Vital Signs – Prosthetics

Vital Signs – Prosthetics

Prosthetics are fake body parts that replace broken or missing ones in humans or animals. They can be made out of different materials and have different types of technology to move or to sense. One of the most complex parts of a prosthesis is the joint—how can it be engineered at the right place and to bend the right way to help someone in daily life? Our bioengineers created their own prosthetic fingers using the ratio of one of their own fingers to scale it to size. But fingers have no muscles—they are powered with tendons connected to arm and wrist muscles. The joints work with tendons to bend the finger. The campers had to create two separate “tendons” in order for the fingers to be able to move.

Ask your camper: Which two tendons allow our fingers to move, and what movement is each tendon in charge of? Flexor, curls fingers. Extensor, straightens fingers


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Oceanography – Deep Ocean (Part 2)

Oceanography – Deep Ocean (Part 2)

Today, our aspiring oceanographers wrapped-up their week-long ocean chemistry experiment (which examined the effect of pH on natural shells). After measuring the final mass of the shells and comparing that to the initial mass of the shells, students were able to conclude that ocean pH is an important abiotic factor for all ocean life, especially the organisms that need to build and maintain shells. Afterwards, they got to model and observe a chemical reaction that is contributing to ocean acidification. Our young oceanographers modeled how climate change and a greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, can contribute to ocean acidification by watching a pH indicator (blue) change color (to yellow) before their very eyes!

Ask your camper: Why did the blue water turn yellow? (as COdissolved into our blue “ocean water”, the color changed from blue to yellow, indicating a pH change from basic to acidic


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Vital Signs – Titrations

Vital Signs – Titrations

Antacids are often used to treat heartburn. When acidic stomach content comes back up the esophagus heartburn patients experience a burning sensation behind the breastbone. Our biochemist campers used titrations to find the appropriate amount of base to neutralize the acid. Their job was to change the pH from 1 to 7 (neutral), by adding the base. At the end of the activity, campers took the calculated amount of base (antacid), put it into a capsule that allows for diffusion, and set it into the acid (represents heartburn). On Friday they will check the results to see if the acid was neutralized!

Ask your camper: If we start with 10mL of the acid, hydrochloric acid, how many mL of the base, sodium hydroxide, so we need to add to reach a pH of 7? The same amount – 10mL! The acid and base are the same concentration, and at opposite ends of the pH scale. 


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Oceanography – Submarine Challenge

Oceanography – Submarine Challenge

Today the students started wrapping up their submarine designs. Submarines are a special vehicle that can be submerged and operated under water. Submarines must operate in agreement with natural laws like Archimedes’ Principle and natural forces like gravity, the buoyant force, and water pressure. Typically, a submarine has compartments that facilitate how it maneuvers (up or down) the depths of the ocean. A ballast tank is a compartment that holds air and water. The submarine pumps water and air in and out of its ballast tanks to manipulate its mass and therefore, its density. Different proportions of air and water help it rise or sink in the ocean based on the density of the entire vehicle.

Ask your camper: How did you design your submarine so that it could maneuver up and down in the water?

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Vital Signs – Breaks/Sprains/Strains

Vital Signs – Breaks/Sprains/Strains

Common summertime injuries that can happen to kids while they’re playing outside on play sets, running up hills, falling off bikes… Today our doctors dove into the study of orthopedics and learned how to identify and treat various types of fractures as well as muscular strains and sprains. Students got to practice wrapping each other’s ankles and/or wrists in a comfortable and supportive manner such that it effectively immobilized the limb to allow it the chance to recover. They then had to learn how to identify and model different types of fractures that can occur in the bone, including transverse, butterfly and spiral breaks.

Ask your camper: What is the difference between a sprain and a strain?  (A sprain is when a ligament has been badly damaged or torn and a strain is when a tendon or muscle has been damaged or torn.)

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Oceanography – Microorganisms

Oceanography – Microorganisms

NOAA needs our team of oceanographers to investigate how temperature affects plankton physiology – ocean temps are on the rise, after all! Plankton play an important role in all water ecosystems, especially being a food source for many larger animals. If rising temperatures affect plankton adversely, we may need to anticipate a lot of trickle-down effects on the organisms that depend on them as a food source. Daphnia, commonly called water fleas, were studied today when our aspiring oceanographers turned their camera phones into microscopes in order to observe plankton physiology (such as heart rate, or abdominal pulses of the Daphnia). Yesterday they collected baseline physiology data (room temperature) and today they repeated their experiments using ice water and/or warmed water.

Ask your camper: How did the ice affect the physiology of Daphnia? (colder temperatures resulted in decreased heart rates). What about the warmer temps? (warmer temps resulted in increased heart rates and sometimes death)

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Vital Signs – Sheep Heart Dissection

Vital Signs – Sheep Heart Dissection

What organ comes to mind when you hear the phrase “vital signs”? A most likely candidate is the heart! There are only a few differences between sheep hearts and human hearts (size and relative location of major vessels) so studying the sheep heart helps our budding cardiologists learn more about the human heart! Campers explored heart anatomy by dissecting a sheep heart and used the heart to identify the circulation of blood throughout the body/to and from the heart.

Ask your camper: Which chamber of the heart receives deoxygenated blood from the body? (right atrium)

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Oceanography – Squid Dissection

Oceanography – Squid Dissection

Today the young biologists dissected another creature from the depths of the sea – a squid! Squid are unique molluscs for a variety of reasons. They have an internal shell called a pen that evolved to support their streamlined body plan, allowing faster swimming speeds. Squid are fantastic simmers that move via jet propulsion; they take in water into their mantle and then expel it forcefully through their siphone. Some squid can reach 20 mph! Interestingly, squid have three hearts, allowing them to pump blood and deliver oxygen as quickly as humans do.

Ask your camper: Squid are invertebrates – what does that mean?

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Vital Signs – New Glasses

Vital Signs – New Glasses

During the first day of bioengineering activities, our campers created glasses! They first made observations on the differences between convex and concave lenses, and how each helped with seeing close or far distances. Glasses can have one or both types of lenses depending on the sight issue of the person, such as near-sightedness and far-sightedness. To test how the lenses acted together, the campers experimented with different magnifications and lens types to try and see down to the smallest line of an official eye chart. 

Ask your camper: What is the difference in shape between a convex and concave lens, and which lens combination worked best to see the smallest line of the eye chart? A convex lens bulges out, while a concave lens curve in, like a cave. One of each lens created the most ideal combination. 

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Oceanography – Deep Ocean

Oceanography – Deep Ocean

What are some important physical aspects of the ocean? In today’s activities, campers explored ocean chemistry and physics. They explored ocean chemistry by setting up a week-long experiment to investigate the effect of pH on shells. Since many organisms in the ocean depend on a shell as their primary home/protection it’s difficult for them to build and maintain a shell when ocean pH is dropping – aka ocean acidification is happening. They were also introduced to physics by modeling how light penetrates the ocean depths. Our budding Oceanographers created a model of the ocean that illustrates how certain wavelengths of light only reach so far down. 

Ask your camper: What color (wavelength) of light reaches the furthest depths of the ocean (blue).

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