Staring skyward at their Elastic-Launched Glider. We’re so proud of Jacob (on the left) representing his school at the state Science Olympiad competition. 

In March and April, our family was busy with Jacob helping his team for the Colorado Science Olympiad tournament. Plenty of after-school sessions, evenings at the kitchen island tuning his handiwork, and family trips to Colorado State University – Pueblo and Colorado School of Mines (known around here as just “Mines” — note the URL if you click through the link) for the competitions.

Science Olympiad is a set of competitions in a wide assortment of science and technology topics. You can click the link above to learn more. I remember hearing about it when I was in middle and high school, and for a while I thought I had participated in a regional tournament when I was growing up in Virginia, but now I’m more certain I had participated in Odyssey of the Mind.

I’m thrilled Jacob expressed interest in this group; he has a wonderful group of friends, not just in his own grade, but also in 7th and 8th grade.

The competitions blend of classroom testing, problem solving exercises, and hands-on homemade projects that are built to achieve some sort of goal. Jacob represented his school in the following competitions:

  • Solar System test
  • Road Scholar, which involves a problem solving exercise with maps. Jacob needed to be familiar with USGS Quads to be successful in this.
  • Elastic-Launched Glider competition. The students craft a glider from lightweight wood, launch it with an elastic launcher of some sort, and see how long it stays airborne.


Jacob’s glider had a LOT of trouble and wasn’t airborne for very long. I didn’t take any video. But here’s a video of one that stayed airborne for nearly 30 seconds (and won!) at the 2014 North Carolina competition at NC State.

Reminder: This is NOT Jacob’s team! This is NOT even in Colorado!

Jacob’s school finished in the middle of the pack for the state, and we’re particularly proud of Jacob’s performance in the Road Scholar competition, where he and his partner placed 7th out of the 30 teams! He’s looking forward to joining the team again next year. He was taking keen interest in the better-performing gliders and seems to have a lot of ideas for next year.

18. July 2013 · Comments Off on The Vollmer Space Program is a GO! · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , , ,
Timmy built a small rocket that had a lot of problems during construction, but ended up launching successfully not once, but four times!

Timmy built a small rocket that had a lot of problems during construction, but ended up launching successfully not once, but four times! Twice it nosed right into the ground, but Timmy got it to launch again.

Jacob is very proud of his "Far Side" rocket.

Jacob is very proud of his “Far Side” rocket.

Earlier this week, I was hauling the boys on errand after errand all over Colorado Springs. One of the errands was a short stop at Hobby Lobby to “dry mount” one of Timmy’s Atlanta Braves posters.

While waiting for the work to be done (about 15 minutes) I took the kids to the model crafts aisle. I thought they would look at the airplane kits, but they instead wandered over to the model rockets.

More »

The purpose of this blog post is to have a place to quickly compare the two weather stations I have in my backyard.

The top “sticker” is for our Davis Instruments Vantage Pro 2, circa 2004. This weather station has performed reliably for our family at each of our last four homes.

The bottom “sticker” is reporting from our AcuRite Pro Weather Center. It just arrived about a week ago as part of a GeekMom product test.

This is part of my comparison project — I have Weather Underground archiving both weather stations’ data. I can only choose one weather station with which I can associate the webcam, so it’s on the incumbent weather station.

So…what you SHOULD be seeing are similar temperatures, dewpoints and barometric pressures. I’m not convinced the wind data will match very well, the Davis anemometer is very old and doesn’t seem to be spinning as well as it used to.

Comment below and let me know what you think….

I could have sworn I had heard about the Pensacola MESS Hall from the Pensacola With Kids blog, but I can’t find the reference article.  Oh well.

Trust me when I say that I had first heard about it through Pensacola With Kids, but I can’t find the original review now.  But what I did find was this story in the Pensacola Digest that came out not long after the facility opened in June.

This facility currently is only scheduled to be open through the 3rd week of August (August 18th according to their Facebook page).

So what is the MESS Hall?  Well, for starters, MESS = Math, Engineering, Science and Stuff.  It’s a science center unlike anything I had ever seen.  And trust me, I have been to many many science museums and explorer-type centers in my days.

The MESS Hall is in downtown Pensacola just a block off Palafox Street near the center square.  After spending time here, the family can adjourn to a nice dinner nearby.

The MESS Hall has attempted to capture the feeling of a traditional mess hall, which is a military term for where servicemembers eat on the base or on their ships.  The kids will walk in (after paying the $5 per person admission), and are greeted with a open space with tables and assorted areas for free play with wind tunnels, marble run parts and pendulums.  The walls are covered in posters featuring optical illusions.

More »

07. August 2011 · Comments Off on Timmy’s Apple Tree · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

About a month ago, when our friends the Goldmans were visiting from North Carolina, Timmy and Johnny had apples as a snack.

“Um, okay…I guess that’s exciting…”

Wait, there’s more!  I promise!

Timmy typically makes one pass around an apple, taking off the skin and any flesh underneath that the first set of bites will cover.  Then he calls himself done.  He doesn’t eat any part of the apple that doesn’t have skin in the same bite.  Frustrating, but at least he’s eating apples.  He eats 3-4 per week, can’t complain about that….

Johnny, on the other hand, is very good about eating as much of the apple as he can, and he left a minimal core behind, complete with the seeds exposed.

Timmy had never noticed the seeds in the core before, and immediately wanted to plant the seeds from Johnny’s apple core.  Amidst all the chaos of our friends visiting, I made Timmy set the seeds aside and promised to plant them when things had calmed down some.  I needed time to prepare a place for the seeds to go and I didn’t want to do it yet.

We had a planter that the boys made at Lowe’s last year, complete with a window in the front to let you see the root action.  I had to clean out the dead carrot plant debris and refilled the container w/ fresh soil.  We planted the two seeds on July 13th.  I wasn’t optimistic.

On the 18th, the boys flew up to their grandparents’ house in New York.  So far, the container hadn’t done much, but on the 22nd, this is what we had:

Here it is on the 26th, just before I left for New York to pick up the kids:

And this morning:

Timmy’s so excited about this, and I’m glad I let him go forward with this experiment, against my better judgement.  Timmy’s already making plans about where to plant the apple “tree” when it’s big enough to plant outside.  He pointed to a corner of the backyard and declared “It needs to go HERE!”

Again, I’m not optimistic…apple trees don’t typically grow in this part of the country.  I have a large patio planter that we can use, if it comes to that.

04. August 2011 · 1 comment · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

I’d been writing about the tadpoles and our pond every couple weeks, so here’s the latest:

The pond has been doing very very well.  The water is nice and clear, we’ve had very little issue for the past couple weeks, although the “hair algae” is starting to grow again, which means a manual scrubbing of the stone surfaces.  I have to do this every 6-8 weeks as it is…no big deal, except it’s really hot outside!

The goldfish are continuing to flourish and grow well.  I guess that addage is true: goldfish will grow into their surroundings.

As for the tadpoles, when the kids and I returned from New York, the three tadpoles each looked distinctively different from each other.  One had his front and hind legs, one had long back legs, and the third one still looked like a tadpole.

Here’s the one with the front and hind legs, he was stuck to the side of the Critter Carrier when I first saw him after getting back.  You can see the one with only the hind legs just below him.

Unfortunately, that well-developed one had passed away the following morning.  Boo…so now we’re down to two.

The one that only had hind legs on Sunday now has his front legs, and the most-tadpolish looking one has hind legs coming in.

I’m now at an impasse about what to feed these guys — allegedly they transition from eating green matter to wanting more bugs and stuff.  I might pick up some crickets at the store tomorrow.

20. July 2011 · Comments Off on Spawn of the Pond · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

Last week I talked about bringing 3 tadpoles into the house as a mini-science lesson for the boys.  Those tadpoles spent the weekend in a glass mixing bowl while all of our visitors were here.  They swam around, eating fish food and leaving plenty of algae-green-colored droppings.  You could see visible changes in their eyes and by the end of the weekend, the telltale legs had sprouted on the two largest ones.

July 13th

July 18th

On Monday I went to the local pet store and picked up a medium-sized “Critter Carrier” and set up some rocks on one end.  This will be an area for the tadpoles to start hanging out once they figure out what to do with their legs 🙂

You can see one of the tadpoles in the center foreground, and there’s one in the center of the pack of the tank.

In other pond news, I got some good pictures of what I assume is the tadpoles’ mother:

This son-of-a-gun is LOUD at night.  My condolences to all our houseguests who have to sleep in Jacob’s bedroom whose window is right next to this pond.

And the fish in the pond seem happy.  Unlike the two sets of koi we had, these folks come crowding over when I stand nearby, they know where their food is coming from, ha ha!

04. April 2011 · Comments Off on Florida Discoveries 7: Emerald Coast Science Center, Fort Walton Beach · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , , ,

My sister Margaret and her 3 sons were in town most of last week.  It’s always really wonderful when my sister’s family visits.  All 5 of our boys are almost like a pack of wolves, they rarely fight, and Margaret and I can talk talk talk talk talk talk talk…..

Did I mention we talk?  We were up till 1-2am every night they were here…

Ironically, the weather was fabulous for the 5-6 days prior to their arrival, and on the day they left, it was once again sunny and warm.  They were greeted with windy, cloudy days, complete with a severe weather outbreak on one of the days!

But that didn’t stop us.  I’ll write about our chilly kayaking trip in my next post, but for now I’ll discuss the activity we did on the one day I took the boys out of school.  It thunderstormed most of the day, so we visited the Emerald Coast Science Center in Fort Walton Beach, which is about 30 minutes east of us.

It’s a small operation, probably about 2 hours total to see the whole thing.  And that was with 5 very curious, geeky boys.  They enjoyed it just the same, they were especially interested in the hands-on activities, such as the bubble tables and the interactive health and anatomy areas.

Enjoy some pictures from our afternoon.  After we visited the museum, we met up with our friend Lisa who lived nearby.  By then, the rain had stopped and the boys enjoyed a couple more hours at Fort Walton Landing park.

Just off Highway 98 in old historic Fort Walton Beach.

The kids didn’t seem to care that this “Hot Hands” exhibit didn’t really work anymore.

Playing with the Van De Graff machine.

This was fun…you open/close the mirrors to make the mice multiply.

Timmy trying to figure out how the color lights work for this exhibit.

The bubble room was by far the most popular area!

Quite a face, huh?

The boys were having contests to see who could make the longest bubble!

This had the makings of a really great picture, except for the little ones having their eyes closed….

So we suggested they shade their eyes and this is what we got….
12. August 2010 · Comments Off on Nebraska Discoveries 17: Ashfall Fossil Beds & "Fossil Vacations" · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

A couple weeks ago, Jacob and I (Timmy was in NY visiting Grammy and Grampy) headed out with our friends and neighbors, Shannon, Brandon, Connor and Dean to the Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historic Park, which is near the small town of Royal, Nebraska.

From 2010 07 30 Ashfall Fossil Beds

We had learned about it from our visits to Morrill Hall State Museum in Lincoln, there’s a room dedicated to the skeletons assembled from Ashfall, along with an advertisement for the facility.

Ashfall isn’t close. About 180 miles from Bellevue, and well over 3 hours worth of driving each way. So Shannon and I aimed for a 7am departure time, and headed out.

View Larger Map

More »

16. January 2010 · 1 comment · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

Greetings from Norway, I mean, Nebraska!

On Thursday night, after a couple days of melting ice and cold nights, and after a weak cold front moved through, saturated air near the surface brought foggy conditions to our neighborhood. On Friday morning, I saw our trees covered in heavy frost.

From 2010 01 15 Rime Ice or Hoar Frost?

Pretty isn’t it?

Upon a closer look…

From 2010 01 15 Rime Ice or Hoar Frost?
From 2010 01 15 Rime Ice or Hoar Frost?

…I noticed the ice was forming into long needles, all oriented in one direction.

I had to trudge through knee-deep drifts that we still had in our front yard to get these pictures, but they’re definitely worth it.

My first thought was that this is rime icing, or rime-type frost. Defined in Wikipedia as “a type of frost that occurs quickly, often under conditions of heavily saturated air and windy conditions. Ships traveling through Arctic seas may accumulate rime on the rigging. Unlike hoar frost, which has a feathery appearance, rime generally has an icy solid appearance. In contrast to the formation of hoar frost, in which the water vapor condenses slowly and directly into icy feathers, Rime typically goes through a liquid phase where the surface is wet by condensation before freezing.”

The temperature range was right for rime ice, as were the saturation conditions and winds, which drive the direction of ice formation.

But Dave told me there were discussions as to whether this was a phenomena called “hoar frost”.

No, not “whore frost”. I don’t even want to go there.

Might this be “hoarfrost” or “hoar frost”, which is also mentioned in that Wikipedia link above? When hoar frost conditions have a slight breeze they can orient their formation in one particular direction. But according to the definition and pictures here, I’m less inclined to think so.

I think what we have is actually “soft rime”. What I saw and experienced fit all of these definitions, the thin, milky white needles, and the ease with which is fell off the trees in the slightest breeze.

The winds were from a northerly direction Thursday night, if there was a wind at all. So according to the definition, the needles should be pointing towards the north, and indeed they were.

So I think this is “soft rime”, but take a look at these other pictures and see what you think:

From 2010 01 15 Rime Ice or Hoar Frost?
From 2010 01 15 Rime Ice or Hoar Frost?
From 2010 01 15 Rime Ice or Hoar Frost?
From 2010 01 15 Rime Ice or Hoar Frost?
From 2010 01 15 Rime Ice or Hoar Frost?
From 2010 01 15 Rime Ice or Hoar Frost?
From 2010 01 15 Rime Ice or Hoar Frost?

UPDATE: On Saturday morning, the same conditions turned out even heavier rime, and I just took a few pictures and will add them momentarily.