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Build an Alarm – Electronics for Kids

build an alarm - electronics project for kids

Apparently Zachary has something special that needs protecting from his dangerous siblings or the animals roaming in our woods. He had the option of creating a door alarm, but decided instead that his cash box needed more protection. Using our most recent EEME kit, Project Tentacle, Zachary worked to build an alarm using electronics.

Over the past six months, Zachary has learned so much about bread boards, resistors, capacitors, and how to get his wires crossed (or not). It has been a fabulous learning time for him and something he has soaked up and absolutely loved.

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While we made a suggestion to not label his cash box, the alarm he built using the lessons from EEME were clearly a better option (grins). The alarm system using Project Tentacles was definitely a more creative option for his cash protection, and again Zachary learned more about circuits and different components, including NPN transistors – this was fun for me to learn as well, and you’ll hear more about it in the video clip below.

Building an Alarm – The Process

Contents for building EEME Project Tentacle

Because we have worked on several other projects from EEME, we had a few of the key components already on hand: a power supply and a breadboard. Otherwise, we received the following items in our kit:

  • buzzer
  • 2 – 6+” long white wires
  • 2 – 2” yellow wires
  • 1 – 1” blue wire
  • 2 resistors: orange band
  • 1 resistor: blue/green band
  • 2 3-prong transistors

I’ll be honest and tell you, the name of the project scared me a little bit at first! Fortunately, it wasn’t anything that involved lots of legs and crawled around the house – although the finished project did have some long wires that were all over the place.

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Zachary has a much better understanding of circuitry now that he has completed three projects with EEME, so it didn’t take him as long to complete this project overall other than figuring out the best way to ‘rig’ his cash box with an alarm and make it work every time the box was opened (a little duct tape goes a long way).

A Peek at How the Alarm Works

 

Zachary did a great job explaining the different components and how his alarm worked (ignore that I called the base a breadbox, please? I do know better than that!). Feed readers can click here to watch the video.

 

review questions

One thing I really appreciate about the projects from EEME is the constant review between the video clips. Some are review from the lesson while others are overall electronic questions based on what they have learned throughout.

You can see the three other projects we’ve worked on here:

 

A Little More About EEME

EEME makes hands-on projects and provides FREE online lessons to teach kids electronics, fostering their curiosity for how things work and prepping them for the STEM opportunities of tomorrow.

Each project kit is paired with online curricula to not only show your family how to assemble the kit, but more importantly, teach them how it works.

They also have FREE interactive online lessons to teach your family the fundamentals of electronics. Sign up for FREE to access EEME’s online lessons.

Project Tentacles is one of the projects in the Builder Basic 6 Project Set and also the third project in EEME’s monthly subscription program. Zachary has thoroughly enjoyed all he has worked on (especially Project Amp) – a HUGE thumbs up from our family!

 build an alarm - electronics for kids with EEME Project Tentacles

Perfect for ages 7+

Time Required: 1-2 hours

Parental involvement: varies based on child

Jellybean and Toothpick Structure STEM Challenge

Jellybean and toothpick STEM challenge - building a structure that supports weight

For one of our most recent STEM classes at co-op we took advantage of Dollar Tree jellybeans and an overabundance of toothpicks. The kids have had so much fun with our hands-on challenges and learning about the best ways to build structures that are weight bearing and can stand a little pressure.

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Initially we divided up into four teams of 2-3 students each but gave the kids the option of combining with one other team to build their jellybean and toothpick structure. The kids decided that was definitely the better option and quickly moved together. They also realized it provided them with more jellybeans for eating, should they not used two entire bags for their structure (smart kids).


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One of the BEST things I heard came immediately after the kids combined (and while I eavesdropped on their strategy talk). Both teams were discussing the best way to build a structure that would support the most weight and still have a good height. From each team, the words “a triangle allows the strongest support” was heard. (Yes, they are listening!!)

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KEVA Planks were used as a sort of ‘holding pen’ for one of the teams – they didn’t want to risk floor contamination of jellybeans that may possibly be edible later. The other team obviously had no regard for where their beans ended up.

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Both teams worked with a triangular setup for their structures, although one took a more systematic approach, setting up an assembly line of sorts. Team members started the process of putting a toothpick into a jellybean and creating piles, while others created pre-made triangles for another team member to work into their structure.

 

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Overall both teams had a blast with this challenge.  One structure was definitely more organized and that may be the team that wasn’t distracted by eating jellybeans along the way. 

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While Team 1’s structure was taller overall, it came to a definite peak and would not support as much weight when added (we stacked file folders on each structure to see how many it would hold). Team 1 eventually lost their triangular structure as their building continued( see the note on jellybean consumption), lost focus, and that ended up being their downfall.

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Team 2 had a much wider and elaborate base design (neater overall) thanks to their assembly line process. While their structure didn’t reach quite as much height as Team 1’s design, it supported more than twice the weight since it was able to more evenly distribute the weight when stacked.

(And jellybeans were consumed by all).

Such a fun and sticky challenge. Incidentally, picking up a box of 500 toothpicks that are spilled can be pointy and painful.


Additional STEM Challenges

 

 

Bouncing Egg Science Experiment – Dissolving Calcium Carbonate with Acid

bouncing egg science experiment from Homeschool Creations

Before you go and think I’m crazy nuts, our bouncing egg science experiment involved a safe acid (grins). Zachary has loved all the hands-on projects to go along with his Christian Kids Explore Chemistry this year, and this one to see how acid interacts with calcium carbonate was no different.

That said – it was super easy to pull together and one that every family should do (did I mention it was easy?). Aside from learning about chemical reactions, what’s not to love about an egg that can bounce?!

Bouncing Egg Science Experiment

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The main purpose of this experiment was to test the reaction of a weak acid (white vinegar) with calcium carbonate (CaCO3 – an eggshell). If you’d like to try this at home, you only need a few items:

 

Here’s the quick science explanation:

An egg shell is made up of calcium carbonate, so when the egg is soaked in vinegar (about 4% acetic acid) a chemical reaction begins. Carbon dioxide is released (the bubbles you see on the shell) as the vinegar begins to dissolve the shell. The membrane of the egg will remain (the rubbery part of the egg).

 

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The egg was supposed to soak for 24 hours and then observations were to be tracked. Ours ended up soaking a bit longer (as in four days) because it stayed in the schoolroom over the weekend and we completely forgot out it. It was a lovely stink come Monday morning. (grins)

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The vinegar was carefully drained from the egg and GENTLY rinsed off under clean water. (May I stress gently again?)

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We pulled out another raw egg to compare and contrast to our experiment. The egg that had been soaked felt completely rubbery and could be gently squeezed (again with the gentle). The entire shell had dissolved thanks to the chemical reaction with the vinegar.

Size-wise there was a significant difference as well. When the egg soaked in the vinegar,  some of the vinegar and water in the vinegar moved through the membranes of the egg and into the egg. Egg membranes are semi-permeable so water can move through them (an example of osmosis).

 

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Trying to find the yolk now the shell was missing, we grabbed a flashlight as well to see how translucent the egg was. 

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The fun part came in the bouncing of the egg. To keep the counters clean, we pulled out a tray and tried dropping it from different heights to see if it would break.  You can see a short (and slightly blurry – sorry!) video here or below.

 

Once we were done bouncing and playing with the egg, we popped it with a fork to feel the membrane of the egg. (And yes, we all thoroughly washed our hands when we were done!).

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This is one of those experiments we would like to do again, but this time with several eggs in different jars and then try a few variables when we are done soaking them all in vinegar: moving one to plain water, one to cornstarch, and letting one sit out on the tray to see what happens to them all.

There’s so much more we could do, but this was a fun start to our egg experiments.

More Science Fun

If you have some time and need a few ideas, we worked on both of these projects this year and had a blast with them (especially the cookie skillet!).

Atomic Cookie Skillet Models – learn more about the Periodic Table and how what atoms consist of with this fun (and edible) project!

Building Atom Models – build simple atoms together and make chemistry hands-on for your kids with this easy activity.

Using Times Tales for Tricky Multiplication Facts

Educents is a blog sponsor and provided a digital copy of Times Tales for our review.

using Times Tales to learn multiplication facts

Multiplication facts have been a bit tricky for two of our kids, especially many of the ones in the 6, 7, 8, and 9 tables. Drilling wasn’t effective and was making life unpleasant.  Flash cards were not our friend.

Our fifth grader is constantly trying to sneak answers out of me, and although he eventually does get the correct answer when he thinks it through, recall isn’t as fast as it could be. Our youngest is beginning his multiplication journey, so over the last few weeks both he and his brother have been working together to learn their facts using Times Tales. Instead of groans and frustration, the two are learning together and remembering (without needing to ask me for help!).

As I’ve been sharing our progress via Instagram and Facebook the past bit, I LOVE hearing your comments and hearing how successful it’s been for your families also! I am so excited to share a more in-depth look at the program with you all. Be sure to read through as well, because there is a 15% off coupon code for you to grab!

How Times Tales Works

Times Tales animated math

Although it may seem like pictures and silly sentences, Times Tales is a digital video program that teaches the following multiplication facts using visual mnemonic stories: 3×6, 3×7, 3×8, 3×9, 4×6, 4×7, 4×8, 4×9, 6×6, 6×7, 6×8, 6×9, 7×7, 7×8, 7×9, 8×8, 8×9, & 9×9.

The program includes two DVDs or video downloads, each focusing on a set of problems: the lower facts and then the upper facts. Multiplication facts based on 0, 1, 2, 5, and 10 are not included in the program since children typically have an easier time learning those facts. DVD 1 covers the upper 3s and 4s times tables and DVD 2 covers the uppers 6s, 7s, 8s, and 9s.

Learning multiplication facts with Times Tales-5

Each number is given a visual clue to help children remember the prompt. We used the Times Tales download, so I transferred the videos to my iPad and the boys watched it together that way. We focused on Part 1 immediately after our break, waited two weeks, and then worked on Part 2 together. (Note: it is recommended that you work with the first DVD for at least one week before you begin the second.) We followed along as they recommend and the results have been FABULOUS!

Learning multiplication facts with Times Tales

Our oldest isn’t needing any help with his facts and able to immediately answer the multiplication facts – and has easily translated into division as well.

Here’s a quick look at the steps of the video (about 30 minutes each) and also a short video clip to show our boys ‘in action’ with the program.

 

 

 

 

Part 1

Learn the characters – kids are introduced to the different characters and the numbers they represent.

Part 2

Learn the Stories – Kids learn the multiplication facts by watching the short video story clips (less than 10 minutes).

Part 3

Beat the Clock – play a game and answer the questions within 3 to 5 seconds. The questions are based on the stories the kids learned in the prior part.

Part 4

Flashcard Practice – the problems/flashcards are shown on the screen and kids can either pause the video to answer, or let it run and see if they can beat the video. A division challenge is also included as a part of this section and kids see if they can guess who is missing from the problem.

There are also flashcards available as a part of the printable portion of Times Tales that can be printed off, both with prompts and as straight multiplication and division facts.

Final Step – The Written Test

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In this step, kids work on the written tests that are included as a part of the program. There is a crossword puzzle challenge, a practice test (including the characters for visual clues), and also a full test with only the numbers and no clues.

What Mom Loves About Times Tales

times tales for learning multiplication facts

Other than printing things off to use later with the kids, there was really little that I had to do prep-wise for the boys. I did sit with them while they watched the video to observe what was happening. A few things I love:

  • The characters are memorable and ‘translate’ well. The boys haven’t had any problem learning or remember the numbers that each character represents or translating them to actual numbers for math facts.
  • The stories stick with you. Our girls used Times Tales years ago and were chiming in with the facts (and still remember them!). In the days following our first lesson with Times Tales, I would hear the boys stop for a moment in their math program and repeat one of the stories to solve a problem they were working on.
  • All the printables are included with the program. The only pesky part is putting the dice together (but I promise it isn’t that hard!). Otherwise you can save it to use with younger children and print off as many copies as you would like.
  • Two sets of flashcards help with recognition. For younger children, or those needing a little prompting, there are two different sets of flashcards included: one with visual prompts of the characters and one with the straight facts. Cards for division practice are also included with the program
  • It is a fun way to learn, rather than rote repetition. The boys have especially enjoyed this part and the more ‘hands-on’ aspect the program brought to math. Instead of pulling out flashcards, the boys enjoy rolling the dice to work on their math problems.

One reader emailed to ask if I thought the videos were cheesy. Now personally, I might not have thought our boys would like them, but since the clips were so short (30 minutes each), they were short enough to engage them while teaching the facts – and the stories stuck! Knowing the program works is a huge encouragement to me.

The day after we watched the second part of the Times Tales focusing on the upper multiplication facts, I pulled out the dice to see what Kaleb would remember. All we had worked on the day prior was the video itself and the practice test, with no review after that. Here’s a peek at how Kaleb did remembering the facts he learned:

 

 

 

 

I was really blown away! He gave the correct answers right away without even hesitating. For a boy that has only worked on his lower multiplication tables and not had any prior work with the upper facts – I was amazed!

Overall we have LOVED using Times Tales (and I may be a wee bit upset with myself for not pulling it out earlier for Zachary). It was a short time investment (and not a huge out of pocket expense either) for something that clicked with our kids and helped knock out something that was difficult for them.

Start Using Times Tales

The Times Tales programs are available through their website HERE

Purchase the Times Tales on DVD here (21.95)!
Download Times Tales Digital version here ($19.95)!

 

Homeschool Science Curriculum Sale – Save 15%

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One of the programs that we’ve been using this year with our fifth grader, Zachary, is Christian Kids Explore Chemistry from Bright Ideas Press (aff link). He has been loving the hands-on projects that tie in with the program and learning so much about chemistry as we work through our text.

We work through one chapter a week: reading, review, and a hands-on project and it is just the right balance of independent work and learning. Our atomic cookie skillet model and atom models were both a part of our hands-on learning.

Save 15% on Christian Kids Explore series

Right now you can save 15% on the Christian Kids Explore books (aff link) – from Biology, Physics, Earth & Space, and Chemistry and beyond. No code needed as the prices all currently reflect the sale prices.

Both Biology and Earth & Space were written for students in grades 3-6, but the simplicity of the activities and clearness of teaching makes them easily adaptable for younger students as well. Every activity was designed using inexpensive and easily accessible resources. The book is laid out so the reading, worksheets, coloring pages, vocabulary, activity instructions and more all come in one book. This makes for a format that also works very well with co-ops.

The Chemistry, Physics, and Creation Science books were written for grades 4-8. These books can be adapted to fit third grade students, but because they are advanced enough to set a foundation for high school studies, you may wish to start with the Biology or Earth & Space editions with any student younger than fourth grade.

Learn more about Christian Kids Explore Science HERE.

Building Atom Models – Hands on Chemistry for Kids

building atom models with kids copy

One of the things that I’ve loved about our Chemistry science program (aff link) for Zachary this year is the hands-on aspect of the program. He is a boy that needs a little something to do with his hands every now and then, so it has fit in very well for us. As we’ve been learning about atoms together the last several weeks,  Building atom models and getting a 3D look at how an atom might actually appear has been a great way to visualize what we’re talking about. Quite obviously, these models are not to scale and a whole lot larger than the real thing. (grins)

In our model we used Styrofoam balls to represent the protons, neutrons, and electrons. In an atom, the protons and neutrons are in the nucleus (the center of the atom), and the electrons surround the atom. In diagrams you often see the electrons represented by elliptical lines moving around the nucleus.

3D lithium atom model project for kids

Building Atom Models

We chose to build a model of a lithium atom and used the following supplies. If you would like to make a different atom, the number of styrofoam balls will differ based on the number of neutrons, protons, and electrons in the atom. See below for how to calculate those numbers.

  • 7 styrofoam balls – we used ones that were about 2” in diameter
  • 3 styrofoam balls about 1 inch in diameter
  • 3 pipecleaners
  • toothpicks
  • red, yellow, and blue paint
  • paintbrushes
  1. Paint four of the 2” balls yellow (neutrons) and three of the balls blue (protons).
  2. Paint the 1” balls red (electrons).
  3. Using the toothpicks, connect the yellow and blue balls together, making sure they touch each other. We broke out toothpicks in half so they wouldn’t poke through too much.
  4. Connect each electron (red balls) to one of the protons (blue balls) using the pipe cleaners.

The model was a great way for us to understand a little better how atoms look. It was fun to talk about how many balls we would need to make some of the other atoms such as gold (79 protons/electrons and 118 neutrons – that would be a very large model!). We definitely figured it would be easier to stick to some of the more smaller numbered atoms on the periodic table!

To Build Different Atom Models

If you are trying to figure out how many neutrons, protons, and electrons an atom has, there is a way to work it out without needing to look up each atom one at a time. Each atom has an atomic number and an atomic weight. The atomic number tells you how many protons and electrons that atom contains. The neutrons are determined by looking at the atomic weight of the atom, rounding it up to the nearest whole number, and subtracting the number of protons. Usually you can find both numbers on your periodic table of elements.

Atomic weight = Protons (atomic number) + Neutrons

 

Additional Atom Model Ideas

Don’t care for styrofoam balls? Check out this idea on the Bright Idea Press blog using playdough (secretly I almost wish I would have seen this version first). Zachary loved creating and painting the model we did though, but I’m filing away this idea to use another time!

A few weeks ago we made edible atom models – and we enjoyed every single bite! Check out our atomic cookie skillet models for the recipe and instructions.

If you’d like to learn more about the homeschool chemistry program we are using, you can find out more here. Feel free to check out the rest of our homeschool curriculum choices as well!