Astrofest 2017


Well, this is highly unusual. We have an awesome astrophysics event booked for Sydney this weekend, and an AMAZING weather forecast!! 

Of course, I’ve probably jinxed us all now. But let’s note it for prosperity or historic reference or something: on this day, we all held great hope for Sydney Astrofest 2017.

If you’re looking for stars this weekend, why not enjoy it with some truly evil genius minds in the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-Sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO). They’re hosting Sydney Astrofest 2017 at the University of Sydney this Saturday, 1 July 2017.

It’s free. It’s family friendly. It’s educational. And it’s outside (dress warmly – it’s a max of 14C predicted for the day). 

There’s going to be:

  • Night-sky scope viewing
  • Astro talks
  • Planetarium shows
  • Interactive activities and demonstrations

If you have any spawnlings with a burning desire for everything extra-terrestrial, this is worth checking out. And if you’re not based in Sydney, then I’ll try to share some live coverage on the night – just to rub it in.


Check out the website for more details. 

Venue: Charles Perkins Centre and the Veterinary Conference Centre, The University of Sydney.

Leave any cars with reflective strips at home. Far away from the event. Far FAR away.

Date: Saturday, 1 July 2017

Time: 4pm to 9pm
See you there!!
PS> not a sponsored post. Just sharing the spacey love ūüėú

Find Your Way With Moana In The Hour of Code

Last year, the Hour of Code Awakened with a Star Wars activity. The year before, kids were Frozen to their computers with coding and game development. In 2016, Disney has come to the party yet again; this time helping kids Wayfinding with code.

hour-of-code-moana

Right now I should be typing up a proposal for my spawnlings’ school, encouraging them to participate in Hour of Code this year. It doesn’t really matter what the school says; we’re doing it anyway. I just want to use the fancier computers at school with their internet connection, rather than my own.

It really shouldn’t be such a hassle‚ÄĒHour of Code has been running for four years now, starting with a mere 70 public schools in the United States. Now they are international, with a plethora of activities available on their website: Star Wars, Frozen, Minecraft, Gumball, and much more.

This morning they announced this year’s big partnership with Disney’s Moana in Hour of Code: Wayfinding with Code.

Like Star Wars and Frozen in previous years, Wayfinding with Code is aimed at kids aged 8yo and up as an introduction to computer science. It’s available in multiple languages, is totally free online, and comes with a digital toolkit for parents/educators/organisers.

And yes, it is a big advertisement for the upcoming movie release. And I’m okay with that. I’m already in love with the movie. You don’t even have to ask about the kids.

Back to the coding! The activity itself is in the same “drag-and-drop” style popular with young budding coders. Students are asked to help move Moana and Maui across the sea, leading Moana’s people to new lands. The coding starts out with the basic commands, moving the boat in logic sequences.

moana-code

Just as the kids start to get the hang of the commands, Moana and Maui are ambushed by the adorable little Kakamora. This is where the coding takes on the next step in a dodgeball-style, and to be honest, it looks like the most fun!

kakamora

Hour of Code is happening all around the world, from December 5 to December 9, 2016. You don’t have to do it with a school. You can find someone near you already set up to go (search through the Hour of Code website). Or you can organise your own event at home with a couple of friends. All the information you need is available on the Hour of Code website, they even have a toolkit ready to go to help you along.

No matter which option you use, having fun with coding is always a win in my book. Now show me what you can do with an Hour of Code!

 

This post was originally published on GeekMom. EG Inc is participating in the Hour of Code, with a different coding activity every day this week. Share your project ideas in the comments!

Helium

We have had a few birthdays around the lair this week. Zaltu turned three, along with a few other mini-minions around the neighbourhood. And with birthdays come the parties, and with parties come balloons.


At one party, Zaltu became enamoured with a big bright blue balloon. It had a shiny skin and a sparkly silver tail trailing down to her tiny little wrist. It was almost as big as her eyes.

And then she stepped outside.

And whichever numpty tied the balloon to her wrist was clearly not a knot-expert.

<it was me>

There is nothing as forlorn as a small child watching their big bright blue balloon float up into the big bright blue sky.

Well, except for seeing said child staring helplessly at the balloon stuck in a tree just out of reach. 

To Zaltu’s credit, she didn’t freak out or throw a tantrum, or collapse into a meltdown. She was upset, and there were some quiet tears, but instead she turned to me and asked: “why does my balloon fly away?”

So I SCIENCED!!

<insert dodgy 80’s music>


And we talked about Helium (remembering she is 3yo):

We talked about how the air we breathe is made of lots of different gases; some gases we want to breathe in like Oxygen because it is how we live. Some gases we breathe out, like Nitrogen because we don’t need it in our body in such a large dose. Another gas is Helium, which we can neither see, taste, nor smell. 

Helium is really light compared to other gases. For example, the nitrogen we breathe out is about 8 times heavier than helium. When we blow nitrogen into a balloon, the balloon weighs it down so it only has a light buoyancy – enough to sort of bounce, a bit.

Helium, however, is light enough to lift a lot of things, at a rate of about 1 gram to every litre of helium you are using.

This also means you can weigh down a helium-filled balloon, without impacting on its buoyant appearance. This could be a rock, or a tree, or a person. 

Over time, the helium will leak out the balloon – it is a gas do it can leak out even the smallest gap. The more that leaks out, the less helium available to float the balloon.

While we were having this discussion, the lovely hosts of the birthday party brought Zaltu another balloon. They also taught me how to tie a better knot. Because evidently, I suck at it.

However, Zaltu stopped them from tying it to her wrist.

Instead, she looked at the balloon. Then looked at her body, then looked at me.

Back to herself. Back to me… 

“Mum. You better hold my balloon. Your bigger weight is better to hold my balloon down.”

Yeah. Thanks for that. 

Fine. I’ll have another piece of cake, thanks – for Zaltu’s sake, of course. 

Sidenote: there’s a bit of debate on whether helium balloons are environmentally friendly. The Surfing Scientist said it best with his fairly detailed answer. And yes. We did go back to collect the ribbon once the first balloon came down from tree.


Forensic Friday: Our Dinosaur Project

It seems ‘world creating’ has become a thing in the EG Lair.

It all started with Sinister building his own terrarium for a school project last term (which he scored 93%… Such a good little evil genius…) – 3 months later and it is still going strong, without any further interaction. Not bad for a 9yo.

This type of experiment started us thinking: “why not incorporate some other real-life elements in our plays?”

And thus the Dinosaur Project began.


The Dinosaur Project

All of our elements were already around the home, but you can pick them up from your nearest shops for a fairly reasonable cost:

  • A large pot
  • Enough soil to fill it
  • One or two plants – we chose two dwarf palms as they look like plants from a prehistoric era, plus they were left-overs from Sinister’s terrarium
  • One large styrofoam cone
  • One plastic container – like a takeaway container
  • A dozen or so small toy dinosaurs
  • Paint – brown, red, and blue

What did we do:

  1. Fill the pot with the soil – ours was already full, but did require some weeding.
  2. Paint the inside of your plastic container blue – you don’t have to but it did add to the aesthetics.
  3. Snap the top off the styrofoam cone. Don’t be too worried about neatness; you want it to be a little rough. You’re painting the sides brown, and the top red – Look! It’s a volcano!
  4. While you wait for the paint to dry, kick in to the gardening with your plants.
  5. Now you can add your volcano and your primordial swamp. I think we can do more with the swamp/lake but we can do that another day. In the meantime… RAWR!!!

Zaltu is loving this little play area. She is really into the role-playing side, but I also noticed how quickly she picked up the carnivore / herbivore discussion we had earlier.

I would consider the Dinosaur Project a success. Now we are thinking of other ‘world creating’ play areas we can make!! 

Any suggestions?

Sydney Writer’s FestivalÔĽŅ

Sinister’s school class had an excursion yesterday. All the way over to the Sydney Writer’s Festival.

His teacher was rather considerate and even gave us a list of writers appearing on the day, including Liz Pichon.

For those minions who do not have pre-teen spawnlings reading and doodling all over the notebooks, Liz Pichon is the author of the infamous Tom Gates series.


Tom Gates is your average year-5 spawnling, just surviving every day by regularly escaping through his daydreams and doodles. According to Sinister, it’s pretty spot on with the inner dialogue, and the presentation within the book is unique and refreshing. 

He’s not the only one who thinks so – Liz Pichon was very popular at the Festival; boys and girls alike.

The Sydney Writers Festival is an awesome opportunity for writers to share their insights, and for readers to support the greater literary community.
For kids, they learn about some basic creativity skills – and get a day out of school grounds too. 

It was good thing the teachers gave us a heads-up about attending guests; gave me extra time to ensure Sinister had his book ready to be signed.


Of course, now he has devoured that book again, we need to work our way through the current family stack again.


I don’t think we’ll be obtaining any more autographs just it… Unless Mr Riordan is up for some travel?
The Sydney Writers Festival ends this Sunday with a huge kid-friendly event: Glowtopia. It’s held at the Bangarra end of the Rocks, filling up the entire length of Pier 4/5 with artists, music, authors, storytelling and roaming book characters to find (Hello, Waldo…) 

Fun starts around 10am. Liz Pichon will be there around 1.30pm, along with many others. Check the website for more. 


Happy Birthday Senor da Vinci

EG Inc took a slightly different approach for our Forensic Friday today.

I recently learned today, 15 April, is Leonardo da Vinci’s birthday.

Birthday-da-Vinci

Senor da Vinci was a true Evil Genius. I really wanted to celebrate this day but I was stuck on ideas.

After reading a GeekMom article by My Little Poppies, I was so inspired by the idea of celebrating DEAR this week, I thought: why not celebrate DEAD РDrop Everything And Draw?

And what better way to celebrate DEAD than with a DEAD artist… like Leonardo da Vinci.

For those not familiar with DEAR, it means Drop Everything And Read. Author Beverley Cleary wrote about DEAR in her book Ramona Quimby, Age 8. It was such a hit, the USA hold national DEAR programs on April 12th, Beverly Cleary’s birthday. She is still alive too Р celebrated the big 1-0-0 this week.

At our local school (not US), the spawnlings practice both DEAR and DEAD in the classroom. I thought the timing was perfect for our Forensic Friday.

The thing about da Vinci is that he wasn’t just an artist. He was a¬†polymath; an individual that was brilliant at everything (particularly during or influenced by the Renaissance). We’re talking painter, sculptor, engineer, astronomer, anatomist, biologist, chemist, geologist, physicist, architect, musician, philosopher, and humanist.

Over-achiever.

But I like a challenge. Today was in celebration of Leonardo da Vinci.

 

Now remember we ARE on school holidays at the moment, and the two older spawnlings have definitely earned a rest. So I opted for just one of his many interesting inventions, The Flying Machine. I took most of my cues from a book I picked up a year or so ago:  Inventions РLeonardo da Vinci, published in 2014 by Lake Press Pty Ltd.da vinci book

The Flying Machine was completely inspired by da Vinci’s jealous admiration for birds; particularly their ability “escape the Earthly bonds”. Namely, gravity.

This was a great opportunity to kick the spawnlings outside – let’s find some birds or wildlife and draw it! We live next to a park with PLENTY of birds that wake Zaltu up every damn morning.

Do you think we could find a bird today?

IMG_9784

All we could find was this bug. I don’t even know WTH it is.

But we were committed to the cause!! (*committed to something…)

After our great exploration, we returned inside to observe and draw our wildlife.

Sinister really enjoyed this part:

IMG_9813

Nefarious decided he wanted to paint the adventure, rather than the achievement:

IMG_9804

And Zaltu… well, Zaltu…

Rainbow Zaltu
She chose to paint the participants in the adventure. Namely, herself. Literally.
As you can see, she was mighty impressed with me calling an end to the artistic display. Zaltu calls this piece “Rainbow Zaltu”. You can have it as a complete work of art for a mere block of chocolate… but don’t call me when the artwork wakes you at 3am asking why the possums are allowed to play outside her window and she is not.

 

Seriously though, Zaltu painted a beautiful wrapping paper design for da Vinci’s birthday presents. And was then upset when I had to explain there were no presents to wrap.IMG_9800

At which point, Sinister realised da Vinci gained his deep understanding of bird muscles from observing them inside and out (read: dissecting them) and was a little … concerned.¬†During which time Nefarious read ahead in the book and learnt about the blowy-uppy weapons da Vinci designed and wondered why we weren’t building our own canons instead. Broken wrist remember?

We then had pizza for dinner and I sent them to bed Рat 5.30pm. Because they tired me out.

For a bunch of activities to do for a day, it was actually kind of fun. The spawnlings were truly amazed by the concept of a polymath. The sheer amount of study da Vinci undertook to confidently do the work he did. Not so much Zaltu (she is only 2) but definitely the older two.

It was great watching them both realise you did NOT have to limit yourself to one speciality. You CAN be a marine biologist who incorporates art and software development in their work. You CAN be an astrophysicist who includes chemistry and electrical engineering in their project designs.

DEAD was just something to start the discussion. The best ‘birthday present’ today was listening to all three talk about what they wanted to create tomorrow.

I’ll let you know how Zaltu’s Batcave turns out.