind, humidity, precipitation, and cloudiness are especially important! We’ve also learned that meteorologists are
scientists who study and forecast—predict—the weather and learned about some of the tools they use to make accurate forecasts! [TIP: If you haven’t tried out “What’s With Weather: Forecast It!, you might want to try that Discovery at Home first!]

Today we’re going to learn about one of those important pieces for weather—wind!

Wind is air in motion, but what causes it? The Sun’s rays heat up Earth’s surface and its atmosphere. . .but don’t heat it all evenly. Some parts of Earth’s surface warm quicker. Warm air weighs less than cold air, so the warm air rises up and it is replaced by cool air. This movement—caused by uneven heating—is wind! If you remember from What’s With Weather: Forecast It!, our weather is also caused by differences in atmospheric pressure (remember, that’s what we measure with our barometer). Atmospheric pressure is also a part of wind! Warmer air is usually found in low pressure systems (L on our weather maps!) and cold air is usually found in high pressure systems (H on our weather maps) so wind usually blows from high pressure to low pressure systems! Land formations can also affect wind. Mountains, valleys, lakes, and deserts will all change how the atmosphere warms and can funnel how wind blows. Humans can also impact wind! Skyscrapers and other all buildings close together can impact air pressure and funnel wind between them!

But the land doesn’t just shape wind, wind shapes the land! Over
time wind can cause erosion and even quickly change landscapes,
such as sand dunes! You can experience this yourself if you ever
visit Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park!

Your Turn

Now that you know a bit about wind it’s your turn to track information about wind in your neighborhood! Conduct an experiment to see what’s blowing around your house and add your own anemometer to your meteorologist tool kit!

Experiment: What’s In The Wind?

Wind transports all sorts of things around the world—precipitation, pollution, pollen and more! You can see some of what is blowing through your neighborhood! Set up this experiment to discover what’s in the wind!

Instructions:

  1. Gather your supplies! You’ll need some plastic lids, a hole punch, scissors, string, and petroleum jelly.
  2. . Punch a hole near the edge of all your lids and tie a string through the hole to create a hanger.
  3. Cover both sides of your lids with petroleum jelly…careful this can get messy!
  4. Hang your lids in different locations around your yard on a windy or breezy day. Hypothesize: What do you think will get caught on your lid?
  5. Leave your lids outside for a few hours to collect whatever’s blowing in the wind. Then bring them inside. Place them on a paper towel or cookie sheet and observe!

Observe

Observe with your eyes.
• What got caught to your wind sample tools?
• Do you see anything that surprises you?
• Does it match your hypothesis?
Get out your magnifying glass.
• Do you see anything you didn’t notice with your plain eyes?
• What does this tell you about what’s blowing through your neighborhood?

This tool can’t catch everything that the wind might be carrying. It’s hard to catch things like smoke or pollution or precipitation, but you might see dust, leaves, seeds, maybe even insects or pollen!

Make Your Own Anemometer

Meteorologists and other scientists use a tool called an anemometer to measure wind speed. While tools like windsocks and  weathervanes can tell us which direction the wind is blowing, anemometers can help us measure the velocity of the wind too and help us make better forecasts and see if wind speeds might cause damage. Add your anemometer to the weather station you might have built from “What’s With Weather: Forecast It!”

  1. Gather your supplies! You’ll need tape, a push pin, scissors, a hole punch, a pencil, two straws (or wooden dowels) and five small dixie cups…if you don’t have cups on
    hand (like us!) you can use an egg crate instead!
  2. If you’re using an egg carton instead of small cups, start by cutting off the four corners of the carton and one other carton piece. These will serve as your
    cups! (If you have cups skip to step 3).
  3. Lay out four cups/carton pieces in this pattern and punch a hole on the inside side of each cup/piece.
  4. With your last cup/piece poke a hole in the bottom. Add holes on all four sides (you may only need to punch one hole in your carton piece.)
  5. Push your straws through the holes middle cup/piece to form an X. If you have a carton piece you may be able to cradle the X in the spaces. Poke the ends of the straws through your 4 outside cups/pieces. You may need to secure them together with tape or glue.
  6. Poke your pencil (eraser side up!) through the bottom hole, using a push pin, secure through the two straws into the eraser. Your anemometer is now complete!
  7. Make sure all four cups/pieces are facing in the same direction! Your pencil will also need to spin freely, so it is best to simply hold it between your fingers, however, you can also try weighting a bottle with sand or rocks and placing your pencil inside to create a stand.

Calibrate & Observe:
Hold the pencil between your fingers in a windy place (you can also use a fan indoors). What happens? Why does the anemometer spin? Why does it spin only one direction? What will happen if you set the fan to a higher speed or the wind blows stronger?

Want to download these directions? Click here for a handy PDF!

Follow along with our Daily Discovery! Click here for all activities that you can do at home.

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Daily Discovery: Be a Noise Control Engineer – Quiet that Phone!

Post written by Eisen Tamkun, Music Education Lead.

Daily Discovery: Be a Noise Control Engineer – Quiet that Phone!

Pollution. We often hear about the different kinds, from air and water to light pollution. But have you ever heard of sound pollution? Sound pollution can have harmful effects on both our health and the environment. It is the job of Noise Control Engineers to design and test noise insulation technologies and sound-adsorbent materials to help limit the harmful impacts of noise and sound pollution. Try your own hand at being a Noise Control Engineer and quiet that phone!

Supplies:

  • Smart Phone
  • Box or container large enough to hold phone and surrounding
    materials
  • Materials- A variety of should be gathered. Start with clothes, plastic bags, bubble wrap, blankets, rain jackets, and anything else that comes to mind
  • Song to play during testing
  • Pen and paper for recording

Instructions:

  1.  Once you have gathered a variety of materials it is time to begin! Start by picking only one kind of material such as t-shirts.
  2. Begin playing that rocking song you chose.
  3. Next, surround the phone with the t-shirts and place it in your container. Try to have the phone be positioned in the very center of the box with equal amount of t-shirt material on all sides. If the phone is touching one side of the container the whole experiment is off.
  4. Close the lid and listen. Did the music get quieter or not? Go ahead and record with your pen and paper the material you used (t-shirts) and how successful it was in quieting the phone on a scale of 1-10. 10 being you can’t hear the music at all and 1 being no change in sound level.
  5. Chose another material and repeat steps 1-4.
  6. Repeat step 5.
  7.  Repeat step 5 again.
  8. Now instead of using only one kind of material switch it up and try combining the materials together. Perhaps both t-shirts and plastic bags or bubble wrap and rain jackets. The possibilities are endless! Just don’t forget to record your results.
  9. Once you are finished testing each materials and combinations of materials got back and check out your recordings. Which material did the best in canceling out noise? Why do you think that is? What other materials do you think might work better? These are questions Noise Control Engineers ask themselves.

Want to download these directions? Click here for a handy PDF!

Follow along with our Daily Discovery! Click here for all activities that you can do at home.

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Daily Discovery: Simple Machines – Engineering Challenge!

Post written by Hannah Curtis, Education Assistant.

Daily Discovery: Simple Machines – Engineering Challenge!

How can one person easily lift a 500 lbs. piano? We have the how and why behind the simple machines that help you do just that! Think like a mechanical engineer to create a design concept, build and test your own machines, and see what you can lift at home!

Mechanical Engineering and Simple Machines:
Mechanical engineering combines physics, material sciences, and mathematical principles to design, build and maintain machines and tools that help make our world move and improve the conditions the life.

Subdisciplines of mechanical engineering:
1. Mechanical Manufacturing Engineering: These engineers have the important job of understanding, and improving, product quality of complex industrial and infrastructure systems.
2. Mechatronic Engineering: These engineers create robot-type smart machines that can make their own decisions and be conscious of their surroundings.

Mechanical engineers work with highly complex systems and machinery, but can often involve simple machines in what they do. Simple machines have a few working parts that provide a mechanical advantage to make aspects of our lives easier. These include the wheel and axel, levers, pulleys, or an inclined plane.

How do they work?

A lever is a rigid bar resting on a pivot, used to help move a heavy
load with one end when pressure is applied to the other. There are three classes of levers, and we see examples of all in everyday objects!

A pulley is a wheel and axel that guides or changes the direction of a rope, or reduce the force needed to move a load. Engineers can even use multiple pulleys to increase the mechanical advantage! There are three types of pulleys: fixed, moveable and compound. Each wheel rotates appropriately with the rope being pulled to reduce friction and increase mechanical advantage.

Supplies:

  • Cardboard
  • Writing utensils
  • Glue or tape
  • Random objects of varying weights
  • Paper tubes
  • String or yarn
  • Sticks and rocks
  • Wire coat hanger
  • Spools

Instructions:

  1. Find something in your house that you want to use as your load (an object to lift) this could be heavy or light.
  2. Use what you now know about simple machines, and engineer a way to move or lift your object effectively.
  3. Continue your research into other simple machines to assist in your design concept. Will you use pulleys, levers, wheels and axels, wedges, or maybe a combination?

Want to download these directions? Click here for a handy PDF!

Follow along with our Daily Discovery! Click here for all activities that you can do at home.

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Daily Discovery: Rocket Power – Engineering Challenge

Post written by Charlotte Conway, Public Programs Coordinator.

Daily Discovery: Rocket Power – Engineering Challenge

Engineers design rockets that can leave our planet and travel through space! But how do they build spacecraft that can fly there? Through this balloon rocket demonstration, see firsthand how a jet engine works to propel rockets into outer space!

Supplies:

  • Balloon
  • String (fishing string or a fine, smooth string is preferred)
  • Drinking straw
  • 2 supports to tie your string to – Chairs, a railing, and/or door knob work (make sure they are level in height)
  • Tape or glue dots
  • Tape measure or ruler
  • Pencil
  • Paper
  • Colored pencils (optional)
  • Clothespin or binder clip (optional)

Instructions:

  1. To demonstrate how a rocket moves, you are going to make a balloon rocket. The balloon rocket is propelled, or caused to move, by the air rushing out the end. Think of the balloon as your rocket’s engine, or propulsion system, and the air inside as your jet fuel!
  2. Begin with your straw. Straight drinking straws work best the best, but if you have a bendy straw, cut off the part that bends and keep the straightest segment.
  3. Now tie one end of the string to a chair, railing, or doorknob. This is where your balloon rocket will fly to. If you would like to, draw a picture of a planet you would like to visit and tape your drawing to the chair or railing.
  4. Thread the free end of the string through the straw. Tie the other end of the string to the other support (chair, railing, or doorknob).
  5. Blow up the balloon to its maximum capacity, being careful not to pop your balloon! Hold the end closed. Don’t tie your balloon shut. Keep it pinched closed with the help of a friend, or you can use a clothespin or binder clip to keep it closed.
  6. Attach the balloon to the straw using tape or glue dots.
  7. 3…2…1… Blast off! Let go of the balloon’s end and see how far it flies!
  8. Use your tape measure or ruler to measure how far your rocket traveled on the first launch. Print the table below, or draw the table on your own paper to track your results. Write down the distance traveled for each launch, making sure to write down how much ‘fuel’ (air) was inside your balloon and the launch number.
  9. Repeat steps 5-8 to launch your balloon two more times, for a total of three launches.
  10. Repeat steps 5-8, but on step 4, instead of blowing up the balloon to maximum capacity, blow the balloon up to ¾ air capacity and repeat the launch 3 times. Follow the same procedure to launch the balloon with ½ air capacity and again with ¼ air capacity.
  11. Compare the data from your launches. What conclusions can you draw from your data? Is the distance your balloon traveled related to how much air was in your balloon?

Want to download these directions? Click here for a handy PDF!

Follow along with our Daily Discovery! Click here for all activities that you can do at home.

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Daily Discovery: Engineering Challenge – Civil Engineers

Post written by Heidi Fuhrman, Discovery Camp Coordinator.

Daily Discovery: Engineering Challenge – Civil Engineers

You can live, work, learn, and travel thanks to the solutions of Civil Engineers all around you! Learn about what Civil Engineers do, go on a scavenger hunt to find their work in your own neighborhood or city, and put on your own Jr. Civil Engineering hat to see if your design can stand up to our Civil Engineering challenge!

Supplies:

  • Pencil & Paper
  • Ruler
  • Civil Engineering Scavenger Hunt Page (optional, included)
  • Assortment of noodles, toothpicks, mini-marshmallows, tape, string, sticks, recycled cardboard, index cards, foam, pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks—whatever you can find in your house or backyard!
  • Fan (optional)
  • Bucket of water (optional)
  • Pillow or extra cardboard and a few balls (optional)

What is Civil Engineering?

Have you ever driven on a road? Turned on the sink to get water? Traveled across a bridge or through a tunnel? Flushed your toilet? Swum in Horsetooth or another reservoir? Gone in a building? You can do all these things and more thanks to the work of Civil Engineers!

Civil Engineering is one of the many branches of engineering.* Civil Engineers are problem solvers who work specifically with infrastructure. They design roads, buildings, tunnels, bridges, dams, buildings, subways, and more—all the things that help us live, work, and travel! They also help design important systems you may not see, such as how to get water clean and into your house; where dirty water and sewage (the stuff that goes down your toilet!) go; and where to direct stormwater to keep your neighborhood or basement from flooding! Our cities wouldn’t be the same without Civil Engineers!

Your Turn!

Think: What kind of Civil Engineer would you want to be?
What are things you care about or enjoy? Animals, people, airplanes, cars, trains, building structures, traveling, taking care of our planet? Which type of Civil Engineer could work with the things you love? Think about what problems you want to solve? Which Civil Engineer could help you solve them? If you were a Civil Engineer how would you solve them?
Look: Find examples of Civil Engineering in your city or neighborhood. As you drive or walk around keep your eyes open! You can even use the scavenger hunt page included at the end! What do you find? A lot of examples? A few? What did you find that surprised you? Which examples would you like to learn more about?
Try: Do the activity below to become a Jr. Civil Engineer and see if your design can solve some of the problems and pass some of the tests real Civil Engineers have to deal with!

Create The Strongest Bridge:

One of the many things Civil Engineers design are bridges! And guess what? Every type of Civil Engineer you learned about earlier may be involved in bridge design and  construction! (Can you figure out how?)

Your challenge: Using your available materials, design a bridge that can span at least three inches. Your bridge will not only have to cross the divide, but also withstand testing—wind, earthquake, load, and possibly even flood testing—to make sure it is a safe design to be built and used by humans. Follow the steps below to get building!

  1. Engineers use something called the Engineering Design Process to come up with, design, and test possible solutions to problems. We’re going to use that to solve our problem today (see the whole process in the chart on the next page). First, we need to identify the problem or need. What is the problem or need we’re facing in this challenge?
  2. Next, gather your bridge building materials (noodles, toothpicks, mini-marshmallows, tape, string, sticks, recycled cardboard, index cards, foam, pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks— whatever you can find in your house or backyard!) Set them in front of you so you know what you’ve got to work with!
  3. The next steps of the Engineering Design Process are to imagine possible solutions and draw a plan. Think about how you might use the materials in front of you to solve the
    identified problem. Remember that your solution will need to withstand testing! It will need to bear weight, stand in the wind, and stand in an earthquake. Once you’ve got an
    idea grab paper and a pencil. Draw your idea and write some steps to your design (you can use the worksheet included at the end if you want!)
  4. Now that you’ve got a plan build your bridge! This is the fourth step of the Engineering Design Process; you’re creating a prototype! Level up: Don’t use tape or glue in your bridge design!

Time To Test:

Once you’ve got your bridge built it’s time to test it! Testing is the fifth step of the Engineering Design Process. It’s ok if you’re nervous to test your design (A NASA Engineer once told me that even they’re nervous to test their designs)! You put a lot of work into it, but testing is the only way we can be sure our designs will work and keep people safe. Even if your design fails you learn important information!

Load

1. The most important job of a bridge is to get people and vehicles from one place to another. But people and vehicles are heavy! A bridge must be able to withstand load (that’s the weight of the bridge itself and the weight of anything it might hold). Choose a heavy object (such as a can or book, you might choose this before construction so you know what your bridge will hold). Place it on your bridge. Can your bridge hold the weight? What about your design do you think helped its ability to hold weight. What hindered it?Did anything break or fall off? If it broke than your bridge isn’t safe enough for the real world yet! Level up: How much weight can your bridge hold?

Wind

1. Weather patterns can also be load on a bridge! Bridges need to be able to withstand a variety of weather conditions…including high wind! Place a fan a few feet from your bridge and turn it on. Can your bridge withstand the wind? Did anything break or fall off? If it broke than your bridge isn’t safe enough for the real world yet!
Level up: What wind speed can your bridge withstand (turn that fan on high!)

Earthquake!

1. Bridges also have to be able to withstand unexpected events such as earthquakes (thank you Earthquake Engineers)! To see if your bridge can withstand an earthquake place it on a moveable surface (such as a pillow or cookie sheet), tape it down, and give that surface a shake! Can your bridge withstand the earthquake? Did anything break or fall off? If it broke than your bridge isn’t safe enough for the real world yet! Level up: Build your very own shake table!

Flood!

1. For a final, fun test see how your bridge holds up in a flood (warning: this one could destroy your bridge)! You’ll want to place your bridge somewhere where a flood won’t cause other damage (such as on a porch or in a bathtub). Tape your bridge down, fill a bucket of water, and dump it downstream of your bridge. Did your bridge withstand the flood? Did anything break or fall off? If it broke than your bridge isn’t safe enough for the real world yet!

How did your bridge(s) hold up? Where did they fail? The final steps in the Engineering Design Process are improve and redesign, and repeat! How could you improve your bridge? If you designed again what would you change? Give your improvements a try! Did your bridge preform better this time?

Share It!
We’d love to see your bridges and any other Jr. Civil Engineering Projects you might try!

Want to download these directions? Click here for a handy PDF!

Follow along with our Daily Discovery! Click here for all activities that you can do at home.

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