April 12

Making science fun with paper roller coasters

Paper Roller Coaster by Andrew Gatt

My grade school days are so far behind me, I remember very little about any sort of science experiments. I vaguely recall something about adding food coloring to water to turn white carnations different colors. BOR-ING. If I had Andrew Gatt for a teacher, I think I would have some pretty epic science memories.

As the lower school science specialist as a school in Raleigh, North Carolina, Andrew started building paper roller coasters in the late 90s as an activity in his 5th grade classroom. He continued refining his designs over the years, and started making presentations of his designs at teacher conventions and eventually started selling the templates and directions.  These days, he teaches science to 7th and 8th graders and uses the templates with his 7th graders each fall. The templates are available on his website.

Homeschoolers and science aficionados rejoice! Andrew offers three lesson plans to use with the paper roller coasters, which are available for free download on his website, PaperRollerCoasters.com. “The lesson plans show how paper roller coasters can be used to teach about speed, acceleration, potential energy, and kinetic energy,” says Andrew. “It’s also a great structural engineering lesson in which students have to build a sturdy structure that will hold up the tracks.”

See videos of paper roller coasters in action on Andrew’s YouTube channel!

Up to the challenge of building your own coaster? We’d love to hear about your efforts and results – feel free to share a link to your creation in the comments below! Go forth now and SCIENCE!

Links of Interest:
Andrew’s site, PaperRollerCoasters.com
More science crafts on GeekCrafts
Science category on GeekCrafts
May 1

World’s Smallest Stop Motion Pixel Art: IBM’s “A Boy and his Atom”

Now THIS is a GeekCraft: A Boy And His Atom: The World’s Smallest Movie

A Boy and His Atom by IBM

Okay, so you need a $214 BILLION company to sponsor you to make one of these for yourself, but this is pixel art at its most tiny, and science at its most frivolous.

IBM this week released their mini stop-motion movie made using atoms. Yep, those dots acting as pixels are carbon monoxide molecules – two stacked carbon atoms – which have been manipulated frame-by-frame to create a story about a boy and his atom. It took a small team two weeks to complete using a scanning tunnelling microscope (STM), which uses quantum physics to move atoms and molecules around. The video has earned IBM a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for creating the teeniest tiniest stop motion film.

Want to know more? Watch the second film all about how they made it: Moving Atoms: Making The World’s Smallest Movie

April 16

Tutorial: Needle Felted Solar System Mobile

Needle Felted Solar System

I’ve never actually tried needle felting myself, but this is such a wonderful use of the craft that I am definitely going to give it a go sometime. Check out this Needle Felted Solar System Mobile over on It’s a Knit House.

There’s a set of instructions for making your own Needle Felted Solar System Mobile. Although obviously, it’s not quite to scale. If you made a 2 inch diammeter version of the Earth in a scale model, the Sun would have to be 18 feet across, and you’d need 22 miles to fit the whole thing in, including orbits (or 29 miles if you want to include Pluto).

But for illustrative purposes this is an awesome geeky science craft! I want one.

March 13

Fungi Embroidery

Fungi Embroidery

 

Who knew fungi could be so pretty? Besides Carolyn, I mean. She’s a PhD student and these “furry friends” are actual fungi that’s she’s studying in the lab. She was so smitten with them that she decided to stitch them up as a decoration for her desk. I love it! You should definitely check out her blog, Allspice Abounds, for a more detailed explanation of this piece and some great close-up shots of the stitches.

And for all you 90s nerds out there, see if you can spot the Wayne’s World reference in her post.

April 27

Friday Round-Up: Fish with Feet

So, this week’s Friday Round-Up celebrates one of my heroes, Darwin. The well-known two legged take on the ichthys symbol  is used by fans of evolution (can a scientific theory have fans? Does it matter if it does or not? It’s popularity’s kinda irrelevant; it’s still true…). Darwin Fish (Or Tonys, as all good Feeters know) are rough depictions of Ichyostega, the remains of which are important transitional fossils between tetrapods and fish, since they have a tail and gulls akin to fish but amphibian style skull and limbs.

So, I present to you my ten favourite crafts in honour of both Darwin and Tony…

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