Chicago got some pleasant news last summer.  According to a German study, the Chicago Public Library was rated the best in America and third overall in the world.  This was obviously some great news, and it came in the summer, which is the main reason why Chicagoans survive the winter.  No matter where you live in the Chicago, you live near a branch of the public library.  There is one in every neighborhood.  If you are lucky enough to call the downtown, Harold Washington, branch your home library then you may have seen their revolutionary Maker Lab. (more…)

Much of the country is stuck in a deep freeze.  As I write this, my son is enjoying his second snow-less snow day at home.  It’s true, we would consider a temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit to be warm right now, but he is bummed by the lack of snow.  So instead of making snow-men, we decided to make something else with the cold. (more…)

The Wednesday night educator preview of Physics With a Bang was a huge success. I owe enormous ‘thank yous’ the Sid, Heinrich, and the entire team that made the show possible. I also want to thank our sponsor Ward’s Science for their generous support, and donation of a Van de Graaff generator!

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About a year ago, I got my first Raspberry Pi, an inexpensive open source computer.  As a device it opened my eyes to a world of possibilities as a scientist and a classroom instructor.  I had never thought about what I would use a computer for, outside of media consumption and document creation.

The addition of an inexpensive ($25) camera gives me the opportunity to take pictures.  Using the steps below, you can take a series of pictures at various intervals for varying lengths of time.  My first attempt was to watch bananas turn brown over 12 hours.  (SPOILER:  It takes longer than 12 hours.)  While the results weren’t stunning, I was impressed with how easy it was to take hundreds of photos and compile them into a time lapse movie. (more…)

This Saturday, educators gathered at the SouthSide Hackerspace to learn about soldering.  The hackerspace is one of a couple places in Chicago where people can use tools and work on projects with other makers and hackers.  Spaces like this have been popping up recently, and they feel like gyms.  For a monthly membership fee, people can get trained on various tools, and use them to complete whatever projects they have in mind.  Since I will probably never have a laser cutter in my house, a space like this in the Pilsen neighborhood is absolutely perfect! (more…)

Every year, local schools encourage their students to engage in true scientific inquiry, with all of its usual joy and frustration.  Middle and high school students get the opportunity to explore a question of their choosing, do a little research, try an experiment and report their results.  The absolute best part of a science fair is the forum that provides students  to talk about something they learned with interested adults. (more…)

Here are the instructions as a PDF. (Making Glow in the Dark Floating Balls)

Description:  A while ago, I found these index matching hydrophilic spheres.  They seemed pretty cool and worth the $3 investment.  They look like little balls, and when placed in water, they slowly swell, and they disappear.  They don’t really disappear, they get the same index of refraction as water, so light doesn’t bend when it goes through water and the balls, so they appear to be invisible. (more…)

It was a clear and beautiful night when teachers and STEM leaders gathered at IIT’s McCormick Tribune Campus Center’s Ballroom for a night of socializing and demonstrations. We had a good turnout of 30 people, and a tremendous amount of excitement. As I walked around the room, I saw a lot of people exchanging information and making promises to reach out to one another in the coming week. This is what a STEM social is all about. (more…)

A Raspberry Pi is a $35 computer that has really captivated the imagination of tinkerers, makers, and people who void warranties. Compared to a traditional laptop or desktop it is cheap. Because it runs on a Linux operating system, and can access the internet, you can interact with it remote. Since it is so cheap and powerful, it is the kind of computer that you can completely dedicate to a task. (more…)

Two Days of Training with IIT, ASM, and Element 14

During the Hour of Code on December x, 2013 ScienceFist partnered with the IIT Boeing Scholars, After School Matters, and Element 14 to do the first of two days of training using Raspberry Pis and Arduinos. (more…)