Pikeville Science and Math Camp 2015

This is where the campers came to have fun and learn all week.

As campers sign in Monday morning they met some of the instructors and helpers.

Then they assemble to hear about the activities they will be doing.

  They were all anxious to begin.
Here are the groups that worked together in their classes this week.

And some posing with Dr. Arts the camp director.

Monday they learned about astronomical tools then built some.

A planisphere shows the positions of the visible stars and constellations for any date and time.

This device lets them figure out the time if the date is known and they can see Ursa Major (the Big Dipper), Ursa minor (little dipper), or Cassiopeia.

And a spectroscope to determine the composition of a star or planet remotely.

Tuesday they built cars to drive on another planet.
Why square wheels?  For traction in rough terrain.
The problem on Wednesday was to deliver a payload to a designated target.

Here a delivery module is being mounted to the guidance system and the controller is attempting to coax it into position to release the package that is to be delivered.

Thursday's task was to build a lander that could survive a drop to the surface without losing its payload.



Campers learned how fingerprints are used to identify an individual.
They took their own prints and classified each pattern as a loop, arch, or whorl.

A lot can be learned from the discovery of blood at a crime scene. 

The students learned how blood types are and how they are determined.
That can be used to implicate or exonerate a suspect.
To eliminate dealing with real blood they used a simulated solution that reacts like blood in typing tests.

They also looked at blood splatter patterns produced in a variety of situations to what they could figure out about the crime.

Hair and fiber discovered at the scene of a crime can reveal the kind of fabric the suspect was wearing.
Or what type of animal they had been close enough to to have carried some of the fur to the scene.
Campers used microscopes to examine a variety of fibers and drew what they saw so they could  be able to solve a crime on Friday.

On another day the campers looked at what an investigator can find out if all they have are some bones from the victim of a crime.
Care examination and measurements can be used to figure out whether the bones came from a modern and if they did the height, weight, sex, age, and other characteristics.
The hips and pelvis are the easiest way to determine the sex. 
Females have a broader pelvis and the angle of the femur is more nearly a right angle with the shaft.
Careful examination of the skull can give clues as to what the person looked like when they were alive.
Age can be approximated especially from younger individuals.

This is the skull of an Australopithecus boisei. 
This would be a very cold case to investigate since they lived more than one million years ago.


A review of lab safety was the topic on Monday.
Campers also personalized a pair of safety glasses by dyeing them in their choice of colors.
They sued the glasses in  their classes throughout the week and then took them home so they could be safe with experiments they try there.

Campers tested six different household powders to see how each could be distinguished by appearance (by eye and with magnification), texture, and how they reacted with several liquids.
They used the results of these tests to identify a powder they found at the crime scene that was one of their challenges on Friday.

Chromatography is used to separate chemicals and is valuable in many fields of science.
Here campers were using it to discover the colors of pigments in pencils.
Colors that appear to be the same may have different components and chromatography  can be used to  distinguish  them.

The ability to recover serial numbers from a weapon that is associated with a crime may lead to where it was obtained and by whom.
In many cases a serial number may have been filed or scraped away and a variety of chemical and mechanical techniques can be used to find out what it was.
Again the techniques they learned here were valuable in solving the crime they were presented with on Friday.


Imagine that you have seen someone running from where a crime had just taken place.
The police could call on a sketch artist to take your description and turn it into a picture that could be used in the search for the person of interest.
These days they would probably use a program that has a variety of facial elements that can be assembled into an image.
The campers were able to try the process and were challenged to compose a variety of faces and ultimately make a picture that we would recognize Dr Arts, the camp director.

The ability to hide your communications could be useful if you were a bad guy planning some crime with a co-conspirator.
The ability to decipher those communications would be a useful tool if you were a good guy trying to outwit the criminals.
To do that you need to be aware of the encryption schemes that may be used.
Campers spent three days learning three different techniques.

Caesar cipher
This was the first that they studied.
It is named for Julius Caesar who used it to protect  messages of military significance.
To use it you just shift each letter in the message forward in the alphabet.
If that takes you past "Z" you wrap around to the beginning of the alphabet.
It was system my Buck Rodgers secret decoder ring used.
The first picture shows one set to an advance of three letters, which is the same as Caesar used.

Keyword cipher
This is another way of using letter substitution to encrypt a message.
According to Wikipedia it is formed by using a keyword that determines the letter matchings of the cipher alphabet to the plain alphabet.
Repeats of letters in the word are removed, then the cipher alphabet is generated with the keyword matching to A,B,C etc. until the keyword is used up.
Then the rest of the ciphertext letters are used in alphabetical order, excluding those already used in the key.
It would be harder to figure out than the Caesar cypher.

Vigenere Cypher
This cypher is a combination of the previous two.
To use it you again choose a keyword, except this time it is used to select the alphabet that corresponds with "A" in a Caesar cypher.
The first letter of the keyword selects the Caesar cypher to be used for the first letter of the message.
The second letter of the keyword selects the Caesar cypher for the second letter of the message and so on.
When you reach the end of the keyword you just repeat it and continue.


It is the study of very low temperatures.
We used liquid nitrogen and took a look at it and how it affects a variety of things.

We put a balloon over the neck of a small bottle that had a little liquid nitrogen in it.
As it warmed up it boiled and the gas filled the balloon.
I went on with other demonstrations and most of the kids forgot about it.
As I hoped they were startled when the balloon burst.

We took a look at the Leidenfrost effect.
That is the name for what happens when layer of gas lifts a drop of liquid from a surface that is much hotter than it's boiling point.
You can see it with a drop of water on a very hot frying pan or a drop of liquid nitrogen on the floor or just about anything else.
That is what allows the bare filament of a light bulb to heat up and glow even when it is in this very cold liquid.

Some materials become superconductive when they are sufficiently cooled.
When they are a magnet that is brought close to them induces an electric current that makes a magnetic field.
The field is opposite to the magnet's field and precisely directed to repel it so it is levitated.

I told the campers that I had been an astro-not and had traveled to Neptune where I found these strange animals.
I only had a limited space on my ship to bring them back for the scientists to study.
By cooling them I made all the balloon animals I am holding and more fit.
When I got back to earth I let them warm up and they all returned to their original size.

Almost everyone was amused by my jokes.

We went outside where I put a small amount of liquid nitrogen into a two liter bottle.
I then did something that you should never do --- I put the lid on it.
I quickly set it in a can and put a 5 gallon bucket over it.
The campers watched and recorded what happened next.

When the pressure builds to the point that the bottle bursts the bucket is thrown more than 30 feet into the air.
I don't know if these pictures were taken at the highest point in the flight but high enough to give you some idea of the energy released.

Then we came inside and made delicious ice cream in 20 seconds or less.
Easy if you have liquid nitrogen to cool it down.

For more of what liquid nitrogen can be used for go to this page.

The science of mechanics that deals with the launching, flight, behavior, and effects of projectiles, especially bullets, gravity bombs, rockets, or the like.
Our first projectile was made of modeling clay and launched from an air canon.
It had interchangeable barrels so the challenge was to look at the marks on the side of the clay bullet and figure out which barrel it came from.

We used a ballistic pendulum to measure the speed of a bean fired from a straw.
If you know the weight of the bean and the pendulum bob, the length and deflection of the pendulum you can compute the projectile speed.

The data shown here was collected from four trials and gives speeds of from 14 to 45 m/sec that is 31 to just over 100 mi/hr.

Stopping Distance
The speed a vehicle was going can be determined from the distance it takes to stop.
That may be important if criminal charges may be filed as the result of an accident.
We measured the speed (measured with a radar gun), free roll distance, and the stopping distance for some little cars.
They were built so that a marker could be triggered to drag on the paper simulating locking the wheels in a skid.
The cars were tested with differing amounts of cargo that approximately doubled their weight to see what effect that had.

Nancy explained what we have were taught in classes about tracking and what we have learned on real lost person searches.
The campers then walked on a pad that had a little bit of  food coloring on it and then on to paper.
We compared the prints left by apparently identical flip flops and the kids picked up differences due to wear and damage.
Step length and the angle the tracks make with the direction of travel provided other ways to differentiate between prints.

Another type of crime investigation is one that involves explosives.
A call may come in warning about them being placed in a building or outside in a public place.
How should that be dealt with?
Should you evacuate and/or search?
Who are the best people to enlist for the search?
If an explosion has occurred was it accidental or intentional.
What does the evidence you search for look like.
Here are some possibilities.

All of these are factors to be considered when explosives are involved.
Campers built a cabin to see what would happen when it was subjected to a blast of air from the canon we used earlier.
An actual explosion was outside the safety limits of our classroom.

Some of the helpers built one too with some nice interior details.

Then the fun of blowing them up with pieces flying as the blast hit them.

Always great meals with something for every taste.

Pikeville construction

A building is being added to the campus so a part of the hillside has to be cut away.
We could look down on the site on the way to and from lunch.

Each class had some great helpers to assist the instructor.
They had all been at camp before and wanted to come back for more fun.


Doctor Arts described the contests that were held on Friday and the prizes that campers could win.

The first day of camp the kids tried to make a computer aided sketch of Dr. Arts.
The four best won prizes..

Here are pictures of some of the team competitions.

Crime scene analysis
The campers found a crime scene, collected and analyzed evidence with a prize for the team that was most accurate.

 Egg catcher
Campers had to build something that would catch an egg.
The greater the successful drop and the shorter the height of the catcher the more points were awarded,
The top five got great prizes.

We had some time between events so we did a little magic, games and puzzles.

  The Winners
Here are the winners of the individual and team events.

Everyone had fun.
I hope we will all be back next year.
Camps from previous years can be found here.

Go to our Science Fun page
Go to our Travels page
Go to our Personal home page
Go to our Community page
 E-mail Nancy and Alan
 Creative Commons License
The www.mrtc.com/anvk/ web site by Alan Kuehner is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Additional information and permissions beyond the scope of this license
are available here.