Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Diving and Climbing Sparkies Go to a Summer Camp

Tanya Garner, Lemelson Center’s Interpretative Exhibit Manager, goes to a school in Washington View once a week for an all-girls summer camp. She invited us to bring the Diving Sparky and Climbing Sparky to test it out with the camp’s participants. Since I have been testing the Diving Sparky and Climbing Sparky activities with a number of Spark!Lab visitors for over a week, we felt that both activities are now ready to travel.
While all of the kids who tried building the Diving Sparky at the Spark!Lab did not seem to have any difficulty, I still felt that there was an easier way to make one with simpler materials (at this point I was using a plastic pipette weighed down with a piece of bendable wire). A few hours before departing for the camp, I found a teacher’s blog that used a drinking straw and paper clips to make the diver. Spark!Lab has an abundance bendable straws because this is one of the inventions featured in their exploration kits. After a few tries, I concluded that this is an easier way of making a Diving Sparky. Now, let’s see if the girls at the camp will agree.

We started the session with Steve Madewell showing the girls how to create a Musical Whirligig - a toy made from buttons and a piece of string or ribbon. Instructions on how to make this toy is uploaded on Spark!Lab’s website.

Materials needed for the Musical Whirligig

Participants making their own Musical Whirligig   
 Then came my turn to facilitate making the Climbing Sparky. I first asked a volunteer to help me show everyone how to make Sparky climb up the string. This drew a few exclamation of delight from the girls!

Helping a few of the girls to try their Climbing Sparky

It took us a few minutes to convince the girls to set aside their Climbing Sparky and get ready for another activity- Diving Sparky! A few days before the camp, I developed a “script” to make creating the Diving Sparky interesting. I pretended that just by looking at Sparky (the floating object inside the water bottle), and saying “Sparky, dive!” I can command it to sink down the bottom of the bottle. The look of amazement on the girls’ faces and their expression of surprise were priceless! Of course I did not have telekinetic powers, but the room was abuzz with excitement. I explained the scientific principle behind the Diving Sparky before guiding the girls through the steps of making one for themselves.

I was quite amused with the girls’ reactions to my “magic power”

I had a few girls try to make Sparky sink down the bottom of the bottle before revealing how it actually works.

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