STEM Exploration Day is a Boise State University Event full of open science and engineering demonstrations. The Boise State Microgravity Team facilitated the use of Boise State’s wind tunnel as well as made us of Toys in Space material from the NASA education program.
When visitors arrived to the Civil Engineering building, one of the first sights they are greeted with is the Boise State Wind Tunnel. Which can get up to 500 miles per hours at top speeds. We blew the wind tunnel at a gentle 12 miles per hour for our purposes where we had children and parents create paper airplanes and then see how well they would fly in the wind tunnel.
We took a test rod, wrapped some string around it and then put across the test section of the wind tunnel and attached the paper airplanes to the end of the string, with the nose facing into the wind. Many paper airplanes were made. Some flew around the test section like crazy, others wobbled a bit and some flew straight and steady. A few of the kids that came to the table became very interested in making the best design they could for the wind tunnel and so they created more than one plane to fly.
At a near by table with some other members of the microgravity team were materials for the Toys in Space. Due to the loud nature of the Civil Engineering building and the fact that visitors were constantly coming a going, the Toys in Space video was played on a laptop on repeat and questions about the purpose of the video were answered. The most successful toy at the exhibit was the gyroscope. It was the most hands on activity and could be related to the children’s scope of knowledge well. Members of the Microgravity Team would demonstrate to individual groups how to wind up the gyroscope and then spin it. And many times the children and even the adults would want to do it themselves.
We places the gyroscopes on top of stands to spin on their own and we talked about the principles of centrifugal force and how the gyroscope is meant to maintain its original orientation. We had the kids pick up the spinning gyroscope and tilt it to feel the affect of its correction measures. We also talked about the real life applications of gyroscopes such as in segways, when you ride your bicycle, and on the International Space Station.