Ruxz_M-rbu5hJUPoenSULdy6Wzk The Science of My Life: December 2011

Friday, December 30, 2011

Kool-Aid Chemistry and favorite Kool-Aid recipe for playdough

One of my goals for this blog is to make science fun for families to explore and understand together.  So I downloaded Popular Science for my new Kindle :), and I get daily science articles.  I am sharing the Kool-Aid link because I have been making homemade playdough for years thanks to my friend Natalie and this recipe.  Recently I have been using this basic recipe to explore a new experiment called Squishy Circuits that teaches children about circuitry using playdough.  Absolutely the coolest thing ever!

So here is the article and my recipe.  I will also link you to Squishy Circuits.  I am preparing demos to take to schools in 2012.  Very exciting!

Kool-Aid Playdough:
MIX Together:  3.5 cups flour, 0.5 cup salt, and 1 TB cream of tartar
MIX together: 4 packages koolaid...same color and flavor
                        2.25 cups boiling water
                        3 TB oil

Combine the wet and dry ingredients and knead, first with a spoon since it will be hot, then with your hands!  The flour used is actually variable...I start with 3 cups and add until the dough is not sticky.  I store this playdough in the fridge in an airtight container for months.  It is great fun for all ages!
I usually half the recipe so that I can make 4-5 batches of different colors without using all the flour in the house!

Another reminder for Hot Careers in 2012...STEM always makes the list!

In the following days, I will be posting several actvities that are great to know about in 2012.  Please let me know by email if you hear of local events or programs that support STEM education.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Great Snowflake Images...

I love the images captured by Physics researcher, Kenneth Libbrecht.  This USA Today article discusses his ability to capture amazing photographs of snowflakes...and I thought you would like to see them.   Here in Idaho, we are ready for some storms.  I have some skiers in my house that are tired of man-made snow.  Time for Mother Nature to step it up.  I feel OK saying that because we are done with our holiday travel and my parents got safely home to Texas today.  So bring it on!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Updated: Science Mom Reading List over the break....

My friend Megan invited me to read a new book over the Christmas break, so I thought I would pass the title along to you, as well as a few other books that I am reading or just finished. 

After getting a recommendation from a family member, I read and then assigned the book, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwaba.  It starts out a little slow, but I really enjoyed his story and what he was able to accomplish for his family, his village, and the world.  My students really enjoyed the story and made them a little more thoughtful about what they have and how they take their education for granted.

Next on my list is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot, which is a story about the journey her cells have taken from 1951 to now...without her knowledge.  It will be a lesson on bioethics for me and I plan to assign this book to my Biology 100 students in Spring.

Just finished the book.  So interesting!!  I have always enjoyed biographies and this book did not disappoint.  It was full of biological concepts, so I may not require my nonmajor students to read it, but I totally recommend it for science students and teachers.

Finally, Megan is reading  The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman.  She says it is about the cultural clash between ancient traditions and modern medicine.  I believe the setting is China. 

With so little free time, I do enjoy reading books and stories that make me think.  Enjoy the Christmas break, and find something wonderful to learn about.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

What an awesome day in Moscow, ID!!

Where do I start?   We have had a great time at the University of Idaho at the FIRST Lego League State Competition.  About 60 teams from all over Idaho came to share their projects and show off their mad programming and robot design skills.  Our boys, the Hotwired and RoboRebel Teams, did great in all categories.  The RoboRebels ended the day at 7th overall in the robot awesome!  Hotwired is taking home a First Place Trophy in Research...which is because they learned so much about cross-contamination.  They also finished 13th in robot competition...thanks STEVE (Robot name)  We are so proud of all the kids who represented not just Mini-Cassia, but Magic Valley.  The RoboSpuds from Rupert took home a 2nd place trophy in Innovative Solutions and the Kimberly Bacon Bits got 2nd Place in Overall CHAMPION!  WOW!

After the awards ceremony, our Declo teams met with Dr. Ed Galindo, a scientist and awesome science dude here at U of I.  We learned about his NASA research, toured his fish-naut lab, and had a great dinner.  Thanks Ed!  It was great to see you again!

Magic Valley Winners

The Burton Christmas Card?  Thanks for everything, Carrie!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Outreach and Grant News

As I wrap up my CSI classes for another semester, I wanted to share one of my favorite websites for you to explore over the break.  In the last few weeks, I have visited about 8 schools to substitute for math and science classes, and I have used my favorite genetics and cell site several times. is a great site to cover cells, heredity, DNA, and current examples of all things genetics.  I use the virtual labs to introduce students to real labs they will be doing.  Whether I am teaching my college students or HS students, we always cover gel electrophoresis, blood typing, and/or  DNA extraction and I  learn something new each time.  The website is very user friendly, and it is sponsored by the University of Utah.

I also got good news this morning.  I wrote a grant this Fall to Target to help fund a field trip to Boise so the students could go to the Discovery Center, and we were chosen to receive the money.  I am so excited for our Fourth graders!  So keep looking for funding opportunities...there are so many available!

Tomorrow morning my son and I leave for the State Robotics Competition.  I will post updates throughout the competition...there are at least 5 Magic Valley teams going...and I am sure we will all have a great time! 

Monday, December 12, 2011

INBRE Grant at CSI...Article in Times-News

This article summarizes all the great opportunities that the Biology Department has pursued with the INBRE Grant money. I have been personally so grateful for these funds because the Burley Lab now has most of the same equipment that is available to students on the main campus.   For instance, after we make and run our gels through the electrophoresis chambers, we have a new UV light box to see the stained bands.  Woohoo!


Here is a link to the INBRE website, and they talk a little about the outreach that we do at CSI.  Because of INBRE funds, we have been able to visit schools throughout Magic Valley and bring science experiences to students of all ages.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Family Science Nights at CSI - TF and Burley

Christmas plus chemistry, EQUALS FUN! You will never think of Christmas the same way after you spend and evening performing holiday themed science projects.
Instructor: Bill Ebener               Fee: $20 (1-3 people),
$25 (4-5 people) $30 (6+ people)

Bill has some great activities planned so sign up today!

Contact:  Diane Gause   208-732-6442

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

More National Science Fair Winners...

It is amazing what some of these students are able to accomplish with their Science Fair Projects.  Siemens just announced their international winners this week in Washington.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Lunar Eclipse on Saturday morning...Event Canceled at Herrett Center but the Eclipse is ON!

If there’s one pre-winter morning during which clear skies would be a very good thing, it’s Saturday, Dec. 10. Either way, a total lunar eclipse will occur that morning. It would be nice if those of us who get up early actually get to see it.

Anyone who wants to come to the Herrett Center that Saturday morning to view the eclipse is welcome to the Centennial Observatory at no charge. Astronomically speaking, the eclipse begins at 4:34 Saturday, Dec. 10 but no one will notice it yet. The moon will start to be visibly covered by the Earth’s shadow at 5:46 a.m. The Herrett’s large telescope will track it until 6:23 a.m. at which time the moon will be too low on the western horizon for it. At that time, smaller telescopes on the observatory deck will track the progress. The total eclipse will begin at 7:06 and be at its fullest point at 7:32 a.m. The sun will rise at 7:56 a.m. and the moon will set four minutes later.

The next total lunar eclipse that will be visible in southern Idaho will be in 2014.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

UPDATED: Best "Toys" for kids and Borax snowflake recipe with pictures

This is an unusual post for me, but with the Holidays coming up, it was a good reminder about what matters most to our kids.  I like the posts on this Geek Dad website, so enjoy his Top 5, and then his 6th Best toy for kids.

I promised my borax snowflake recipe, so here it is.  You will need powdered borax, pipe cleaners (white is best), wide mouth quart jar, a pencil, and boiling water.  I make these each year with my kids and classes that I visit, and they always turn out well.  If you save them, they do change from sparkly to white/opaque, but they keep their shape and I have some ornaments that my kids made years ago.  Enjoy the season!

My son made this apple with colored pipe cleaners... very cool!

My daughter cut a white pipe cleaner into 4 shorter pieces to do this snowflake.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Burley Junior High Science and Invention Fair

Last night BJHS showed their commitment to STEM by hosting a Science and Invention Fair, combined with CO2 racing cars built by students, and a friendly FLL Robitics Competition.  Thanks to Reda and Rick and all the science teachers at BJHS for your dedication to STEM and your students.  It was a great night!

Members from 3 FLL Robotics teams ready to compete

Michael making last minute modifications

The helium-filled remote controlled shark watches over the projects!

                                         Real life angry birds~too funny~
The egg cracking and cooking machine

My kids making Rocket Racers

CO2 Race Cars, designed and built by BJHS students

Members of the Rupert team make a plan

Go RoboSpuds!  Girl Power~

FLL Robotics teams from Declo, Minidoka, and BJHS

The Marshmallow Grinder...just for fun, the student said!