Arduino Series Blink

This first project in the series shows you how to make a LED blink on an Arduino, and then shows you how to connect it to an external LED with alligator clips.

This activity introduces a great way to get started with the popular Arduino microcontroller by connecting it to CircuitBlocks – a make-it-yourself set of electronic “blocks”. CircuitBlocks essentially are electronic components glued to wood blocks and soldered to nails. You can learn how to make your own here:

This project and the rest of the series leads you through introducing the Arduino hardware, the programming environment and building simple circuits you control with the Arduino LilyPad – a variation of the Arduino that is used for e-textiles. In our circuits we connect things with alligator clips which make it very easy to quickly build and change. These projects also make it much easier for kids and adults to explore computer programming by using a graphical environment (while keeping the text-based programming available).

You can find the introduction to the series here:

Ninja Walk with Science Journal

Can you move as smoothly and silently as a Ninja? In this experiment, participants will use their stealthy Ninja skills to move through a noisy obstacle course while wearing a smartphone. They must figure out how to navigate around obstacles with the sound sensor and accelerometers detecting as little motion and sound as possible.

Zipline with Science Journal

What’s it like to be an amusement park engineer? In this design challenge, participants are tasked with creating a fun zipline experience. Their job is to create a model version of the transport vehicle for a zipline. However, like an engineer, participants must keep in mind that their experience can be fast, but it still needs to be stable, safe and enjoyable. Using Science Journal, an app that can use the sensors in everyday smartphones, participants can find out if their zipline ride can stand the test of amusement park guests.

Toy Top with Science Journal

You’ve played with fidget spinners and spinning tops, but have you ever designed them? In this design challenge, participants will develop and test their very own spinning toy! Toy designers and engineers get to play with their toys, but they also need a scientific way to figure out how to make it most fun. Use everyday materials to build a spinning toy, then test it using the accelerometer sensors found in smartphones!

Using Science Journal

Science Journal is a free app designed by Making & Science, an initiative by Google. It allows you to gather data about the world around you by harnessing the sensors in your smartphone. The Tech Museum of Innovation uses Science Journal to hone our ninja skills, explore the sounds around us, test our reflexes and much more.  Watch this video, and then check out the other Data Science activities that use Science Journal: Toy Top, Ninja Walk, and Zipline Descent.

Chain Reaction II

Participants will use an assortment of items (mainly household items) to complete Rube Goldberg-type challenges.

Encourage guest to build a device that will complete a task through the use of chain reactions. Using basic physics concepts (inertia, gravity, force, motion) and common items, guests will build Rube Goldberg-type machines.

Extreme Trampolines

A great deal of science and engineering goes in to building a trampoline. Through this activity, participants explore different materials and how their properties affect a trampoline’s ability to make something bounce as high as possible or as low as possible off its surface.

The goal of this challenge is to build a trampoline that can make a golf ball bounce as high or as low as possible off its surface. Working in small teams, participants use a variety of materials to design, build, and test their trampolines in our trampoline testers. Participants think and build like engineers as they experience the design process to make improvements to their trampolines through redesigning and retesting prototypes.

Trophy Triathlon

Think like an engineer and design, build, and test a trophy that can hold up a sports ball. Students work in teams or independently to build a structure to support a load.

Balancing Bears

Working individually or in small groups, participants use recycled materials to design, build, and test a device to balance upright on an unbalanced platform and travel down a sloped tight rope.  The goal of this challenge is to build a device to hold an Ewok action figure as high up off the platform as possible and still travel safely down the tight rope without flipping over. Participants think and build like engineers as they experience the design process to make improvements to their devices through redesigning and retesting prototypes.

Circuit Blocks

This is an activity to help visitors play with circuits and electrical components. Visitors will use alligator clips to explore how to create simple circuits. It is a safe low-power activity. People often do not have a clear idea of how electricity works: they may be unsure if they can get a “shock” from battery-powered circuits. We’re using two 1.5 volt batteries together – adding up to 3 volts – very low voltage.