Ace your after-school activities: Build a robot from scratch with our LEGO Robotics class

Have you ever wondered how to program robots to do even the simplest task? Well,  it takes a lot of background work, to say the least. But in our LEGO Robotics after-school program, we teach students how to build a LEGO Mindstorm NXT robot from scratch — and how to program it to perform certain tasks.

Every Tuesday for 10 weeks, students learn basic programming, and they use that programming to solve weekly challenges. The challenges increase in difficulty as the students become more familiar with the programming and their robots. By week 10, students know how to program their robots to reverse, make turns and maneuver in a square formation.

In addition, students will learn how to work with different types of sensors that can be attached to the robot, including the ultrasonic sensor. When students learn how to program using the ultrasonic sensor, their robot can navigate through a specified course without running into a single obstacle!

lego_roboticsLEGO Robotics is a great way for students to gain experience with technology in a small class environment. One of our parents commented, “Aaron has really enjoyed this class. He is always excited to share what he has learned in class!”

The classes are open to children in grades 4 through 7, and they’re held at both the main HMNS location and the HMNS at Sugar Land. If you are looking for an educational after-school program, look no further than LEGO Robotics!

HMNS at Hermann Park: Tuesdays
March 26 – May 28
4:30 – 6 pm
$240 / $190 Members

HMNS at Sugar Land: Thursdays
March 28 – May 30
4:30 – 6 pm
$240 / $190 Members

Ready to get a piece of the fun? Register here!

 

SySTEMatic change: How HMNS is changing education and making math marvelous

S.T.E.M., which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, has become a popular acronym used amongst educators, and for good reason: S.T.E.M.-field careers are some of the most lucrative and have the greatest job growth potential in the early 21st century.

The S.T.E.M. philosophy is holistic: It seeks to revolutionize how math and science are taught by integrating technology and engineering into the classroom experience. In addition, it attempts to refocus the classroom away from a teacher-centric model toward a student-driven discovery process, where problem-solving and hands-on exploration are the child’s instructors.

LEGO RoboticsInstead of treating math and science separately, they are blended so that students develop real-world problem solving skills. No more asking the teacher, “When am I ever going to use this?” The hope is that students will understand at a basic level how science and math apply to their world.

HMNS embraces the S.T.E.M. philosophy wholeheartedly in our approach to education. Two of our most popular summer camps, LEGO Robotics and Advanced Robotics, are great examples of this approach.

And now, HMNS offers a similar S.T.E.M. experience during the school year! Children gain the educational edge that S.T.E.M. provides and have a blast in the process — without having to wait for summer camp or worry about early registration.

In our after-school program, children collaborate with a partner to construct models using the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT™ system, then use brand new laptops to program the models to obey commands. They are given specific challenges and engage in friendly competitions to further hone their programming skills.

Don’t let your child miss out on this multidisciplinary, collaborative, and authentic learning opportunity. To learn more about LEGO Robotics at HMNS (Sept. 11 through Nov. 13) and HMNS Sugar Land (Sept. 13 through Nov. 15) and register for class, click here!

Educator How-To: Make a compass with a fish. A fish? Yes, a fish.

Two thousand years ago, the compass — as we know it — was in its infancy. The Chinese made primitive compasses by carving a piece of lodestone (a naturally occurring magnetic iron-ore) into the shape of a ladle to represent the Great Bear constellation (we know this portion as the Big Dipper).  The finished ladle was then placed on a highly polished surface, where the larger end, or bowl, was attracted to magnetic north — causing the handle to point south.

The compass was eventually introduced to the west from China via Arab traders.  The Chinese possessed this important technology for more than a thousand years before the Europeans learned of it.

compass-01

During the Middle Ages, the Chinese set up several factories to produce compasses. One of the compasses produced was in the shape of a fish cut from a very thin leaf of iron — so thin that it could float on water by taking advantage of surface tension. The fish was then stroked against a lodestone until it was magnetized. When placed in the water, it would turn until its head pointed south and its tail pointed north.

Try your hand at making this south-pointing fish:

Materials:

Fish template
Pen (black Sharpie works well)
Permanent markers in bright colors
Scissors
Strong magnets
Large gauge metal yarn needle
Styrofoam meat tray (or any other flat piece of Styrofoam)
Large bowl
Water

Procedure:

  1. Tell the class the story about the Chinese being among the first to have compass technology.
  2. Explain that, in medieval China, a device known as the “south-pointing” fish was invented.
  3. Now tell students to get ready to make their own “south-pointing” fish!
  4. Using the template below, trace a fish onto a piece of Styrofoam and then cut it out.
  5. Use permanent markers to decorate your fish.
  6. Fill a large bowl with water.
  7. Place your fish into the water.
  8. Magnetize your needle by pulling it straight across the magnet several times or more, depending on the strength of your magnet.
  9. Figure out which way to place your needle on top of the fish so the fish’s head will point south.

fish

Congratulations! You’ve made a Nemo that can find its own way.

Save The Date: GEMS on February 11, 2012!

We had a terrific time at the Girls Exploring Math and Science event last year on Saturday, February 19, 2011. The Museum was buzzing with lots of learning – songs about kinetic and potential energy, buzzing instruments made with straws, Popsicle sticks and rubber bands, and lots of “ah-hah” moments throughout the day!

We had a fabulous presenting sponsor in KBR and two of their engineers were our featured speakers, Rachel Amos and Elaine Jimenez. Rachel and Elaine shared with the GEMS attendees a bit about their careers in Mechanical Engineering with KBR, their education, some tips for aspiring young engineers and scientists, and even a little about what they loved about math and science as kids. Interactive booths were hosted throughout the building by students, girl scout troops and local organizations and companies - there was so much to learn everywhere you turned!

Girl Scout booths have just been accepted for GEMS 2012 and there are some exciting topics and new ideas I’m very excited to see.

We’re still accepting applications from School Groups for booths and if you’re just now considering hosting a booth with your friends or opening it up to your class for extra credit it’s time to get some brainstorming going!  

What is a topic you’d like to know more about? What have you recently learned that you would want to share with your peers?

Here are a few links to sites that might inspire you for your awesome GEMS booth! Applications for school booths can be found online here at the HMNS website.

The Library of Congress – Everyday Mysteries

PBS.org’s Zoom for kids  - this link is to the engineering section but they offer lots more if you click around

How Stuff Works - go ahead – ask how it works!

Penn State College of Agricultural Science – Food Science

Exploratorium.edu - so many cool things to explore!

I’m also including some fabulous outcomes provided by some of our super star 2011 presenters, the “Truth in Numbers” group and the Rice University Association for Women in Mathmatics both presented booths on the topic of statistics and asked visitors to participate in their experiments pulling samples and recording results!

We can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with for GEMS 2012!

Visitors were asked by the Rice University Association of Women in Mathmatics to open a funsize bag of M&M's candies and chart how many candies of each color were included.