Daily Discovery: Straw Rockets

Post written by Charlotte Conway, Public Programs Coordiantor. Activity adapted from NASA/JPL

Daily Discovery: Straw Rockets

Blasting off! Practice the engineering design process by creating your own soda straw rocket. Design, launch, and then modify features of your rocket just like engineers working on rockets today.

Rocket Design Background

Modern rocket design began near the beginning of the 20th century. While much has been learned and rockets have grown larger and more powerful, rocket designs are still improving. Engineers developing new rockets must control variables and consider failure points when improving rocket designs. By changing one variable at a time, engineers can determine if that change leads to an increase or decrease in performance.  They must also consider how their design might fail, and work to improve their design. These incremental changes allow engineers to improve rocket performance and increase the amount of mass they can lift into space.

Supplies:

  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Soda Straw (plastic or reusable)
  • Meter stick or meter measuring tape
  • Rocket template and data log (Printable PDF)

Instructions:

  1. Carefully cut out the large rectangle on the rocket template. This will be the body of the rocket. Wrap the rocket body around a pencil length-wise and tape it closed to form a tube.
  2. Carefully cut out the two fin units. Align the rectangle in the middle of the fin with the end of the rocket body, and tape it to the rocket body. Nothing should stick out past the bottom of the rocket body.
  3. Do the same thing for the other fin, but tape it on the other side of the pencil to make a “fin sandwich.”
  4. Bend the part of the fin that looks like a triangle 90 degrees so that each fin is at a right angle to its neighbor. Looking at the bottom of the rocket, the fins should look like a + .
  5. Twist and pinch the top of the rocket body around the tip of the pencil to create a “nose cone” for the rocket. Tape the nose cone to prevent air from escaping and to keep it from untwisting.
  6. Measure the cone from its base (right where it starts to narrow) to its tip, and record the length in your data log and the on the rocket itself. Once completed, it should be about 13 cm (or 5 in) tall.
  7. Remove the pencil and replace it with the soda straw.
  8. In your designated launch area, away from people and other hazards, blow into the straw to launch your rocket.
  9. Use a meter stick or measuring tape to measure the distance it travels. Record the distance of the launch in your data log.
  10. Now, try to improve your design! Make a new rocket by altering the template. Try different rocket lengths, fin shapes, or fin angles. Remember to only change one variable at a time to see how each rocket launch performs and compares to the original design. Repeat the steps above for every launch, record each design change, and rocket-flight distance in your data log.
  11. You can decorate your rocket for fun if you would like to as well!

Safety First: Launch in a place with a large open area. You may ask parent permission to move furniture to create space. Or, consider launching your rocket outside if that is an option for you.

 

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.

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

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Daily Discovery: Bubble Science!

Post written by Hannah Curtis, Education Assistant.

Daily Discovery: Bubble Science!

Bubble baths, a carbonated summer time drink, bubble gum, or the result of the chemical reaction between baking soda and vinegar. We all know and love bubbles, but what’s up with them always being round? Come explore the science of bubbles with us and experiment with non-spherical bubbles!

Why are Bubbles Always Round?

Bubbles are simply one substance inside of another forming a sphere. These substances are usually a gas inside a liquid. The bubbles we know best are made with dish soap or glycerin and water, and are created using the CO2 gas that we naturally exhale from our lungs. You’ve probably wondered why bubbles are always round, why can’t they be square or a triangle. Well, when you blow a bubble and it begins to float in the air, this bubble will always be spherical. The water and soap molecules that make up the bubble like to be close together creating a force called surface tension creating a shape that has the smallest surface area, which happens to be a sphere, rather than a cube or pyramid.

Bubble Cage for Non-spherical Bubbles!

Supplies:

  • Pipe Cleaners
  • Straw or bubble wand
  • Water
  • Dish soap
  • Glycerin (optional)
  • Medium – large bin, bowl or container

Instructions:

  1. To create your cube bubble cage, start by cutting 6 full pipe cleaners in half to make 12 smaller pipe cleaners.
  2. Twist together the ends of four pipe cleaners to make a square. Do this again so you have two pipe cleaner squares.
  3. Now twist the remaining pipe cleaners to each corner of the two squares to form a cube. Remember a cube has 4 corners and 6 sides.
  4. Get your bubble solution ready. In a large enough bowl or container to fit your cube, fill it with water and add dish soap to make it nice a foamy. (As you test your experiment, you may need to add more soap as needed. You may also add glycerin to your solution to strengthen the bubble film).
  5. Submerge your bubble cage into the bubble solution and swish it around a few times.
  6. Remove the cage from the solution and ensure that each side of the cage has a bubble film.
  7. Now gently, but with some force move the cage from side to side. This will cause the bubble films to come together into the center of the cage. A square bubble may appear just from this movement so keep your eyes peeled.
  8. You can add in another bubble into the center with a straw or bubble wand by blowing a small bubble in the center of the cage, creating a cube bubble.
  9. This process may take a few times to get right. Experiment further and see what other bubble shapes you can create!

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.

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

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Daily Discovery: Bending Light and Eyesight

Post written by Angela Kettle, School Programs Coordinator.

Daily Discovery: Bending Light and Eyesight

Have you ever noticed that your legs look out of place when you dangle them in the pool, or that the straw in a glass of water looks bent? This is called refraction. Refraction occurs when light bends as it passes from one medium to another – for example, from the front of a glass, to the water inside, to the back of a glass. Experiment with refraction for yourself in the activity below!

Supplies:

  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Crayons, colored pencils, or markers (optional)
  • 2+ different kinds of drinking glasses, filled with water – make sure the glasses are transparent
  • Your Observation Journal (find out how to make one here), or use another sheet of paper to record your findings

Instructions:

Part 1

  1. Draw an arrow on a sheet of paper. Note which way the arrow is facing (right, left, up, or down).
  2. Fill up a glass of water.
  3. Put your glass of water down, and put yourself at eye level with the water in the glass. Hold your drawing at arm’s length, so that you can see it through the glass. What do you notice about the way your drawing looks now? What about if you look at the image through the glass from a different angle?
  4. Repeat the experiment, this time with a different kind of glass. Does the image stay the same as the last glass, or does it change?
  5. Write or draw your findings in your Observation Journal.

Part 2

  1. Draw something new – whatever you like! Make sure that whatever you draw has certain parts facing one way or another (for example, you could draw a face with the eyes looking left, or a cat with its tail on the right side of the paper and its head on the left side).
  2. Look at your drawing through your glass of water, like you did with the arrows. What do you notice?
  3. Play around with your drawing and your glass. Try looking at the image from lots of different angles, through as many different kinds of drinking glasses as you can. How many different images can you create from your original image, just by experimenting with refraction?
  4. Record your findings in your Observation Journal. Share what you find by tagging us on social media and using #DailyDiscovery.

From Drinking Glasses to Eyeglasses

Refraction might seem like a fun magic trick, but did you know that refraction is what makes it possible for humans to see? Light is refracted as it passes through the cornea and the lens of the eye. This allows the light to come into focus on the retina, where it is converted into a message that the brain can understand.

Sometimes, though, refraction can go wrong, causing what’s called nearsightedness or farsightedness. When people are nearsighted, it means they can see things that are close to them, but not far away. Usually, this is caused by the eye being too long, causing light to focus in front of the retina. When people are farsighted, it means they can see things that are far away, but not things that are close. Usually, this is caused by the eye being too short, causing light to focus behind the retina. Both nearsightedness and farsightedness can also be caused by problems with the shape of the eye’s lens.

Thankfully, errors in refraction can be corrected with eyeglasses. First, an eye doctor (an optometrist) tests a patient’s vision to figure out her prescription (a way of measuring a person’s vision). From there, an engineer uses this prescription to make unique lenses. This lens is engineered to refract light so that it focuses in just the right spot on the retina, allowing the patient to see clearly.

Eyeglasses through the Ages

Eyeglasses have undergone many changes as engineers have figured out more efficient ways to craft them… and as fashion has changed, too! Here are a few historical photos from our Archive and a piece from our Collection at the museum! You can learn more about eyeglasses and fashion from our recent blog post, parts of which are adapted below:

The museum’s artifact collections offer a retrospective look (which is 20/20, of course) at the history of innovation in eyewear. Pince-nez spectacles, which had no earpieces and stayed in place with a nose clip were quite popular early in the 20th century but fell out of fashion as they became associated with older generations.

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.

References & Additional Resources

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

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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: 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!

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Daily Discovery: Build Your Own Ball Run

Post written by Angela Kettle, School Programs Coordinator.

Daily Discovery: Build Your Own Ball Run

Missing the Ball Run at the museum? Sharpen those engineering skills, and use cardboard, paper, and whatever else you can find around your house to build your own version!

Supplies:

All supplies are optional – use what you have!

  • Large piece of cardboard or posterboard
  • Paper towel rolls
  • Cardstock paper
  • Hot glue
  • Duct tape
  • Scotch tape
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Marble
  • Yarn or string
  • Blank paper
  • Pencil

Instructions:

  1. Start by identifying a surface you can use to build your Ball Run on. For example, this might be a large piece of cardboard, or a piece of posterboard that you tape up on a wall (with an adult’s permission!).
  2. Gather up different supplies from around your house. Decide which supplies you would like to use for your Ball Run. Here are some ideas!
    a. Use paper towel tubes as slides for your ball. You can cut one paper towel tube into smaller tubes if you would like.
    b. Fold cardstock paper into thirds. Tape the top to make a triangular tube. If you don’t have cardstock paper, you can tape together several regular sheets of paper to make them thicker.
    c. Make your own tubes out of duct tape.
    d. Find other tube-shaped materials around your house!
    e. Find a marble to use for a ball. If you don’t have a marble, you can make a ball out of play-doh, clay, aluminum foil, or whatever else you can think of.
  3. . Keeping in mind the size of your surface, sketch your Ball Run. Where will your ball start and end? Which materials will you use for each portion? How will you make sure your ball has enough momentum to keep going until it has reached the end of the run?
  4. Using your sketch as a guideline, build your Ball Run! Lay it out so you can see it before you start attaching anything – that way, if you need to change anything, you can!
  5. Time to attach your pieces to your surface! There are lots of
    different ways to do this. You can use hot glue, tape, or one of the methods shown in the picture. Or, maybe, you’ll think of your own way!
  6. Try it! Place your ball at the top of your Ball Run. What  happens? Did it go as you expected? Why or why not? Make repairs as needed.
  7. Take a photo or video of your final project. With your adult’s
    permission, share it with us on social media using #DailyDiscovery. Great job, Engineer!

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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