Twizzler Code Necklace featuring Grace Hopper

Quick. Name another female scientist…. Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code by Laurie Wallmark is a beautifully illustrated book of an amazing role model for our girls.  The story takes us through Grace’s childhood which is probably similar to our girls. She was curious, creative, adventurous, and loved to doodle! She had a fascination with math and became a trailblazing computer scientist.

But of all her amazing traits, my favorite one is grit.

“Grit is working really hard to make a future a reality and living life like a marathon and not a sprint” – Angela Lee Duckworth

Did Grace always make all A’s? No. She failed Latin but she worked hard and passed.

Did all of her computer programs work? No. But she found the very first computer bug, a moth!

Did life always go her way? Of course not! She was forced to retire from the Navy saying she was too old to serve.

But that didn’t stop her and that is why Grace Hopper is this month’s featured scientist. Her life story wasn’t about getting everything the easy way but instead how she responded to the challenges of life. You can find this great book here. You can find more female scientists on She Loves Science here.

So to celebrate the Queen of Code, and learn a little computer code yourself, you can make these tasty Twizzler Necklaces!

What you need: Rainbow Twizzler Twists and jelly cord. (Not only are they fun colors but I found that Rainbow Twizzlers are easier to string on a necklace than regular Twizzlers.)

How to do it:

  • Use this key ASCII binary code to decipher the letters of the alphabet

  • Decide what secret word you want to put on your necklace (we chose the word ‘LOVE’ which is fourteen 1’s and thirteen 0’s)
  • Cut two colors of Twizzlers to 1-1/2″ sections  ( You’ll get about 7 sections per rope)
  • String the last letter on first and tie a knot
  • Continue stringing the binary code for each letter with a knot in between letters
  • Tie a bow to connect the ends of the necklace together

What’s the science?

Here is a fun video of why computers use a binary system of 1’s and 0’s to represent numbers and letters. This was a great hands on way to learn coding while making super fun gifts for friends! What kid doesn’t like a decoding challenge? (Actually the real challenge is to not eat it before you decipher the code!)

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A Sweet Skittles Science Valentine

I’ll be honest, my mantra over the last few months has been keep it simple. So when I had left over Skittles from a science party, I decided I would figure out a way to make them class Valentines.  Slap on this easy printable to some individually wrapped Skittles and you’re done! The only challenge for the recipients of these Valentines will be not eating the Skittles before they get home to do science with them!

Here’s what you need: individually wrapped Skittles, this free printable, and a stapler.

Here’s the science:

Skittles are made of sugar and coloring which dissolves when it comes in contact with water. The coloring is the first to diffuse into the water. Try warm water next. Does it dissolve faster?

Isn’t this a fun experiment to shape into a heart and try? Now you’re all set for a unique and fun class Valentine! Enjoy!

Categories: 3 ingredient experiments, 5 minute experiments, science art Tags: ,
Science Fair Project: Flood Control

The purpose of Allie’s second grade science fair was to test different flood control methods and determine which one was most effective. As you know, last year Hurricane Harvey caused some areas in Texas to get 50+ inches of rain fall within 3 days.  We have family and friends who are still rebuilding their homes.











The picture on the left is Hurricane Harvey before making landfall and the picture on the right is a flooded parking lot and major frontage road in Houston (photo cred K. Twardowski).

This was a great project to learn about topography using a play dough. I made the mistake of making a late night Target run to buy loads of green play dough when it dawned on me that I could just make the stuff for a fraction of the cost. Allie had a great idea to use monopoly houses and of course she added a “Disney castle” near the mountain.

I also loved that we got the entire family involved and excited about it. The big kids and I made the play dough, Dad helped with the topography and building the model, and little sister watched it all adding her own commentary.

Allie’s model includes a river that leads to a bay, a flood plain, several levels of land, a hill, and a mountain. The Tupperware bowl represents the different flood control scenarios we tested. The bowl with a small hole models a retention pond. The bowl with a bigger hole is models a parking lot. The bowl with a sponge inside models a wetland.

Allie’s hypothesis was that the wetland was going to be more effective flood control method (and how living on the mountain would be the best idea). So we discussed how we all wanted to live in a Disney castle or at the top of a mountain to avoid floods but that was impractical and expensive.

We were all surprised at the results (you can tell my surprise at moment 0:33 when I thought the wetlands would save the day.) So we built up our flood plain and tested it again.

In the end, we all learned a few things about flood control, namely that using several methods together is more effective. I hope this inspires you with your next science fair and your future scientists and engineers!

This project was adapted from a video called “Wetland Flood Scenario”.

Categories: lovely conversations, STEM Tags: ,
Frozen Cup Rivalry

It has been an unusual winter season for us here in Texas.  We have now officially had 3 Houston snow events and well, that’s unheard of! I’m not so sure it doesn’t have something to do with the incredible hurricane event we had here last summer.

We decided to do a bit of science on this white stuff that we never see when school was closed. (Oh, it turns out that snow is actually not white… go figure!) Little did I know that doing this experiment was going to turn into a sibling rivalry with whose cup will freeze first.

What you need: two plastic or paper cups, water, salt

What you do: 

  • Fill both cups with plain tap water
  • Stir in a tablespoon of salt in one cup
  • Place outside for a few hours in below 32°F weather (or place in a freezer)
  • Guess which one will freeze first

Here are our results. The red cup is plain water. The orange cup is salt water:

What is the science?

Salt lowers the freezing point of the water that it is mixed in. So if it takes water to freeze at 32°F and below then salt water takes much colder temperatures than that to freeze. This is why the ocean doesn’t completely freeze and also why we add salt on bridges and overpasses to help prevent ice from forming.

Andrew was most upset that his orange cup didn’t “win” the frozen contest. I thought he would think his cup was the most interesting. Turns out he didn’t think it was so cool…. (get it!? cool…but I digress.)

We hope you enjoy this easy winter activity!

Categories: 3 ingredient experiments Tags: , ,