Thursday, January 27, 2011

Teachable Moments: Making Stuff Smaller

Testing a microbot
How small can we go? Could we one day have robots taking "fantastic voyages" in our bodies to kill rogue cells? The triumphs of tiny are seen all around us in the Information Age: transistors, microchips, laptops, cell phones. In Making Stuff: Smaller, host David Pogue examines the latest in high-powered nano-circuits and micro-robots that may one day hold the key to saving lives. 

Do: the Smaller activity Making Microbot Models beginning on page 10 of the Making Stuff Activity Guide (available for free download).
Publish Post

Watt about video game consoles?

Video games can increase more than your hand-eye coordination, they also impact your energy bill. So how do video game consoles compare when it comes to energy consumption? The Electric Power Research Institute, Inc. (EPRI) decided to put three popular gaming consoles to the test—Nintendo Wii™, Sony PlayStation,® and Microsoft® Xbox 360—to find out if they could be as much a drain on your pocket as they are on your time.

EPRI tested each system for one hour of active play using EA Sports’ Madden 2011 football game, which is widely played on all three game consoles. EPRI found that the Nintendo Wii system used an average of 13.7 watts, the Sony PlayStation 3 used an average of 84.8 watts, and the Microsoft Xbox 360 used an average of 87.9 watts.  

Other findings include:
 -Gaming consoles are getting greener. The EPRI tests also found that all three systems consume less power than their earlier versions.
-The Nintendo Wii™ system uses six time less power than a Sony PlayStation®3 or Microsoft Xbox 360® in active mode.

-According to Nielsen Company findings in 2006, the heaviest console users average 5 hours and 45 minutes of use per day and account for approximately 75 percent of all console use.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Space Shuttle Challenger - A quarter century of inspiration

Space Shuttle Columbia (NASA)

When NASA selected the first civilian to travel into space, it wasn’t a rock star or a journalist—it was a teacher. January 28, 2011 is the 25th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, when seven explorers lost their lives doing something that they believed in. On January 28, 1986, I was a sixth grade student, and I’ll never forget the immediate silence that fell over my middle school cafeteria when the principal announced the event over the PA system during lunch. We all filed back to our classrooms to watch the television coverage for the rest of the school day. 

Christa M (NASA)

That event solidified in me what had been a growing desire that began when I was four years old and watched Carl Sagan champion the need to explore the stars in his Cosmos series. Ten years after Challenger, I graduated from college with a degree in Physics and Astronomy and took my first job teaching high school in the Bronx. I learned more science that first year of teaching, and found more inspiration trying to help my students’ explore their own questions, than I had ever considered possible.


In the wake of September 11, 2001, NASA reached out to New York City students and offered 52 student experiment modules that would travel on a Space Shuttle mission. I found myself working with a group of NYC middle school students to help them develop their own collection of experiments that we would pack and send off to be launched into space. The Space Shuttle became our classroom. As we watched the Space Shuttle carry our experiments into orbit on January 16, 2003, I finally felt like I was playing a small role in space exploration. This was mission STS-107, and it tragically would be the last flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia, which disintegrated on reentry into the atmosphere, killing all seven crew members. 

STS-107 Crew (NASA)
As I faced the loss of another Space Shuttle, I found myself on the other side of sixth grade. Now responsible for helping a large group of sixth graders try to understand the enormity of what had happened, I reconnected with my Challenger experience. I found new inspiration in the words of Christa McAuliffe, a teacher from Concord, NH who was one of the seven crew members lost on Challenger“I touch the future. I teach.” 

Rachel Connolly
Director of Education, NOVA