Find us at STEM:Sorted

On May 20th we'll be at the Science Museum in London for the STEM:Sorted event.

This day promises to be really fun, the big idea is that unlike regular child focussed educational fairs, companies don't just stand around handing out flyers, instead the kids get to actually do the activities! We're planning on running a series of 30 minute activities for children throughout the day.

Tickets are almost gone so head over here to book.

https://www.kidsorted.com/seller/partner/2988/kidsorted-stemsorted-2018/

The inspired Minds team will be at stand 10 at the end of the hall.

Hope to see you there!

Fun with a 1981 BBC Microcomputer

repair.jpg

This is a BBC microcomputer from 1981. It belonged to my aunt but when she threatened to throw it away I panicked and offered to re home it. 

I got it home, plugged it in, turned it on. It exploded. 

Fortunately it turns out this is a common problem with a cheap solution, replace 3 capacitors from the power supply and you’re good to go!

Next step: relearn BASIC.

Sphero Painting

Head on over to our YouTube channel to see our latest activity: Sphero Painting!

https://youtu.be/sroZqLzLiBU

The Sphero was one of our picks for robotics toys this Christmas and we've had a lot of fun putting it through its paces. [Amazon Link]

This was really fun, and a little messy. If you're keen to have a go at home we'd suggest

  1. Put your paper in the bottom of a cardboard box. Protect those carpets!
  2. Use acrylic paint, it's water-based.
  3. Don't use too much paint, it will all mix into a muddy mess.
  4. Make 3 paintings at least, they look great on the wall next to each other.
  5. Watch the video for a neat clean-up tip.

Finally a big well done to everyone who came to our workshop on Saturday, the robot painting project was great fun and you got some wonderful results.

 

Robotics Toys

This article at The Wire Cutter made me think about some of our favourite robotics kit.

Running our workshops we come across some outstanding science and tech related toys. I'd like to tell you about a few of them. 'Tis the season after all!

1 Your first Robot - The CrumbleBot

Buy the Crumblebot here and make sure your order the controller chip which is sold separately.

New to coding? We use the CrumbleBot from 4Tronix at our workshops and they're a great piece of kit. Snappy to program using a visual, block-based language similar to Scratch the Crumblebot is equipped with plenty of sensors allowing it to follow lines on the floor, seek dark places and light up!

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Assembly will require some adult supervision and a screwdriver but help is at hand: see our how-to video on our YouTube channel.

2 The Upgrade Pick - Sphero

Buy the Sphero at Amazon

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Pricier, cuter and programmable with a tablet. The Sphero is an exceptionally swish offering; no assembly and a wireless charging station make this a very elegant and impossibly fun robot. If you're not in the mood for coding you can put the tablet app in drive mode and simply use it as a remote controlled toy.

 

3 For more Advanced users - mBot

Buy the mBot at Amazon

 

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This is a bigger, more sturdy kit which runs wonderfully out of the box. The mBot comes pre-programmed with 3 modes: line following, remote control, or obstacle avoidance to give you an idea of its abilities. The mBot is controlled with an Arduino controller and to begin with a tablet-based app is the easiest way to get started with coding. For more advanced work block-based or text-based coding is possible but requires a laptop and USB cable.

Assembly is quick and easy and the tablet app make the beginning stages of coding easy. The jump to the desktop mBlock app introduces a slope to the learning curve but opens up seriously rich possibilities for somebody serious about programming. C is the language of choice for the Arduino platform.

We use the mBot for painting with robots, its such a sturdy robot it can hold a paintbrush no problem!

4 Electronics kit - Snap Circuits

Buy Snap Circuits at Amazon

These are a wonderfully neat way to learn about electronics. These components clip together using the poppers normally found on jackets, no fiddly wires.

The instructions are good too. Clear enough that children around 9 and above can be expected to follow them themselves. Without instructions this kit is still extremely fun to play about with which we think a key test for educational toys.

Painting with Robots cont.

We promised you videos of robots painting, here they are!

This has been a huge amount of fun. We constantly add new content to our workshops too, so we'll be doing painting with robots for the first time at our workshop on November 25th. There are a few places still available. Here's a link to book a place.

robot painting 1

robot painting 2

robot painting 3

Hope to see you there!

James

Painting with robots

We've been exercising our creative muscles over the weekend!

Creating art with robots can bring bizarre results. The unpredictability it brings can be really fun.

To control the messiness the robot is programmed not to go outside the black tape boundary which holds the paper down. Next paint is blobbed onto the paper and the robot buzzes over the canvas for about a minute. It's up to you to remove it once you're happy with the results!

There's a lot to play with, different types of brushes would be fun. Or perhaps a container for paint attached to the robot which drips paint!

We'll be adding a video to our YouTube channel on this soon, so stay tuned!

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Night at the Museum

Last week I visited the Natural History Museum for their annual Science Uncovered event. If you haven't been or haven't heard about it then jot this down, it's really worth it.

You spend the evening attending talks, interviews and demonstrations by researchers.  A lot of people don't know that NHM is a working research centre, behind the scenes their collection of preserved plants and animals is estimated to hold 80 million specimens. Estimated? Yep, no one knows for sure.

The highlight of the evening for me was the Stars in Jars tour. You're shown around some of the specimen rooms by a very bubbly and enthusiastic guide. Thanks Katie!

Two things stood out, one gross, the other exciting. First the gross one, a giant squid preserved in formaldehyde (pictured), not a good looking (nor good smelling, apparently,) fellow but quite a thing to behold. 

The exciting one? A collection of specimens collected by Charles Darwin himself on the famous voyage of the Beagle. Darwin is reputed to have eaten some of the interesting species that he studied, fortunately the museum's specimens are reassuringly whole.

You don't have to wait until next year; the behind the scenes tour is available all the time. Highly recommended.

Attention to Detail

Core 77 have picked up a wonderful video looking at the design of spacesuits for movies. These are From Ridley Scott's latest Alien film.

link

Even though they're not going into space these suits have an amazing amount of tech in them.

  • built in ventilation fans
  • built in lights, displays etc
  • control circuitry which allows the director to adjust the suits' lights and other visible components all together.

Even the soles of the boots are imprinted with the logo of the Wayland Yutani Corporation logo, the best name for a company ever. Well second best.