Snow Day Science
The Mighty Snowflake

The Mighty Snowflake

How did the snowflake become the go-to metaphor for individuality and uniqueness? This "Science of Snowflakes" video from "It's Okay to Be Smart" starts with a skeptical look at the enduring mythology of snowflake specialness only to conclude that its singular randomness, imperfect perfection, and stone cold awesomeness go even deeper (and stick around for the Bob Ross h/t at the end).

So, yes, we are all beautiful and unique snowflakes. And as George Takei reminds us, that's a powerful thing: "The thing about 'snowflakes' is this: They are beautiful and unique, but in large numbers become an unstoppable avalanche that will bury you." 


How to make snow

 

Not that any of us digging out from the Bomb Cyclone that hit the Northeastern U.S. this week is looking to make more snow. We just love this SciShow video (from another nice fella in glasses) breaking down the recipe for turning water molecules into frosty flakes, whether naturally or artificially.


Bobsled Physics

Snow days offer a perfect opportunity to experience Newtonian physics by sledding our way through potential and kinetic energy. There's no shortage of DIY "sledding physics" videos out there, but here's a cool one from a series produced by NBC Sports and the National Science Foundation for the 2010 Winter Olympics. (Barring any changes in the Earth's gravitational pull in the coming weeks, we expect the same physics will apply to next month's Winter Games in South Korea.)


Please try this at home.

It's #frozenbubbles time again! And a photographer in Ohio is already winning 2018 with his real-time videos of freezing soap spheres. Check out his bubble recipe and freeze 'em up!

NYC Hardware Companies Are Building the Future
RaceYa at the Futureworks Incubator showcase.

RaceYa at the Futureworks Incubator showcase.

As you may know we were part of this fall’s Futureworks Incubator cohort. Futureworks is a program run through the NYC Economic Development Corporation that helps NYC-based hardware ventures connect with local leaders in manufacturing and design. It has been an amazing experience getting to know the phenomenal founders in the program and discovering parts of the city that are brimming with tech creativity (looking at you, Long Island City!).

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The culminating showcase event was held over at Electropositive, a community and co-working space in Crown Heights. We loved to see the progress everyone made — and to watch the faces of the attendees light up as they glimpsed the future these entrepreneurs are building. It’s shiny!

Check out all the beautiful photos from the event here.

Racing Through the Gateway of Play: Notes and Inspo from the RaceYa Hack Day
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OHMYGODTHATWASSOMUCHFUN!!!

That was the key takeaway from the RaceYa Hack Day event we hosted at the Pine Street School, Nov. 18, for hackers, STEM educators, and a couple of maker sprouts.

Over several hours on a Saturday afternoon, we set our latest prototype cars loose among a gaggle of curious, creative, and crafty hackers to see how they would get along. We were not disappointed.

There were obstacles to outmaneuver, gear box modifications to explore (hello windmills!), loads of different weights to transport — and vectors! But most of all, it was crazy fun — proving our fundamental hypothesis that play is what unlocks creativity and experimentation.

“Everyone lit up when they started using it,” said one happy hacker. “Even people who never used an RC car before.”

We learned a ton in the process and got so many great suggestions for features to explore — a boat cleat for tethering, perhaps?  — and new ways to use the cars as a platform for exploring mechanics and ultimately programming.

I want to thank everyone who dedicated their Saturday afternoon to our Hack Day so we could watch them play with cool cars.

And if you weren’t able to make it this time, we’ve got more in the works.

Hollywood Hacktress: This Screen Legend Invented WiFi. Whaaat?
Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr

We know: who knew?! For those of you thinking to yourselves, Hedy Who now? — Hedy Lamarr was a Hollywood star of the 1940s and 50s known for playing the Biblical seductress Delilah, among other leading roles. But according to the new documentary Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, the Austrian-born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler acted by day and hacked by night!

In addition to helping onetime paramour Howard Hughes improve the wing design on one of his airplanes, she and co-inventer George Anthiel developed a "Secret Communications System" that helped prevent the interception of Allied radio transmissions during WWII. The system's use of "spread spectrum" technology would later enable the digital wireless communications we rely on today.

But like so many women inventors and innovators before her (hey, Ada Lovelace, Rosalind Franklin, and Vera Rubin!), Lamarr's contributions were only belatedly recognized. Here's to shining a spotlight on another hidden figure....


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Hacking Halloween
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Here's how rocket scientists carve pumpkins

NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California, is winning at Halloween. For the past several years, the talented and dedicated engineers behind such pioneering aerospace achievements as the Curiosity rover have staged epic pumpkin-carving contests that show off their programming and robotics ingenuity. Just goes to show that inside most every aerospace engineer is a kid who just loves to make cool stuff.

Check out JPL's Flickr feed for the latest creations.


Please try this at home.

You don't have to be a NASA engineer to hack your own robotic jack-o-lantern (I mean, it ain't rocket science). 

Arduino-powered pumpkin


Know anyone with a need for speed?  Share us!