Science Camp 2005 Week One

Another Science and Math camp has come and gone.  We all had a great time.

The Fifth and Sixth Grade Campers

They had the opportunity to participate in activities in 5 fields of study.


This year the campers investigated some of the properties of pennies.  The found their weight was different and depended on the date they were minted and since they were all the same size they must have different densities (earlier ones were all copper and later ones copper clad zinc).  They were able to dissolve the zinc out of the newer ones.  They found that a wooden skewer could be pushed through a balloon without popping it if you knew the trick (apparently it was surprising when it worked). And they discovered that some fabrics took up dyes differently and that fact could be used to determine just what fibers they were made from. 

In biology they sampled their own DNA, separated it from their cells and put it in a necklace they could keep.  They visited a remote island where they had to decide how to manage their resources so they could all survive.  Well actually they simulated the visit with popsicle sticks standing in for their resources.  They also got to dissect grasshoppers and eyeballs.  It looks like some of them thoroughly disassembled the grasshopper.  I was told that the retina was an iridescent blue-green.   Very fascinating.


Computer Science
In computer science they learned about the binary number system and how it is used to code letters and numbers in computers.  They searched the World Wide Web to find facts in an internet scavenger hunt and they became part of a model of the web showing how the whole network is linked together.


The campers investigated magnetic fields, how electric current could produce them and how a motor works.  They used some of what they learned to build telegraph sounders and then tried to figure out messages sent in Morse code.  Wednesday they investigated sound, some unusual musical instruments and built a couple.  They found that sound travels through solids and gases and that suggested an experiment they could try in a swimming pool.  


Campers built and investigated the properties of airfoils.  They used a wind tunnel to measure the lift of their model wing.  Then used what they found out to make airplanes that were to be used in a contest to see which one flew the farthest and which stayed up the longest.

We had lots of contests  in addition to those in aeronautics and the web scavenger hunt.  There was the laser target shoot,  toothpick bridge,  periodic table word search, water balloon slingshot, an aluminum foil boat, and science millionaire.  A new one this year was to figure out a shape that was hidden from view by rolling marbles at it and seeing which way they came out.  This is the same problem that early atomic scientists had when they were trying to figure out what the atom looked like by shooting alpha particles at them.  Some of the campers enjoyed learning the game of nim, solving Tangrams, and tackling the 8 queens problem.  No prizes for those other than the satisfaction of figuring them out.

The home construction challenge was to build a tower using pasta that would have a CD on top like a radio relay antenna.  The "foundation" was another CD that was bolted down during testing.  There was no restriction on the kind of pasta or glue and up to 2 pounds of materials could be used.  Of course the taller and lighter the towers were the higher they would score.  We bounced a laser off the top CD and on to a target so that we could measure how rigid the towers were.  They were then subjected to a "hurricane" supplied by a leaf blower with a variac for speed control.  The strongest stood up to a 220 MPH blast but were heavy so they didn't score well.  There was a lot of thought and ingenuity demonstrated in the designs.  The best had a good tradeoff between weight, height and strength.  The winner wasn't the tallest, strongest, or lightest but had the best combination of them all.
Lots of contests and lots of proud winners.

We all visited a great science museum in Columbus Ohio.  The kids checked out how sound could be reflected off a parabolic reflector and focused where it could be heard a long way away.  Some of them tried a unicycle high above the exhibits below.  Saw themselves on TV in a 1962 vintage studio.  We even met a couple of characters from a galaxy far far away.  They seemed friendlier than they have been portrayed in films.


The Volunteer Helpers
The instructors really appreciate the hard working volunteers who helped out.  Most of them had come through the camp in prior years and had fun so they wanted to take part again.


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