Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

TPiB: STEM Projects with Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab

Just as I was thinking to myself, “self, you need more sciency things in your programming”, Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab by “Science Bob” Plugfelder and Steve Hockensmith showed up on my doorstep.  It was like a gift from the STEM fairies.  And the Tween spawn of me saw it and immediately grabbed it to read (she is the original book thief I tell you).  She really enjoyed reading this.  I asked her and this is what she said: “It was a lot of fun.  I liked it.  I especially liked . . .” Well, I can’t tell you that part because SPOILERS.  Let me just say, this is a great Middle Grade read that combines fantastic fun, zany inventions, and a little science to help readers add a little mystery to their day.I highly recommend it.

The best part, the book has its own science experiments built in and outlined right there in the book for you.  Who doesn’t want to learn how to build rockets and robots?!  The science projects outlined in the book include:

  • Low-Tech (Practically No-Tech) Bottle Rocket and Launcher
  • Mints-and-Soda-Fueled Robotcat Dog Distractor
  • Semi-Invisible Nighttime Van Tracker
  • Christmas-is-Over Intruder Alert System
  • Do-It-Yourself Electromagnet and Picker-Upper

I can totally see (and am in the process of actually planning) hosting a MG book discussion group of these titles and doing the activities outlined inside the book.  There is another book coming soon, Nick and Tesla’s Robot Army Rampage (February 2014) and you can find more science fun at NickandTesla.com.  This series is a lot of fun and I can’t wait to read more.

Here are a few more ways you can incorporate science into your programming (or at home):

Strawberry DNA Extraction
I recently took Thing 2 (now 5) to the Dallas Arboretum and they have added an entire science garden.  I’m not going to lie, this was the best thing ever and I want to write a grant to remake the entire library into an interactive science space like this.  If you can get to the DFW area, I highly recommend that you visit.  While there, we did an experiment where we extracted Strawberry DNA and viewed it up close over an overhead projector.  You can find instructions to duplicate this experiment here.

Tech Take Apart/Robot Building Days
The simplest tech programming I have ever involved included a two-day workshop.  The first day, we took apart a bunch of donated tech we had collected (cell phones, computers, printers, etc.) to explore what they looked like inside.  One of our staff members was able to identify the various internal parts for us.  The second day, we used the components to make various “robot” creatures.  We didn’t make actual electronic robots, although with the right tools you certainly could.  But this allowed our tweens and teens to tap into their creative side while exploring tech innards.  Plus, it was a great way to get rid of all of our outdated or non functioning technology.

To give tweens and teens a simple chance to explore electronic science, you can always just purchase these basic Snapcircuits kits.  We have one at home and you can do over 300 things with it.  There are various different kits you can buy, so choose wisely.

Legos and Tech
I outline some great ways you can use Legos to help tweens and teens explore technology at this Makerspace post.

Raspberry Pi
School Library Journal recently ran an article that outlined how to get started exploring tech using Raspberry Pis, which are these small little motherboard things.  I also have one of these at my house (spurred on by the article), but we have yet to do anything with it.  The tween wants to use it to create an alarm system for her room.  I’m pretty sure her little sister is somehow involved in this desire.  Christie and I have gotten the funding to add a Raspberry Pi component to our Makerspace, which I will share with you next week.

As part of Quirk Books Week, Quirk Books has generously donated a prize package for one lucky winner that will include 2 of the above cookbooks, a copy of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, the first book of the Lovecraft Middle School series, and a copy of William Shakespeare’s Star Wars. I’ve tried to give you as many ways as possible to enter so pick the one (or ones) that work best for you and do the Rafflecopter thingy below.  The giveaway closes on Saturday, December 14th and is open to U.S. Residents.  The books will be sent to you from Quirk Books and they are worth it.

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