Sunday 21 January 2018

Project 19: Science and chemistry

This week's project was split between general science experiments, and a closer look at the elements in particular. The science part resolved around the Horrible Science - Explosive Experiments set, whilst the outcome of the elements section was a poster of Solomon's favourite elements.

Horrible Science - Explosive Experiments

The Horrible Science - Explosive Experiments set contained most of the materials you need for seven experiments, including a volcano, rocket, lava lamp, and super snot. It's a nice sized set, with some fun experiments for children. Most of the experiments you could do without the set, but it's worth the money to save you having to choose experiments, explain the science, and gather materials together - although you will still need to supply a few household items (e.g., vinegar, cornflour and a bicycle pump).

The most impressive of the experiments was undoubtedly the rocket, and the super snot was the damp squib as it never set properly into a goo.

We watched a number of videos on matter and the elements (incl: "What's matter", "What's all the matter? atoms and molecules""Just how small is an atom?"), played Top Trump Elements, and looked through A Beginner's Guide to the Periodic Table and The Photographic Card Deck of the Elements. After which Solomon had to pick some of his favourite elements for a poster.

Solomon's Elements Poster

Next week's project: Local wildlife and birds.

Sunday 14 January 2018

Project 18: History of Computing

Following on from our first home education project Project 1: History of Computer Games, this week we explored the history of computing more broadly. Exploring how technology has changed from the early mechanical adding aids to the modern digital computers that we have access to today. In addition to the usual books and videos we built some logic gates in Minecraft, visited the Centre for Computing History, and created a micro:bot with a BBC micro:bit.

Like many children his age Solomon loves exploring and building things in Minecraft, so it was an ideal environment to show how from valves and transistors we can now build virtual computers in Minecraft using redstone. Obviously such a task is beyond the scope of a one week project for a five year old, but we did build AND and XOR Minecraft logic gates that could be combined to add up two single digit binary numbers.
Logic gates in Minecraft
The Centre for Computing History in Cambridge is similar to the National Videogame Arcade in Nottingham, but with additional non-games related exhibitions. Unsurprisingly, however, the children preferred the gaming aspects, in particular Solomon enjoyed the range of classic Sonic and Mario console games available. As we went on a week day in term time we had free run of the place for most of the time. The staff were very helpful and there were some good worksheets. It was a great place for a day out, and we will definitely visit again.

Consoles at the Centre for Computing History
Pixel Art Worksheet
Finally we explored the latest generation of hobby computers by building a micro:bot with a BBC micro:bit, which is supposed to be a bit like a hexbug.
BBC micro:bit micro:bot
It was a nice little project, although there were a few difficulties: Maplins didn't have all the pieces we needed, and the code blocks differed slightly between the instructions and the micro:bit web site. Kitronik however will send out components the same day if you order before 3pm, and we managed to work out which blocks we needed.
Final micro:bot code

Next week's project: Science and chemistry

Sunday 7 January 2018

Project 17: World Records!

For our first project of the year we decided to explore some world records. We looked at the wide range of records people attempt, how records improve over time, the importance of practice, and of course tried some world records ourselves.

We had three copies of the Guinness Book of World Records (1991, 2004, 2018), and it was really interesting to see how the book has changed over the years (as well as the records) with far less information and far more glossy pictures in recent editions.
Athletics in the Guinness Book of World Records
We attempted 6 different records over the week, including one we developed ourselves (to emphasise the importance of developing explicit rules).

3-3-3 Speedstacks
We've had a set of Speedstacks at the back of the cupboard for years, but have never gotten them out for the kids.  We timed the 3-3-3 cycle so all three children (including a 2 year old) could attempt the world record.

World Record - 1.363 seconds; Solomon - 8.39 seconds.

20 Lego Brick Tower
Like most children his age Solomon spends hours playing with Lego, so a Lego world record was a natural one to try:

World Record - 20.75 seconds; Solomon - 55.15 seconds.

20 brick Lego tower

Pairs of Socks sorted in 30 seconds
The world record for sorting socks turned out to be a bit trickier than initially expected - 3 and 5 year olds are not natural ballers of socks!

World Record - 18 pairs; Solomon - 2 pairs.
Socks to be paired
100m Sprint
We couldn't attempt world records without trying one of the best known - the 100m.

World Record - 9.58; Solomon - 37.84 seconds.

MarioKart - GCN Yoshi Circuit
We also attempted an eGames record. Although Solomon may have been tempted by a Minecraft or Mario Odyssey marathon, we settled on a fastest lap on Mario Kart:

World Record - 39.029 seconds; Solomon - 1 minute 6.811 seconds.

Cuponk - 1 ball, 1 minute, 75cm
Finally we developed our own world record using a Cuponk cup and ball (another toy from the back of the cupboard). How many times could the ball be thrown into the cup from 75cm away?

Solomon's World Record - 2 balls.

Solomon's favourite attempt of the week was, unsurprisingly, Mario Kart.

Next week: History of Computing.