Makey Lab – Swing to the Stars

Makey Lab – Swing to the Stars

Shall we swing right to the stars? Today our playground engineers continued their work on building out their playground and were challenged to design a swing that could carry different loads. They learned that a swing is actually a pendulum—a weight hung from a fixed point so that it can swing freely backward and forward.

Ask your camper: Did changing the weight of the pendulum affect the times? How did the times change? (The time should not change –only the length of the pendulum affects the time.)

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Engineering Explorations – Quantities in Circuits

Engineering Explorations – Quantities in Circuits

Our Electrical Engineers were challenged to study and measure the voltage of different batteries using a particular type of equipment called a multimeter. But first, they ranked a variety of batteries based on what they thought was logical (usually size/shape).  Campers then measured the voltage of each battery to determine whether or not they need to revise their initial rankings. It was quite a “shock” that a huge D battery has the same amount of voltage as a much smaller AAA battery (1.5v) and a tiny coin battery has more voltage (3v) than a big D battery (1.5v). 

Ask your camper: Why would differently-sized batteries be needed if they all (AAA, AA, C and D) have the same voltage (1.5v)? (depends on the amount of current that is needed for the device that requires batteries)

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Engineering Explorations – Model Lungs

Engineering Explorations – Model Lungs

Our biomedical engineers have just arrived at Summer @ IMSA and they are ready for a challenging task! Today, in Engineering Explorations, the students learned about the anatomy of the heart and lungs and how they function in the human body. Our bioengineers built their own working model of a lung and demonstrated how the diaphragm works based on air pressure differentials. The end goal of the day was to relate the lung model to relevant heart anatomy and physiology.

Ask your student: What is the purpose of the diaphragm in the respiratory system? (Each breath begins with a contraction of a dome-shaped sheet of muscle underneath the lungs called the diaphragm. During inhalation (taking air into your lungs) your diaphragm contracts, or flattens downward, which reduces pressure in the chest cavity. Normal outside air pressure is higher, which forces air through the nose and mouth, down the trachea and into the lungs where pressure is lower (pressure systems move from high to low). On the other hand, upon exhalation your diaphragm relaxes, which increases pressure on the lungs and forcing air, containing carbon dioxide, out of the body.)

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Oceanography – Buoyancy and Water Pressure

Oceanography – Buoyancy and Water Pressure

Today our Ocean Engineers studied two important scientific principles (buoyancy and water pressure) that they can apply toward their upcoming design and build of a prototype submarine that they need to be able to maneuver in the water. Campers explored buoyancy by placing objects with different masses and volumes in a known volume of water and observing what happens to the water displacement. They also investigated water pressure by observing how intense water streams from holes situated at various heights along containers (1L and 2L).

Ask your camper: What factor (mass or volume) impacted the amount of water displacement? (volume). Where was water pressure the highest? (at the bottom of the containers)

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Makey Lab – Fairytale Houses

Makey Lab – Fairytale Houses

The fairytale realm is being bombarded by natural disasters, and they need our campers to help build homes to withstand the new dangers! Today our campers experimented with different materials to see which stayed standing during the disasters. Then campers worked in groups to create building designs to hold up to five natural disasters – avalanche, flash flood, thunderstorm, rock slide, and earthquake.

Ask your camper: Which natural disaster did your group have, and which materials worked best?

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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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Space & Weather – Space Blast!

Space & Weather – Space Blast!

What happens to an object when you compress the air around it? Campers explored Boyle’s Law – (a chemistry law which explains the relationship between volume and pressure) – in order to help save a group of friendly little aliens who appear to be sensitive to changes in atmospheric pressure… Our new squishy alien friends were facing a grave danger when some other, meaner stick aliens kept trying to capture them! Campers used their knowledge of Boyle’s Law and a special tool – the Alien Relocation Device (ARD) – to launch our new alien friends to safety! 

Ask your camper: What is a term to describe the relationship between volume and pressure? (inverse)

Aurora Program Pictures


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Belleville Program Pictures


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Innovation Through the Ages – Day 5

Innovation Through the Ages – Day 5

Today in Innovation Through the Ages…….Huston we have lift-off! The students were clear to launch their bottle rockets this morning! Students studied Leonardo Da Vinci’s 3D shapes and other 3D innovations and then created a collaborative 3D form –a dodecahedron – made by the entire group. In Engineering, student groups each decided on an innovation that they believe contributed the most to humanity, they researched its history, designed and built a model of it, and created a brief power point detailing the history of the innovation and their process. Each group then had a turn presenting to the class.  

Ask your student what a dodecahedron is (a three-dimensional shape having twelve plane faces, in particular a regular solid figure with twelve equal pentagonal faces).



Innovation Through the Ages – Day 4

Innovation Through the Ages – Day 4

Today in Innovation Through the Ages…….students tested the power and accuracy of their siege machines but launching a projectile at the designated target! They then reviewed the history of rocketry and propulsion, rocket design and function, and chemical reactions. After, students designed and built vinegar and baking soda-powered rockets! Launch was delayed due to weather, but mission control has cleared a launch time for Friday morning!  They also learned about the development of the printing press, and created drawings inspired by their notes and observations during the week. Then they transferred their drawings onto Styrofoam plates and created prints.

Ask your student how vinegar and baking-soda can power a rocket!

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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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