9 Awesome Books for Makers

by Amy Kraft on September 29, 2014

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While at Maker Fair NY, I got to have a look at the new books from two of my favorite science educators.

Kathy Ceceri and I wrote on GeekMom together, and she’s currently About.com’s homeschooling expert. We already have Kathy’s book Robotics at home. It’s a great primer about what constitutes a robot, and it has 20 projects that use easily-accessible materials to explore the concepts of robotics like an art-making vibrobot and a solar wobblebot that you can make from a CD and a Starbucks lid. In her Maker Faire talk, Kathy said she wanted to challenge herself to take her robotics projects to the next level. One thing that really resonated with me was when she said, “Don’t be afraid to use learning tools meant for kids” as that’s how I often think about technical challenges. Kathy’s new book from Make, Making Simple Robots, looks at cutting-edge robotics in the world and then replicates those concepts in easy-to-follow projects. Her books are a one-two punch for newbies entering the realm of robotics.

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Storefront Science has a large presence in our neighborhood, and once a week Olive has classes with the awesome Leonisa Ardizonne, EdD, or Dr. A as she’s known in these parts. I was thrilled at Maker Faire to see that Dr. A has a new book out, Science-Not Just for Scientists! Easy Explorations for Young Children. Want your young kids to love science but don’t know how to tackle tough topics in an age-appropriate way? Dr. A’s got you covered, with chapters on things like patterns, systems, energy, and cause and effect. The step-by-step activities are great for parents and educators alike.

Here are some other fine books to round out your library.

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Geek Mom: Projects, Tips, and Adventures for Moms and Their 21st-Century Families

Kathy and the three other original editors of the GeekMom blog, Natania Barron, Corrina Lawson, and Jenny Williams, put together a book filled with diverse activities for geeky makers. Some of my favorites involve creating your own superhero and steampunk costumes, being a game designer making One Thousand Blank White Cards, mapmaking, and creating your kid’s first website.

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Recycled Robots: 10 Robot Projects

Ozzie was enchanted with the robots at the Brooklyn Robot Foundry booth at Maker Faire, and this book and kit gives us everything we need to make a robot like that at home. There are lots of ideas of how to used recycled materials in robot design, even if they aren’t things that you have around the house. (For instance, if you don’t have the suggested shuttlecock tip, a bottle cap will work just fine.) The kit also has body templates, a motor, and two windup walkers to send your robots on the move.

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Candy Experiments

Halloween is coming up, which means we’ll soon have a reserve of candy that lasts until the snow thaws. But with Candy Experiments, we can use up some of that candy in the name of science. Have races to see which candies dissolve first, or which candies melt first in the microwave. See what candy sinks and what floats, and if you can make floaters into sinkers. (It’s impossible not to think about Caddyshack with a candy bar in the water.) This book doesn’t just help you experiment with your Halloween goodies, there’s also experiments for candy canes, candy hearts. and Peeps. Sweet, sweet science.

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Crazy Concoctions: A Mad Scientist’s Guide to Messy Mixtures

Sometimes making can be gross and hilarious, like when you make fake vomit, blood, and boogers. (Come to think of it, that’s also handy with Halloween coming up.) This books has lots of funny, messy projects from gooey glop and sculpting slime to edible creations like the fastest chocolate cake ever and sour milk biscuits. Each activity explains the science behind what’s going on presented in a funny way that kids will want to read themselves.

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Super Scratch Programming Adventure

Scratch is an amazing programming language for kids from the MIT Media Lab. It’s a great place to start with future programmers and game designers, but can be intimidating to jump in with both feet. This book has projects of increasing difficulty, progressing from learning the interface basics to making real games. I’m about to become the technology helper in Olive’s 4th grade class, and you can bet I’ll have this book at my side.

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Why Is Milk White? & 200 Other Curious Chemistry Questions

It’s great for makers and young scientists to understand the science behind how and why things work. This book is a know-it-all’s dream, answering questions like ‘What chemicals in washing soap make it clean your clothes?’, ‘What makes a firework explore?’, and ‘What happens when you put your hand in an acid?’ You know, you don’t necessarily want to perform all of those experiments, so it’s handy jumping to the end result. This book is also good for the reluctant chemistry student trying to figure out why chemistry matters.

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Lego Builds Your Flatiron Dreams

by Amy Kraft on September 26, 2014

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One recent evening my husband came home and said, “Hey, guess what’s opening up next to Eataly?” and I was all “I KNOW! LEGO FLAGSHIP STORE!” I knew this because I was about to take a tour of the store building in progress.

It’s pretty fun watching the details of the store coming together. You probably won’t be surprised to know that much of the construction is modular, so it’s like putting together giant legos. A member of the crew pointed out the ceilings to me – the giant rectangles filled with cylindrical chandeliers look just like the underside of a lego. Even cooler is the attention to NYC this new store has, with a giant Statue of Liberty torch and a history of the Flatiron district told in Lego dioramas.

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The new Flatiron location also has a Lego Lounge where parents can chill while their kids build. Sorry, no birthday parties in the space, though. There are monthly mini model builds and Lego Club meetings for young Lego enthusiasts. And, you know, there will be no shortage of Legos to buy.

I’m excited about this new location at the corner of 5th and 23rd. I daresay I’ve never been in the Rockefeller Center location. Because crowds. We adore the Madison Square Park area, though, so this is how a perfect day with the kids might go:

11:00 am – arrive at Lego store and hang out in the Lego Lounge

12:00 noon – lunch. Depending on mood and weather, this would either be at Shake Shack in the park or Hill Country Chicken.

1:00 pm – Hang out in Madison Square Park.

2:00 pm – Museum of Math. This fits so nicely with a Lego store just across the park.

4:00 pm – Eataly, where we’d grab some focaccia and dinner fixin’s.

4:30 pm – Lego store, where we go buy that thing that the kids decided they couldn’t live without

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That’s just on an average day, and the store is only enjoying its soft launch so far. You can check out their grand opening festivities October 10th-13th. You and your kids can help a Lego master builder construct a 20-foot-tall Statue of Liberty in Madison Square Park.

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Taking My Mini-Makers to Maker Faire NY

September 26, 2014
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Did you make it to Maker Faire NY this year? I managed to be so focused on finding things for the kids that I totally missed the adults-only maker exhibit (slightly NSFW). Oh, well. Next year. Here are some of the things we did find. It may not seem like much, just a ball controlled […]

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Interactive Imagination with Hervé Tullet

September 22, 2014
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I was about to write about Hervé Tullet’s new book Mix It Up when I realized that I’ve never written about his book Press Here on Media Macaroni. No book makes Ozzie giggle the way Press Here does. It’s an interactive book in the most conceptual sense. You’re invited to touch each page in some way, then you turn […]

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Want to Be a Pirate? Here’s How!

September 19, 2014
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Avast, me hearties, ’tis Talk Like a Pirate Day! This oddest of holidays hits extra close to me heart this year because I’ve been working on a pirate-themed game for the past six months. But what if you don’t know how to talk like a pirate? There’s a book for that. How to be a […]

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What We Did On Our Summer Vacation

September 16, 2014
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With mere days left of summer, the kids are finally settled back into school, so I’m hoping to get settled back into blogging. Here’s a little snapshot of what we did this summer. If it were up to her, Olive would have played Minecraft every waking second, but she also enjoyed some great city camps, including […]

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Time for Curious Kids: Animals, Robots, and Time Travel

August 20, 2014
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I know Time for Kids as a staple of my daughter’s classrooms, but they’re also a great publishers of nonfiction with high appeal for kids. They recently sent us three of their books to get our trivia brains fired up. Time for Kids Big Book of When invites kids on a journey through time, documenting a wide array […]

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Making in Queens: What’s New at NYSCI

August 18, 2014
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Today we enter the netherworld of summer in NYC. My Facebook feed is full of first day of school pictures, but here in NYC, we don’t start for over two more weeks. But summer camps have all ended as well, so it’s up to us to entertain the kids. Might I recommend the New York Hall […]

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Finding New Shows for My Boy: Violence and Sexism Edition

July 26, 2014
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Oz: Mom, can I watch this show? BOOM! SMASH! PUNCH! EXPLODE! PUNCH! Minor narrative insertion. PUNCH! PUNCH! Me (to Oz): Sorry, little man. I don’t think this is a show for 4-year olds. Me (to self): Or anyone for that matter. Oz: How about this show? [Watch show for a while...] Me: Are there really […]

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Maleficent: A Complicated Villain

June 7, 2014
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  Olive had a day off from school this week and on a whim while we were killing time between appointments we went to see Maleficent. I had shown Olive the trailer a while back and she said she wasn’t interested, but I had been reading about it being a great feminist film so I talked […]

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