How to build a model Solar System with your kids!

My son came home with a science project that required him to build a solar system.  Digging around I found this great site that really steered us in the right direction:

https://sciencing.com/build-solar-system-model-kids-6399701.html

Most of what we needed could be found at our local Hobby Lobby.  I think the project came out very well and brought back some great memories of building something very similar.  Please share your thoughts with me and any examples of projects you have built with your own kids.  I look forward to hearing from you!

 

 

Happy Solar System’ing!

 

 

Learning to Code with Minecraft

Hi All-

Being a software engineer I naturally like the idea of my kids pursuing my career path.  I think that is a natural feeling to have, as long as it is done in a healthy way.  It doesn’t make sense to push your kids to do things they don’t want to do, because they will only learn to hate the very things you are hoping that they will love.  But if your kids do show an interest you want to give them the best possible chance to pursue their dreams.  Lately my boys have been showing an interest in learning computer programming and the question became for me was what was the best way to foster this interest.   There are plenty of online coding websites for kids, and even a few apps.  But they have showed limited interest when I presented these tools to them.

Enter Minecraft.  I am sure you have heard of Minecraft. If not, what rock have you been living under?  Haha.  Did you know that Minecraft can be pretty easily extended by your kids to, well, do things that the original authors of Minecraft did not necessarily intend the game to do?  This is called “mod’ing” (mod is short for modifying” ) the game and it requires that your kids run a custom server on your Home Network that supports a mod’ing interface.  A very easy to install “mod” server is called “SpigotMC” and you can find the server at:

https://www.spigotmc.org/

Here is how you install it on Windows:

https://www.spigotmc.org/wiki/windows-installation/

And on Apple:

https://www.spigotmc.org/wiki/mac-osx-installation/

The install isn’t that hard, just follow the directions exactly.  Once this done your kids can connect to this Mod’d server.  You may not know how to do this, but I bet they do!

SpigotMC comes pre-configured to use ScriptCraft.  Scriptcraft allows your children to easily modify Minecraft by writing Javascript.   You can learn more about Scriptcraft at this link:

https://scriptcraftjs.org/

Every web page in the world uses Javascript so it isn’t a bad language for them to learn!  Trust me there are currently 1000’s of open Javascript Programming jobs in our country.  And they pay isn’t too shabby!

SpigotMC also supports other programming interfaces like Java, in fact the entire Minecraft game is written in Java.  But I think that it is is easiest for them to start modifying the game using Javascript because Scriptcraft basically lets them plug their code right into the game without a lot of extra steps to get things working.  Remember you don’t have to install Scriptcraft, SpigotMC comes preconfigured to use it.  In the programming world the first program you always write when learning a new language or platform is called “Hello World.”   You can find a simple tutorial for your a Scriptcraft “Hello World” program at this link:

Hello World in Minecraft with Scriptcraft

This might all seem a little daunting, but once it is setup your kids will take the ball and run with it.  Trust me.  It won’t be long before you are amazed at what they are creating in their Minecraft world.  And hey, they are playing Minecraft anyway, why not turn it into a learning experience?

Like this Blog Post?  Let me know and I will follow up with more on this topic.  Questions?  Let me know and I will see if I can help.

BTW, this video link might be pretty helpful to you if you are more visually oriented:

Simple Circuit Design for your kids..

Want your kids to learn circuit design?  Check this out.

http://www.falstad.com/circuit/

This is one of the coolest little apps I have seen.  With this web app your child can play around with all types of electrical components.  When I was in college it would take me hours to do what you can do in minutes in this application.  With this simple web app your kids will be able to assemble some simple (and some pretty complex) circuits and measure voltages and currents throughout the circuit they design.  The app also has a built in oscilloscope so they can watch the waveforms of the electrical signals at various points in the circuit.  This supports all sorts of common electrical components, as well as, some commonly used IC chips.

I have developed some simple circuits using this tool with my son and then built some simple circuits using a breadboard and the actual components in the circuit.  I will add a follow on post in the future that lets you know what you need to purchase to build these circuits!

Kudo’s to the Author!