Curiosity Corner LIVE Design Challenges for the Week of June 1 through June 12!

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Over the past two weeks, we have been tuning in to watch Curiosity Corner LIVE on the Great Lakes Science Center’s YouTube page. Each weekday at 10:30am EST, they share information on an interesting scientific topic and then challenge viewers to create their own designs based on each topic. Each day, I’ve been posting our results to my social media sites, but in case you’ve missed it, I’ve summarized them below but be sure to check out my social media pages for more videos and photos!

Episode 77: Garret Morgan and the Traffic Light

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Did you know that the first traffic light was erected in Cleveland, Ohio in 1914? It was invented by African American inventor, Garrett Morgan.  We made our own traffic light! Check out my social media sites above to see how!

Episode 78: Guy Bluford & Spacecraft

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In 1983, Guion Bluford was the first African American astronaut to go to space. He flew on two different shuttles – Challenger and Discovery. He is currently a retired aerospace engineer, US air force officer and pilot and of course, NASA astronaut 🚀. He resides in Lakewood, a city just west of Cleveland, Ohio.

We were challenged to make our own rockets!

My kids were gifted a power launcher 🚀 this year so we decided to design our rocket around that, BUT you can also just use a straw to give your rocket the necessary thrust! Check out the comments for more photos of our design!

Here are the materials you need to make your own rocket at home:
1️⃣ Straw
2️⃣ Scissors
3️⃣ Tape
4️⃣ Paper

Episode 79: Scale Modeling

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Hattie Scott Peterson was believed to be the first African American woman to obtain a degree in civil engineering and the first female engineer in her local USACE. She worked as a survey and cartographic engineer for the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

In remembrance of her contributions, this topic on the Great Lakes Science Center Curiosity Corner Live, was scale modeling. Scale modeling is making an object smaller than it actually appears. It is used in engineering to test out an early design without much expense of a full scale model or prototype. They are also used in the TV and movie industry for objects or sets that can not be built to full size. We were challenged to do our own scale modeling.

First, we were going to try re-creating the Falcon 9 rocket but for the scaling we needed, we would either have a tiny diameter or the cardboard would have not stood upright (because of the folds in the cardboard).

Then we decided to scale a chair from my child’s desk. It worked well but not without some mathmatical challenges. 

Note: This activity is difficult for most young children to do on their own because it requires an understanding of some complex math like measurement, rounding (to simplify it), multiplication, division and some geometry. But that didn’t stop us and my 5 year old learned some new math concepts along the way like the difference between even and odd numbers and how to measure in inches (I helped her round to the nearest whole number on the ruler). At one point, I had to help her reconfigure the estimated measurements to ensure they were correctly aligned on all sides of the chair (you can see those numbers circled in one of the photos)

In the end, we created this awesome chair scale model! Check out the photos of our progress! 

Materials you need for this:
1️⃣ Paper
2️⃣ Pencil
3️⃣ Scissors 
4️⃣ Glue stick
5️⃣ Cardboard
6️⃣ Tape

Episode 80: Robotics

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Ayanna Howard is an American robotist and Chair of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech. Her educational background is in engineering. She began her career at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. In 2008, she received worldwide attention for her SnoMote robots, which were developed in order to study the impact of global warming on the Antarctic ice shelves. In 2013, she founded Zyrobotics, which has released therapy and educational products for children with special needs.

Robotics were the topic in this episode. They shared the inspirational background above about Ms. Howard, explained how robotics are used to change the world in many ways and then they challenged us to build our own 🤖 to help people in the world. 

So, we developed our prototype! Meet A1! He’s a robot that helps clean up toys and keep play rooms mess free. Inside his belly is a broom, net, garbage bag, cleaning supplies, paper towels and other items to help keep everything clean and tidy. His red antenna on top doesn’t just detect when there is a mess to clean but also helps track down missing cell phones, wallets and car keys around the house when they disappear! 

What a helpful little guy! I really hope this design gets picked up by a developer / manufacturer, we could definitely use this robot in our home! 

Episode 81: DNA and Genetics

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Did you know that we have 50% of the same DNA as a banana? Our DNA is 99.9% the same with any other human (not directly related to you)! Our genetics & DNA make up whether we are human or another living creature. We were challenged to make our own double helix! We made ours using Wikkistix!

The double helix is a term used to describe the overall structure of our DNA. DNA is the genetic material inside our cells that make up everything about us (whether we are human or a banana, our hair & eye color, the shape of our toes, etc.)! DNA is composed of 2 sugar phosphate backbone strands known as polynucleotides (purple and red) and 4 base pairs known as a nucleotide. These nucleotides are Adenine (A), Thymine (T), Cytosine (C), & Guanine (G). A & T are always pairs (represented by yellow and white strands) and the C & G are always pairs (represented by blue and green strands). 

We also learned about two inspiring and leading scientists in the field of genetics – Dr. Rick Kittles & Dr. Altovise Ewing. Dr. Rick Kittles is one of the earliest geneticists to trace the ancestry of Africans through DNA testing. He has been on several TV channels & shows for his expertise including BBC, PBS, and also on 60 minutes. He has performed a large amount of research (over 160 peer reviewed articles) and has devoted much of his career studying genetic ancestry and health disparities in African Americans. (source:

Dr. Altovise Ewing was recognized by the National Minority Quality Forum in 2019 as one of the top “40 under 40 Leaders in Health”. “As a clinician-scientist, Dr. Ewing dedicates her professional career to ensuring that emerging genetic and genomic services and resources do not further exacerbate racial and ethnic health disparities.” She currently works for 23andMe. (source:

Episode 82: Parachutes

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Did you know that centuries before the first parachute was ever made, Leonardo DiVinci actually drew some sketches of parachutes? Following were many inventors and scientists who made and tested their own designs, most made from rigid frames. Although there were others before him, Sebastian Lenormand is usually credited with the invention of the first practical parachute.

We were challenged to make our own parachutes today. We learned about air force, also known as thrust and how different parachute materials can give different results with the three different parachute designs that we made from a plastic bag, Ziploc bag, and quilt fabric. We also tested what would happen when adding different weights inside each parachute. We hypothesized about what might happen. My kids also experimented by trying to throw many other (safe) objects over the railing to see how they would fall without a parachute. (Caution: Be sure to talk to your kids about safety!) 

There are the materials we used to make our parachutes:
1️⃣ Ziploc bag, Plastic grocery bag & / or Quilting fabric
2️⃣ Plastic fruit cups
3️⃣ String
4️⃣ Scissors
5️⃣ Hole Punch

Episode 83: Dimensions

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In this episode, we were challenged to learn and explore dimensions. 

We had 3 options for our challenge: 1) play around online with a program called Tinkercad  (this is a kids version similar to CAD), 2) explore our world and decide what objects might look like in a 2D or 3D world and / or 3) measure those objects.

Since I have kids 5 and under, we decided to do a version of the #2 challenge above. 

First, we found objects around the house that resembled several different 2 dimensional and 3 dimensional shapes. 

Then we used K’nex to create 2 dimensional and 3 dimensional shapes and explored them using bubbles! This allowed the kids to see how a 2D object looks (a square) vs a 3D object (a cube). One time, my daughter pointed out that she created a square with a sphere bubble inside (see in the photos below)!

This was a blast! We did this activity inside but I highly recommend doing this outside if you decide to test it out!

Episode 84: Oxidation

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The Great Lakes Science Center explained that oxidation is when an atom loses an electron. It changes the property of the material and it can cause the material to ‘oxidize’ or change color or possibly even corrode. They showed us an example of oxidation with apples. You can check out apple experiments that illustrate oxidation online or watch episode 84 for more details! 

We were challenged to find examples of oxidation today.

We found some pennies that showed some evidence of oxidation and let them sit in coca cola most of the day. The phosphoric acid in coca cola will clean off the oxidation layer. Lemon juice will do the same, as will some hot sauces. 

Before and After photos of our pennies

Episode 85: Pulleys

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Pulleys are simple machines often used to transport or lift heavy objects. Some examples of pulleys would be a flag pole to lift or remove a flag or a water well with a bucket to retrieve water. It is generally a wheel on an axle used to support movement. Humans have been using pulleys for thousands of years!

The challenge in this episode is to make our own pulley! We were getting hungry for lunch and found a creative way to deliver rice to our pot on the stove! We have to work on our angles a bit but most of the rice made it in!

Episode 86: Steam Power

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We made our own water powered engine with this design challenge. The topic was steam power. We learned about Hero of Alexandria’s first steam engine invention as well as generally how steam turbines work.

This was a safer version than a steam powered one, since the steam powered one requires a heat source. But you can also make a steam powered one at home by watching Episode 86 on YouTube. 

What you need to make one like ours:
1️⃣ A plastic container
2️⃣ A bowl of water
3️⃣ A knife or something sharp to cut slits in the container and in the lid (if it has one)
4️⃣ A string

Be sure to cut 3 slits in the container (about 1/4 inch up from the bottom) and push the holes outward to direct the water. Fill the container with water and watch it spin! You can also use a pop can (that’s what they used)… It might spin faster than ours.

I hope you decide to check out Curiosity Corner LIVE and you enjoyed our design challenges above! Don’t forget to follow me on social media to see more of our activities! I am also a blogging partner with the Great Lakes Science Center. Check out our previous experiences participating in Curiosity Corner LIVE here!


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