Monthly Archives: February 2014

Cobra Weave Cover

Pajama Scientists’ Cobra Weave Stick Bomb

Thanks to a post by our friend Lisa, she  introduced us to the world of ‘stick bombs‘.  Think dominoes but with Popsicle, ahem, craft sticks.  Weaving them together to store up the energy under tension, you drop them, or in this case unleash them and away they go.  We did up a video showing it off and you probably just want to watch that, and only read on if you are ready to build your own.

Cobra Snake Spraying VenomWe had to acquire some wide, or jumbo, sticks as the smaller ones we had were just too stiff of a spring to do the ‘cobra weave’ style of stick bomb run.  Why is it called a cobra weave?  I’m guessing because it looks like a massive cobra snake is raising up out of the floor and spitting venom at you in the form of sticks.  It really is a sight to see.

If you’re going to try it yourself, get about 200 of the sticks (we had 225, but imagined using a box of 500, alas the local shop just had packs of 75) and give yourself an hour or two to get setup.  The hardest part is getting it started as all it wants to do it jump up at that point, and you need a bit of distance to get it settled.  We started with this instructable we found, but with the challenge of getting it started, and I was a little unsure it was loaded the right way (their video didn’t have a great cobra shape) I checked around and found a how to make a mini-cobra weave (who knew there is a more complex cobra weave too) by the domino dude which had you build some of the weave first, and then lock it off, instead of starting with the lock like the instructable did.  The kids were also anxious to see if it worked so after 50 sticks or so we set it off, and started again.  Warning, you might want to wear gloves of some sort as I found the wood really dehydrated the skin of my finger tips and if you’re really geeky protective eye wear.  There are smaller handheld weaves the kids can do too, this is what happened here as the repetition of building the long chain didn’t hold their interest the whole time.

Here are some photos of our progress as we went.  In the video he gives some special way to make a turn… I just grabbed it and twisted it a bit as needed, didn’t feel I needed to do anything special with the laying of the pattern.  Also, see how we added a bit of weight to the start of it, the lock was a tad slippy at first so I just stuck that on to keep it all in place until we were ready.

Oh, and some people will think it makes an incredible mess to clean up — it doesn’t.  The kids had the sticks put away in all of 3 minutes.  Have fun making your own.

I also tried a clip of just the ‘wow’ part of the video, but youtube’s slowmo logic seems pretty sloppy?  You can just jump to 45s into the main video instead of you’d like.

Check out some other Pajama Scientists videos too.

Vulnerable Toronto Public Library Computers

After 7 years of not letting the children touch the Toronto Public Library‘s computers with a 10 foot pole, yesterday we had made arrangements with another family to introduce them to Scratch and since we were already both going to be at the library later that afternoon I gave it a try.

Here, I’ll document the issues I had with the experience.

  1. One of the machines is in its semi-regular state (I’ve observed over 2/3rds of the machines in the Children’s Department being in this state at once before) of needing to do a forced restart because the timer software has crashed, other is reporting some sort of corruption and requires a reboot.
  2. The temporary code slip to get 30 minutes of time included a capital letter in the card #.  The terminal would not allow one to enter a capital letter.  We finally tried it with the lower case version of the letter and got in.
  3. Upon starting Firefox (at least they are no longer calling it Fire Fox), we see a screen where it is checking the addons, but it just hangs at that screen and didn’t seem to make any progress so we cancelled itDSC07132
  4. We were presented with an error-ish screen in firefox warning that McAfee is trying to install an addon but maybe we shouldn’t trust it.  DSC07133
  5. Presented with another addon install screen for Java Console.  Again, continue without any action taken.DSC07134
  6. One of the three machines we were using wouldn’t open one of the sites saying that the plugin required was vulnerable.  Checking the Plugin Status reported many issues.  For example the Flash player v 11.3.r300 was released June of 2012, and 18 newer versions have been released since (here are some of the dangers with that).  The Silverlight Plug-in was using version 5.1.10411.0 which was released May of 2012 and 3 newer versions have come out since (and Silverlight’s vulnerability database).DSC07148
  7. I tried to do a favour and upgrade it so we could continue our project, but of course they have blocked software installation by users.DSC07149
  8. The timer software they use is terribly intrusive giving multiple warnings that you need to save your work and be prepared to leave the machine, starting as early as 50% into the time.
  9. There was no obvious volume control on the machines, and the song my son programmed was barely audible so we just didn’t bother with doing any sound related activities (our theme for the day was music sigh).

The library has a fantastic collection, and wonderful branch staff, but their technology department continues to disappoint.  I have such little faith in their webteam, but feel I have little choice but to use their catalogue.   I feel sorry for the people who don’t have alternative choices for using computers and are only exposed to such a poor experience when interfacing with this technology.

snowflake books

Learning about Snowflakes

A couple of years ago we got Kenneth G. Libbrecht‘s Field Guide to Snowflakes book out of the library and I was fascinated.  After a few failed attempts at capturing our own flakes and getting them under a microscope we moved on from the topic for that winter.

Last winter we augmented our usual kirigami snowflake cutting by doing up a large 3-d snowflake craft to help decorate for the holidays.Large Snowflake Craft

snowflake necklaceThis winter we’ve been participating in a homeschooler group that North York Central Library has been hosting (Wednesday afternoons 1:30-3pm for those who want to stop by — thanks Janet & Sharon) and for our first two weeks we picked Snow and Winter as our theme.   A highlight for me was when I made a giant kirigami flake out of some flipboard paper and my daughter wore it as a necklace, and then later as a skirt.  It reminded me of this ballerina snowflake craft (note: even though they said the craft was only for Moms, I looked past their discrimination) I had come across (which we’ve done too).

sample snow crystalsIf you haven’t seen any of Ken’s books, or his informative website over at SnowCrystals.com, I suggest you look into them, even if you just hit up his kids activity page.  I made a tumblr post back in Dec that included a bunch of animated gifs that their lab made showing the crystals forming too.  I’ll include below a list of some other books and resources that can further your journey on learning about snowflakes and the fun to be had with them.

A chart of commonly agreed upon types of snow crystals

A chart of commonly agreed upon types of snow crystals