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Sanity Savers: Science School Holiday Activities

Sanity Savers: Science School Holiday Activities

With the festivities over, the summer now stretches to long days of play, treats….and driving parents crazy.

If you are looking for some activities to occupy the little ones, there are some last minute options:

  • Apple Kids and Parents Programs – Held at various flagship stores, these are mainly one hour programs that uses apple products.  We were there for a session that teaches kids how to use Sphero the robotic ball using an iPad.  Its was a free session but we were decently surprised by the quality of the instructor. (Click on Kids & Parents to filter out the other programs below the calendar.)
  • The Brickman Experience (aka Lego Exhibition by a Licensed Lego Professional) – Held in an unobtrusive corner of Docklands, its a nice place to get out of the heat.  While not as sophisticated as Lego Discovery Center, it provides plenty of space, less queues and some long table for kids to go mad with lego parts and put them on display. (Note: Cash free venue, remember to bring your card.) See the photo for what we created.
  • Scienceworks – 2 Levels of exhibits in all aspects of science with plenty of interactive displays.  The second level has been recently revamped with a preschool display with hands on creative and problem solving activities. Free for kids up to 16 years old.  Adults can either purchase a museum membership for free entry or pay a single entry fee.
  • The Paper Market – Origami being the earliest form of engineering.  The kids can gets some hands on with this ancient science.  Its running until 19th January.  Free at the State Library of Victoria everyday.
  • Lego Free Play – Available at various libraries, check your local public library school holiday program.  Average an hour play sessions of Lego.  The best part? You won’t have stray pieces to step on the floor afterwards.

Hope this saves your sanity as the countdown to the first day of school begins in the summer heat!

Disclaimer

This is an unpaid blog post for your enjoyment.  We are in no way associated with Apple Inc, Brickman or public libraries.  We do have access to a Victoria Museum membership.

Thank You and Sharing the Love (Including Last Minute Ways to Do it)

Thank You and Sharing the Love (Including Last Minute Ways to Do it)

Its been an incredible first 6 months with all your support. Looking back, above the ability to share joys through our products, is being able to meet many of you who have many great ideas and opinions that enabled us to grow.

We want to take this opportunity to thank you for all your support, and look forward to seeing you all again in the New Year!!!

In the spirit of giving thanks, on Monday, we took a step back and decided to give back. We dropped in some gingerbread houses, tree and tree decorations to Knox Infolink.

 

 

 

 

 

Knox Infolink is a charity run by a small number of staff and an army of volunteers that distributes food and essentials, for people in Knox area who cannot afford them. Their hamper service is a lifesaver to households who are struggling, many through an unfortunate set of circumstances.

While they have now closed for donations for their hampers (mark November in your calendar next year for those who wish to contribute), there are still many last minute options available out there.

Last minute options for sharing:

  • Kmart Wishing Tree – Just pop in any Kmart and drop a toy/essentials to the Wishing Tree and get a tag for your Christmas tree at home. These are redistributed by charities. This is a great opportunity for kids to participate. They will gladly accept all new items – not just purchases from Kmart.
  • Salvation Army Donation – For those who cannot make it to a store physically you can donate cash which the Salvation Army can use to fund many projects across the country.
  • Volunteering – many organisations needs specific set of skills that can make a big difference. Some organisations that are looking for ongoing volunteers include Melbourne City Mission , Salvation Army , The Smith Family

We will be taking a short break for the festive season (returning on the 15th Jan 2017). In the meantime, stay safe and be kind to each other….

Holiday Watching: Genius, How Innovation is More Than Technology

Holiday Watching: Genius, How Innovation is More Than Technology

There is a perception that the latest technology leader has to be a technology genius that knows their field inside out. But in reality, many innovators are people who developed a curiosity and passion in the field of their choice. Combine that with ability to see how to put solutions together and tenacity.

A series currently available on SBS on Demand very cleverly illustrates that. Genius is an 8 part series that traces rivalry between competing innovators in the same field from Colt (of gun fame) to Steve Jobs. While it focuses on the rivalry, really its a portrait of a very human drama that end up defining history.

If nothing else, its very entertaining to watch.

Honorable Mention: If you are more into science and food, there is a series called Food Lab By Ben Milbourne. It is an attempt to bring together a cooking show and science theory behind it.

While the central idea is great, I struggled to watch more than one episode at a time. Involvement with University of Queensland scientists are a good touch. But I can’t help but mentally compare it to Alton Brown whose entertainment level compel one to bring out a notebook and pen to take notes in the middle of a recipe.

But if it means this is the start of many more science focused shows, bring it on!

Disclaimer

This is an unpaid post and we have no affliation with SBS or Alton Brown.

*** Reminder: Our sale day is on tomorrow.  Hope to see you all there! ***

A Not So Dumb Way to Get Your Message Across: A Look at Metro’s “Dumb Way to Die”

One thing I love about the technology and science field is that how great ideas come from the strangest and most unexpected left fields.  Very often these people, unconstrained by conventions or prior experience use technology in a way that really cut through the noise in very effective ways. Dumb Ways to Die team has definitely hit the ball out of the park when they decided to go one step further than most marketing team would have envisioned.  Turning a technology that is associated with entertainment, mobile game, into an educational tool.

Dumb Ways to Die, for those that don’t take public transport in Melbourne, was Metro Trains’ public safety announcement campaign pushed out in 2012.  It went viral overnight with its catchy tune and video.  Today it has spawned a series of sequel app games, junior games, soon to be upcoming VR game (more on this in a minute) and merchandise lines.

Looking for an innovative way to catch the attention of teenager and young adult bracket (“who thinks they are invincible”), Metro’s marketing team decided to approach it from a fun perspective.  The brilliant step was that, rather than stopping at the usual passive channels (e.g. poster, ad, song) of an advertising campaign, they went further in releasing a mobile app game where you actively prevent your “bean” from dying in a really “dumb” ways.

By making their audience participate, it reinforces the message but it also helps the message stay relevant.  There have been game updates for every major event to the game and their social media.  And as anybody who plays mini-games know, limted time updates are the key to keep people coming back for more.

But I think the most important point of this story is that by using technology in a way that works with human behaviour (rather than getting human to adapt to technology…looking at you iPhone X…), Metro has found a way to get their message out and stuck in the minds of people (over 10 million downloads of the original game at last count).

How effective was their campaign? As one of the panelist mentioned during the Dumb Ways to Die discussion at PAX Australia, “To have a mother once wrote to us saying you have saved my daughter’s life today. That is what matters.”

As mobile device (and hopefully one day our Internet infrastructure) technology becomes more sophisticated, it is shown time and again that technology originally made for entertainment would be used in everyday functional ways.  I am sure the game developers on the Dumb Ways to Die never imagined that their game writing skills would indirectly save someone’s life.  This is true in a lot of technology careers, just because a piece of technology doesn’t seem useful right now, doesn’t mean it never will be….

Good on Dumb Ways to Die team for showing us that!

(If you want to have a catchy tune stuck in your head for the next few days, have a look at their YouTube video above.)

For the original mobile app games and Junior games (latter more appropriate for the 3+ age group): Android Play Store or iTunes

The VR Game

As a sneak preview, they showed at PAX Australia their in development game in VR. While it is still in a mini-game format, the VR has allowed them to put in a dimension of multi-tasking that is required.  The aim is that character “Botch” is in a camping ground and you must keep him warm, fed and safe all at the same time…. which I am sure a lot of parents will find familiar.

It is not available yet, but I hope it is released soon.  We had a tonne of fun playing it.

Disclaimer

This is an unpaid post and we have no affliation with Metro Trains, Dumb Ways to Die or PAX.

Kickstarter Questions Reminder

There is only 2 weeks left to get in on our Kickstarter campaign.  Here is the link.  Remember any questions can be submitted through Kickstarter Q&A facility.  Alternatively give us a call!

Wizards, Invisibility Cloaks and Science?

Wizards, Invisibility Cloaks and Science?

As witches and wizards fly around this time of the year, I got to thinking about the genius that is J. K. Rowling in inspiring kids of all ages to read (me included!).

One of my favourite device in the books are the invisibility cloaks. Scientists have actually been having a go at this for ages. To my delight, I recently discovered that a team at University of Rochester have put together a cloaking device that can be made without electronics, by using simple behaviours of light.

What is Light?

Let’s take a step back, and look at what is light. Light is a ball (or a burst) of energy from any source (e.g. sun, computer screens, lamps) that our eyes can see. When our eyes see how the light ball get stopped, we interpret it as an image in our brains (how eyes see images: subject of another post).

The light ball travels from the sun through space in straight line and hit the first solid object that it encounters. 99% of the time this will mean that it gets stopped (much like a person running into a wall). This can be seen as a shadow.

However there are certain substance in our universe that has special properties. Rather than stopping the light ball dead, a mirror reflects the ball like a trampoline. It bounces off the mirror and travel in the new direction – until it meets the next solid surface where it will stop.

And there are lens (like in your glasses) where the light get to pass through but get slingshot around into a slightly different direction. This is like a detour around a traffic accident on a straight highway. Instead of cars travelling in a straight line, the cars curve around until it goes back to the road where it normally goes before hitting our eyes.

So how do invisibility device work then?

Invisibility cloak work by using the principle of bending the light. It uses a set of 4 lenses. As light pass through each lens, the path of the light get slightly altered. Until it creates enough space in the middle that a solid object like a hand can be placed in the middle without stopping the light getting to your eye.

But when you see the image through the lens, it looks like the hand is not in the middle. That is because our eyes are programmed to see anything that enters are eyes as if its straight in front, as it doesn’t know about the bent around path.

Kudos to the team at University of Rochester for using the KISS principle and thinking outside the box.

Kickstarter Update

Thanks to the people who have already backed us!!! There is still some Early Bird rewards available. Get it before you miss out.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/602705230/everyday-science-magic-food-x-science-fun

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Kickstarter is Live: Food X Science Fun

We are very excited to announce that our Kickstarter is alive and released into the wild.

Science need not be boring, scary or irrelevant…it is already all around us today. It is what drives our economy, and will be the bedrock of what our kids need to learn to function in their future careers.

Rather than writing another boring textbook, we are using something that will actually get the kids attention: Cookies.  Together with a little bit of the “Hidden Vegie Science” principle, we hope to inspire the next Elon Musk, Bill Gates…

Funding closes (Sunday) 19th Novemeber 2017. Limited quantity of early bird rewards available.

Come join us, click through to Kickstarter below

 

Data – the (very long winded) second language we all speak

I was fortunate enough to attend SINET 61, a major cybersecurity event supported by ACSGN. It was a very interesting event (hot button jobs alert: security, blockchain and IoT) with lots of expertise in one room. Fundamental to a lot of discussions was data. What is data?

Data traditionally means pieces of information stored/transmitted by a computer. Its the universal language most modern electronic speaks to each other. Google it and you will see 1s and 0s, and lots of green screens.

Let’s ignore all that, and go back to where it all started…{queue dream sequence music :)}

Once Upon a Time, when computers first evolved into the shape we know today, a lot of electronics sensors can only read 2 voltages correctly, On and Off. Through convention they were labelled as 1s and 0s.

Now let’s relabel them as As and Bs and the computer just become another person like us. But they are like a tourist that doesn’t speak English. Just like foreign languages, when you put letters in different orders you will form words that mean different things.

The down side of making words out of two letters is that you are limited with how many meanings you can make in a given word length. A 2 letter word (AA, AB, BA, BB) only allows you to represent 4 different ideas. In contrast, because there are 26 letters in English, 2 letter words gives you possible (26×26=) 676 unique words.

In order to emulate the English alphabet (so that humans can interact with machine without having to talk gibberish), a group of people called American National Standards Institute agreed to a set of zero and ones strings that will represent the alphabet and commonly used symbols. This standard is now known as ASCII character set. The added bonus is that machines from different manufacturers can now also understand each other when they operate on ASCII.

But what about the others...

At this point, I am expecting a lot of passionate people writing in to say, what about the other standards? Yes, there are other standards out there, but fundamentally they are an agreement to use different strings of 1s and 0s out there.

Like in the human world when different people speaks different languages. This cause a lot of issues when people try to use one set of data in one machine in one standard to another one that use a different standard, but that’s the subject of another post. 🙂

Every time you press a key on your keyboard, you are actually speaking in strings of 0s an 1s to your computer. You didn’t know you are talking a second language every time you use a keyboard did you?

Happy Melbourne Show Day! We Won! (Sorry Teemo & Winston)

We are excited to announce that it is that wonderful time of the year again to indulge oneself in showbag and rides.  Royal Melbourne Show starts on the 23rd September (Sat) to 3rd October (Tues).

What made us even more excited is that we can finally unveil one of our big projects!  We had entered 3 entries into the Melbourne Show Decorated Cakes Competition and we came away with a first and a second prizes!

First – Sugar “Ivory” Puzzle Ball

Five layers of free spinning sugar balls made out of sugar.  This is a homage to the ancient craft of carving these out of a single piece of ivory in the old days – without glue, so have to carve the whole thing in situ.

Second Prize – Miniature Opening Day of a Fruit & Veg Stand

A bit of fun to capture the chaos and exhilaration of a new business. This cake packs a lot of punch in a 16cm cube (Yes, its smaller than your Nespresso machine.)


Good Try – Homage to Overwatch and League of Legends

For all you gamers out there, breaking bread after a battle.

I will bring along a box of Kleenex for these boys when they get home… 🙂

Upcoming Kickstarter Campaign: Food X Science

We are very excited to announce our up and coming Kickstarter.  We’ve been hard at work…

In this Kickstarter campaign, we will be combining cookie and science together to help kids, and adults, to learn about the Science Magic that is around us in everyday life.  Rather than trying to learn abstract concepts from books, there is no better way to learn than be “hands on” with the object (and eating it!).

If you are interested in being one of the first to know when the campaign is launched (and potentially snag some early bird rewards), put your email into box below.  We will shoot you a headsup when that happens.

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