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Brain Candy Live!

brain candy stage
What if you put together MythBusters’ Adam Savage with Vsauce’s Michael Stevens and allowed them to play onstage in a darkened room? It would be like candy! Brain candy! Wait a just a minute….

Adam and Michael onstage
Everything about the show was a nerdgasm! From the lights, and the music, to the 3D printers in the lobby printing out what looked like Galactic stormtroopers.

3D printer of stormtrooper
This is exactly what we got to watch tonight downtown at the Majestic Theatre. Adam and Michael brought along some of their toys and tools and let their curious brains unleash some mind-blowing demonstrations as they discussed how to make the invisible visible.

molecule dance
Namely, how can we explore the air around us? Far from boring, their sense of wonder reminded me of a cross between that crazy uncle everyone barely tolerates and that really cool science teacher you remember from middle school. For example, instead of simply describing molecular vibrations as stretching (symmetrical or asymmetrical) and bending (in-plane or out-of-plane), Adam and Michael called on audience volunteers to scissor, wag, twist, and rock their way through the movements. An interpretive dance of chemistry!

ping pong cannon
The grand finale was awesome! Adam and Michael were blasting hundreds of ping pong balls right into the audience!

World’s Largest Periodic Table

Graduate students from the UT Health Science Center worked with over 100 elementary, middle, and high school students to try and set a new world record for the largest periodic table of elements yesterday. Every school chose an element and painted a canvas tarp for that element.

As I mentioned in a previous post, our high school team chose iron because it is the 26th element and Theodore Roosevelt (the name of my school) was the 26th president. Each decorated tarp is 12 feet by 15 feet. When put together, the entire periodic table of 118 chemical elements is more than 22,000 square feet. That makes it big enough to cover most of the football field at Gustafson Stadium.

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We Have Iron For The World’s Largest Periodic Table!

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Thanks to the team at the Teacher Enrichment Initiatives (TEI) in the Department of Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center a San Antonio (UTHSCSA), we have been invited to join in the construction of the world’s largest periodic table!

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UTHSCSA’s TEI seeks partnerships between the faculty and staff of UTHSCSA and K-12 teachers in the San Antonio area. They offer a wealth of resources for science teachers, including a multidisciplinary health science curriculum aligned to state and national educational standards, and teacher professional development programs.

We chose the chemical element iron with the symbol Fe from ferrum, with Latin roots meaning to bear or to carry, because its atomic number is 26. As it happens, our high school is named after the 26th President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt, who had an iron constitution and wrote in a letter to New York legislator Henry Sprague on January 26th, 1900:

Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.

Bully! I think that Mr. Roosevelt would be proud!

Periodic Window Of Elements

My wife was dropping off our son Alton at his summer drawing class downtown and she saw this displayed in one of the campus buildings at a local private school. The periodic window of elements?

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The LEGO Movie

lego movie

I just saw The LEGO Movie with my son Alton and everything is awesome!!! It is The LEGO Group’s first feature-length comedy adventure film, although they have come out with other, shorter LEGO films before this one, covering such subjects as Bionicle, Hero Factory, Clutch Powers, Indiana Jones, and Star Wars. The LEGO Movie is directed and co-written by Phil Lord and Chris Miller and is distributed by Warner Brothers Pictures.

The movie is about Emmet Brickowski, an ordinary construction worker with no special qualities. He builds things with the aid of instruction manuals, and even uses one to manage his daily life. He meets Wyldstyle, a woman who is searching for the Piece of Resistance, an object capable of stopping a doomsday superweapon called the Kragle. Wyldstyle takes Emmet to Vitruvius, a wizard who explains that he and Wyldstyle are Master Builders capable of building anything they need, both with great speed and without instruction manuals.

The ability of these LEGO characters to manipulate their own LEGO universe offers the adult viewer some ontological questions that is in part what makes this movie clever and funny. The conflicting worldviews between conformist building (do not deviate from the instructions) and creative building (construct your desires from anything available) are expressed throughout the movie and remind me of how different people treat LEGO bricks.

Also, several websites come to mind. LEGO Education is the part of The LEGO Group that offers several STEM building kits for students to explore and to work hands-on through practical experience and demonstration.

LEGOengineering is a website developed by the Tufts University Center for Engineering Education and Outreach with the support of LEGO Education to inspire and support teachers in bringing LEGO-based engineering to all students.

Besides the obvious use of using LEGO building materials for design and construction, LEGO bricks can also be used to provide an analogy for atoms, molecules, and their reactions. Scott Halpern at ChemistryUnderstood.com has used LEGO bricks to explain atomic theory.

Texas Tech University’s GK-12 Building Bridges program participants Arla Jo Anderton Gideon, John Como, and Jennifer Hortman (a high school chemistry teacher, a science PhD candidate, and a master’s candidate in math, respectively) developed a lesson module for using LEGO bricks to teach balancing chemical equations.

Along those lines, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Edgerton Center offers a Chemical Reactions lesson that introduces to students molecules, atoms, chemical notation, and chemical compounds through an engaging hands-on wet lab and LEGO brick models of atoms.

Remember, LEGO is not only from the Danish phrase leg godt which means play well, it is also Latin for I study or I put together.