Of Bridges and Craters

Danger Boy's crater

Okay, so, recently Ninja Cat and Danger Boy had their Science Fair at school.  Fortunately for me this project is science rather than language arts, meaning they were ready to hit the ground running and get their projects accomplished. It’s a pretty big deal to both of them, too. Last year, Ninja Cat won in his category at school, got to go to Oxford  for regional fair, won in his category there and even earned himself an article in the local paper r his accomplishments – magnified by his high functioning autism. Danger Boy, I thought, did an awesome job on his project; but, he wasn’t as lucky. It’s safe to say each of them felt they had something to prove at this year’s fair, be it wanting to go back and repeating a win or getting vindication that he was equally capable as his brother.

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We spent a few hours going through a couple of websites that I love to use sciencebuddies.org and education.com.  Science Buddies is strictly a website for science projects. I love this site because it not only lets you browse projects by subject or grade, it also has a personality type quiz and the answers are a list of projects based on the likes and dislikes of the student. And Education.com is a whole playground of information/worksheets/activities for toddlers all the way through high school. I’ve used their reading comprehension sheets as well as multiplication sheets to supplement Ninja Cat and Danger Boy when they have had trouble with certain topics and math facts. So, going through both websites, we finally came to decisions on what their respective topics would be. Ninja Cat decided to test the strength of three bridge designs. We even came up with a pun of a name for it, ‘“Truss” me I know bridges, “Arch” you glad?’ Danger Boy decided to see if the weight of a falling object would change the size of the crater it made. His title we couldn’t seem to make a ‘punny’ but it ended up being ‘Greater Craters: Does weight change the size of its crater?’

2013-01-24_12-45-43_624Then it became a matter of getting their materials together, actually doing the projects and writing it all down. Because you know to quote Adam Savage, “The only difference between science and screwing around is writing it down.” That was so very true in our house the three days we spent working on these projects. Ninja Cat had a ball building his control bridge and two test bridges out of popsicle sticks and hot glue, at least until he burned himself a time or two. Then, he had to take a break before he was ready to tackle it again. Danger Boy’s project consisted of a lot of plaster of paris and disposable cake tins. We mixed the plaster of paris in the tins, then the smaller batch and raced out to the garage before either batch got too hard to use. We then dropped the small batch into the tin and, after it dried, measured the crater.  By then Ninja Cat was ready to finish his bridges and test them with the weights.

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Then it came to writing it all down and making up the boards. they did a great job of  working on the report and getting the boards built. Fortunately, all this work paid off as they each won in their category (Ninja Cat for Engineering, Math and Science and Danger Boy for Earth, Space and Environmental Sciences). So now we get to go to Oxford for the region VII fair March 21 and spend the day. I’m so proud of the work they did on this project. I hope Oxford is a great experience for them.

Hopefully faithful readers, what do you do to help keep your kids engaged in educational activities? I’d love to know.

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