Engineer, Great Lakes Science Center, Museums, STEM Careers, STEM Resources

The Vroom Exhibit at the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland Ohio is Tire-iffic!!!

The Great Lakes Science Center did it again – they created another outstanding, fun and educational exhibit for kids and adults alike to explain how automobiles are designed, manufactured and serviced. VROOM! A Car Adventure is excellent!

The entrance to Vroom! At the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland Ohio.

Our Favorites:

As we entered the ginormous space, my kids first ran towards the tall multi-track called Physics Playground. Children (and adults – yes, of course I had to try it out too) can race cars down several tracks with loops, turns and jumps! It’s very exciting and fast paced fun and entertainment like I’ve never seen before.

The Physics Playground

The second place my kids explored and LOVED was the Automotive Care Center where they could work on ‘Mom and Dad’s Car’. My daughter was wearing a long dress, but that didn’t stop her from diving in to work on the tires, muffler or re-fill the fluids. My youngest explored the fun tire holes surrounding this exhibit.

Other fun areas included Tots Garage and the Aerodynamics wall. There are two areas for designing and racing your own vehicle – one designed for toddlers called Tots Garage and another area with wooden pieces and tires for bigger kids and adults. At the aerodynamics wall, my children could visually see how air flows around various shaped objects. My oldest found it interesting that vehicle designers evaluate the aerodynamics of vehicles for fuel efficiency (so they don’t need as much gas).

You can also test your skills and speed against an arm robot, named Lenny, which is a duplicate used in the automotive factories. My children laughed so hard at the celebratory dance after each time the robot won!

The area that I personally enjoyed the most was The Future of Car Tech section. This area had an example of airless tires and the LiDar sensor that is used to help self-driving cars navigate.

LiDar Sensor Technology screen inside the new exhibit.

My Thoughts:

This exhibit helps visualize many aspects of car design and servicing. We easily spent 3 hours exploring this space and we could have spent even more time. It is designed for all ages of children and adults. There is so much more to this exhibit that I didn’t add to this post.

We left the exhibit with plenty of knowledge on vehicle design, technology and functionality. I wished that there would have been more on vehicle manufacturing. There’s scores of science and engineering at vehicle manufacturing and assembly plants – i.e. the science behind paint color and appearance alone is a whole science in itself. However, this exhibit did not disappoint us at all and we will recommend it to everyone that we know!

The most impressive part for me about this exhibit was that it was built in house by the Great Lakes Science Center – it is truly one of a kind. We loved it.

Vroom over to the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland Ohio and go check it out for yourself!!!

momgineeringthefuture@gmail.com
Experiments, Holiday, Tips and Tricks

Experimenting with Peeps

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This past week, we experimented with some peeps in the kitchen! Many of the experiment ideas, I was able to find by just searching the internet, but we also improvised. In the cases where I followed experiments exactly, I included their links for reference to ingredients and recipes.

Young children love experimenting… their entire day truly is just experimentation – so less structure is better and it’s more fun when introducing new concepts to them. We usually do the experiment together (it must be short for attention span) and then I give them plenty of time to explore and test on their own with whatever is left.

Peep ‘Slime’: (We followed the recipe listed on Little Bins for Little Hands.)

This experiment didn’t turn out like slime… I would consider the texture to be more like taffy. It even tasted a little like taffy! (This might have happened because we had one less peep than the recipe calls for…) But it was fun for the kids to watch what happens to peeps in the microwave and also mix all the ingredients together to see the texture of the peep change. They played with it a little but both were more interested in tasting it.

Sinking Peeps:

A few weeks ago we tested out various fruits and vegetables in water to see if they would sink or float (see my link on instagram with photos here or purchase the book ‘Awesome Science Experiments for Kids’ with the instructions here). So when I told them we would be doing the same thing with a peeps, they were very excited!

I asked them to form a hypothesis – if the peep would sink or float and why. We all seemed to agree that the peep would float because it had air pockets – similar to the fruits and vegetables that we tried. We tested the hypothesis to see if we were correct and we were.

I then allowed them to try sinking the peep. So they dunked it and pulled it apart… I would say they got a little crazy at this point and the peeps turned into chunks of white on top and powdery colored water. They threw the peep slime in the bowl and it sank! My four year old pointed out that the corn starch eliminated the air pockets which caused it to sink.

Dissolving Peeps:

Lastly, we decided to dissolve a peep. I personally selected white vinegar because it was an ingredient we would soon we using in egg coloring. I also assumed that if any liquid would dissolve a peep from our kitchen it would be that one. You could also try oil, water or any other liquids in your kitchen.

We formed a hypothesis again. My four year old thought that the white vinegar would dissolve the peep. I told her that I did NOT think that it would dissolve the peep. We put the peeps in the white vinegar solution and observed them for several days. Initially, within the first hour, the white vinegar turned a yellow color from the sugar dissolving away on the bottom of the peeps but the peep itself didn’t dissolve.

My four year thought I had won, but we decided to wait a few more days to see what might happen. Over the course of those days, the peeps did in fact begin dissolving in the white vinegar slowly. The peeps became smaller, began tearing when I picked them up and they were also sinking. My four year old was so excited that her hypothesis was correct. This was a great way to teach her that sometimes your tests have to take longer than you expect them to in order to get a desired result.

Let me know if you try any of these experiments at home! I’d love to hear and see your results! You can contact me on social media or at momgineeringthefuture@gmail.com.

Experiments, Holiday, Tips and Tricks

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Science

On Valentines Day, we made chocolate covered strawberries. I decided to turn it into a science project to teach my kids about phase transformations and melting points. (This was also a great project for gross and fine motor skill development as well as learning to follow instructions.)

Ingredients:

Approximately 1 pound Strawberries (washed and dried) with the leaves, water (enough to boil in a small pot or double broiler), 16 ounces of melting chocolate (I used milk chocolate chips), and 4 ounces of white melting chocolate (I also used white chocolate chips).

Supplies:

1 Double Broiler (or you can use a metal or glass mixing bowl over a pot of boiling water), a mixing spoon to mix the chocolate as it melts, wax paper to place the strawberries after they are dipped in chocolate.

Step 1: Washing and drying the strawberries:

I place my strawberries in my sink to soak with cold water and about a 1/2 cup of white vinegar and 1/2 cup of baking soda for about 15 – 20 minutes. Then I gently scrub them with a cloth or scrub brush and rinse well. Next, I lay the strawberries out on a towel to dry completely (about 4 hours). 

Measuring the ingredients:

We didn’t measure our strawberries, but one idea would be to use a kitchen scale for measuring out the strawberries and the chocolate. For older children, this would be a great a way to introduce conversions to various measurement scales. (We personally relied on the package quantities.)

Melting the chocolate:

When we melted the chocolate, we used a double broiler. I showed my daughters what the chips looked like (they are very familiar with them but I stressed that they were hard and cool) and, of course, I allowed them to taste them. I told them that this was the ‘solid’ form for chocolate and it felt cool at room temperature.

My 4 year old then poured them into the double broiler. I let her guess what would happen, “it’s going to melt, Mommy”, she said very confidently.

As we stirred the chocolate chips in the double broiler, she became more and more excited to see the chocolate melting before our eyes. I explained that the chocolate had reached it’s ‘melting point’. It was melting to a soft liquid and that this transition was called a ‘phase transformation’. My daughter easily recognized the liquid was hot when I allowed her to put chocolate on one strawberry felt the heat from the pot.

WARNING: The chocolate will be HOT. Be sure that your child is ready to do this on their own without burning themselves.

If you have a cooking thermometer, you may want to consider placing it into the chocolate as it melts and let your child look at or record the temperature of the chocolate as it melts.

We continued to dip the strawberries in the double broiler (until all sides were covered in chocolate), then laid them on wax paper lined pans to cool. I asked my daughter what she thought might happen as they cool. She agreed that the chocolate would harden around the strawberries into a solid again (another phase transformation).

White Chocolate Drizzle:

I melted the white chocolate in a microwave safe bowl in the microwave. (If you do this, do it gradually and stir it between heating cycles to prevent the chocolate from burning.) I allowed my 4 year old to experiment with the technique on this. This also helps with fine and gross motor development.

Let me know if you try this out! We had a lot of fun with this one. It is a very simple project and more lessons can be added depending on the age of your children. Let me know what you think in the comments below or at MomgineeringtheFuture@gmail.com.