Tag: science

National Science Week will Host Free Virtual Program

Restrictions due to COVID-19 can’t stop the National Science Week this year. For the first time, audiences can experience a FREE digitally-led program from August 15 to 23. You can access it through the Inspiring Australia Queensland (IAQ) website. Minds of all ages will be wowed by the virtual panel discussions. Overall, all of the discussions are designed to inspire an interest in STEM, learning, conversation and action. All students, adults, families and more are welcome!  In addition there will be virtual tours, other online events, DIY science and more. 

The theme for the festival is ‘Future Earth’ and it will take a look at what lies ahead for humanity and science. It will also look at how far science has already taken us. But, most importantly, it will explore how we can collectively create a bright and sustainable future through science. This will mostly be done through interactive webinars, podcasts and even competitions. Plus, live stream panel events will include topics such as Pandemic Proofing, Factory of the Future and The Future is in Their Hands.

If you attend, you can witness panel discussions with some of the top STEM professionals in Queensland, including:

  • University of Queensland medical research teams
  • Advanced Robotics Manufacturing Hub (ARM)
  • Global Shapers community
  • Queensland Chief Entrepreneur Leanne Kemp

“Each and every year, National Science Week excites and inspires our young people to explore science in many different ways and consider pursuing a science-based career,” says Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews MP.

“We know that around three-quarters of the jobs of the future will be in STEM-related fields, so there has never been a better time to encourage our children to explore these pathways.”

Get ready for the 15th of August! Visit the National Science Week website here. 

 

 

 

 

What is Gravity and Who Discovered it? – STEAM

Have your ever wondered what pulls you back to the ground when you jump, or why a ball always lands on the ground after you throw it? Well, the great scientist Sir Isaac Newton wondered about this too. Newton is famous for several incredible things however he is most well-known for creating the theory of universal gravity.

Around 1666, legend has it that after watching an apple fall from the tree, he realised that there had to be something pulling that apple to the ground and he wanted to understand what it was. Other scientists had thought about this before of course and had also made some great discoveries. Galileo discovered that dropping two objects from the same height would result in them hitting the ground at the same time, no matter their difference in weight. However, there can’t really be any air resistance. If you drop a feather and a bowling ball at the same time, the bowling ball will always hit the ground first… unless all the air is taken out of the room! This experiment shows that the force pulling the two objects to the ground is the same. To see this yourself, drop a half-filled water bottle and one empty water bottle, both the same size, from the same height. They will land on the ground at the same time.

Newton’s curiosity alongside his intelligence meant that after years of thinking about gravity, he developed some amazing new theories of his own. He even used maths to complete calculations on gravity that supported these theories. This math showed how invisible gravity worked and also provided a possible explanation as to the whole shape of our universe.

Newton’s Theories

Newton wrote that gravity was the force pulling two masses together and that it applied to objects of all sizes. The larger an object was, the more it attracted other objects. Up until this point, nobody could really explain how the orbits of the planets and moon worked…although they definitely tried and came up with some interesting ideas. Thanks to Newton, people began to understand that gravitational pull (or attraction) is the reason why planets orbit the Sun and don’t simply fly off into space. Even the Earth’s moon orbits Earth perfectly without being sling shotted into the galaxy! This, along with many other reasons, makes gravity extremely important to us and helps our world function the way it does.

Fun Fact

The moon’s surface gravity is weaker because it is not as massive as Earth and is only about 60% as dense. That’s why astronauts appear to bounce when they’re on the moon and why people weigh less on it. If you weigh 60 kilograms on Earth, you would weigh about 10 kilograms on the moon!

Understanding the Effects of Gravity

Gravity is a force that we feel and experience every single day of our lives. Although we cannot see gravity, we can see the effect it has. For example, it is what makes round objects roll down a hill and it is what makes a glass shatter when you drop it. Engino’s Inertia, Momentum, Kinetic and Potential Energy kit makes understanding gravity, as well as the basics of physics and mechanics, easy. You can construct different objects and witness yourself how gravity affects them, plus so much more.

Resources: 

You can find more fun gravity experiments here. 

Read more STEAM blogs here. 

Learn about Isaac Newton’s life and scientific discoveries with this awesome book. 

Engino’s Inertia, Momentum, Kinetic and Potential Energy – Get 15% OFF WITH CODE PakMag15

 

 

Family STEAM-Powered Fun!

Get the whole family involved and help your children develop a love of STEAM with a family STEAM challenge night! The family can be split into teams to compete. Or, go head to head as individuals in a series of fun challenges. They won’t even know they are learning!

Children often need to learn through doing. They need to  see with their own eyes how things work as they discover the world. Activities encouraging playing, building and designing are fun. But, they’re also educational tools that can go far beyond the classroom. Plus, they give the family a way to bond and spend some extra time together.

All challenges are really just lessons in disguise. For example, if you have a challenge to see which person’s paper plane can fly the furthest, you’re actually discovering the wonderful world of physics and aerodynamics. By building the GraviTrax STEM Activity set, you’re not only having to work out how to build the tracks, you’re also learning about the power of gravity. For a really fun race, try and build the Engino STEM Hero Automotives and see which ones can go the fastest (use code PakMag15 for 15% off!). You could even get into teams and time who can build their model the fastest.

It’s a great idea to take a few minutes after the fun challenges to explore the important questions. These include what, how and why. What is gravity and why does it exist? How does it make the GraviTrax set work? How does gravity affect our everyday lives?

The Lessons in Mistakes

Allowing for failure is also an important part of STEAM challenges. When things go wrong, children learn from the mistakes made. From there, they build up better skills to problem solve. They can learn to think critically about how they can complete a challenge more effectively. We all know that there’s no better way to motivate someone than get them involved in a competition that they want to win. It’s important to redirect children to figuring out why something didn’t work and then how they can improve it. It’s very beneficial for them to experience failure so that they can adjust to disappointment. That might sound like a negative thing. It’s actually a great thing! It helps children to learn that there are challenges and roadblocks in life. More importantly, it helps them learn that these challenges can be overcome with brain power.

The Lessons in Teamwork

Activities and challenges that require teamwork are an amazing way to familiarise children with sharing ideas, knowledge and the concept of workload. It’s important that children learn how to adapt to working alongside others. It’s even more important that they learn just how amazing teamwork can be. Teamwork can often solve problems faster and/or more efficiently because each person brings different expertise and personal strengths. The world’s teams of engineers, builders, astrophysicists, doctors and so much more, have made some of the most amazing discoveries and structures ever… together.

The Variety of Methods

Family STEAM challenges are the best way to combine a variety of learning methods with having fun. They give children the opportunity to solve problems in unique ways, using all subject areas of STEAM. Through trial and error, taking risks and thinking outside of the box, children go beyond applying a memorised method or known solution to a specific problem, and create their own. By avoiding the ‘step by step’ approach to problem solving, they can get creative and take control of their own learning, all while it just feels like a fun game.

For great educational resources you can buy the ‘100 Easy STEAM Activities’ book by Andrea Scalzo Yi and the STEAM Powered Kids Kitchen Science set from entropy. Both are perfect for kids and the Kitchen Science set contains over 30 science experiments that can be done with everyday materials.

We hope you and your family have some great family STEAM fun together. 

Some Fun Family STEAM Challenge Ideas 

Who can build a boat that can hold the most weight in coins?

You can use 10 or 20 cent coins for this challenge. All you’ll need is tin foil, the coins and a bowl of water. Give everyone the same amount of tin foil and see who can build a boat from the foil that can hold the most amount of coins in water without sinking. Either get into teams or try the challenge individually. To step the n minutes for everyone to make their boat.

Tip: Once you’ve found a winner, take the challenge up a notch. Use a timer and only allow five or 10 minutes to build the boat. Try and see how many coins it takes to truly sink the boat. It might be more than you think!

Who can build the tallest sculpture?

For this challenge you’ll need plastic cups, measuring tape, popsicle sticks, glue or tape, and something to time with (optional). Lay all the materials out for the teams or each person. Then get building! You can set a timer to make it more competitive. The goal is to see who can build the tallest sculpture. The more creative you get, the better. Only the materials provided can be used.

Tip: If you want to make it even more challenging, try not using any glue or tape to hold the materials together.

Who can build the tallest tower that can hold a tennis ball?

Plastic straws, tape, a tennis ball and something to time with (optional) are all that’s needed for this challenge. Give every team or individual person the same amount of materials, then try and build a tower that is strong enough to hold the ball on top of it. Use the time limit to make it a fun race. This challenge is great for getting those critical thinking skills used, as the materials don’t make it easy to create a shape that can support the ball.

Tip: This challenge may be too difficult for younger children. If so, you can try use something lighter than a tennis ball. It doesn’t even need to be a sports ball; any small round object could work!

See who can build a paper plane that will fly the longest distance

Get some paper, preferably A4, measuring tape and a clear space (inside) ready for this challenge. The most basic version of the paper plane is easy to make: Fold the paper in half vertically. Open it back up and fold the top two corners in to meet the centre line, so it looks like a triangle on top of a square. Fold the top corners inwards once more and then fold these ‘wings’ backwards. Mark a starting point and have everyone throw their paper planes from there, using a measuring tape to see which pane went the furthest.

Tip: There are plenty of tutorials online for paper planes, from simple to complicated designs. Everyone can get creative and see which ones work the best for distance.

The maze race

Clear a table for this race and create a maze on top of it with blocks (or you can use whatever materials around the house that work best). Blow through a straw and see who can push their marble through the maze the fastest. You can even add little challenges like small homemade ramps and tunnels. This challenge works great for teams – the bigger the table, the more teamwork comes in handy. Place team members at separate places around the table, so that they can help out the other person(s).

 

 

Hooked on Dopamine – The ‘Feel-Good’ Neurotransmitter

The worlds brands and tech creators spend literally billions of dollars trying to get your attention.

We are the “Attention Generation”. Dopamine plays a role in how they get our attention. But what is Dopamine and how does this chemical work in our bodies?

Nearly all pleasurable experiences involve the release of dopamine. Having a good meal, exercising, shopping and even drugs, gambling, gaming and getting a notification that someone has liked your post on Facebook.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter made in the brain. Basically, it acts as a chemical messenger between neurons, and your brain releases this ‘feel-good’ chemical when it is expecting a reward. It determines whether we want to do something again. Dopamine isn’t acting alone. It works with other neurotransmitters and hormones, such as serotonin and adrenaline. 

The right amount of dopamine usually goes along with a pretty good mood. It’s ideal for learning, planning, and productivity giving you feelings of focus, motivation, happiness, and alertness. Low dopamine however is one reason why you can have trouble concentrating, poor coordination, and low motivation.

When our body is experiencing pleasure, it responds by releasing dopamine. This release causes your brain to focus more of its attention on the experience and it works out pathways to ensure it receives this feel good chemical again. Dopamine activates your brain’s reward centre. When the brain picks up that it may soon receive a reward, whether that reward be food, or likes on social media- a flash of dopamine zaps that reward pathway. Then you get another hit when you get the perceived reward.

For example, suppose your “go-to” comfort food is a bar of chocolate. Your brain may increase dopamine when you see chocolate in advertising, spot it in the pantry, you see someone eating it, or even if you think about it or get a waft of it. When you eat it, another flood of dopamine acts to reinforce this craving and focuses on satisfying it in the future.

It’s a cycle of motivation, reward, and reinforcement that causes us to seek, desire, and expect certain outcomes.

Now imagine that you’ve been longing for that hidden chocolate bar all day, but you discover when you get home that someone in your family ate it. Your disappointment might lower your dopamine level and dampen your mood. It might also intensify your desire for chocolate, making you want it even more (and send someone to the store!).

This can also happen when we post something on social media. We expect some likes and comments and we constantly check and get a dopamine hit if it’s going well. If it’s not, then that can cause internal conflict and lower mood feelings.

While dopamine isn’t the sole cause of addiction, its motivational properties are thought to play a role in addiction.

Experts evaluate something’s potential to cause addiction by looking at the speed, intensity, and reliability of the dopamine release it causes in your brain. It doesn’t take long for your brain to associate certain behaviours or substances with a rush of dopamine. That’s why people can get addicted to drugs, overeating, gambling, gaming, alcohol, caffeine and even exercise.

Addictive substances and behaviours can cause dopamine levels to spike, and over a long period of time, sometimes the brain weakens or eliminates receptors built to respond to dopamine which leads to us needing more of the drug, substance or activity to elicit the same amount of dopamine. This can steadily lead to us losing interest and needing something more exciting to take its place (for and extreme example; those that start out on marijuana can end up on ice).

That is why our phones are becoming an issue for many of us, and why we can easily get addicted to watching a show or playing a video game. Digital technologies, such as social networks, online shopping, and games, use a set of persuasive and motivational techniques to keep users returning. This is why we need to be acutely aware that technology in particular, is built to keep us hooked.

Notifications, responses and rewards are ruling our lives because this attention is addictive. Gaming creators call this the “compulsion loop”.

The Science Behind it?

Every time someone reacts to something you have done online, or you react positively to something someone else has done online, you get a dopamine hit. Dopamine is an addictive pleasure chemical, it’s like a hug for the brain. Who doesn’t want more pleasure chemicals and hugs? The negative though is that the opposite also occurs if we don’t get the attention we desire:

  • Decreased self-esteem/eating disorders and body dysmorphia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression/depressive symptoms
  • Feeling a lack of connection
  • Feelings of inferiority
  • Deterioration in concentration and other symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Researchers have found that addicted players of video games, regardless of gender, were more anxious and depressed, and showed poorer impulse control and cognitive functioning than gamers who were not addicted. Poor impulse control and poor cognitive functioning are risk factors for various kinds of addiction, so those with pre-existing depression, anxiety or under high levels of stress need to be mindful of this.

The brain, according to Dr Win Wenger, can consciously process 126 bits of information per second. However, the brain receives 10 million bits of information per second. That means we can only focus on 1/80,000 of the data our brain is getting.

Our brain loves to build patterns, and even though the brain makes up 2 percent of our bodies mass, it uses 20% of our body’s energy. So, if your brain has been in overdrive, it’s no wonder we can feel exhausted. This is where techniques like meditation, mindfulness, and learning ways to give our brains a rest and reset is really important.

Dopamine is the reward centre in our brains, and the challenging thing for 21st century parents in our high-tech society is our potential addiction to constant rewards, and gratification. Understanding how dopamine works is a great start to teaching our children that not everything in their lives can be gamified and rewarded, and we need to find lots of ways to get these lovely dopamine hits naturally.

Did you know dopamine is involved in many body functions. These include:

  • blood flow
  • digestion
  • executive functioning
  • heart and kidney function
  • memory and focus
  • mood and emotions
  • motor control
  • pain processing
  • pancreatic function and insulin regulation
  • pleasure and reward seeking behaviour
  • sleep
  • stress response

 

Learn more about Bree James here and read more of her PakMag blogs here.  

 

 

 

Get Your Thinking Hat Ready – Australian Museum’s Sleek Geek Science Eureka Prize Entries Are Now Open

Kids can now enter the Sleek Geek Science Eureka Prize with a 90 second video about water.  

The Sleek Geek Science Eureka Prize is part of Australia’s leading science awards. The University of Sydney sponsors it! Mostly, the goal of the event is to get kids having fun, getting creative and exploring science. And, all primary and secondary students are welcome to enter! Overall their videos should show an experiment, tell a story or explore a scientific idea about water. Although It can be as complex as you’d like, it still needs to be as entertaining as possible…

Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize ambassador, says “Making this video is a great way for kids to laugh and learn. You only have 90 seconds for the video this year so try to start with something which grabs your attention. After that, you need to explain your idea about water and end with a bit of a joke”.

Kids can work by themselves or in teams of up to six, with classmates or siblings, via video conferencing. At the end, organisers of the awards will divide the prize money between student(s) and their school.

Here are some simple experiments which kids can do at home with commonly found items. 

Here is a list of great online resources

Kids can now enter the Sleek Geek Science Eureka Prize with a 90 second video about water.  

The Sleek Geek Science Eureka Prize is part of Australia’s leading science awards. The University of Sydney sponsors it, and the goal of the event is to get kids having fun, getting creative and exploring science. And, all primary and secondary students are welcome to enter! Overall their videos should show an experiment, tell a story or explore a scientific idea about water. Although It can be as complex as you’d like, it still needs to be as entertaining as possible…

Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize ambassador, says “Making this video is a great way for kids to laugh and learn. You only have 90 seconds for the video this year so try to start with something which grabs your attention. After that, you need to explain your idea about water and end with a bit of a joke”.

Kids can work by themselves or in teams of up to six, with classmates or siblings, via video conferencing. At the end, organisers of the awards will divide the prize money between student(s) and their school.

Here are some simple experiments which kids can do at home with commonly found items. 

Here is a list of great online resources to help parents, students and teachers with exploring scientific topics, put together by the Australian Museum’s education team. 

There are so many great ideas to explore. If you’re at home with the chance to create an experiment or tell a unique story about water, why not give it a go? Get thinking, get wet, and have your Eureka moment.

You can get more information about entering the competition HERE. 

The film competition is also explained in this video HERE. 

Here are great resources exploring scientific topics, put together by the Australian Museum’s education team. 

There are so many great ideas to explore. If you’re at home with the chance to create an experiment or tell a unique story about water, why not give it a go? Get thinking, get wet, and have your Eureka moment.

You can get more information about entering the competition HERE. 

The film competition is also explained in this video HERE. 

Ellie and Tsambika from Presbyterian Ladies’ College, NSW, runners up of the 2018 University of Sydney Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize – Primary School
Adam Spencer, Lucy Carlisle, Evelyn Cahill, Second Place University of Sydney Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize – Primary, Professor Duncan Ivison, Dr Karl Kruszelnicki . 2019 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes © Salty Dingo 2019 CRG