April 2018

Science Saturday Begins

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Photo by Lester Smith

With the iPad at the right, Valerie Richardson-White, 7, controls the little Sphero Mini as it rolls closer to the paper cup goal. But is her younger brother Joshua, 5, helping or hindering? At center is SHS sophomore Nora Powers, who helped the kids at Science Saturday set up two obstacle courses and learn how to control the ball. Held on March 3, this was the first of a planned monthly program funded by the Friends of the Kent Memorial Library.

Wendy Mitzel, part-time Teen Outreach Coordinator for the Kent Memorial Library, has opened a program of Science Saturdays for middle and high school kids. Library Director Jackie Hemond said she hopes to offer the program monthly, on the first Saturday of each month. The first session, on March 3 at the Suffield Senior Center, lasted three hours in mid-day, with lunch provided.

With the help of a grant from the Friends of the Library, Wendy was able to buy two iPads and two Sphero Minis, plus enough imaginative accessory material to make two five-by-seven-foot obstacle courses and one smaller course. When the free app is installed in an iPad, the action of the Sphero Mini (a clever, app-enabled robotic ball a bit bigger than a golf ball) can be controlled with finger motions on the iPad screen.

In the first session, nine kids – middle school, high school, and a couple of younger siblings – gathered to set up two obstacle courses and learn how to control the ball. Then they took turns at the iPads, sending the amazing little balls from a “start” corner to a cup at the far corner, flashing their bright LEDs as they darted around among the obstacles. The smaller course was used for autonomous ball control, programmed with Scratch coding. (Scratch is a popular, free, programming language for children 8 and up.)

For each player to participate at an appropriate level, Wendy asked the high school kids to help lead the activity, and everyone was well involved in the session. Science Saturday seemed like a great success, combining fun with many opportunities for learning.

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