Friday, June 30, 2017

Dinosaur Mysteries

This week we learned all about the mysteries of dinos!

Monday, we learned about the definition of a dinosaur and what their names mean. Purple and Green groups got to put together their own dinos while Yellow and Orange group made origami versions. They also learned about the difference between dinosaurs and reptiles with hands-on examples!

A green ankylosaurus in the making
An origami Spinosaurus

Showing off their origami creations

Making some new dino names
Who knew dinosaurs were so colorful?

Tuesday, we learned all about what dinosaurs looked liked. Campers got to look at our stegosaurus and learn about why it needed its back plates. Then they got to make their own! They also tried to figure out what dinosaurs looked like using just their bones.

A new dinosaur made out of different bones
A beautifully decorated stegosaurus

Stegosauruses hard at work!
Finding skeletons at the museum to bring back to life

On Wednesday, we learned about fossilization. Campers took a tour of our trace fossils and made some of their own footprints to be left behind. They also used figured out the stories behind dinosaur trackways. 

A camper comparing himself to a T-Rex footprint!
Figuring out some mysterious footprints

Animals ready to be fossilized
Making their own trackways
Playing some dino tag!

On Thursday, we learned all about the difference between carnivores and herbivores. They made clothespin dinos that could actually eat and casts of dino teeth. They also made lap books to show which dinos ate certain foods.

Showing off their clothespin dinos

These dinos are ready for 4th of July!

Making some tooth casts

Working hard on lap books

A completed lap book 
Putting together a dino puzzle

On Friday, they got to listen to (and see!) a dino book in the planetarium. They then got to put together their own T-Rexs to take home and even make habitats for them to live in.

Making habitats for their dinos
Putting the last bone in place!

A scary T-Rex all finished!

That was the end of Dinosaur Mysteries! It was a dino-mite week!

Neuroscience Camp

This week at Neuroscience Camp, campers have learned a lot, and were able to experience some amazing opportunities!

On Monday, we started out by all learning a little more about how our brains work, and one very important type of brain cell: the neuron! We were fortunate to hear some wonderful lectures by Dr. Orie Shafer, a neuroscientist here at the University and the person who made this camp possible through a very generous grant. He gave our campers a great introduction on neurons and how they function, and we later made some models of neurons.

Later, we tested our reaction times after receiving visual, audio and tactile stimuli, and noticed that most of us were quickest to react to visual stimuli.

Then, it was time to begin our Backyard Brains experiments! Backyard Brains is a company with a location here in Ann Arbor that works to make neuroscience equipment for students to use in the classroom. The first experiment we tried let us view the neurons in our muscles firing, by putting electrodes on our biceps and using a Muscle Spikerbox to view the spikes on an app.  

On Tuesday, we got to experiment with a very different subject: cockroaches! More specifically, their legs. We removed one of the cockroaches back legs after anesthetizing it in ice water, and hooked it up to another Backyard Brains device, the Neuron Spikerbox. Even after the cockroach leg is detached from its body, its neurons are still firing, and we got to watch it happen by stimulating the barbs on the cockroach’s leg with a toothpick. We also did an experiment where we used electricity (via music on our computers) to make the cockroach’s leg “dance” as the neurons fired and caused it to move.

We were also lucky enough to take a peek into some neuroscience labs here at Michigan. First, we went to Dr. Orie Shafer’s lab, where he and his team are studying circadian rhythm in fruit flies and using that data to learn about humans’ circadian rhythm. We helped Orie’s team sort fruit flies under a microscope, and learned some ways to tell them apart by gender.

We also got to visit Dr. Cunming’s lab, where they are studying the genes that cause rapid cell division in zebrafish, and learning how to slow it down. They are hoping to use some of this research to slow down human cancer cell division.

On Wednesday, we discussed the scientific process. We learned that the Scientific Process is closer to what scientists do in real life. Instead of having the steps in a straight progression (like the Scientific Method) this shows a cycle. Scientists work in cycles like this. When they finish an experiment, they look at what they’ve just learned to design their next experiment. If they didn’t get the results they expected, they change their experiment, or their hypothesis, to find out what went wrong. We also talked about the engineering design process, which is the process engineers go through to observe, gather ideas, and create solutions to problems.

We got to do some more great experiments with our muscles on Wednesday, using more Backyard Brains equipment! First, we tested how long it took us after seeing a light to flex our muscle, and monitored our reaction time using the muscle spikerboxes. Some of our campers had very quick reflexes!

One of the most exciting experiments for our campers was using their own muscles to “control” someone else’s —  we learned how to use your muscle signal to control other devices, in this case, a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator) to excite and contract the muscle of another human! When one person flexed their bicep, their partner’s fingers moved all on their own.

Later, we got to visit  the Taubman Health Sciences Library to visit the Anatomage Table to learn more about the brain and nervous system by looking at 3D models of the human body and brain. The Anatomage Table is the most technologically advanced anatomy visualization system for anatomy education.

We finished up the day by completing a classic engineering task: building a marshmallow tower. The campers had a lot of fun figuring out how to build the tallest, sturdiest structure using as few materials as possible.

The group that won with their structure

On Thursday, we started our day with a team-building exercise where groups had to work together on three “deserted islands” to get emergency supplies to each other using just buckets and rope. It was awesome to see them all work together to solve a problem!

We then got a wonderful lecture by Dr. Orie Shafer about brain activity and the way in changes in rest and sleep, before our campers got to see for themselves what their brain waves actually looked like by using an EEG reader made by Backyard Brains. They also got to see their heart rhythms and how it responded to stimuli (such as holding our breath or putting our hands in cold water) on an EKG reader.

Putting our hands in cold water to see how it affected our heart rate

On Friday, the final day of camp, we first worked on another engineering design challenge, building crash-resistant vessels for eggs and using the engineering design process to refine their designs.

Later, we got to visit the maker space of Backyard Brains, and we got to see some of the cool new technology they were working on! Thank you to Backyard Brains for giving us the opportunity to work with some awesome tools.

We finished out the day by completing experiments and helping each other gather data to test our hypotheses, before each camper gave a presentation on their experiment and its results.

We all had an amazing time at Neuroscience Camp this week, and we hope all of our campers learned a lot, and got to have a lot of fun! Thank you to Dr. Orie Shafer for all his help this week, as well as Backyard Brains.

CSI: Ann Arbor

Day 1

 Campers practiced mapping out a crime scene and analyzed the evidence found there. They also discussed the importance of determining suspects and their motives when investigating a crime.

Later, Red and Yellow groups practiced and performed crime-themed skits for the rest of the campers, who took notes on what they observed and potential motives.

In their extra time, campers practiced their detective skills with online mystery activities.

They also played a Cops and Robbers-themed camouflage game in which campers hid around the second floor exhibits from the seekers on the third floor balcony.

Day 2

Today, campers learned all about DNA, and even put together DNA strands. Campers put together DNA strands with unit cubes that had different colors assigned to each nucleic acid. They then tried to put together entire DNA strands of people based on their hair and eye color, height, and dominant hand.

They then tried to match different DNA samples to samples found at a crime scene. Older kids tried to match long strands while younger kids glued strands together.

Some campers got even more creative with their DNA strands! 

Meanwhile, groups practiced crime scene chemistry. Groups tried to determine which of the mystery powders were found at a crime scene by comparing different substances' reactions to water and vinegar with the reaction of the control substance. 

Day 3

Today, campers learned all about the different ways to connect suspects with crime scenes. They first examined and inked their own finger prints .

They then practiced lifting fingerprints off of styrofoam and plastic by using the real magnetic fingerprint powder used by police. 

Yellow group made a footprint in the mud and filled it with plaster to demonstrate the ways in which police can gather information on potential suspects.

Campers investigated animal footprints to determine which animal appeared first and what happened based on the footprint pattern.

They then applied that practice with a mystery, having to determine which account of an evening was a lie based on the footprints left behind.

Day 4

Today we spent the day at the U-M Police Department! We were given a tour by Officer Butzky, who showed us police vehicles, gear, and even a holding cell!

Day 5

Today, campers had to put their CSI knowledge to the test! Yellow and Green groups worked to solve the murder of a museum staff member, John. Meanwhile, Red and Blue groups had to work on the mystery of the missing mammoth tooth, which went missing from the second floor hands-on drawer!

Younger campers investigated the theft of a fossil by mapping the crime scene, collecting evidence, and interviewing a witness. They had to determine the thief between the three suspects. 

Through handwriting analysis and the witness interview, the campers determined suspect 2, Jeanna, did it!

Yellow and Red groups mapped out their crime scene, collected blood and footprint samples to determine whether the death was an accident or murder.

They were able to determine the murderer was John's co-worker who wanted more office space! Nice job, campers!

Thanks to our crime-solving campers for another amazing week!!