Candy Catapults

candycatHow can you bring engineering to life for your kids? Well in our house it involves flying candy. This week is Engineering Week and I’m sharing a few easy and fun activities for you to try with the kiddos. But today is especially near and dear to my heart because it is Girl Day! has dedicated today to showing girls just how creative engineering can be and how engineering can change the world.

Inspired by this, I thought I would try out my creative side and show you this easy engineering activity on video!  So sit back, relax, grab your daughter, grab some popcorn, and enjoy!

(Note: My kids LOVE making candy catapults when marshmallows are involved so that is what I’m using as ammo in the video.)

Here is a summary:

What you’ll need:

7 craft sticks, 4 rubber bands, plastic spoon, candy to launch

How to do it:

1.Stack 5 craft sticks together and wrap a rubber band at each end

2.Stack 2 craft sticks and wrap a rubber band around one end

3.Slide bigger stack between smaller stack and secure it with a rubber band.

4.Insert spoon and add marshmallows to launch

What happens:

A catapult is a simple machine called a lever. Other examples of levers are scissors, see-saws, and fingernail clippers.

I hope you enjoyed the video and let me know what you think by leaving a comment down in the comments section.

Let me know if you are tempted to shoot candy across the room when the kids are in bed just for the fun of it!

Happy Girl Day 2016!

Categories: how to videos, STEM, thoughts of a girl engineer Tags: , , , ,
Part 2: Christmas gift ideas to inspire with science!



Is it really 13 days until Santa comes? Are you frantically ordering off Amazon Prime and sneaking away to toy stores while the kids are at school? I sure am!

Today I have added a few more gifts to my Christmas list based on reader feedback!  These ideas also include ‘non-toy’ gifts with a science twist. My original list can be found here.




1. Fun engineering and science books


According to Allie, this is my favorite book.  I do love this book because Rosie the Riveter makes a cameo appearance and her message is never give up your dreams!  You’ve got to love that! You can find it here.



This book was written by a dad with his daughter in his quest to interest her in science. Amazing!  It reminds me of Encyclopedia Brown because it presents science with a mystery to solve! You can find it here.

2. School House Rock – Science Rock!

school house rock

Did you know there is a science School House Rock?  I still have School House Rock songs in my head from childhood.  (Test me… I can recite the Preamble to the Constitution!) I can imagine Allie singing these songs in 20 years! You can find the dvd here.

3. Bath toy flutes



What a great way to play in the tub and learn science! Fill it up with water and experience sound vibrations first hand! Find it here.

4. Toys for spatial skills

Spatial skills are vital in science and engineering.  I still struggle with it!  I can tell you by experience that you need these skills in any college engineering program from AutoCAD drafting to Calculus 3! Yikes – that brings back memories!

picasso tiles

Apparently these magnet tiles are all the rage this year!  You can build an endless number of structures. My friend Amanda gave me this tip on Picasso tiles that have a better value than most magnet tiles out there. Find it here.


patter board

Melissa and Doug’s pattern board is basically a tangram puzzle.  Tangram builds spatial skill by using certain shapes to make the object. Sometimes you have to be a bit creative in finding the solution. You can find it here.

 5. Natural Science Museum membership


We have a family membership to the Houston Museum of Natural Science. The kids love the dinosaurs and butterfly exhibits. I adore Weiss Energy Hall!  See website here for membership details.  Also, this would be a great place to go with visiting relatives during the holidays. The only day they are closed is Christmas Day.

6. Magazine subscription

ranger rick

Did you know that a goldfish can live for 40 years?  Or that a cat almost never meows at other cats, only people? Allie and I only know that because of Ranger Rick Jr.  Here is the website.

7. Fun ingredients

I love polymers – they are long chemical molecules that sometimes look like spaghetti.  Making GAK is straight up polymer chemistry!  The borax detergent links the glue  together to make polymers!  Throw in some green or red food coloring and you’ll have amazing Christmas chemistry!  Find this GAK gift here.

8. Experiential gift


There is one thing about seeing dinosaurs in a museum. But it is a whole other adventure to walk in their footsteps! See information here about Dinosaur Valley State Park.  We are going to try and make it in 2015!

So there you have it!  Part 2 of my Christmas gift ideas!  Thank you for all your feedback and excitement about the blog! I love connecting with you, so feel free to leave me comments, suggestions, and ideas!

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Categories: thoughts of a girl engineer Tags: , ,
Christmas gift ideas to inspire with science!

ScienceChristmas1Are you wondering what to get your little girl for Christmas? Do you want to add a few science toys to balance out your daughter’s Frozen toy collection?  I know I do.

This list of toys should spark her science curiosity! It also includes a few of my childhood favorites! Just think, when all the other toys are unwrapped, you can grab one of these toys and perform an amazing experiment together. Her eyes may even light up with wonder as you explain how it works. Let science give Santa a run for his money this year!




1. Science-Fashion

First things first, why not get her started with a little bit of science-fashion? Who says you can’t like fashion and be a scientist or engineer?! So here are a few of my choices to get your little girl’s science “game face” on.



I love this Landsend shirt for girls found here.




And what about this “smart girls” shirt found here on Etsy. I love periodic elements!



And let’s not forget that you need a little science-fashion in your life! Santa, will you get me this shirt here?

2. Energy Stick


This toy would be an amazing stocking stuffer! It lights up, makes noise, and leaves kids and adults speechless. I used this toy in a show-and-tell for Allie’s preschool class. It was a hit! It made learning about how to complete a circuit fun. (Don’t worry it won’t shock you). You can find it here.

3. Glow in the Dark Night Sky Book



I can remember countless hours outside as a kid with this book in my own backyard. Try and find my favorite, the Big Dipper, on Christmas night!  Find the book here.

4. Tinker Toys

tinker toys

We love Tinker Toys, especially the next generation of tinker toys that snap together and stay together!  Believe it or not, in my college organic chemistry course, we used ‘grown-up’ tinker toys to model molecules.  Get her started early building her spatial skills and more importantly her imagination. Allie’s first Tinker Toy contraption was a perfume machine that “sprayed” perfume!   This one can make some pretty neat animals too!

5. Snap Circuits



We gave these snap circuits to our niece one year for Christmas. We enjoyed helping her snap together these pieces to light a lightbulb, make a sound machine, and set off a helicopter propeller. I used a ‘grown-up’ circuit boards in my introduction to electrical engineering class. I wish I would have had these as a kid to practice early!

6 Microscope



Who wouldn’t like a microscope that doesn’t require preparing slides? Remember all those labs in high school biology finding onion cells?  I’ll have to ask Santa for a high powered microscope to look at our hair strands later!

7. Globe



Remember closing your eyes,  spinning a globe around, and pointing to a random place that would be your next travel adventure?  I usually landed in the middle of the Pacific ocean!  Imagine all the conversations about our planet using a globe. Find a flashlight and you’ve got how the sun rises and how an eclipse happens! Simple, fun, classic earth science!


8. Puzzled Tyrannosaurus Woodcraft Construction Kit



Who doesn’t love dinosaurs?  I had this same construction kit ages ago and remember feeling like palentologist putting the bones together. You can find your very own model here

9. Easy Bake Oven


This is not your 1990’s easy bake oven, it looks more like something out of the Jetsons! I remember how much fun it was to have my very own oven. If you think about it, chemistry lab experiments are really just following a recipe and adding some heat. Get you future chemist an easy bake oven to start creating her own concoctions!

10. Crayola Melt in Mold Factory



Doesn’t this look amazing? It makes me excited to be able to do something with all the crayons we’ve collected from restaurants over the years. As a “science-mom” it makes me excited to show Allie how the properties of crayons can change with heat and mold into different things. This is a safe way to melt Crayons without making a ginormous mess in your kitchen. Great job Crayola! Find it here.

11. Rock Tumbler



I had a rock tumbler as a kid but I don’t remember being able to make cool jewelry or keychains like this one! What an amazing way to introduce erosion to all your future geologists! Find it here.

. The Cloud book



Matt had this book as a kid and Allie loves it when we read it to her.  Learn all the clouds names, how they are formed, and a few rhymes to tell you about the weather. Meteorology here we come!

13. Candy Chemistry



I was walking around a toy store and ran across this one. It had me at “candy”. I love that it says “see how cooking is actual chemistry”. I’m so glad to know that someone else thinks they feel a bit like a scientist in the kitchen! I imagine this will be a series of future posts and the best part is, we can eat the experiment results!


Categories: gift guides Tags: , , ,