Monday, 21 March 2016

Whack-a-Potato and Unusual Pianos with Scratch and Makey Makeys

Today, the Grade 3-4 class will be starting work on two more Makey Makey projects. Groups may choose to do one or the other or both.

The first one is to create a modified version of the traditional Whack-a-Mole game, using Scratch and potatoes and the Makey Makey. Here is the project idea:

Whack a Potato

Here is some starter code in Scratch:

Scratch Whack a Potato Starter Blocks

The second one is to create a Scratch program that will allow you to attach unusual objects to the Makey Makey to create a unique piano, such as the banana piano.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Cool Science Experiments

Here are some really neat experiments and demos we will be trying!

Biodiversity and the Pinhey Sand Dunes

In the fall, we had two field trips to the Pinhey Sands Dunes: one to learn from the scientist of Biodiversity Conservancy International about this unique and remarkable habitat found right within the city limits in Ottawa, and secondly to participate in the restoration of the dunes themselves.

Here are some videos from Biodiversity Conservancy International links that focus of the Pinhey Sand Dunes, their restoration, flora and fauna.

  1. General Information about Pinhey Sand Dunes. Note the maps on the right hand side that show the disappearing dunes!
  2. The Shrinking Dunes  (video)
  3. Saving the Sand Dunes (video)
  4. Life on the Dunes: Various Species
  5. Where have all the spiders gone? (video)
  6. Collecting Data on Biodiversity (collecting bugs!) (video)

Invasive Species in Ottawa

There are some plants and insects (and even trees, bushes and probably animals) that are thriving in Ottawa but that are not native to this region, and so have no natural predators. In Morrison Park, and the St Paul High School field, I have seen:

Not quite so close to our school, but still within the City of Ottawa, I have seen many instances of wild parsnip, the sap of which can cause very severe blisters and burns.
What can we find growing in Morrison Park this year?

Film Canister Rockets

Many of our students are very, very, very interested in explosions, so we will be tinkering with film canister rockets. Film canisters are not very common these days -- I had to explain what they were the first time I mentioned them to my students -- but I was able to collect many from a friendly photo developing store.

Here are some good links to start researching:

  1. Science Kiddo - Film Canister Rocket
  2. PBS Kids - Film Canister Rocket
  3. Imagination Station - Film Canister Rocket
These web pages all describe demonstrations, but we will want to turn them into experiments by changing only one thing and see what the effect is.

Some questions we may want to answer:
  1. What different types of fuel can we develop? What is the least expensive, most powerful fuel we can find?
  2. What is the effect of temperature?
  3. What is the effect of structural items on the rocket, such as fins and a nose cone?
  4. What is going on that makes the rocket go up?
Here's another type of rocket we can maybe try too:

Monday, 7 March 2016

Obstacle Course in Scratch

A fun game to make in Scratch, building on concepts we have studied earlier in the year is an obstacle game. Here is an example, but be creative and make one that is special for you!

Scratch Obstacle Course Game

Hopscotch Programming

Hopscotch is a great programming environment available for iPads. It is a lot like Scratch, but designed for the touch screen interface.

Here is a YouTube video that provides step by step instructions to make a "Tapper Game" - a game where you are trying to tap an object as much as possible to get points. These instructions give the basic ideas and concepts, you will need to provide the game ideas!

Tapper Game in Hopscotch YouTube Video

Happy creating!

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Lemon Batteries

The grade 3 - 4 class has been studying energy: how we use it, how it is made, and how we can reduce our dependency. Here is a great explanation of a hands on activity to make a real battery from household materials:

Apparently, these batteries can be a bit finicky. We'll try our luck in class and see how it goes!

Update: We did successfully make the batteries in class, and were able to measure voltages of about 0.9 V per lemon. However, this was not enough to light up an LED, especially since more current was also needed. Later, by attaching three lemons in series, and making three sets like this, then attaching these three sets of three lemons in parallel, we could finally get enough current and voltage to make an LED light dimly.  

Mad Libs Program in Scratch

To reinforce what has been learned about the computer science concept of variables through exposure in previous programming exercises, students in grades 5 and 6 are creating their own Mad Libs program in Scratch, using variables to hold the nouns, verbs and adjectives. Here is a simple prgram I wrote, if you would like to see an example:

Once the use of variables is mastered, the program can be updated to use lists instead. Here is an example of how this can be done:
My you have a happy time coding!