With Spring here we wanted to share some science activities with you all that you can do at home. Here are some videos with instructions on how to make a hexaflexagon and an electric kaleidoscope.
En español: https://bgcuv.org/steam-kit-de-primavera-2022/
Some of Vi Hart’s videos talking about the history and method of making hexaflexagon:
Vi Hart was a big inspiration for our hexaflexagon activity. Visit their YouTube channel to learn more about some interesting math concepts and ideas.
- We were inspired by a Light Box concept posted on the San Francisco Exploratorium’s blog, but after some research and development came up with our own spin on this cool idea. Both the Exploratorium’s idea and ours originate from the artist, Taizo Matsumura and their contraption called the “Hikari no Hako.”
- Sketchpad Blog Post: https://www.exploratorium.edu/tinkering/blog/2010/07/26/light-box-a-great-tool-for-exploring-the-museum
- Taizo Matsumura site: http://plaza.harmonix.ne.jp/~taizo/
A Helpful Mantra Before You Begin
(Use deep breaths in and long exhales out at the end of each line.)
It’s okay to be awesome.
I am awesome.
It’s okay to be great.
I am great.
When I work hard and set my mind to it,
I can do it.
I can be my best.
I can do my best,
Because I am my best.
A JusTme breathe along video if you want to take your calm to another level: https://vimeo.com/227543375
Hexaflexagons are a shape made by folding paper. Something special about them is that even though they are flat, they actually have 3 sides.
We can use the 3rd side for hidden messages or to make art that changes whenever we rotate our hexaflexagon.
We’re going to write out the instructions but it’s a lot easier to follow pictures so we’re going to include those too! You’ll also have two hexaflexagons, first a template with cute bunnies, and then a blank canvas to make your own.
- Bunny Hexaflexagon Template
- Blank Hexaflexagon Templates
- Invisible Tape
- Something to color with
Steps to create:
Cut the hexaflexagon out along the outside line. Do your best to cut along the lines!
Fold and then unfold the cut out in half hotdog style.
Tape the back of the cut out and fold it in half again, hotdog style.
Pre-crease along all of the triangle edges.
Fold along the edges to make a hexagon (6-sided shape) where all the bunnies are facing each other.
When you’re making the blank Hexaflexagon, make sure it folds correctly before gluing it together
Tape the two faces that say “glue” together.
You should have a working hexaflexagon!
This would be a good time to color or draw on the different sides.
- The branch of math having to do with points, lines, and shapes
- A six-sided shape
- Rabbit template
- Vi Hart (paragon of hexaflexagon–get it?) explanations:
The Electric Kaleidoscope
- Medium Binder Clip
- 3V Coin Battery
- 2x 12″ Copper Tape
- LED Light
- Invisible Tape
- Paper Cup
- 8″x11″ Cardstock
- 12″x12″ Mylar
- Assortment of Beads
- Use the bottom of the paper cup to trace a circle on the edge of the mylar sheet (the reflective material). Use your scissors to cut the circle out of the mylar.
Set the circle aside for now.
Find something around you with a straight edge that is about the same length as the cardstock. A ruler works, but so does the spine of a book or the edge of a box.
- On the right side of your cardstock, do your best to mark 2-inches from the edge on both the top and bottom with a pencil. Then draw a line connecting these points.
Flip the cardstock over and do this again on the backside. Make sure that your next line is on the opposite side of the cardstock.
- Take a strip of the copper tape and apply it along the length of the line that you just made with your pencil. Do this slowly and with careful intention.
A good idea with the copper tape is to slowly peel the paper backing and press the copper tape as you travel along the pencil drawn line. Do not peel the backing off the copper tape all at once or it will roll up and stick to itself.
Copper is malleable, meaning we can shape it and it will hold that shape. This copper tape was stored in a loop, so it will want to return to that shape once the paper backing is removed. This is why it’s a good idea to slowly, and with a lot of thought, peel the paper backing from the tape and press the copper tape as we apply.
It’s okay if the copper tape does not perfectly follow your line. The line is just a helpful guide.
Do this for both sides of the cardstock. Make sure that the copper tape does not overlap and touch the copper tape on the other side of the cardstock. If the copper tape does overlap, just scrape away the part that overlaps, so it no longer touches the opposite side.
So–why are we using copper tape? Well, engineer, copper is conductive. Meaning a property of copper is that an electric current can flow freely through it. Copper does not offer much resistance to the electrical current flowing from the coin battery to the LED. The paper backing on the tape and the cardstock offer more resistance than the copper. So, paper is a bit of a resistor–not a great one–but compared to copper it is. So, engineer, copper has properties that make it a great electrical conductor and easy to work with. It has low resistance to electrical charge, it is flexible and it is malleable.
- Now, let’s be an electrical engineer and test our LEDs and batteries. What do you notice about your coin battery? What differences are there between each side? One side is smooth and has a plus (+) sign on it. This is the cathode, or positive side of our battery. The other side of the battery that has dimples is the anode, or negative (-) side of our battery.
Now look at your LED. What do you notice about the legs of the LED? You might notice how one leg is longer than the other. The longer leg is our cathode (+). The shorter leg is the anode (-).
Test the LED light on your battery. Have each leg of the LED touch one side of the battery and then pinch the legs on the battery. Does the LED light up? If so, hurray! Notice which leg is touching which side of the battery. If the LED is not lighting up, no worries! Just switch the LED legs around. Does it light up now? What’s different this time?
Set the battery aside.
- You may need an adult for this step. Gently bend the LED light’s legs into a 90-degree angle.
- Choose which end of the cardstock will be the top of your kaleidoscope and which will be the bottom. We are now going to attach our LED to our copper circuit. This will be the bottom of our kaleidoscope.
Tape one LED leg to the front of your cardstock along the copper tape. Make sure the entire leg is in contact with the copper tape before taping it securely with the clear plastic tape.
Do this with the other leg, but along the strip of copper on the backside of your cardstock. Your LED is now securely attached.
- Find your binder clip. We are going to clip it to the opposite end of our LED. This is the top of our kaleidoscope. The binder clip, or more importantly one of its metal legs, will act like an on/off switch for our circuit.
Close one leg of the binder clip. Leave the other leg pulled back.
Take a moment, engineer, and notice the properties of the materials that we have connected to your copper circuit. What property do they have in common? If you guessed that they are all metal, you’re right! The binder clip’s leg is metal. The LED’s legs are metal. Metal is typically a good conductor of electrical charge. Some metals, like copper, are better conductors than others.
- Cut the mylar with your scissors, so that it is the same size as the cardstock. You can do this by placing your cardstock over the mylar and cutting away the extra mylar. You can hang these extra pieces of mylar in a window so they reflect the sun’s light and create some cool light art designs.
- Place the fitted mylar over the side of the cardstock with the folded binder clip leg. The mylar will cover the binder clip leg. Now tape the corners of the mylar to the cardstock (and only the corners!). The mylar is the inside of our kaleidoscope.
What property makes the mylar a good choice for the inside of our kaleidoscope?
- Have the paper cup close to you. Roll the cardstock and mylar into a tube shape. Make sure when you’re rolling the cardstock and mylar into a tube that you can still see a strip of the copper tape on the outside of the roll.
Roll the left edge of the cardstock under the right edge of the cardstock.
Make sure the tube’s diameter fits snugly into the mouth of the paper cup.
Now using the invisible tape, tape your kaleidoscope securely along the overlapping edge of the tube, so that the tube keeps its shape.
- Now take your mylar circle from Step 1 and tape it to the bottom of the paper cup with your invisible tape. This will act like a mirror at the bottom of our electric kaleidoscope.
- Next we will take our cardstock tube and place it into the paper cup. The LED end should be in the paper cup and the binder clip end should be outside of the paper cup.
- Now we will tape our battery to the cardstock using invisible tape. We will tape the battery on the end of the tube nearest the binder clip.
First we want to test our battery and our switch. Hold your battery along the copper tape and close the binder clip leg on to the face of the battery. Press firmly down on the binder clip leg and onto the battery. If the battery is oriented correctly, and making a solid connection, the LED light should turn on. If it does not, worry not engineer! Just flip the battery over and try again.
When you achieve your closed circuit and the LED turns on, we will then tape the battery onto the copper. We only want to tape half of the battery, so that the binder clip leg makes a secure connection on the half that is not taped.
- You’re almost done, engineer! Now drop the beads into your kaleidoscope.
- Turn on your LED and look inside. You’ve made an electric kaleidoscope. As you rotate the tube in your hands the light will bounce off the faces of the beads and make some interesting light designs inside your kaleidoscope. Hint: This electric kaleidoscope works best in a completely dark space.
- When you’re done with your kaleidoscope, flip the binder clip leg up and your LED should turn off, you’ve opened the circuit. When you flip the binder clip leg down and it touches the battery you are closing or completing the circuit and the LED light turns on.
You did it, you have made a complete, working electrical circuit. You are an electrical engineer! Pat yourself on the back and enjoy your creation.
Some things we learned:
- How to make a simple series circuit with a switch.
- The parts of a battery.
- Physical properties of certain materials:
- Copper is Conductive.
- Copper is Malleable.
- Paper is a Resistor.
- Mylar is Reflective