Posts tagged steam
Volunteer and Build Stuff!

Volunteering at The BBSC is a team effort, primarily designed to engage your brain and exercise your superpowers. Volunteers are empowered to choose from among a variety of projects, making use of diverse skillsets and interests. We’ll typically start the day with a tour of The BBSC, a recitation of The BBSC Oath, and a brief skill-building exercise. From there, you can select your project(s) based on what you know how to do or what you want to know to do. Sometimes you’ll have a BBSC Volunteer Sidekick available to help you out, and other times, you’ll have only your fellow project team members. In short, a volunteer day is just like a regular BBSC meeting but with significantly taller Brains.

Volunteer Project Options


#1 Super Sensing Skittles Dispensing Device Hackathon

Nerd Level: 8

The Big-Brained Superheroes Club needs a better way to track time spent in the club by Big-Brained Superheroes and Volunteer Sidekicks. So, when we found this functioning motion-sensing candy dispenser at Goodwill, we got unreasonably excited at the prospect of replacing its motion sensor with our Sparkfun Fingerprint Scanner - TTL (GT-511C3) and turning it into an attendance tracker. While we have all the major components for this project, including Arduinos/Raspberry Pis, what we really need is more brains dedicated specifically to researching, designing, and developing this Super Sensing Skittles Dispensing Device.

Skills Most Needed: An appreciation of human-centered design, requirements gathering and documentation knowledge, basic electronics experience, basic knowledge of microcontrollers/ single-board computers, C/C++ programming knowledge

Superpowers Most Exercised: Empathy, Creativity, Critical Thinking, Teamwork, Leadership, Empowerment


#2 Electronics Repair and Documentation

Nerd Level: 4

Our electronics wall plays a central role in The BBSC, and as such, it gets a significant amount of use. A solder joint fail here, a hot glue fail there, and eventually, we get a decent-sized pile of components in need of some kind of repair.

While our Big Brains will often take on our repair projects, they sometimes need one of two things to help them out: either an experienced repair person actively guiding them through the process or a set of simple troubleshooting and repair instructions. We might not have either available to them at any given time. Your mission, if you choose this project, would be to troubleshoot and repair our electronics, and then create simple, easy-to-understand documentation of an efficient and effective troubleshooting and repair procedure for our Big Brains to use on their own.

Skills Most Needed: An appreciation of human-centered design and documentation, an ability to manage hot things, such as solder and glue (soldering instructions are available)

Superpowers Most Exercised: Empathy, Sense of Adventure, Critical Thinking, Creativity


#3 3D Printer Uncloseting

Nerd Level: 6

Someone kindly gave us a 3D printer over a year ago, and though we have taken it out of the closet from time to time, we have yet to get it to print anything of value. Maybe you’d like to try.

Skills Most Needed: Interest in/ knowledge of 3D printing, web research capabilities

Superpowers Most Exercised: Sense of Adventure, Persistence, Adaptability

#4 Windows Laptop Restoration

Nerd Level: 3

Our lone Windows laptop has a virus and a stuck cd drive. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

Skills Most Needed: Interest in and knowledge of Windows

Superpowers Most Exercised: Persistence, Adaptability


#5 TI-99 Lab Enhancement and Activity Upgrade

Nerd Level: 5

Now that one of our TI-99s has finally had its official unboxing, it could use some peripheral set-up and development of fun and exciting BASIC programming activity guides designed to encourage our Big Brains to ask: “Shall we play a game?”.

Skills Most Needed: An appreciation and understanding of human-centered design, interest in BASIC programming, web research capabilities

Superpowers Most Exercised: Empathy, Creativity, Critical Thinking, Sense of Adventure


#6 Garden Weeding

Nerd Level: 1

Take a mental health day and help weed our garden!

Skills Most Needed: Plant identification

Superpowers Most Exercised: Sense of Adventure, Persistence

#7 Choose your own Adventure

Nerd Level: You decide!

The BBSC lair is filled with all kinds of tools and resources enabling you to exercise your Sense of Adventure in new and useful ways. Want to fix a broken thing? Fix a broken thing. Want to clean a dirty thing? Clean a dirty thing. Want to make something weird? Make something weird! The main requirement is that you try hard, be kind, and have fun at all times.

Skills Most Needed: Whatever you decide

Superpowers Most Exercised: Whatever you decide

If you’re interested in working on any of these projects, either sign up to participate in our United Way Day of Caring event or contact us!

The Big-Brained Superhackers Club inaugural meeting may have gotten a late start last night, but that didn’t deter a few Big-Brained Superheroes from sticking around an extra two hours to see the inside of a computer tower for the first time ever. Our Sense of Adventure was all systems go!

The Big-Brained Superhackers Club inaugural meeting may have gotten a late start last night, but that didn’t deter a few Big-Brained Superheroes from sticking around an extra two hours to see the inside of a computer tower for the first time ever. Our Sense of Adventure was all systems go!

More and Better Science Centers

…would be nice:

[I]t has become increasingly clear that schools can’t tackle the challenge alone. … Opportunities abound outside the classroom to learn about science, and to inspire a passion for it. Zoos and science museums, robotics clubs, science competitions, and online games are just a few of the options to engage American youths.

And makerspaces. Have we mentioned makerspaces?

Some of us at The BBSC have actually observed there to be a dearth of accessible and inspiring intellectual gathering places for both kids and adults alike.  Our own Pacific Science Center means well, but it’s dated and non-immersive.  Our Woodland Park Zoo is a nice place to visit, but the various exhibits are desperately lacking in contextual depth, causing them to rely far too much on novelty for exciting interest.  The Seattle Aquarium, while markedly more inspiring, suffers from a few of these same limitations. In our more cynical moments, we wonder whether the main difference between these places and the local shopping mall is that the mall’s hours are at least long enough that kids can actually go there after school.  And while not hour-restricted, the Google Science Fair is open only to 13-18 year-olds.  Science waits for no age!

What to do? What to do?

Meredith Wengernerdy, steam, stem
Oh It's On!


Open up the mailbox today, and what do we find? Not one but 2+ brand new squishy circuits kits! How much do we love the squishy circuits people!

Yet the question remains…Can big-brained superheroes take over the world with nothing but our superpowers, some homemade play dough, and not one but 2+ of the best electronics kits ever? Stay tuned…

Big-Brained Superheroes FTW! etc.

Big-Brain Squishy Circuit

Exciting news here at The Big-Brained Superheroes Club.  We entered our big electric play dough brain in the Squishy Circuits Store Photo Contest, and we won we won we won we won! The contest prize means that The BBSC will now have a squishy circuits kit of its very own to have and to hold and to burn out LEDs to its brain’s content.  Yay us!

Now that the bragging is over, let’s talk a bit about squishy circuits…Or rather, if you want to know about squishy circuits, how they work, how to use them, etc, go to the squishy circuits website…if you want to know how we got our grubby brains around them, stay here.

We learned about squishy circuits through the folks at Jigsaw Renaissance when a couple of us volunteered at their Mini Maker Faire soldering booth.  At that point, The Big-Brained Superheroes Club was little more than a gleam in our occipital lobes, but we quickly grasped the potential of the concept.  Nonetheless, we tarried.  Even the small cost of these kits is a big consideration for an organization of our size.  So, we finally conceded to purchasing one for personal use and to lend it to the club for special projects.

When we eventually got around to ordering the kit (after checking out competitive pricing and determining that the kit at the Squishy Circuits Store offered the best deal at the time), we thought for sure that the brain lesson for which we wanted to use it was going to have to wait until the next week in order to give the kit enough time to arrive.  But we were thrilled to find the kit at our door within a couple of days of purchasing it online.  Opening it up, we were even more thrilled with what we saw inside and quickly dubbed the squishy circuits kit, “The best electronics kit ever!” (we’re suckers for well-designed packaging and nice handwritten notes).  The contents were perfect for our needs; all the components were nicely labeled on the key; and our tests proved everything in good working order. Yay squishy circuits!

So, we sallied forth.  We made the conductive and insulating play doughs using the included recipes and both leftover and new ingredients (kindly donated to us by some incredibly generous folks, including our neighborhood PCC natural foods market).  The brain construction was a joint effort, and after a bit of minor brain surgery to address some conductivity challenges, we were aglow!  The lesson went forward as planned, and immediately after the brain discussion was over, the electronics discussion began.  The Big Brains enjoyed getting their hands on the doughy brain and pulling LEDs in and out.  And while this was The Big-Brained Superheroes Club’s first foray into these subjects, it certainly won’t be the last.  Of course, now that The BBSC has its own squishy circuits kit, our Creativity superpowers are going to be getting a lot of exercise!

One Way to Reduce the Achievement Gap in Science

Sounds promising:

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics instructors have been charged with improving the performance and retention of students from diverse backgrounds. To date, programs that close the achievement gap between students from disadvantaged versus nondisadvantaged educational backgrounds have required extensive extramural funding. We show that a highly structured course design, based on daily and weekly practice with problem-solving, data analysis, and other higher-order cognitive skills, improved the performance of all students in a college-level introductory biology class and reduced the achievement gap between disadvantaged and nondisadvantaged students—without increased expenditures. These results support the Carnegie Hall hypothesis: Intensive practice, via active-learning exercises, has a disproportionate benefit for capable but poorly prepared students.