Posts about kids

Kindergarten Students Pedel Their Own Bus to School

photo of kindergarden students pedaling their bus to school

Dutch kindergarden students pedaling their bus to school

Dutch Kids Pedal Their Own Bus To School

The Dutch are bicycle fanatics. Almost half of daily travel in the Netherlands is by bicycle, while the country’s bike fleet comfortably outnumbers its 16 million people. Devotees of the national obsession have taken the next logical step by launching what is likely the first bicycle school bus.

Built by Tolkamp Metaalspecials, and sold by the De Cafe Racer company, the bicycle school bus (BCO in Dutch) is powered entirely by children and the one adult driver (although there is an electric motor for tough hills). Its simple design has eight sets of pedals for the kids (ages 4 to 12), a driver seat for the adult, and three bench seats for freeloaders. The top speed is about 10 miles per hour, and features a sound system and canvas awning to ward off rainy days.

They have sold 25 of the busses so far for $15,000 each.

Related: Sports EngineeringGermany Looking to Kindergarten for Engineering FutureEngineering a Better World: Bike Corn-Sheller

10 Year Old’s Molecule Design Becomes the Topic of a Scientific Paper

10-Year-Old Helps Professor With Theoretical Chemistry by Marimar White-Espin

[10-year-old Clara] Lazen’s teacher, Kenneth Boehr, introduced Border Star Montessori School’s 5th grade class to the periodic table, molecules and chemical bonds. Lazen found the topic interesting and Boehr gave her the tools she needed to explore the subject.

Equipped with a molecule-building kit, Lazen experimented with the colored wooden balls by creating existing molecules and some of her own.

Lazen approached Boehr and asked if the molecule she created using the kit was real. Unsure of the answer, Boehr emailed his longtime graduate school friend and chemistry professor at HSU, Robert Zoellner.

“Maybe [the molecule] is real and we’ll find out,” Zoellner responded.

Upon further research, Zoellner discovered the particular molecule, tetrakis(nitratoxycarbon) methane, Lazen had created had never been discussed in literature and possibly had never been thought of before.

The significance of the molecule Lazen created is that it has the potential to store energy. The dense structure allows for stable energy storage meaning the molecule can be used to produce energy or as an explosive.

Lazen was excited to hear her discovery could be used as an explosive. “I thought, ‘Wow, it could go boom!’ I could put [the molecule] in a bomb and it could blow up something,” she said.

Lazen’s mother, Lori Schmidt was excited to hear that not only would her daughter be a co-author to the scientific article, but the discovery would be recognized in a scientific journal. “One only dreams as a parent,”

Fun stuff.

Related: 11 Year Old Using Design of ExperimentsScience for KidsEncouraging Curiosity in KidsSarah, aged 3, Learns About Soap

Ritalin Doesn’t Show Long Term Effectiveness for ADHD

From the New York Times opinion piece, Ritalin Gone Wrong, by L. Alan Sroufe is a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development:

Attention-deficit drugs increase concentration in the short term, which is why they work so well for college students cramming for exams. But when given to children over long periods of time, they neither improve school achievement nor reduce behavior problems. The drugs can also have serious side effects, including stunting growth.

To date, no study has found any long-term benefit of attention-deficit medication on academic performance, peer relationships or behavior problems, the very things we would most want to improve. Until recently, most studies of these drugs had not been properly randomized, and some of them had other methodological flaws.

But in 2009, findings were published from a well-controlled study that had been going on for more than a decade, and the results were very clear… At first this study suggested that medication, or medication plus therapy, produced the best results. However, after three years, these effects had faded, and by eight years there was no evidence that medication produced any academic or behavioral benefits.

As I have written before I am skeptical of the amount of drug use our health care system encourages: Lifestyle Drugs and Risk.

Related: Long Term ADHD Drug Benefits Questioned (2009)Nearly 1 million Children Potentially Misdiagnosed with ADHD in the USADiet May Help ADHD Kids More Than DrugsOver-reliance on Prescription Drugs to Aid Children’s Sleep?Epidemic of Diagnoses

Kittens Reminding You to Thank Your Mother

Fun cat video and a reminder to thank your mother for all the times she saved you from your version of the slide. Have a happy friday. Maybe you should forward this video to your Mom with a note of thanks and make it a happy one for her too.

Related: Friday Cat Fun #11: Ninja Cat Stair ClimbingNaturally Curious ChildrenTreadmill Cats: Friday Cat Fun #3Friday Cat Fun #13: Kitten in His Box

I was Interviewed About Encouraging Kids to Pursue Engineering

Amanda Moreno interviewed me about Encouraging Kids to Pursue Engineering over on the Knovel Blog.

What can parents do to cultivate an interest in science in their kids early on?

John Hunter: Ask questions. Answer questions. Explain how things work. Explain why things are done the way they are. Kids want the attention of their parents, and when they are younger they are constantly trying to get it (dad look, mom look, watch me!). They have similar feelings when they are older, but are not as forthright about saying what they want. If you take a sincere interest in their questions, you’ll motivate them to continue pondering how the world works. Make it fun to learn. Kids have an intrinsic motivation to learn. Keeping their curiosity alive is the first step.

So, on the university level, professors generally aren’t student-centric enough. What other factors are discouraging students in the classroom?

JH: I have one belief that is close to heresy. I don’t see why publication has to be so important for professors (if what we are after is good teachers, not authors). …

Read the rest of the interview.

Related: Backyard Wildlife: Sharpshinned HawkQubits Construction ToyWhat Kids can Learn By PlayingEncouraging Curiosity in Kids

Cooking with Chemistry: Hard Candy

The video by Richard Hartel, professor of food engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, demonstrates how the molten liquid candy cools to form what from a technical standpoint actually is a glass. Unlike window glass made of silica, this tasty glass is made of sugar.

Viscosity describes a fluid’s internal resistance to flow and may be thought of as a measure of fluid friction. Water has very little viscosity (unless it is frozen). Thick honey has higher viscosity (especially if it is cooler – I keep my honey in the fridge and it does not flow very quickly).

As I have said before if I had understood the chemistry behind cooking as a kid I think I would have been much more interested in cooking.

Related: Understanding the Chemistry Behind CookingThe Man Who Unboiled an EggTracking the Ecosystem Within Us

Encouraging Curiosity in Kids

How do you help make your children scientifically literate? I think the biggest thing you can do is encourage curiosity.

One way to encourage curiosity it is by answering their questions (and not saying: I am too busy, don’t bother me, don’t ask me?, stop asking why…). I know adults are busy and have all sorts of stuff we are trying to get done; and the question about why I need to wash my hands doesn’t seem worth answering. But I think anytime a kid is asking why is an opportunity to teach and encourage them to keep being curious.

It is very easy to shut off this curiosity, in our society anyway (we do it to the vast majority of people). The biggest difference I see between adults and kids is not maturity or responsibility but curiosity (or lack thereof in adults) and joy (versus adults who seem to be on valium all the time – maybe they are).

As they grow up kids will have lots of science and technology questions that you don’t know the answers to. If you want them to be curious and knowledgeable, put in the effort to find answers with them. You have to help them find the answers in a way that doesn’t turn them off. If you just say – go look it up yourself (which really they can do), maybe the 2% that are going to become scientists will. But most kids will just give up and turn off their curiosity a little bit more (until eventually it is almost gone and they are ready to fit into the adult world). Which is very sad.

Once you get them used to thinking and looking things up they will start to do this on their own. A lot of this just requires thinking (no need to look things up – once a certain base knowledge is achieved). But you need to set that pattern. And it would help if you were curious, thought and learned yourself.

Photo of kids intently studying on a Malaysian beach

My mom with a group of Malaysia kids apparently intent on learning something. I am there, but not visible in this photo. Photo by my father.

While walking in the park, see one of those things you are curious about and ask why does…? It is good to ask kids why and let them think about it and try and answer. Get them in the habit of asking why themselves. And in those cases when no-one knows, take some time and figure it out. Ask some questions (both for yourself – to guide your thinking – and to illustrate how to think about the question and figure things out). If you all can’t find an explanation yourselves, take some time to look it up. Then at dinner, tell everyone what you learned. This will be much more interesting to the kids than forcing them to elaborate on what they did today and help set the idea that curiosity is good and finding explanations is interesting.

It is fun as a kid if your parent is a scientist or engineer (my father was an engineering professor).

You often don’t notice traits about yourself. In the same what I know what red looks like to me, I figure we both see this red shirt you see the red that I do. But maybe you don’t. I tend to constantly be asking myself why. If I see something new (which is many, many times a day – unless I am trapped in some sad treadmill of sameness) I ask why is it that way and then try and answer. I think most of this goes on subconsciously or some barely conscious way. I actually had an example a few months ago when I was visiting home with my brother (who is pretty similar to me).

As we were driving, I had noticed some fairly tall poles that seemed to have really small solar panels on top. I then noticed they were space maybe 20 meters apart. Then saw that there seemed to be a asphalt path along the same line. I then decided, ok, they are probably solar panels to power a light for the path at night. Then my brother asked why are there those small solar panel on top of that pole?

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Periodic Table for Kids

Poster of the periodic table with some illustrations and explanations for kids.

Check out this previous post with a New Visualization of the Periodic Table and see the link in the comment to another variation.

Related: Understanding the Chemistry Behind Cooking2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

PBS Newshour on Maker Faire

The maker movement is excellent. As the program suggests it also serves to show many people enjoy engineering and making things work. Kids love to learn to accomplish things. Memorizing boring science details is not as interesting or a very useful way to create the kinds of innovative scientists and engineers that can aid our economy.

Related: Teaching Through TinkeringMaking Electricity from WindHome Halloween Engineering: Gaping Hole Costume

How To Make Your Own Pesticide with Ingredients from Your Kitchen

Video by the Singapore National Park Board, on creating your own pesticide with just water, dish-washing liquid, chili, garlic and cooking oil.

Related: Pigs Instead of PesticidesAutomatic Cat FeederRethinking the Food Production SystemBuild Your Own Tabletop Interactive Multi-touch ComputerScience Toys You Can Make With Your KidsPesticide Laced Fertiliser Ruins GardensLiving in Singapore

11 Year Old Using Design of Experiments

This reminds me of great times I had experimenting with my father when I was a kid. Though, to be honest, Sarah is much more impressive than I was.

Catapulting to Success with Design of Experiments

photo of Sarah and her trebuchet

Sarah Flexman with her trebuchet at the Storm the Castle science challenge in North Carolina.

At the end of 2010, Sarah had decided to take part in Storm the Castle, one of the events offered in the statewide science Olympiad competition. This particular challenge was to design, build and launch a model trebuchet, which is a medieval-style catapult for hurling heavy stones…

Here’s Sarah’s whole process: She built the trebuchet, tested it, used JMP for DOE during optimization, changed the hook angle and sling to improve performance, did more tests, entered this new data, reran the model, and made her final prediction graphs. The variables in her DOE were string length, counterweight and projectile weight, and she optimized for distance – that is, how far the projectile would go.

“Rather than doing 125 tests because we have three variables with five levels each, DOE found a way for us to perform only 26 tests and get approximately the same results. I typed in the results, ran the model and used the JMP Profiler. I understood how the variables predicted the outcome and found several patterns,” she explained.

“I hadn’t done any building like that. The whole day was fun. It was a very open learning environment. You were experimenting with things you had never done before. I would definitely do it again,” Sarah said. And she will – next year.

I have collected quite a few design of experiments resources, for those who are interested in learning more. Here is a nice webcast by brother: Combinatorial Testing – The Quadrant of Massive Efficiency Gains, discussing the incredibly efficiency designed combinatorial testing (very similar ideas to design of experiments) can provide.

Related: Learning Design of Experiments with Paper HelicoptersPlaying Dice and Children’s NumeracyStatistics Insights for Scientists and EngineersSarah (a different one), aged 3, Learns About SoapStatistics for ExperimentersMulti-factor designed experimentsCombinatorial Testing for SoftwareWhat Else Can Software Development and Testing Learn from Manufacturing? Don’t Forget Design of Experiments (DoE)Letting Children Learn

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