Thursday, October 21, 2010

Water-grow Animals – Part 2

   In an earlier grandadscience post (July,2009), I shared how grandson Joshua and granddaughter Jordann observed, measured, and graphed the increase in length of two toy animals made of polyacrylamide, the water-absorbing polymer used in diapers. These animals will dramatically increase in size when immersed in water for several days. I call these toys, water-grow animals. The alligator pictured above will fill a bathtub. We know, because the kids kept one in grandmother math's bathtub for two weeks!
   The kids had a lot of fun with the activity and, during a late August visit, were eager to repeat it. Grandmother math keeps a menagerie of these animals and the kids agreed to use a gray rat for the new activity.
   Jordann is eager to get started and begins by measuring the length of the rat.
   Grandmother math decided to add mass-measurement to the activity so Jordann is shown below using a balance to measure the mass of the rat. Notice that the rat sits snugly in the red bucket of the balance, That smile comes from adding the right number of mass units to the yellow bucket to balance the rat.
  The rat was then placed in a bucket of water. Every morning, grandmother math made time for the kids to observe, measure, record, and graph, the length and mass of the rat.
   After a few days, the rat had grown to an ominous size (for a rat)!
   The rat had also grown to the point it would barely fit in the bucket on the balance! Notice the number and size of the mass units in the red bucket needed to balance the rat!
  After a day or two, the mass of the rat exceeded the range of the balance so Joshua improvised what problem-solvers and engineers call a work-around. The following day the kids had to return home and they took the rat, wrapped in a towel, with them.
     Joshua starts the fifth grade next year and Jordann will be in the fourth grade. If the kids are interested, they will do the activity one more time, measuring and recording the mass and length, as in past activities, but adding width, and height measurements. Doing so will allow grandmother math to talk about proportional growth which explains why the animals maintain their shape and don't become distorted.
   Water-grow animals can be purchased at most large retail outlets. If, like grandadscience, you like the convenience of ordering online, the following link has a large selection and good prices for water-grow animals.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Quest of the Questionaut

   Readers know that I am a big fan of the computer games created by the team at Amanita Design ( I like playing their games because of the creative problem-solving scenarios that float within the frame of a story. And so do my grand kids. In earlier posts, I've reviewed three of their games, Samarost I (free), Samarost II, and Machinarium. The creativity at Amanita Design is even reflected in how you navigate through their web site. The home page is blank except for a curious object in the lower right corner. Click on one of the white buds and it blossoms to a new stem with more white buds. Click on the indicated buds to get to the Flash Games screen. All of Amanita's games can be reached from this screen but for this post, click on Questionaut.
   This short, one-minute video starts the story. An unnamed character, sitting on a cactus at the top of screen, has its hat blown off, sending the Questionaut on a quest to retrieve it.
   At each of the eight levels, the Questionaut has to correctly answer questions in order to collect and store enough helium to float up to the next level. Answering a question correctly adds a bubble of helium to the collection canister at the left side of the screen. Answering a question incorrectly pops one of the bubbles already in the canister. The questions keep coming until you get a total of five gas bubbles. Then, away you (the Questionaut) float to the next level. The first level shows grand dad reading a book as grandmother types away on her antique Remington. 
   For myself, and probably kids, the most fun comes from solving the point-and-click problem that starts each level. For example, to get the questions at level 1, you have to shift grandad's attention away from his book. If you get stuck, send an email and I'll give you a hint. Not  the answer—a hint!
   Consider the question, When reading an illustrated book (a book with pictures and diagrams), asked in the following level 1 graphic. If you were to answer with c, ‘look at all the information on the page’, you would be correct and the fifth bubble would fill the canister and be transferred to the balloon for enough lift to get to the next level.
   The game has eight levels. The levels were designed to cover basic school topics. The topics covered are, in order:
Level 1:         Writing Skills
Level 2:         Arithmetic
Level 3:         Plant and Flower Facts
Level 4:         Geometry
Level 5:         Science
Level 6:         Graphs/Probability/Statistics – [28p means 28 pence]
Level 7:         More Science
Level 8:         Grammar
   There has to be a large number of questions in the data bank. I've played through the game four times with very few repeat questions.
   It took Amanita two years to give us Machinarium. I hope I don't have to wait that long before I can play their next major product.