Session 6 of Physics is Fun: Let's Do The Wave!

Our final class focused on different types of waves:  water, light and sound.  We began by seeing a model of a wave made with gumdrops, skewers, and tape.  Then we played with water and sand and built dams with actual sand bags in attempt to prevent erosion.  Next we focused on light waves.  We saw how light deflected off a CD creates a rainbow, played a game that used refraction to shine a light on a target, and made different shadow figures on the wall.  Our final focus was on sound waves.  We saw how sound waves travel through the air causing sugar to move on a surface.  We used a piece of corrugated pipe to hear how sound waves make a whistle.  And we ended by eating loud, crunchy foods and discussing how much fun we had with physics!  Pictures are below.  Enjoy!  


Session 5 of Physics is Fun: Things That Go Round and Round!

April 18, 2018  Our Physics Class today focused on things that spin and rotate.  It began by giving children a chance to spin a variety of things:  coins, bottles, dice, Easter eggs, tops, jacks, fidget spinners to name a few.  We then learned that the earth spins on its axis to give us day and night and rotates around the sun to give us years.  Students gained first hand experience with a force called torque by spinning propellers on hand helicopters and rip helicopters.  Each child used centripetal force to keep items rolling around inside a balloon:  marbles, coins, and hex nuts.  They spun around in a circle themselves while playing a game.  And finally, each made a CD-Marker-Top to create spin art pictures.  Physics is fun!  Pictures are below.  Enjoy!



Session 4 of Physics is Fun: Magnets

April 11, 2018

Our physics class learned about magnets today.  Students were allowed to play with magnetic wands, magnetic spinning pinwheels, levitating pencils, magnetic sculptures and magnetic slime.  Then they learned about magnetism, what types of materials this basic force affects, and magnetic fields.  The final Steam Challenge had them making a Lego maze and using a magnetic wand to guide a figure through their creation.  Magnets are amazing! 


Session 3 of Physics in Fun: Simple Machines Part 2 - Pulleys and Wheels

April 4, 2018

Our class today focused on pulleys and wheels.  We began by using pulleys to send jokes and riddles to each other across the room.  Then, we used pulleys to lift heavy buckets starting with just one pulley which was tough, then two pulleys which was easier, and finally a block and tackle which was the easiest.  Next, our focus turned to wheels.   Students used a dolly to push a basket of heavy books across the room.  Then, they took turns sitting on the dolly themselves and pushing each other from side to side.   And our final minutes of class were spent making pasta cars.  Simple machines are so much fun!


Session 2 of Physics is Fun: Simple Machines Part 1

March 28, 2018  

Preschool Steam learned about 4 different simple machines today- wedges, inclined planes/ramps, screws, and levers.  Many different activities allowed the students to experience these tools first hand.  They divided play dough with wedges, pushed heavy baskets up ramps, rolled an egg down a ramp, used screws to create a 3-D piece of art, balanced quarters on a lever and shot pompoms across the room with catapults.  It was a very busy day learning about simple machines!  Pictures are below!  Enjoy!




Session 1 of Physics is Fun: Forces March 21, 2018

Preschool STEAM Class met for it's first class devoted to Physics.  Students had lots of fun exploring forces all around them:  pushes, pulls, friction, gravity, and drag.  They ended the class with a STEAM challenge which incorporated what they had learned about forces:  design a stomp rocket that will fly as high as possible.  Who knew physics could be so entertaining?!?  Pictures are below.  



Session 6 of Can Do Chemistry: Kitchen Chemistry

Our last session of Chemistry allowed the lessons and and techniques learned in class to be put to use to make food!  We followed recipes and instructions for yeast rolls, butter, chocolate cake and ice cream.  And at the end, we had a tasty feast!  Pictures are below!  Enjoy!


Session 5 of Can Do Chemistry: Reactions

Today's class focused on the most exciting part of Chemistry:  Reactions!  We started out slow, cleaning dirty pennies with salt and vinegar.  We then got some bubbles going with three different baking soda experiments: Hidden Gems, Floating Glove, and Citrus Explosions.  Next, things really got going when yeast and hydrogen peroxide combined to make Elephant Toothpaste!  And the big finale was supposed to be amazing when Mentos were added to Diet Coke - but the Mentos jammed up in the tube after only one or two were added and a very minor reaction resulted.  Oh well, we will just have to keep experimenting!   Pictures are below!  Enjoy!




STEM Expo and Girl Scouts

STEM Expo and Girl Scouts

Over the weekend 212 STEAM Labs had two great opportunities to spread some STEAM love to the local area. 

Saturday morning we had a chance to share a room with Victory VR at the Bettendorf STEM Expo. This is an amazing event held every year at Bettendorf Middle School where hundreds of families come out to learn and explore all things STEM. There are over 50 displays and activities for families to enjoy.

Of course I had to have a LEGO table setup for kids to build! But that was not all we had.








We had a room where we showcased the work we are doing down in the non-profit. Of course we had to bring something awesome so I brought my beta project of Micro:bit controlled Minecraft Steve head that takes your picture and imports your selfie into a Minecraft world by converting pixels into Minecraft blocks. I wanted to showcase that students are learning Python and will be able to write programs just like this!


By the end of the day we had a ton of Minecraft worlds full of selfies!


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It was great to show students the power of code. It was powerful watch their eyes light up when the picture came into view. There was a ton of great questions and conversations that took place over the three hours we were on display. 


When this event ended we packed up quickly and head back to 212 as we had 2nd grade Girl Scouts waiting for their own learning to take place.

We had part of a troop who came to visit the space where we learned about batteries and electricity. The girls made some binder bling and toothbrush robots.


Before we started the girls were locked into the LEGO wall. They were constructing a video game, a maze, and some other contraptions. I think they could have worked on the wall the entire session if we let them. It was wonderful to watch their imagination go wild.

We started off with making some binder bling to help them understand how batteries and LED works together. From there they dove right into adding all sorts of decorations to make their ring/bracelet/nightlight/backpack decoration come alive. These girls were full of energy and excited to learn. It reminded how important it is to ensure that kids do not lose this passion for life and learning. They just could not contain all their ideas and thoughts and concepts for what they wanted to do.


After they had time to get their designs just right we moved into making the toothbrush robots. Many of the girls had seen something like this before whether in the version of a Hexbug or some other device. This project is one of my favorites with young kids because success happens quick, but just as soon as they have success they have to endure problem solving as the robot falls over or falls apart. Maybe the battery dies or what happens if I put too much weight on the bot? What happens if the weight is lopsided? They constantly run through a problem solving process to get the robot just right. This really pushes their thinking and confidence in themselves to try new ideas and not give up.

For this group we tried a new challenge of the Bridge. Could they get their robot across the bridge without falling over?

We had a blast! This was one full day of learning and sharing. I am glad I get to this work for a living as both part of my nonprofit as well as working with schools through the AEA. 

I cannot wait to continue to do more work by sharing and learning with others.

See more here

We have classes open for registration as well!

Session 4 of Can Do Chemistry: Mixtures

Today's class allowed students the opportunity to mix things up!  They began by mixing simple dry ingredients:  beads, pompoms, sand, salt, sugar, and gelatin.  Then, they added water to see which of dry ingredients would dissolve and form a solution.  From there, things got messy as mixtures of ooblek (corn starch and water), gak (glue, water and borax) and sewer slime (guar gum, water and borax)  were made and played with by all of the students.  All Chemistry Classes should be this much fun!  Pictures are below!  Enjoy!


Session 3 of Can Do Chemistry: States of Matter

The third Chemistry Class focused on the 3 states of matter:  solid, liquid, and gas.  We first focused on water and how it exists in all of these 3 states.  We melted solid ice and recovered coins frozen inside.  We used pipettes to transfer liquid water from one container to another.  And we watched water in the form of steam as it came out of a humidifier.  After watching a short video further explaining solids, liquids and gasses, it was time to conduct experiments!  We made a cloud in a bottle using a 2 liter bottle, rubbing alcohol and a tire pump.  We melted crayons on paper and created beautiful artwork.  And we used sodium acetate to make "hot ice."  It was a busy but productive day learning about the states of matter.  Pictures are below.  Enjoy!


Session 2 of Can Do Chemistry!: Measurement Matters

Our 2nd session of Can Do Chemistry focused on measuring matter.  Students used scales, tape measures and thermometers to measure their height, weight and body temperatures.  They then practiced measuring length with a tape measure to see how far Hot Wheels cars rolled on the floor. 

The science of Chemistry often requires the measurement of the volume of materials so students learned how to use measuring spoons, cups and graduated cylinders to measure the volume of salt, sugar and water.  They put their new skills to work to make a crystal solution to take home and observe.  Can't wait to hear about the results of that experiment!

Our last activity involved observing how the density of different liquids affects a material's ability to either sink or float.  The different liquids included water, corn oil, baby oil, dish soap, vinegar and rubbing alcohol. It was interesting to see the different results!

A lot of fun was had learning about measurement!  Enjoy the pictures below!


K-2 Adding the R(eading) to STEAM!


We just launched our new program at 212 STEAM Labs. We are now proud to offer services to grades preschool - adults. Our new program is focused on grades K-2. We have a new format for this age group that we believe is effective, engaging, and providing learning opportunities that capture all subject areas.

What we are doing is following a format that follows this format:

1. Create curiosity with a question prompt

2. Read a picture about focused on the creativity prompt

3. Discuss the book and question what is happening in the story

4. Discuss the issues in the book

5. Explore potential solutions to the problem in the book through hands on learning and making

For our first class we read the book, The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. Many students have already read this book which is good as a foundation of common understanding.

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Here in Iowa it has been very cold outside and we have had a nice layer of snow on the ground. We explored the question, Why is snow white?

For our first class we wanted to get a feel for what the students prior experiences have been and what their skillsets they were bringing to the class. We tapped into the resource Mystery Science to use their format for the class.

Our instructor was amazing. He was kind, gentle, and really connected to the students. He read the book with great emotion.

We started by asking why is snow white. It was so fascinating to hear their responses. The most common was that snow falls from clouds and clouds are white.

After we finished reading, he went outside and fogged up the window to help them understand our breath has moisture.

He shared how he was snowed in during winter break. From there we created our own clouds using shaving cream and food coloring. This was designed to help them think further about water and rain and snow.

We then moved into the activity in Mystery Science exploring if snow is actually white using wax paper. When the paper was close to the snowflake could we see it? Could we see it when further away? Rolled up? Folded? Cut up into strips?

This brings up the concept of transparency and connecting it to snow. This was a big moment of learning.

As time started to escape from us as we were having so much cutting, folding, talking about snow and more we had to pause our snowflake creations.

We will come back to explore snow in our next session. In the end we discussed snow and ice and ended up by making some ice cream for them all to sample.

It was a great first class with lots of energy and excitement by the students. We look forward to really expanding building out this program as we think this is going to be a huge hit in learning for everyone.


Below is a slideshow of some images. Click the image to see the next one.

Session 1 of Can Do Chemistry!: Elements of Matter

The first session of "Can Do Chemistry!" was a success!  We began by focusing our attention on "little things" that when put together make "big things."  We put "little" puzzle pieces together to complete a "big" picture.  We put "little" beads together to make a "big" necklace.  And we looked at pictures of things like a doll, a bicycle, a fruit salad and a vegetable salad and identified the "little" things that went together to make them.  This all helped to introduce the fact that in Chemistry, "little" things called elements go together to make everyday things all around us.  From there, we looked at a Pictorial Periodic Table of Elements and an "Element Collection."  And finally, we made atomic models of things using marshmallows and toothpicks and one of the classes had time to play with a element called aluminum.  

It was a simple introduction to a complex subject.  More fun to come is planned in the lessons ahead!  Pictures of our first class are below.  Enjoy!


LEGO Challenge #1: Halloween Creations

Just a few days ago we launched our first LEGO build challenge that anyone can do from home, school, or afterschool program.

The goal is to have fun building and making while sharing our work to inspire others.

The rules are simple:

1. Use whatever LEGO pieces you have available
2. Your own creation. We are not looking for purchased models, but you can surely use those pieces to craft your own. Let your imagination come alive!
3. Send you image of your work to
Include your name and age so I can feature you in the upcoming newsletters. 

Today I would like to feature Miles. He is a six year old who knocked out these designs in about 10 minutes.


How cool are these awesome designs? The imagination of children never ceases to amaze me.




As his mother states, "He’s six years old and LIVES FOR LEGOS. "


Feel free to continue to submit your Halloween designs. I know today is Halloween, but we don't have deadlines in creativity, we build when inspired.

Tomorrow I will post the November Challenge. Until then, happy building!

Jaw Snapping Pumpkin Tutorial

In our October classes for middle school, high school, and adults we have been exploring how to write code for our Arduino. We have worked through a variety of projects and codes in the past two classes(find all tutorials here).

We are now to the point of carving out our pumpkins and wiring up the LED lights and servo.

I made a short tutorial explaining how to do this at home.

Here is a tutorial about how to carve and wire your pumpkin Arduino so you can experiment from home.

Enjoy! I cannot wait to showcase what we were making in class!

In our final class week I will have more pumpkins for us to carve. Additionally, we will explore some advanced coding using a remote control, ultrasonic sensor, noise sensor, and more.


Preschool Steam Biology Class - 10/18/2017

Today was our last Preschool Steam Class!  Our focus was all on pumpkins.  Here is what we did:

-Watched a video and learned a song on How Pumpkins Grow.

Pretended to pick pretend "cotton ball" pumpkins using two tongue depressors.  It started out slowly only picking one at a time.  By the end, the students had figured out a way to do as many as 4, 5, or 6 at a time.  

-Measured and compared pumpkins - height, weight and distance around.

-Used a felt board to tell the story, "5 Little Pumpkins Sitting on A Gate."

-Made gates to hold 5 Little Pumpkins.  First using clothes pins and popsicle sticks to hold pretend "cotton ball "pumpkins.  Then, the students used cups and sign boards to construct bigger, multi-story pumpkins to hold 5 real pumpkins.

Read the story "The Runaway Pumpkin."

Rolled pumpkins down a ramp and used engineering skills to figure out how to stop them at the bottom.  Ended up rolling a huge pumpkin and believe it or not - it didn't break!

We had lots of fun studying pumpkins!  Pictures will be posted next Wednesday - sorry about that but sometimes technology takes time!




Arduino Pumpkin Classes 1 & 2

So much is happening at 212 STEAM Labs that there is barely time to write and document. The last two weeks we have been running Arduino coding classes to help people learn how to code along with physical computing.

We started out in class one understanding the basics of Arduino and how it works. We started to explore how to code an LED light in a variety of ways - blinking, multiple LED, push button activation, potentiometer adjustments, and more.

During class 2 we refreshed our skills with the LED lights and added in a servo motor component. These two basic functions will be enough to begin to create, carve, and code our very own robotic pumpkins during the next two weeks of class.

We are learning that coding takes time. It does not come easy and like anything in life it requires practice and patience. 

If you want to learn more about what we are doing, then check out these two videos.


Additionally, if you want to learn more we have created tutorials of the work we are doing in class to help guide you at home.

212 STEAM Labs: Arduino Class Part 1: What is in the kit?

212 STEAM Labs: Arduino Class Part 2: What is an Arduino?

212 STEAM Labs: Arduino Class Part 3: Download the Software

212 STEAM Labs: Arduino Class Part 4: Syncing Arduino with Software

212 STEAM Labs: Arduino Class Part 5: LED Light on Pin 13


212 STEAM Labs: Arduino Class Part 6: Coding Variables for LED


212 STEAM Labs: Arduino Class Part 7: LED Challenge

212 STEAM Labs: Arduino Class Part 7: LED Challenge Answer


212 STEAM Labs: Arduino Class Part 8: Potentiometer Basics


212 STEAM Labs: Arduino Class Part 9: Push Button


212 STEAM Labs: Arduino Class Part 10: Multiple LED Marquee Style


212 STEAM Labs: Arduino Class Part 11: Single Servo



Preschool Steam Class 10/11/2017: Habitats

Our Preschool Steam Class met today and learned about habitats.  Here is what we did:

- Played a game which had students matching animals to their habitats.

- Watched a video on penguins, their habitats, and adaptations.

- Conducted 2 experiments demonstrating how penguins stay dry.

              1)Colored a penguin with crayons then sprayed it with water.  The wax in the crayon                     kept the penguin dry.

               2)Put oil and water and a few drops of food coloring in a baggie and saw that the                        two do not mix.  Penguin feathers are coated with a special oily substance that                          repels water and helps to keep them dry in their habitat.

- Conducted 2 experiments to better understand how penguins stay warm.

                 1)Touched ice water with a bare hand and then a "blubber" glove to feel the                                  difference insulation makes in keeping things warm. 

                  2)Placed 9 feathers in a square centimeter of play dough to understand how                                 densely packed a penguin's feathers are in an effort to keep them warm.

After our experiments, we played games.  One had us waddling like a penguin with a balloon between our legs.  Another had us sliding on our stomachs while lying on a towel to simulate how penguins slide or "tobaggan" on the ice.

Learning about habitats was lots of fun!  We have one more class scheduled in this session on Biology - pumpkins.  After that, we take a break until January 3rd.  At that time we will focus on topics related to the science of Chemistry.  Registration forms will be available next week.  Space will be limited so sign up early to save your space!

Pictures from today are below.  Enjoy!





Elementary Makey Makey Class Begins

This week we kicked off our Robotic Halloween courses for elementary, middle, high school, and adult classes.

In our younger elementary class we are focusing on the Makey Makey. The Makey Makey is a perfect starting point when we begin to discuss coding and physical computing. Additionally, Makey Makey is Arduino based which funnels perfectly into our other classes where we are exploring Arduino.



We started out our class with some very quick and basic foundation discussion. We believe that the best way to learn is to DO! We provide a little background and then help students begin to trust in themselves to experiment, tinker, and design.

We explained what a Makey Makey is and how circuits work. After that we sent them on their way to attempt to make their first circuit by turning on a LED.


We also discuss the culture of learning at 212. These items above are not rules, but just the way we operate. If we want our students to have the confidence to experiment and try things then we must be sure the space is safe for them to do so. We start off each class discussing these items.


Each student was provided their own space to work and they were able to work at their own pace through a series of design challenges.


Students were provided many materials such as bananas to make a banana piano, washers, conductive tape, foil, graphite pencil, construction paper, and more. We wanted students to explore.

In the end students were able to make a LED circuit, a people circuit(check the video), and a banana piano.

Next week we will begin to explore coding the Makey Makey with Scratch and start to assemble their Halloween props.

Be sure to check the video to watch what was happening in class.