Put Put Boat, the miniature Steam Engine

It’s called the pop-pop boat, the put-put boat or putt-putt boat because that’s the sound it makes, as it putters around the bathtub or pond.   That is also how you can search for images, plans and videos on the internet.  Put-put boats have been around for generations.

Basically, you build a small boat-shaped model.  This can be as complex or as simple as you wish.  Then, you put a tea light or votive candle in it with the engine.  The engine is simply a piece of soft copper 1/8″ tubing with a single loop or two in it.  Above is one made from a soft plastic bottle and here is a fancier one

 

Let some water run into the tubing, float your boat and light your candle, and wait for it to putt-putt about.

How’s it work?  Here are the principles..  Gases expand when heated but liquids do not.  Gases contract mightily when cooled but liquids do not.  Copper conducts heat.  Now, when the candle heats the copper loop (with some water in it already) the water turns to steam, the steam pushes out, the boat makes one “putt”.  (Newtons’s 3rd law of motion).  When the coil is out of steam, the aft part cools, water is sucked back up, where it is heated, and the process repeats.

These toys are cheap but more fun to build yourself.  The most important trick is safety around an open flame (fire extinguisher within arm’s reach?), followed by using copper tubing instead of other materials.

I have used these from 7th grade on up (way up!).  You can also have regattas or boat races!  The trick here is to have them go in a straight line – that can be a contest in itself.  I have even put a small wading pool in the classroom for a week’s worth of put-put boats and small sailboats races and experiments.   Do NOT use the inflatable kind!  Have a small pump to drain the water into the sink drain when you are finished and you are good to go.  Mop up your own mess and have chocolate for the janitorial staff to make up for the stress they quietly nourished while watching your pool for the week.

You can quickly find your own links but here are some of my favorites:

http://sci-toys.com/scitoys/scitoys/thermo/thermo.html#boat  How-to, plus he sells boats and parts.

http://www.sticksite.com/putputboat/     Very nice plans for cutting and building these boats using aluminum pop cans.   A little more complex though.

http://www.sciencetoymaker.org/boat/index.htm   A complete site for putt-putt aficionados, complete with galleries, etc.

http://www.nmia.com/~vrbass/pop-pop/  A pop-pop boat page.

 

Fun with electric motors – 1

There are lots of ways you can make a simple electric motor.   Lots of them do not work.   The best one I have found is called “Beakman Motor”, name after the character on Bill Nye.   One good example of how to build it is at http://sci-toys.com/scitoys/scitoys/electro/electro.html#motor

Search the internet for images and plans for the Beakman Motor and that will help you design your own.  Keep a couple of tricks in mind:

a) Use a regular battery holder, like you can buy at Radio Shack.  Using a board with nails (see the picture) often leads to failure and nothing dampens a science activity with kids like one that does not work.

b) Pay real attention to stripping the wire.  Wire is coated with either enamel or plastic, and it won’t conduct electricity until the coating is removed.  In many of these Beakmans, the end of the coil (called the “armature) have the coating removed on one side but not the other.  That is critical to making it work.

c) Use a larger battery.  Whether you pick a D, C, or even AAA they all have the same voltage; about 1.5 volts.   What you need is more current, which is not the same.   The D and C cells provide more current.  Be aware, these little motors do eat through batteries in a hurry.   Have fun!

My favorite picture from our game camera so far.   A baby raccoon meets the local feral cat.  Neither wants to tangle with the other, but neither one knows how to get out of it, either!  So they just circled each other and slowly backed away.

Maps of Ecosystems

Very nice maps of North America by region or by states, in a variety of different levels of detail, are available from http://www.epa.gov/wed/pages/ecoregions.htm

If you ask nicely you can sometimes get a large classroom copy mailed to you.

 

One example of how to use this is to post them side-by-side with a geology map of the same area, or a precipitation map and have the students looks for similarities and patterns in the distribution of vegetation types and the surface geology.  They can also look for patterns in the distribution of vegetation types and the amount of precipitation, or of any other weather characteristic you might be able to generate maps of.  Shown is Oklahoma but these are available for most states and regions.

Texas Science Educators conferences coming up!

Link

The 2012 CAST (Texas Science Teachers Association) meeting is now in the history books.  I know one booth gave out 6,000 catalogs so there were at least that many teachers present.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – this kind of event will be a life-changer for you.  Whatever level you teach or hope to teach there is something about being a part of a HUGE group of the best of the best to get a person excited and energized and full of new ideas!

The best part for us Northerners (Oklahomans, as seen by Texas) is that there are several such events coming up near us.  The future CAST meetings are:

Nov. 7-9, Houston (OK, so Houston is not so close – but think what kinds of field trips there will be with Galveston and NASA so close)

Nov 20-22, 2014, Dallas

Nov 12-14, Fort Worth

And… drumroll…. the BEST of the best of the best – the NSTA National Science Teachers national conference this spring in Dallas, April 11-14 .  If you can only make one day, do it!  It will be unimaginably big.  http://www.nsta.org/conferences/2013san/

How to spot satellites

Image from NASA

So you’re looking up at the stars one night and you see something up there moving… suddenly it goes out.  Was that a satellite?  Was it an airplane?

There are a lot of websites out there for watching satellites but the best, most comprehensive and one of the oldest is www.heavens-above.com.  I have been using it for almost as long as the internet itself has been around.

It’s great to know that at a certain time tonight you can step outside, look in a certain part of the sky, and maybe, just maybe, see a satellite suddenly appear and whiz by.

You will need your latitude and longitude; there are lots of ways to get that.  Then go to the heavens-above site and just play around with it.

The first and easiest is the ISS, followed by the Iridium satellites.  With practice you can even see the Iridiums in the daytime!  The best way is to practice on these two until you get pretty good at it – then there are hundreds more.  And, the site has lots and lots of other good information about spacecraft.  The more time you spend there, the more things you’ll want to try.

Keep these things in mind though:

1) Your fist help at arm’s length covers about 10 degrees.  Use that to measure altitude (Alt.) above the horizon.

2)  The direction (North, northeast, etc.) is given as a bearing and is called “Az.”.  East is 90, south is 180, west is 270, etc.

3) “Magnitude” is how bright the satellite will be.  The smaller the number the brighter it is.  Anything smaller (brighter) than zero will be very bright, like an airplane.

4) Airplanes often have their flashers on; satellites do not.

5) The light from a satellite is reflected from the Sun.  That’s why it will suddenly appear in the middle of the sky and will suddenly go out.  The website tell you exactly when these will happen.

6) The whole thing is an estimation.  It’s a sort of a sport.  Times may vary, usually a little later as the orbits decay unexpectedly, and magnitude can change too.

Have fun! and let us know how you did.  or didn’t.

Free Green School Training, with STEM components

OK GREEN SCHOOLS 2012 TRAINING REGISTRATION NOW OPEN
Please register below for one (or more) of our five FREE Oklahoma Green Schools Training sessions. Join us for one of these events to learn how the Oklahoma Green Schools Program works, review the Project Learning Tree (PLT) GreenSchools Investigations in the five topics: ENERGY, WATER, WASTE & RECYCLING, ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY, and SCHOOL SITE (includes STEM-related activities), participate in small group discussions and peruse the toolkit. All sessions will be held from 9:00-11:00 am (except Weatherford which will be from 4:00-6:00 pm). Refreshments for each session are sponsored by Greenstar Recycling.

PLEASE DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE TO REGISTER! If we do not have at least fifteen (15) registrants three days prior to each event, the training session will be cancelled. You can help us increase registration by passing this email on to other folks you know who might be interested. We hope to see you in July or August at one of these events!

Click here to register: http://www.okgreenschools.org/okgs-training/

(View dates & locations below. Additional details are available on the website)

July 19—4:00 to 6:00 pm—Weatherford (SWOSU )
Host: Marie Pool, Clinton High School
Location: Southwestern Oklahoma State University (SWOSU), 100 Campus Drive, Weatherford, OK 73096

July 24—9:00 to 11:00am—Metro Career Academy— Oklahoma City (+optional tour)
Host: Barbara Loudermilk, Principal
Location: Metro Career Academy, 201 N.E. 48th, Oklahoma City, OK 73105
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July 31—Ada: East Central University (ECU)
Host: Dr. Douglas Weirick, Chair—ECU Department of Environmental Health Science
Location: ECU Physical and Environmental Sciences (PES) Building, Room 262

Aug 2—Bartlesville: OSU Extension Office (Dewey – suburb)
Host: Gale Mills, OSU Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Educator
Location: Washington County Extension Office, 205 E 12th Street, PO Box 10, Dewey OK 74029

Aug 9 —Stillwater: Skyline Elementary (+optional tour)
Host: Andrea Rains, Skyline Principal
Location: 1402 E. Sunrise Ave., Stillwater, OK 74075

Thank you for your interest in our program!
Please direct questions to: info@oklahomagreenschools.org

Physics workshop for all levels – elementary and up

Professional Development Opportunities for Teachers:

  • 2012 AAPT/PTRA ToPPS II: Designed for In-Service Oklahoma Teachers of Physics and Physical Science, this professional development opportunity is a 5-day summer institute (with 2 follow-up sessions during the 2012 – 2013 academic year).  This is a very “hands-on,” “minds-on” professional development opportunity.  Those seeking to enhance their students’ learning in physics and physical science are encouraged to apply!
  • Details:

o   Summer institute runs July 9 – 13that the Alva campus of Northwestern Oklahoma State University

o   $600 stipend ($400 at end of 5-day summer institute; $100 for each follow-up session)

o   Free instructional/curriculum materials endorsed by AAPT (American Association of Physics Teachers)

o   High-tech and Low-tech equipment used

o   This year’s topics: Energy, Momentum and Impulse

o   Total of 40 hours of professional development (30 in July, 5 at each follow-up session)

o   Free on-site housing (if staying in dorms)

o   Website:  www.nwosu.edu/ToPPS

o   Participants may enroll in 3 hours of graduate EDUC, PHYS or PHSC credit to apply toward an advanced degree

o   A $100 refundable check will be required of applicants (checks will be returned at the close of the summer institute)

While this PD opportunity is designed for HS physics teachers, MS and ES teachers may also apply.  We are fully aware that science teachers wear many hats, and we want to encourage teachers of all grade levels to consider this opportunity.

 

Please let list members know that they can contact me directly if they have any questions.

 

Thank You!

Steve

 

Steven J. Maier, PhD

Chair, Department of Natural Science

Associate Professor of Physics

Northwestern Oklahoma State University

Science Building 107-B

709 Oklahoma Blvd.

Alva, OK  73717

 

sjmaier@nwosu.edu

580.327.8562 (o)

580.327.8556 (f)

Project WILD schedule for fall, 2012

I have mentioned Project WILD elsewhere; it’s a great set of resources for teaching conservation concepts.   Our Oklahoma contact and high-energy presenter is Lisa Anderson; okprojectwild@fullnet.net, (405) 990-1292.  She can also schedule events at your school if you can get at least 15 participants.  The workshops are six hours long and cost $15 each.

The following Saturday workshops are currently scheduled for open participation at Arcadia Lake (near Edmond.  Contact Lisa to register or for more information:

June 23 – Project WILD

June 30 – Growing up WILD

Sept 8 – WILD about reading

Sept 22 – Project WILD

October 27 – Growing up WILD

Fish Prints – Where will gyotaku take you?

Sorry, I couldn’t resist the horrible pun.  This is an art activity that teaches science.  Gyotaku is the art of putting ink or paint on a fish and then rubbing the fish onto paper.  You can make the print on paper, fabric or even T-shirts.  You can use it as-is, you can hand-color details, you can add any way you want to and even add schools of fish.

A few minutes of searching the web for gyotaku images and you’ll be hooked.  There are also some great how-to videos on youtube.

You can use real fish or you can buy rubber casts of fish.  In either case you can rinse off the ink or tempera paint and use the fish over and over.  If you use real fish you can simply re-freeze them in individual plastic bags.  A good source for rubber casts of fish is Acorn Naturalists.  They have a great online catalog at http://www.acornnaturalists.com/

Don’s hints:  Use a good grade of paper.  Copy paper won’t take the ink nearly as well as art paper and you want your students to have a good experience!   Practice first.  Try intergrading different colors of ink on the same fish!  Add fins and other details by hand – just use the fish print for the basics.  With some papers and some inks it works better to slightly mist the paper with water first.  Finally, it is usually better to ink the fish and then place the paper on top rather than the other way around.  Gently pat the paper around the fish and then remove, dry and admire it!

You can also use the same technique to add some plants and make a scene, but plants don’t generally print nearly as clearly as the fish do.  Shells work nicely;  they have more texture.

Where is the science?  This forces the students to concentrate on the form and the details.  Now you can talk about the different parts of a fish and the different fins.  You can related structure to function – different body shapes and different mouth shapes for different purposes.  A diagram to label of parts of a fish will make a lot more sense after this activity than if it were before!  A good follow-up activity for younger students is the free sample activity “Fishing Fun”  from Project WILD at http://www.projectwild.org/growingupwild.htm