NASA Posters Promote Space Tourism

Exoplanet Travel Bureau
Exoplanet Travel Bureau

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab has released a beautiful set of space tourism posters, and you can download and print them for free! If you’ve ever wished you could have some colorful artwork that promotes exploration and space travel, this is what you need. My inner middle-school Space Camp nerd is giddy with excitement!

These posters feature exotic locations such as Mars, Europa, Kepler-16b, Jupiter, and Titan. They are reminiscent of the style of vintage national parks posters. The new designs are a continuation of NASA/JPL’s Exoplanet Travel Bureau series.

Check out the whole collection at the NASA JPL site. While you’re there, take a look at the other features of Exoplanet Travel Bureau. You can research potential travel destinations, calculate travel times, and create your own planet!

51 Pegasi b
51 Pegasi b Greetings From Your First Exoplanet
Kepler-186f Where the Grass is Always Redder on the Other Side
Kepler-16b Where Your Shadow Always Has Company
PSO J318.5-22
PSO J318.5-22 Where the Nightlife Never Ends!

FIRST Robotics Competition 2015

Sport for the Mind™

The FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) 2015 world robotics competition was held April 22-25 in St. Louis, where more than 17,000 students from around the globe competed in the in world’s largest robotics celebration. The exciting conclusion had a crowd of more than 40,000 fans cheering the winning teams from League City, Texas, and Davis, Clovis, and Palmdale, California.

FIRST Robotics Championship 2015
FIRST Robotics Championship 2015

What is FIRST?

The FIRST championship is the culmination of a season of robotics engineering, building, and competitions for kids (ages 6 – 18) from more than 30 countries. Boys and girls around the world work with mentors and professional engineers to build customized robots and test them in regional team competitions.

Inspiring Kids in STEM

FIRST teams have spirit!
FIRST teams have spirit!
FIRST founder, Dean Kamen:

Our mission is to show students of every age that science, technology, and problem-solving are not only fun and rewarding, but are proven paths to successful careers and a bright future for us all.

When you see the FIRST teams collaborating, solving problems, and cheering together, you can’t dispute the value of this program in the lives of these kids. Besides giving them opportunities to learn and apply scientific principles, they also gain experience in teamwork, public presentation, and sportsmanship. No matter what professional field they end up choosing, those skills are invaluable.

Helping Bridge the Gender Gap in STEM

Not only are girls getting involved in co-ed robotics teams, they are leading their teams, encouraging their friends to get involved, and even comprising all-girl teams.

Learn More about FIRST

Visit US First
Follow FIRST on Facebook or Twitter
Learn how to become a FIRST volunteer/mentor

World Water Day Giveaway

The UN first designated March 22 as World Water Day in 1993, and fifteen years later, it’s still important to spread the word about clean water access! To help share World Water Day, leave a comment on this post and you’ll have a chance to win a beautiful scarf and umbrella from World Vision!

First, watch this video! Matt Damon (co-founder of explains some important stuff about water and toilets.

Why worry about clean water? Have some facts!

  • Water is essential to life. The human body is 50-65% water. A newborn baby is 78% water.
  • The World Health Organization recommends at least 7.5 liters of water per person per day, and that minimum doesn’t include water for hygiene and sanitation.
  • Each American uses about 7500 liters of water per day.
  • In developing nations, women and girls spend 25% of each day gathering water for their families.
  • Handwashing is one of the best ways to remove germs and prevent illness and disease. (Up to one trillion germs can live in one gram of poop.)
  • Every minute, a child dies from a water-related disease.

(facts from World Water Day site)

Water (World Vision)
Water (World Vision)

How you can help with World Water Day

One of the World Water Day partners is World Vision, and they have a great list of things to do for World Water Day. Of course, you can come up with your own ways to spread clean water awareness, and help with local water conservation efforts, too. This year’s specific World Water Day theme is “Water and Sustainable Development,” so you can also learn and talk about #water #sustainability #wateris and #waternow.

  • Start with a tweet: 22 March is #WorldWaterDay. Use #WaterIs to share messages about #Water & #Sustainability @UN-Water
  • Organize an event, such as a walk or run. One middle school is hosting a 1 mile barefoot walk to raise money and awareness of how hard it is for some people to find and gather water every day.
  • Comment for a chance to win!
    Comment for a chance to win scarf!
  • Give clean water by donating money. You could try or worldvision, or find a local organization that you can help by volunteering.
  • Take shorter showers. It may not seem important, but the average 5 minute American shower uses more water than an average person in a developing country gets all day.
  • Print and share some World Water Day posters from UN Water. There are several to choose from here.

Whatever you decide to do, even if it’s just talking about the need for clean water, do something. Water is life! World Water Day is March 22.

Leave a comment below for a chance to win this beautiful scarf (normally $95) and an umbrella! (Scarf and umbrella will be provided and shipped by World Vision.)

Amazing Water “Printer” aka the Waterfall Swing

I don’t know how I haven’t seen this before, but this Waterfall Swing is amazing! The video is from the World Maker Faire in 2011, and it is beautiful and mesmerizing. Take a look and see how this programmed waterfall “prints” shapes of water in the air.

What a great demonstration of science and art! I’d like one of these for my backyard, please.

For more information, including additional videos, photos, and technical specifications, check out the Waterfall Swing site.

Black Widow in my Garage!

I live in a small town in the high and dry southwest corner of Colorado. We have lots of critters here, including deer, elk, black bears, and black widow spiders. I did know that it was possible for black widows to live in my neighborhood, but until a couple of days ago, I didn’t know that they ARE in fact living right here in my house.

Here’s my story…

I was returning from my morning chauffeur run, after dropping off my three kids at their schools. After parking inside my garage, I approached the door that separates the garage from the rest of the house. I just happened to look up at the top of the door. There was something black there, right at the top edge, where the door meets the frame. See it in the photo below? It’s pretty big.

What's that thing on my door?
What’s that thing on my door?

I got closer to see what it was. A spider! It didn’t occur to me that it might be a black widow, so I got up close and took some photos. I was a biology major in college, and I try not to freak out about critters.

Wow, cool! A big spider! Never seen one quite like this in the house before. Good thing I looked up before opening the door, or it would have landed on my head!

Oooh, look! Big spider!
Oooh, look! Big spider!

I even took a video of the spider and posted it on Facebook. I asked if anyone knew what kind of spider this was.

My husband was the first to reply. “Black widow.” Hahaha. He’s just like that. But then other people started commenting that it really did look like a black widow. I thought they were kidding, because they know I’m gullible and trusting. So they posted reference photos and descriptions and “how to identify a black widow” tips.

I started to wonder. I grabbed a can of Raid and went out the front door and took the long way around to the garage door. I sprayed the spider down from the top of the door to the floor. It was still pretty lively, so I gave it another generous squirt and left it there for a while. After it stopped moving, I went inside and got a juice glass and a piece of paper.

I scooped the spider into the glass and took it inside, where I covered it with plastic wrap and secured it with a rubber band. When I looked closely, I noticed it was still twitching, so I put the glass into a Ziploc bag, and placed the whole thing in my freezer. I was not going to mess with a “mostly dead,” possibly deadly spider.

When I was sure it was completely dead, I took it out of the freezer. I had learned that black widows usually have a red hourglass on the underside of the abdomen. For years, I’d thought that marking was supposed to be on the spider’s back! So when I first observed my sneaky spider friend, I assumed it wasn’t a black widow. No red on the back! Who looks at the belly?!

Red marking on underbelly!
Red marking on underbelly!

Oh my goodness. Yes, it’s a female black widow. Apparently, they are prolific breeders. Females rarely leave the nest, and they typically produce one or two egg sacs, each containing up to 900 eggs. Therefore, it’s likely that there are up to 1800 black widow babies nearby. Great.

I think I deserve some credit for staying pretty calm. I could have freaked out! I admit, when I thought about how many more spiders might be in the garage, I considered using a flamethrower for spring cleaning. Instead, my husband brought me a pair of work gloves and some home insecticide. True love!

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Girls Who Code Summer Camp

Girls Who Code photo from the program’s Facebook page

Hey, smart and computer-savvy girls! If you’re looking for an amazing and educational summer camp, check out the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion program!

The program provides an intensive training experience in robotics, web design and mobile development for girls in their sophomore and junior years of high school. In addition to classroom instruction, participants receive mentoring from female professionals, and take field trips to tech companies, such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter.

The Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program curriculum is designed and research-proven to engage and encourage young women in computer science. Each topic, activity and speaker is chosen to empower the young women with the skills to contribute to their schools and communities.

For more information on Girls Who Code, or to apply for the summer immersion program, visit the site.

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Educational Robot Toy – Science Gift Idea!

My daughter saw this solar robot kit in our Hearthsong catalog, and she is hoping Santa will bring it for Christmas. Ever since she saw the movie Wall-E, she’s wanted her own robot!

This one is a solar powered robot that can be configured into 14 different shapes. It includes parts that allow it to move on land and/or water. And it does bear somewhat of a resemblance to Wall-E! It’s $31.98 at HearthSong.

From the description:

Our solar-powered pal can assume 14 different modes, ranging from comical to educational, including a wagging-tail dog, running beetle, walking crab, surfer, and speedster. Yet it asks only for direct sunlight.

Here’s a video that shows how the robot works.

I’m kind of hoping Santa brings this robot for my daughter for Christmas. And maybe an extra one for me!

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