Author Archives: carole

Littlebits Circuit Kit

We got a Littlebits kit for Christmas. It comes with a set of color-coded circuits that snap together with magnets. It’s a really cool way to learn about electronics by building things like a flashlight, a windmill, or a three-wheeled car.

We decided to make a doorbell, which uses the power, button, dimmer, and buzzer bits.


The dimmer and buzzer, hidden behind the doorbell


The doorbell, with white button

The finished project!

Folsom Powerhouse

This past weekend we got to visit the historic Folsom Powerhouse. Built in 1895, it used what was then state-of-the-art technology to harness water power and turn it into electricity for the city of Sacramento.  This kind of power is also known as hydroelectric power. It’s now a historic landmark and home to lots of different interactive exhibits.

The Folsom Historic District also features really neat original storefronts, the Folsom History Museum, and an original blacksmith forge, next to which you can pan for “gold” and learn about early prospectors.

We learned a lot on this trip without realizing it, and had a lot of fun while we were learning!

What’s an Appendix For?

madelineappendixWe were reading one of our favorite books, Madeline, and were wondering about something that happens to her in the story. Madeline wakes up crying and when the doctor comes he says, “Nurse, it’s an appendix!”

What is an appendix, and what is it for? Everyone is born with an appendix. It’s attached to a pouch, called the cecum, that is part of your large intestine. Your intestines are part of your digestive system, which helps you process the food you eat and eliminates waste. Nobody really knows what the appendix is for, although some scientists think it may have been used by early man “to digest tough leaves and bark.” They call the kind of organ that no longer serves a purpose a vestigial organ.

Sometimes the appendix can get inflamed and cause us to get sick, like Madeline did. Since the appendix doesn’t serve a necessary function, her doctor removed it in a procedure called an appendectomy.

Right after we were talking about Madeline’s appendix, the grandson of Madeline author Ludwig Bemelmans was on the radio, talking about his new book Madeline and the Old House in Paris. What a coincidence! We can’t wait to read it!

UPDATE: “Long denigrated as vestigial or useless, the appendix now appears to have a reason to be — as a “safe house” for the beneficial bacteria living in the human gut.” Read more at Thanks Randy, for the tip!

Expanding Your Horizons Conferences

Expanding Your Horizons is a series of conferences for girls with workshops in science, technology, engineering and math (also known as STEM). EYH’s goal is to encourage girls to pursue STEM careers. Scientists and other educators lead fun hands-on experiments and learning exercises on topics like marine biology, scientific illustration, space and entomology. Last year’s session on insects (entomology is the study of insects) was one of our favorites!

Expanding Your Horizons runs conferences throughout the year, all over the U.S. Check out their schedule to find one near you and sign up.

Remembering Kid Scientist Co-founder Jeffrey McManus

From the Kid Scientist About page: “Kid Scientist is the blog of Jeffrey McManus, a Silicon Valley software engineer and writer, and his daughter, Celeste. When Celeste started kindergarten, they began having a conversation about science every morning — Celeste would ask questions and Jeffrey would answer to the best of his ability. (Sometimes he’d need to look up the answers when they got home.) Their conversations meandered, covering topics ranging from biology, the environment, space, health, you name it. Eventually they decided it would be a good idea to share the subjects of their conversations with the world, so in 2007 the Kid Scientist blog was born.”


Jeffrey P. McManus
1967 – 2013

At the beginning of this Summer, our family made plans for revitalizing Kid Scientist with input from now middle school-aged Celeste and her younger brother Revelin. Jeffrey passed away on July 5, 2013, before we had a chance to put our plans into action. He was a leader, a teacher, and a mentor to many. His children’s education meant everything to him, and he was always looking for ways to teach them new things in a way that was fun and memorable. Thanks to him, Celeste and Revelin remain fascinated by nature and the universe and what makes it tick. In that spirit we are going to continue to blog about the things that make us curious about science.

If you have a topic that you’d like us to cover, please leave a comment and we’ll investigate!

Carole McManus
Editor, Kid Scientist


Another Kid Scientist’s Google Doodle

We’re always excited to hear about other Kid Scientists out there sharing their interest in science and education.
science-google-doodleKaylie McFerrin from Wichita Falls, TX is one of the entrants in the Google for Doodle contest. The winner’s doodle will appear on Google’s home page. Kaylie wants to become a scientist so she can find a cure for her sister’s kidney cancer. There are lots of great careers for aspiring scientists that involve research, chemistry, and medicine. If you could do or be anything, what would it be?

President Obama to Host a National Science Fair at the White House

Here’s some news that got all of us at Kid Scientist excited:

“President Barack Obama said Monday he would convene a national science fair next year to honor young inventors with the same gusto that college and professional athletes celebrate their victories at the White House.

‘You know, if you win the NCAA championship, you come to the White House,’ said Obama, a sports fan as much as a science nerd. ‘Well, if you’re a young person and you produce the best experiment or design, the best hardware or software, you ought to be recognized for that achievement, too. Scientists and engineers ought to stand side by side with athletes and entertainers as role models.’

He said they would show young students how ‘cool science can be.’”

We agree!

Rube Goldberg Machines

rube_napkinBy now, you have probably seen the OK Go video that everyone is talking about, featuring the Rube Goldberg machine. That machine took months to build, and days to film. You can learn more about how the contraption was built here. We were wondering, who started this whole contraption building craze in the first place?

What people call “Rube Goldberg machines” are based on the cartoons of Rube Goldberg, whose work appeared in newspapers in the early 1900′s. The contraptions usually were incredibly complicated ways to do something simple, like scratch your back or mail a letter.

We really like this blog post about the greatest Rube Goldberg contraptions of all time. What do you think, which one is the best?