Category Archives: Science Spotlight

A Science Fair Project on Time Change That Just Might Change the World

By Contributor Scott Yates

It’s true that not everyone is a fan of science fair projects.

But what if students could be involved in a project that directly affects them and their families? What if they could help prove that a governmental decision is a bad one, and one that should be reversed? What if the could get some extra sleep in the spring, right when it’s needed?

Time Change - Science Fair Project | Steve Spangler Science Blog

They can. Here’s how:

Daylight Saving Time is one of the least-understood government mandates out there. It’s confusing, disruptive, and deeply unpopular, especially in the spring when the clocks “spring forward” and we lose an hour of sleep.

I’m happy to say, however, that I’m now leading a movement to do away with the concept, but I need the help of science-minded students all over the country.

You see, the research that has been done about the clock changing for DST is all negative. The New England Journal of Medicine reports that it increases heart attacks. Other studies show that traffic accidents increase, productivity goes down, etc.

And yet, the time change is still with us twice per year. Why?

Well, the time zone a state or even part of a state was in was once something that the state got to decide. Then in 1967 the U.S. Congress passed and the president signed a law making the time more uniform. Only Arizona and Hawaii now keep the same time all year long, an exemption made by that law.

Now when states look at the matter, they find that they can’t decide on their own any more. The federal government will deny any application to change.

The only way we can make it work is if all the states band together. My suggestion is that all the states pass some kind of bill or resolution saying that they want to stop the crazy DST clock-changing. The trick is that no state wants to be first (or last) so I think they should just pass something saying that if two-thirds of the states pass something similar, than they will apply to the Feds and ask to be exempted.

And who should ask our state legislators? I propose that — the science-minded students of America.

There’s not much time left, so the first step is to create a bit of science. I can envision many great experiments, starting with:

  • How does a family’s energy use change?,
  • What are the computational abilities in students on the day after the clock-change?
  • What is the tardiness rates after the change?

Here’s another example from the master himself:

And here’s the part that makes it so great: After you do that science showing that clock-changing for DST is a bad idea, you can take it to your elected state-level official. They love hearing from students.

Than ask them to introduce or at least vote for a resolution that follows this model language for getting rid of Daylight Saving clock-changing.

How’s that for extra credit? Imagine saying that you did some science that helped change federal law and ended the dangerous precedent of changing clocks based on out-dated ideas.

I hope you will join in this effort, and if you do please let me know on this blog. I will be sure to highlight your success there.

 

Scott Yates is founder of a blog writing company, an inventor, and a father.

 

An Amazing Encounter!

In the course of an ordinary day, it’s amazing how many cool people we encounter!  Just last week, I was in Best Buy trading my old cell phone in for a newer model and the guy helping me looked at my Steve Spangler Science shirt and said, “I love that website, and I have a YouTube channel showing people how to do those experiments!”

I looked at his name tag and said, “Wow, Max, you have a YouTube channel about Spangler Science experiments? That’s amazing!”

Here’s his version of Spangler Science’s color changing milk experiment.

Mcexperiment's version of Spangler Science's color changing milk experiment!
Mcexperiment’s amazing version of Spangler Science’s color changing milk experiment!

Max demonstrates many of our experiments on his channel, including our tea bag rocket!  Check out this picture of his version!

Max sets of a tea bag rocket!
Max sets of a tea bag rocket! Amazing!

Click on over to Max’s YouTube channel and subscribe, why don’tcha.  He’s got a way of presenting and explaining our science experiments that’s really quite amazing!  We’re impressed.  We’re always happy and proud when we find people who love our experiments, and Max made us really, really glad and proud!  Thank you for being an amazing person, Max!

If you need to change out your cell phone, go to Best Buy and ask for Max.  He’s awesome.

 

Jane GoodwinJane Goodwin is a professor of expository writing at Ivy Tech Community College, a hands-on science teacher for College for Kids, a professional speaker and writer, and a social media liaison  for Steve Spangler Science.  She wanted to be a ballerina and an astronaut, but gravity got the better of her.

Greystone Elementary's Science Week Goes Beyond the Classroom

Each year, Greystone Elementary in Birmingham, Alabama chooses a topic for a school-wide enrichment week dedicated to help all students learn something they may not learn in the classroom.

Greystone Elementary Celebrates Science Week

This year, teacher Mandy Fox decided to make the week dedicated to science after watching experiment videos from Steve Spangler. Mandy and her co-teacher put together a schedule full of science activities and lessons. They chose activities based on what would “wow” the students and get them interested in science.

Mandy says, “it was great seeing so many kids excited about learning more about science.”

Greystone Elementary Celebrates Science Week

The week was packed with small and large group experiments like Walking on Eggs, Burning Money, Iron for Breakfast and Film Canister Rockets. They had guest speakers like an archeologist, forensic scientist, wildlife rescue officer, chemist, dog agility trainer and a robotics team. The week ended with a paper airplane building competition.

Do we even have to state that the kids had a great time? Mandy says the kids are still telling her that the science week was awesome. Some wish science week could be every week. Now that’s getting it to the dinner table.

Greystone Elementary Celebrates Science Week

The teaching staff also enjoyed  the week. One teacher told Mandy that she didn’t like teaching science because it always seemed so hard. Mandy shared, “with Steve Spangler experiments, it made it so easy and she LOVED sharing in the learning with the kids. She said it had made her a believer in the ease of getting kids to question and want to learn more about science. ”

Mandy Fox and all of the teachers and staff at Greystone Elementary are teachers making a difference. They don’t just teach with worksheets and to the test. They are inspiring their students by creating memorable, teachable moments. Our hats are off to these amazing educators.

 

 

11-Year-Old Invents Sandless Sandbags That Use Polymer Similar to Insta-Snow

Fort Lauderdale, Florida sixth grader Peyton Robertson may revolutionize how we protect ourselves and property from flooding.

Earlier this month, he won the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge for his sandless sandbag. The Young Scientist Challenge is sponsored by 3M and the Discovery Channel Education and is open to students in grades 5 – 8. The 2014 challenge opens in late December. Student scientists can win cash prizes and trips.

11-Year-Old Invents Sandless Sandbags That Use Polymer Similar to Insta-Snow
Courtesy ABC News

Robertson, who wants to be an inventor when he grows up, has invented a sandbag that doesn’t use sand to stop flooding. His bag is “sandless” and contains a much lighter polymer. Sandbags weigh about 40 pounds each, but the sandless sandbag only weighs only a few pounds.

The sandless bag is filled with a mixture of an “ultra-fluid” polymer and salt. When the bag gets wet, the polymer absorbs water and expands, keeping water from seeping through the cracks between bags. This bag is heavy when expanded and won’t float away either.

11-Year-Old Invents Sandless Sandbags That Use Polymer Similar to Insta-Snow
Courtesy ABC News

The polymer looks very similar to our Water Gel or Insta-Snow, or the polymer found in a baby diaper. Insta-Snow starts out as a fine white powder, but when water is added, the powder absorbs it and quickly expands.

Insta-Snow Powder - Water Absorbing Polymer

Robertson says he came up with the idea after he and his family hid in a closet during Hurricane Wilma in 2005. It was the third hurricane in the 2005 season to reach Category 5 status. Wilma was also the most intense tropical cyclone ever recorded in the Atlantic and was responsible for 62 deaths. His neighborhood was devastated by the damage, so Robertson set off to find a way to keep the water out.

 

Source: ABC News

 

 

High School Students Get a Kitchen Science Lesson with Homemade Ice Cream

Students taking a culinary class at Springs Valley High School in French Lick, Indiana experimented using our Sick Science! Homemade Ice Cream recipe in class last week. They were studying the different ways to make ice cream. They first made ice cream using a churn and then tried our way using a Zip-Loc bag and a lot of ice.

A high school student makes ice cream in a science lab.

The students and their instructor Lisa Wray, enjoyed all of their hard work. Their school building also includes a preschool and the class plans on making more ice cream and sharing it with their tiny counterparts.

 

Students show off their homemade ice cream in their science lab

You can also make homemade ice cream with some materials and ingredients found in your kitchen, although you may need to take a trip to the store for rock salt.

What You Will Need: 

  • Large (1 gallon) plastic jar (a coffee can works, too)
  • 2 quart-size zipper-lock bags
  • Half & Half
  • Crushed ice (or snow in the winter!)
  • Rock salt
  • Vanilla
  • Sugar
  • Towel (or winter gloves)

Prep Time: 

  • About 10 minutes to pull together the ingredients and supplies.

Time the Activity Will Take: 

  • Ice cream will take about 20 minutes to make. 

 

Let’s Do It! 

  • Fill the plastic jar about half full with crushed ice.
  • Add about 6 tablespoons of rock salt to the ice. Seal the plastic jar and shake the ice and salt for about five minutes. You’ll need to wear your gloves when you’re handling the jar. If you’re curious as to why you have to wear gloves, measure the temperature of the mixture with a thermometer. The rock salt and ice mixture gets down to about 14 degrees F (-10 degrees C)!
  • Use one quart-size zipper-lock bag to mix the following ingredients:
    • 1/2 cup of Half & Half
    • 1 tablespoon sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Play and Freeze Ice Cream MakerSeal tightly, allowing as little air to remain in the bag as possible. Too much air left inside may force the bag open during shaking.
  • Place this bag inside the other quart-size bag, again leaving as little air inside as possible and sealing well. By double-bagging, the risk of salt and ice leaking into the ice cream is minimized.
  • Place the two bags inside the jar with the ice and seal the bag. Wrap the bag in the towel or put your gloves on. Shake, rock, roll, and mix that can! Your ice cream should be ready after about 15-20 minutes.
  • Once mixed, remove the inner bags from the jar and rinse them well with water. You don’t want any salt water accidentally getting into your ice cream.

Vanilla doesn’t have to be the only flavor. Add chocolate syrup, strawberry syrup, fresh fruit or nuts to experiment with flavor.

With a classroom of kids, use small snack baggies to make individual servings.