Make your own Spin Art box: Basic circuits for kids

Teach kids about basic circuits and exercise their ingenuity by creating a DIY spin-art box from a cardboard box, motor, wire, and a battery!


Materials

  • Cardboard box
  • Scissors or box knife
  • Hobby Motor (The motors we have are no longer available, but this is a nice set that also includes, among other things, a battery holder, wires, and switch.)
  • Batteries (use correct voltage for the motor)
  • Duct tape (or a super strong tape)
  • Switch (optional)
  • Paper
  • Paint
  • Eye dropper or squeeze bottle

Warning: Spinning cardboard or paper can cut you, be careful. When working with motors and batteries, follow all directions as outlined by the supplier to ensure your are using their product correctly and safely.

Procedure

  1. Cut off the flaps of the cardboard box, trace and cut a large circle from one of them, marking the center of the circle.
  2. Set up your circuit with the motor, battery and switch according to the motor’s directions (i.e. Make sure you are using the right battery for the motor). If you don’t have a switch you can connect and disconnect the battery to turn it on and off.
  3. Mount the motor in the center at the bottom of the box with the motor shaft facing up. Depending on your motor’s casing, it may need to be mounted from the sides as opposed to the bottom because sometimes the back end of the shaft is exposed and will create friction on the box when running. This may be challenging, but it is exactly why you are making your spin-art box with your child instead of buying it- problem solving and creativity. We’ve done this several times and each time we try to think of a new way to mount it, including recycled Styrofoam blocks, a toilet paper roll, or one of the other flaps from the box.
    IMG_3308Screen Shot 2019-04-22 at 8.19.49 PM
  4. Poke a hole in the center of the cardboard circle you cut and set it on top of the motor shaft.
  5. Place a piece of duct tape over the shaft, pinch so it sticks to the shaft, then flatten the rest onto the cardboard.
  6. Test your set up, making adjustments if necessary.
  7. Cut your paper so it fits into the box, if necessary, then gently tape it to the spin platform.
  8. If you’re using poster paint or acrylics, water them down a little so they are more fluid.
  9. Turn on your contraption and squeeze paint as it spins!
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Creating your own toys with your children fosters creative thinking, independence, and pride in one’s work. It also helps reduce waste and clutter in your home. Once you are done playing, you can dismantle your spin-art box, and reuse the motor and battery in many ways. Then, if you want to do spin-art at another time, set it up again!

Here are some projects from our site where you can reuse the motor:


Grapefruit, 5-geranoxypsoralen, and medications

This is 5-geranoxypsoralen. It’s found in many citrus fruits, but at an especially high concentration in grapefruit.
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When you take some medications, or eat food, or drink $12 fresh-pressed juices, or lick hallucinogenic frogs, etc., an enzyme called cytochrome P450 alters some of the foreign molecules you ingested so they are more easily cleared by your body (AKA pee it out).
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This is one of the first steps in your body’s built-in detox system (so yes, your body detoxes the detox juice you just drank 😉). 5-geranoxypsoralen, however, inhbits cytochrome P450 (specifically CYP3A4), which means that if you drink grapefruit juice, the enzyme cannot modify those molecules to clear them. This is usually fine unless you are taking certain medications.
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When you are prescribed a medicine, the dose takes into account the amount that will be lost by cytochrome P450. But, if cytochrome P450 is knocked out by the grapefruit juice, it will increase the effective amount of medicine your body will get, sometimes with toxic side effects.
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So, PSA, always check your medications’ labels for warnings about citrus juice. Common contraindicated drugs are Lipitor (atorvastatin), Buspar (buspirone), and Uceris (budesonide).

xoxo
Cara

Source: Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2004 Feb;25(2):129-36

IKEA Flisat Table to Light Table Hack

This is so simple that I hesitated posting it because, well, you’ll see! But this is by far the easiest way you’ll find to make your Flisat table (or any two plastic bins!) into a light table!


Ok get ready for it. Take a bin and put some fairy lights in there:

Put the other bin on top of it:

You’re all set! Have fun with your new light table! It works like a charm!

Magnetic Slime

This little project feels like something out of a sci-fi, which perhaps is why I love it so much. Add some magnetite powder to your next batch of slime, get a strong rare earth magnet, and your kids (or you) will have a blast making zombie worms and magnet eating monsters- straight out of the movies!

Safety: Do not ingest any part of this project. Do not use any of the materials around small children or children who put things in their mouth. Too much iron is poisonous and it should not be ingested in this form. Rare earth magnets are very strong and can pinch fingers, be careful when using them. Magnets should never be left around small children who could ingest them. Do not use magnets near electronics or credit cards. The magnet in the video has a pulling force of 48 lbs. This was more than sufficient. If you are doing this with kids, do not use a more powerful magnet and only use one magnet at a time to avoid pinched fingers.

Materials

Procedure

  1. In a bowl or cup, dissolve the 1/8 tsp borax in 1/4 cup hot water. Set aside.
  2. To a different bowl, add 1/4 cup glue, 1/4 cup water, and 3 tbs iron oxide powder. Mix well. (Note: The powder will stain skin, so try not touch the iron oxide with your hands at this point, wait until the borax solution is mixed it. If you do get it on your hands, dish soap washes most of it off.)
  3. Slowly add the borax solution to the glue mixture and mix well.
  4. Take the slime out and knead with your hands till it is smooth. If it feels sticky, dip it in the extra liquid in the bowl and knead again.
  5. Start playing with the slime and magnet!

The Science Behind Slime

The glue contains a long molecule called polyvinyl alcohol (PVA). It is a polymer, which is a molecule that contains repeats of a subunit molecule (for example, “A” is a subunit and “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA” is a polymer of A). Borax (sodium tetraborate) is a small molecule that can stick to parts of the PVA through hydrogen bonds. This means one side of the borate molecule can stick to one strand of PVA, while the other side of the borate can also stick to a different strand of PVA, creating a bridge between the two PVA strands. This is called crosslinking.

Having many crosslinking sites usually makes a polymer more rigid, but the interesting thing about borate/PVA crosslinking is that the bond is transient, meaning it can easily break and reform somewhere else. This causes the slime to act kind of like a liquid and kind of like a solid. If given time, the PVA can ‘flow’ as gravity pulls and breaks the borate/PVA crosslinks. It acts like a slime instead of a true liquid because as the PVA molecules pass by more borate, they can momentarily bond to borate and another strand of PVA, slowing down the flow. If you pull the slime fast, you break all those bonds quickly, allowing the slime to act like a solid momentarily.

The Science Behind Magnetic Slime

The iron oxide powder in the link above is magnetite, which is a natural mineral made of iron and oxygen. Like many iron-containing compounds, it is attracted to a magnet.

The iron oxide particles in the powder will become suspended in your slime matrix. As the particles are attracted to the magnet, they will pull the slime matrix with them, causing a whole section of the slime to move with it. This makes for some really cool effects!


If you’re looking for a project to use some of the leftover ion oxide powder, try our DIY Magnetic Shapes!

Birthday Cloud Dough

Get ready for some soft, colorful, messy, moldable fun! Sprinkles plus cloud dough make for a festive activity, full of problem solving, sensory stimulation, basic engineering, and more!

Materials

  • Flour
  • Oil (any taste-safe liquid oil will do, like canola or rice bran oil)
  • Sprinkles
  • Plastic bin or cookie sheet
  • Various toys
    • Molding cups
    • Candles
    • Spoons
    • Ice cream scoop

Method

  1. Mix 4 cups flour with 1/2 cup oil. Rake with a fork or fingers till well blended.
  2. Mix in 1/2 cup of sprinkles.
  3. Dump in a bin or cookie sheet and let them go at it!

This is quite messy and will probably get all over your kids clothes and the floor. Luckily, it sweeps up easily and comes right off in the washing machine.

Birthday cloud dough

Star Fruit, Caramboxin, and Neurotoxins

Sliced star fruit and the chemical structure of caramboxin.

I’ll preface this with “I still ate it,” but star fruit contains a deadly neurotoxin called caramboxin. 😱*clutches pearls*

Luckily, if you have normally functioning kidneys, caramboxin gets flushed out of your system and does absolutely no harm. In fact, my friend from Taiwan says they eat star fruit daily, and they’re all doing fine so, again, totally fine for most people to eat. However, if you have kidney disease, the toxin does not get removed and it can go on to interfere with your neurons.

Neurons pass messages around your body. Molecules called neurotransmitters are released from one neuron and passed to another in order to relay that message. The neurotransmitters fit snuggly into proteins called receptors on the next nerve. This is kind of like a lock and key. Once the receptor is “unlocked” by the neurotransmitter “key,” the nerve passes the message to another nerve, and so on. Caramboxin can “unlock” and stimulate some of these nerves by snuggling up to the receptor. Normally, turning on neurons is a very controlled process, so when caramboxin gets in there, it messes things up. Symptoms include mental confusion, vomiting, and seizures, and in some cases, coma and death.

Interestingly, an early symptom of caramboxin poisoning is intractable hiccups, so if that happens to you after eating star fruit, call the doctor and ask about some kidney labs!

This was my first star fruit ever! I don’t think I let it ripen enough, but it tasted like a wet tart apple. Should I wait longer next time based on that green color? No hiccups yet!😉

Source: Garcia-Cairasco et al 2013 https://doi.org/10.1002/anie.201305382

DIY Magnetic Shapes

I’m always trying to find ways to repurpose supplies I purchase for activities. We have a big bag of magnetite powder we use to make magnetic slime, but I haven’t thought of another use for it…until now! By mixing it with glue and baking soda, you can pipe (like frosting) any design you can think of, and it will stick to a magnet. This is perfect for magnet-on-a-pole fishing games. Read on to learn more!

Materials

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Method

Note: Magnetite powder (an iron oxide) is very messy and should not be touched with bare hands as it stains. Wash hands thoroughly after doing this. Older children may help with steps 3-6, but should always be supervised as any large amount of iron is dangerous to ingest. The dried shapes are safe to handle with bare hands, but the shapes and magnets should not be handled by children who put things in their mouth.

  1. In the ziplock bag, measure in a 1:1:1 ratio the magnetite powder, school glue, and baking soda. Since the first two ingredients are so messy, it is totally fine to just eye-ball the amounts. This is a very forgiving goop.
  2. Squeeze out the air and seal the ziplock bag.
  3. Mix the contents thoroughly by squeezing and mushing.
  4. Snip off a small lower corner of the bag and pipe designs onto wax paper like you would if you were decorating a cake. (Though these will not be incredibly fragile, you don’t want any shapes to have lines with less than ~1/4 inch thickness or they will break with typical child’s play.)
  5. Let dry for 24 hours.
  6. Paint the shapes with paint or nail polish.

Discussion

Magnetite is a natural mineral made of iron and oxygen. It is attracted to a magnet and in some cases can be magnetized to become a permanent magnet. Magnetism was discovered millennia ago by observing metal sticking to naturally magnetized magnetite, called lodestone. Though I haven’t been successful in magnetizing the shapes made by this project, it is possible to magnetize magnetite by placing it in a strong magnetic field (eg. very strong magnet or electromagnet).

The shapes you will make are called magnetically soft, in that they become temporary magnets when exposed to a magnetic field (i.e. other iron-containing things will become attracted to it when it, itself, is in a magnetic field), but if the magnet is removed, the shape becomes unmagnetized.

How to Play

  • Alphabet Fishing (learning letters): We tied a magnet to a wooden pole and went “fishing” for magnetic fish shapes and letters covered by dried rice in a plastic bin. You can use this activity to learn upper or lower case letters, or spelling a name.
  • Fishing for Compliments (learning to read): We made magnetic hearts and I wrote adjectives that complimented my daughter on the back of them (eg strong, smart, kind, etc). She fished for them in a tub of dried rice and black beans and sounded the words out as she found them.

As always, let us know if you’ve tried this on Instagram and Twitter @cara_florance. Tag us and include the hashtag #IBravedTheElements for a chance to be featured!

xoxo

Cara