Piper Now Offers Computer Programming & Coding!

A couple of years ago, I  shared an amazing new tech toy – Piper – which provided kids the opportunity to build their own computer from scratch all by playing Minecraft. What we love most about Piper is that the kids are involved in the construction at every level.PlayPiper

The Piper Computer Kit teaches kids engineering and computer programming through gameplay as well as the physical process of building a computer with hardware.

Piper’s mission is to empower the inventors of tomorrow by giving them the tools to build creatively today.

Piper Grows With Your Child

We have had such fun with Piper these past couple of years and are always impressed with how the company responds to our email queries as well as continually improves their product so that it can grow with the child.

PiperCodeRecently, they announced the biggest update in the company’s history … Programming!  Yes – computer programming code the kids write themselves! How cool is that?!

Kids can now learn to program and control electronics from their own Piper computer starting today! Each project contains step by step instructions to get kids engaged immediately in making awesome creations from the start. For example,

  • Make an LED blink at the touch of a button
  • Design a game to see who can set off a buzzer the fastest
  • Create a light show set to musicPiper allows you to be creative with coding from the very start.  All experience levels are welcome.

Unfamiliar with Coding Yourself?

Piper has us parents covered, too. They provide a multitude of lesson plans to ensure teaching PiperCode is simple and rewarding for students in grade third and above.  Even if you don’t know how to code yourself, you will have fun learning alongside your kids.

Check out the additional resources for educators at Piper to learn more, including how to disassemble Piper and reuse the components with new students. 

Already Own Piper? 

Existing Piper customers should follow these simple steps to download PiperCode:

  • Turn on your Piper Computer
  • Connect to the internet
  • A message will appear alerting you there is an update
  • Click on the UPDATE button
  • Say goodbye to Piper Classic and welcome to the new Piper!

The Puzzling Impact of Ernő Rubik

For the past eight months there has been a constant click heard in my home. At the dinner table, while driving in the car, and even late at night when I am beginning to drift off to sleep, I can hear the subtle sounds of my son cubing. Cubing has become one of his passion projects and he spends every waking moment with a puzzle in his hands.

The Puzzling Impact of Erno Rubik @EvaVarga.netI had given him a traditional Rubik’s Cube a few years ago for Christmas but once it was scrambled, it sat in the corner of his bookshelf collecting dust. That was until he stumbled upon a recommended video on his YouTube feed of Collin Burns’ 5.25 world record solve. That was all it took. He was hooked.

As it is always in his hand, he gains a lot of attention and notoriety. He is now recognized around our community as the fastest cuber. Kids and adults alike bring him cubes that they “messed up” for him to solve.

His best solve time for the 3×3 is presently 7.22 seconds. He averages 13.09. Yet the 3×3 is not the only puzzle he enjoys. He also competes in 2×2, 4×4, 5×5, Megaminx, Pyraminx, and Skewb.

The Puzzling Impact of Erno Rubik @EvaVarga.netBiography

Ernő Rubik was born during World War II in Budapest, Hungary on the 13th of July 1944. His father, Ernő Rubik Sr., was a flight engineer at the Esztergom aircraft factory and a highly respected engineer of gliders. His mother, Magdolna Szántó, was a poet.

While Rubik has stated in almost every interview that he got his inspiration from his father, he also considers university and the education it afforded him as the decisive event which shaped his life. From 1958 to 1962, Rubik specialised in sculpture at the Secondary School of Fine and Applied Arts and later attended the Budapest University of Technology where he became a member of the faculty upon graduation.

“Schools offered me the opportunity to acquire knowledge of subjects or rather crafts that need a lot of practice, persistence and diligence with the direction of a mentor.”

In the 1970s, Rubik was a professor of architecture at the Budapest College of Applied Arts. It was during this time that he invented the Rubik’s Cube. The cube was originally designed to help Mr. Rubik explain spatial relationship to a class that he taught at the time. He soon realized the potential of the cube and began to get the cube mass produced, applying for a patent in 1975.

It was quickly a huge success. The cube was originally called ‘Magic Cube’ but after some discussion the name was changed to what it is known for today, Rubik’s Cube. In an interview with CNN, Rubik stated;

Space always intrigued me, with its incredibly rich possibilities, space alteration by (architectural) objects, objects’ transformation in space (sculpture, design), movement in space and in time, their correlation, their repercussion on mankind, the relation between man and space, the object and time. I think the CUBE arose from this interest, from this search for expression and for this always more increased acuteness of these thoughts…

In the nearly forty years the cube has been around, over three hundred and fifty million copies have been produced. Yet, only about 1.25% of the people who have purchased the cube can actually solve it.

The Puzzling Impact of Erno Rubik @EvaVarga.netErnő Rubik witnessed his creation blow up around the world. The cube became the Toy of the Year twice in a row, and the first world championship for The Rubik’s Cube was in 1982. At this competition the first world record was set at 22.95 seconds. Nowadays that is what most cubers average.

Today, there are a variety of speed cubes available on the market. Each is designed to turn faster and more efficiently without the lockups or pops that speed cubers abhor. The current 3×3 record is 4.737 seconds held by a 19 year old from Australia, Feliks Zemdegs.

Bring it Home

Learn to solve the original 3×3 puzzle using online tutorials; there are many to choose from.

Challenge yourself to get faster or learn to solve another puzzle type.

Visit the World Cube Association and find a competition near you to see what it is all about.

Science Milestones

Visit my Science Milestones page to learn more about scientists whose discoveries and advancements have made a significant difference in our lives or who have advanced our understanding of the world around us.

The bloggers of the iHomeschool Network have teamed up to create fun and original unit studies on fascinating people who were born in July.

Science with Harry Potter: Alchemy, Astronomy, & Divination (Geology)

Science with Harry Potter: Alchemy @EvaVarga.net Alchemy 

Alchemy is an elective taught at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry concerning the study of the four basic elements, as well as the study of the transmutation of substances. It is intimately connected with potion-making and chemistry but for purposes of clarity, this post will focus on transformation of rocks and minerals.

I’m particularly interested in Transfiguration, you know, turning something into something else, of course, it’s supposed to be very difficult.” —Hermione Granger regarding transformation

There are many myths and legends about the formation of the rocks of the Earth or about the rocks themselves. Every culture has its own beliefs about specific stones and those beliefs are often tied to that culture’s history, geography, and spiritual practices.

For this class students are required to become familiar with the many magical properties of common stones. Begin by writing the definitions for igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rock in a notebook. Include a detailed sketch of the rock cycle.

Additionally, create a two-page spread for each stone studied. Include the following information for each:

  1. photo or sketch
  2. list any historical or literary references to the gemstone
  3. describe the process by which it is formed
  4. list its magical properties

Some stones to consider are:

  • Agate
  • Quartz
  • Ruby
  • Opal
  • Flint
  • Moonstone
  • Jade
  • Obsidian

Put together a collection of rocks and minerals. Identify and label each as igneous, metamorphic, or sedimentary.

Take it Further

Learn to play Marbles, generally a Muggle game. Wizards play a variant known as Gobstones, where the enchanted marbles spit a putrid fluid into the face of the loser.

Science with Harry Potter: Potions @EvaVarga.net Astronomy & Divination

At Hogwart’s, Divination is an elective course that teaches methods of divining the future, or gathering insights into future events, through various rituals and tools. For the purposes of this course, we will focus on the ancient tools used by early navigators particularly in regards to the study of astronomy.

Generally out-of-bounds except for classes, the Astronomy Tower is the tallest tower at Hogwarts Castle. It is where students study the stars and planets through their telescopes with Professor Aurora Sinistra.

A Star chart is a written document used to represent the positions and movements of the stars, much like a map. Astronomers usually use these for research or study. An O.W.L. level wizard should be able of fill in a blank star chart based on some hours of sky gazing.

Similarly, a Moon chart is used to represent the position, movement and phases of the Moon. However, it is difficult to interpret and thus a Lunascope is often preferred.

Begin by researching the constellations common in your hemisphere and/or those referenced in the books.

Illustrate each cluster of stars in your notebook and make note of when the constellation was first discovered and how it was named. Include the names of the distinct stars (if possible).  Constellations to consider include:

  • Orion
  • Bartholomeus
  • Lupus
  • Leo
  • Ophiuchus
  • Canis Major
  • Scorpius

Create personal chart (also referred to as a birth chart) showing the relative positions of the planets at the time of an individual’s birth.

If possible, obtain a telescope with which you can observe the planets and distant stars.

Take it Further

Create a model of our solar system. Include the moons of Jupiter, Saturn, and other major planets.

Make an illustrated wall timeline of geologic time.

Draw maps of the earth at various times in history, showing movements of the tectonic plates. Include time periods that show Pangaea, Laurasia and Gondwanaland, and the modern arrangement of continents.

Illustrate the layers of the atmosphere in a poster. Label and describe each layer.

This post is part of a five-day hopscotch. Join me each day this week as we dive into each course.

Herbology (Botany)

Care of Magical Creatures (Zoology)

Potions (Chemistry)

Alchemy & Divination (Geology) – this post

Magical Motion (Physics)

What I Learned About Life and Spirituality from Prince

When I heard that Prince had passed away, I was substitute teaching in a kindergarten classroom. My mother-in-law had texted me and I immediately pulled out my phone to confirm. It couldn’t be true.

It was the first time the death of a celebrity hit me in a real and immediate way. There was first disbelief, followed by dread and nausea. I struggled to keep it together until the dismissal bell released me. Then the tears that wrung out of my body were so strong it gave me stomach cramps.Prince Lessons

I drove home and immediately crawled into bed. I got a call from my mom asking if I was okay. She knew my heartache for she had experienced a similar loss when Elvis passed.

I am very grateful that my mother recognized his impact on my life very early. She purchased my first concert ticket for his Lovesexy tour in 1988 and drove seven hours one way to assure I could see him perform live.

“I’m a musician. I am music.” ~ Prince 

I would see him perform once more in Portland in 2004 for Musicology. I had hoped to see his Piano & a Microphone tour in 2016 but missed my chance.

Since his death on April 21, 2016, I have watched numerous video clips of his live performances, interviews, and amateur tour footage that have been shared online. The explosion of material now available have provided his #PurpleArmy with the solace we seek, an opportunity for one more connection with him.

Prince Rogers Nelson

Prince Rogers Nelson was born June 7, 1958 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His parents, Mattie Della and John Lewis Nelson, and grandparents were from Louisiana.  His parents separated when he was ten years and he subsequently repeatedly switched homes often as a teen. Yet music was always a strong element in his life.

Prince first began recording in 1975 with 94 East. A year later he signed a recording contract with Warner Bros whereupon they agreed to give him complete creative control.

His talent was limitless. He was a master composer, musician, and revolutionary artist. I dare say there is not a single artist in my lifetime who has influenced the sound and trajectory of music as much as he.

“I’m no different to anyone. Yes, I have fame and wealth and talent, but I certainly don’t consider myself any better than anyone who has no fame, wealth or talent. People fascinate me. They’re amazing! Life fascinates me! And I’m no more fascinated by my own life than by anyone else’s.” ~ Prince

A Legacy of Equality

I first discovered Prince while watching Night Tracks on TBS. They had aired two performances by him back-to-back, Little Red Corvette and 1999. I was immediately attracted to the music and his individuality. He was like no one else. He was different.

“I don’t really care so much about what people say about me. It usually is a reflection of who they are. For example, if people wish that I would sound the way I used to sound, it says more about them, than it does me.” ~ Prince

As the years progressed, his style evolved. Through it all, strong female musicians were an integral part of his band. They were not solely backup singers or dancers (though he did have those as well) but his partners – Wendy Melvoin, Sheila E., Rosie Gaines, and Candy Duffer amongst others.

Emma Garland recently stated that women are generally portrayed as passive objects in music, which is to not exist at all. “With Prince, they were addressed with awe and empathy. He wrote about women as real, powerful, complicated, sensitive, and sexual beings that he could learn from, and who enriched his life.”

Prince_FreeA Legacy of Freedom

He caught the media’s attention early in his career with his stage presence and outrageous costumes. Many of his songs were overtly sexual. Yet, Prince never made any apologies for who he was and always preached that the most important thing is staying true to yourself.

“Despite everything, no one can dictate who you are to other people.” ~ Prince

He showed me early the power of living one’s life by one’s own rules and no one else’s. He empowered me to walk my own path and to not be persuaded by others to follow the crowd.

Throughout every emotionally difficult time in my life, I’ve sang the lyrics to his songs in my mind. Repeating stanzas like a mantra. The song that had the biggest impact on me was most assuredly Free (lyrics shown above).

A Legacy of Compassion

Prince was also a secret philanthropist, supporting causes including youth empowerment, animal rights, racial justice, and clean energy for all. His compassion for the others was an important part of his legacy.

“Compassion is an action word with no boundaries.” ~ Prince

The legendary musician was renowned for speaking out on behalf of those who were vulnerable and voiceless. According to federal tax forms, his charity, Love 4 One Another, gave more than $1.5 million between 2005 and 2007 alone.

A new mural of Prince has been unveiled from 10:10 on Vimeo.

The climate charity 10:10 recently commissioned a new mural in honor of Prince’s contributions to environmental causes in Camden, north London. The mural kicks off their six-week campaign to provide solar panels to food banks and charities – groups that reflect the commitment to community, creativity and humanity that Prince demonstrated in life with his secret philanthropy.

“If you ever lose someone dear to you, never say the words, ‘They’re gone.’ They’ll come back.” ~ Prince

When he gave, he made only one request, to not publicize it. He wanted no publicity or accolades for the gifts he bestowed. Many of those who were impacted by his generosity only began sharing of his compassion after he had passed.

A Legacy of Love

Throughout his career, he brought cultures together. Uniting sexes and working to instill his message of love for one another. His fans or #PurpleArmy continue to share his vision.

Spirituality has always been a part of his music. Prince’s musical and lyrical explorations of spiritual themes are evident in each and every album he released. More importantly, he embodied and lived by his spiritual principals.

So many reasons why
There’s so many reasons why
I don’t belong here
But now that I am I
Without fear I am
Gonna conquer with no fear
Until I find my way back home

~ Prince, “Way Back Home”

When I think of Prince, both his music and his life overall, I don’t so much think about religion. When I think of him, I think of love—not romantic or sexual love—but unconditional, human love. A love that transcends gender, race, or religion. A love not limited to one’s family, social circle, community or nation. A love we are most in need of cultivating if we are to grow and evolve.

Prince logo.svg

High School Forecasting: Coordinating Schedules, CLEP Exams, and College Courses

Fall term is nearing an end. Many students are preparing for final exams as well as forecasting with their advisors and thereby registering for winter term. My daughter, Geneva, is amongst them.

She has really enjoyed taking dual enrollment courses on the college campus these past few months and has worked very hard to assure she completes two consecutive courses within the 10-week term. Come winter term she will enroll in two courses – Intermediate Algebra (Math 95) and English Composition (Writing 121).

high-school-forecastingHigh School Forecasting

Her goal is to complete the degree requirements for an Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer Degree simultaneously with her high school diploma. While no easy feat, it can and has been done by homeschoolers and public school students across the state.

As at least one of the courses she will take winter term is transferable to a four year university, it is important that we work alongside an advisor to ensure the courses are counted for dual enrollment. We’ve made an appointment and look forward to sharing the four-year plan we have put together.

Course Load and Schedules

I opened our forecasting discussion by first describing the degree requirements for the transfer degree as well as the course list for a degree in engineering (a field in which she has expressed interest since she was a young girl). She then shared the goals she had for herself and what she hopes to accomplish over the next four years.

This FREE customizable spreadsheet provided the skeletal structure for her four year plan. Thank you, Heidi!

High School 4 Year Forecasting Plan

Together, we looked at the course descriptions for each of the classes she was interested in and thereby narrowed down her choices. In addition, we read the prerequisites carefully to ensure there would be no surprises along the way.

Four courses chosen from at least two disciplines including at least three laboratory courses in biological and/or physical science are required for Science & Mathematics.

With the prerequisites and an engineering degree in mind, her choices include a year of General Chemistry, a year of Physics with Calculus (must be taken concurrently), and two terms of Geology. We thereby plugged each of these into the four-year plan assuring that she would take no more than two courses per term at the college.

In addition, the course load during her senior year in high school is relatively easier than the preceding two. This will provide a little cushion and time for scholarship essays and other unforeseen hoops she may have to jump through.

Foreign Language Requirement

In Oregon, there is a foreign language requirement for admission to a four year university:

[Transfer] students who graduated from high school in 1997 or later must meet a foreign language requirement with either two years of high school level study in the same language or two quarters/semesters of college level study with a minimum grade of a C- or better.

While she is fluent in Mandarin (having studied the language since she was 5 years old), as an independent homeschool, Academia Celestia is not an accredited institution. She will thereby be expected to take a foreign language course at the college or demonstrate proficiency by passing an exam.

While she hopes to someday learn additional languages (and may yet decide to take a college level course), she will most likely choose this option. Her ultimate goal is to study abroad in China and earn a minor in Asian Languages and Culture.

CLEP Exams

In addition to the course work and requirements described above, there are several foundational (Writing, Communication, and Health & Fitness) and Cultural Literacy requirements.

Four courses chosen from two or more disciplines are required for Social Sciences. Three courses chosen from two or more disciplines are required for Arts & Letters.

For Social Sciences, she selected a fascinating Anthropology course and a course suggested for Engineering students, Economics. To earn addition credits (9) for History 201, 202, and 203 she plans to take the CLEP exam in United States History.

While English 104, 105, and 106 are not required for the AA degree (she chose alternatives in Art and Philosophy), she may also choose to take the English Literature CLEP exam to earn credit (9) for these courses.

Science Milestones: A New Astronomy with Johannes Kepler

Each month, I like to share a post celebrating the accomplishments of a scientist whose discoveries and advancements have made a significant difference in our lives. To honor the work of these amazing people, I provide a little peak into their life and share an unschool-style learning guides or unit study to guide you and your children on a path of discovery.

This month, I chose to honor the Johannes Kepler, who lived in an era when there was no clear distinction between astronomy and astrology. There was, however, a strong division between astronomy (a branch of mathematics within the liberal arts) and physics (a branch of natural philosophy).

Science Milestones: A New Astronomy with Johannes Kepler @EvaVarga.netJohannes Kepler

In 1596, the German astronomer published his first important work on astronomy, Mysterium Cosmographicum (The Cosmographic Mystery). As well as defending the heliocentric model of the universe previously proposed by Copernicus in 1543.

Kepler explained the orbits of the known planets around the Sun in geometric terms in an attempt to unravel “God’s mysterious plan of the universe.” To do this, he dow upon the classical notion of the “harmony of the spheres” which he linked to the five Platonic solids – octahedron, icosahedron, dodecahedron, tetrahedron, and cube.

Science Milestones: A New Astronomy with Johannes Kepler @EvaVarga.net

The Platonic solids, when inscribed in spheres and nested inside one another in order, correspond to the orbits of the planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.

In 1619, he published Harmonices Mundi (The Harmony of the World) wherein he stated his third law of planetary motion. He described the relationship between a planet’s distance from the Sun and the time taken to orbit around it as well as the speed of the planet at any time in that orbit.

Biography

Science Milestones: Johannes KeplerKepler was born in the small town of Weil der Stadt in the Swabia region of Germany and moved to nearby Leonberg with his parents in 1576. His father was a mercenary soldier and his mother, the daughter of an innkeeper. Johannes was their first child.

When Johannes was just five, his father left home for the last time and is believed to have died in the war in the Netherlands. As a child, Kepler lived with his mother in his grandfather’s inn. He tells us that he used to help by serving in the inn.

Kepler’s early education was in a local school and then at a nearby seminary. Intending to be ordained he went on to enroll at the University of Tübingen, a bastion of Lutheran orthodoxy.

Throughout his life, Kepler was a profoundly religious man. All his writings contain numerous references to God, and he saw his work as a fulfilment of his Christian duty to understand the works of God.

At Tübingen Kepler was taught astronomy by one of the leading astronomers of the day, Michael Mästlin. The curriculum was of course, geocentric astronomy, in which all seven planets – Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn – moved around the Earth, their positions against the fixed stars being calculated by combining circular motions.

This system was more or less in accord with current Aristotelian notions of physics, though there were certain difficulties. However, it seems that on the whole astronomers were content to carry on calculating positions of planets and leave it to natural philosophers to worry about whether the mathematical models corresponded to physical mechanisms. Kepler did not take this attitude. His earliest published work, Mysterium Cosmographicum, proposed to consider the actual paths of the planets, not the circles used to construct them.

 “I am satisfied…to guard the gates of the temple in which Copernicus makes sacrifices at the high altar.” ~ Johannes Kepler

Kepler was one of the few pupils to whom Mästlin chose to teach more advanced astronomy by introducing them to the new, heliocentric cosmological system of Copernicus. Kepler seems to have accepted almost instantly that the Copernican system was physically true.

Soon after moving to Regensburg in 1630, he became seriously ill with fever and on November 15 he died.

Bring it Home

What are Kepler’s three laws of planetary motion? How were his ideas viewed by his contemporaries?

Learn more about star polyhedra, discovered by Kepler in 1619 and prominently featured in the architecture of European churches.

Build models of the five Platonic solids; consider The Finnish Craft of Himmeli or Paper Models of Polyhedra.

Research the epitaph inscribed on his gravestone (sadly swept away in the Thirty Years War):

I used to measure the heavens,
now I shall measure the shadows of the earth.
Although my soul was from heaven,
the shadow of my body lies here.

 

Science Milestones

Visit my Science Milestones page to learn more about scientists whose discoveries and advancements have made a significant difference in our lives or who have advanced our understanding of the world around us.

Interested in learning about others who were born in the month of January? Hop over to Birthday Lessons in December to read posts by other iHomeschool Network bloggers.