Friday, December 19, 2014

Cool Robots

Cool Robots (series)
by Kathryn Clay, Erika L. Shores
24 pages; ages 4-7
Capstone, 2015

Got a robot-crazy kid? Then this just might be the perfect collection of books for her (or him). The Cool Robot series looks at robots used on earth, in space, and underwater.

 Animal Robots
Some engineers get their robot-inspiration from animals. For example, fins and fish tails might be the perfect thing to help steer an underwater robot. Some animal-robots are toys, while others are working bots, like a robotic fish that searches for pollution in the ocean.

Robots in Space
You already know one robot that works in space: the Mars rover "Curiosity". But did you know that astronauts use robotic gloves to help them grip tools better? And all those unmanned probes flying though space to Mercury, Pluto, and beyond – they are robots, too. Soon there might even be a robotic astronaut.

Robots on the Job
If you’ve watched car ads, you’ve seen factory robots. There are even restaurant robots that make sushi. But did you know there are robots that work in hospitals?

Tiny Robots
Remember that science fiction book where people are shrunk and sent inside the human body in a tiny submarine? We’re not there yet, but scientists are working on a pill-sized robot that can be swallowed and will take pictures inside the human body. They’re also working on nanobots – robots too tiny to see. Someday nanobots might be used to fight disease.

Today is STEM Friday. Head over to the STEM Friday blog to see what other bloggers are reviewing. Review copies provided by publisher.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature

Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature
By Sarah C. Campbell; photos by Sarah and Richard Campbell
32 pages; ages 7 - 10
Boyds Mills Press, 2014

themes: math, nature
If you’ve never heard of a fractal, then this is the book for you. Sarah Campbell begins by looking at simple shapes around us:  cones, cylinders, spheres, rectangles. Then she moves on to things in nature that don’t have perfect shapes.

“Instead of being straight, smooth, and flat, many natural shapes are rough, bristly, and bumpy,” she writes. True enough when you’re looking at a head of broccoli, a fern, or even a tree.

Before 1975 no one really had a name for these shapes. Then, a mathematician named Mandelbrot noticed something interesting: these shapes had repeating patterns. For example,. A tree starts with a stem that divides into branches, which each divide into branches, until the very last and smallest split into twigs. He called these patterns “fractals”.

In her book, Campbell provides photos of different kinds of fractals. Then she provides a DYI “make your own fractal” activity and ends with a biographical sketch of Mandelbrot.

What I Like: The explanations are straight-forward and the photos really help illustrate her points.

Beyond the book: Are snowflakes fractals? After the Nor’easter this week, I’ve got snowflakes on my mind. And on my boots and the porch and the roof of the garage. But, although they have patterns, the snowflakes falling out of the sky aren't necessarily fractals.

Make your own snowflakes - all you need is paper and scissors. And these hints.

Go on a Fractal Hike. If you're wondering what sort of fractals you might find in nature, check out this video. Remember to take your sketchbook and some pencils so you can draw any fractals you dome across.

Make a Koch Snowflake Fractal - start with an equilateral triangle. Then add equilateral triangles on the sides - and keep adding more. Like this.

  Today is STEM Friday - head over to the STEM Friday blog to see what other bloggers are reviewing. Review copy provided by publisher.