STEM Explorer Day 4: Technology
Internet Network Communication
Today we learned how information is sent and retrieved over the Internet, which is an international network of computers. Then we became the Internet! Teams were challenged to request information from the instructor and teacher (servers) and build a webpage out of HTML. The first team to complete the page won! We learned that Internet traffic can slow down data transmission, and servers and routers can become busy or overwhelmed. Computers can choose any number of different paths to send the data along. Fortunately, the real Internet has a lot more connections than our classroom model, or you’d still be waiting for this page to load!
Intro to Binary
We use computer-based technology daily to communicate with others. We share information in the form of text, images, and sound with each other. We send text messages and emails. We share photos online and send faxes. We buy songs from our favorite artists and download them to our computers, or listen to the latest and greatest tunes on the music channel on TV. Explorers learned today just how computers do what they do: exchange all of this information at seemingly instantaneous speeds. Computers “read” and “write” using a system called binary code. Today’s lesson focused on counting and writing in binary and explorers had a blast! Be sure to ask your explorer to show you how to write their name in binary!
Today we investigated the science of secret codes and ciphers: Cryptography! We learned that cryptography has existed for as long as people have been keeping secrets. The ancient Egyptians used secret codes 4,000 years ago! Explorers were introduced to a number of ciphers (secret codes) and were challenged to figure out how to crack the codes. We explored simple ciphers, transposition ciphers, and substitution ciphers, including the Pigpen Cipher, the Caesar Cipher (named after Julius Caesar) and the Scytale Cipher. For the Caesar Cipher, Explorers analyzed the frequency of letters in a cipher in order to uncover its hidden message. Ask your explorer what the most common letters are in the English language!
Print your own Caesar Wheel to use at home! Use this link.
e-Trashing our Future
Amazed at how quickly the newest technological gadget gets replaced with an even newer model? Outdated equipment building up in your closets and basement, while cords, chargers, batteries, and old cell phones take up space in your junk drawer? Today’s lesson highlighted one of the fastest growing problems on our planet – what to do with all of our e-waste.
E-waste, short for electronic waste, is the term for any outdated or obsolete electronic device found in offices and homes, often in junk drawers. Used electronics destined for reuse, resale, salvage, recycling, or disposal are also considered e-waste. E-waste in the U.S. is often shipped to other countries where underpaid workers expose themselves to dangerous toxins while trying to retrieve valuable heavy metals from the components.
Today, Explorers examined e-waste data and gained an increased awareness of e-waste and its effect on global communities. Ask your Explorer how you can help make a difference and begin solving the e-waste dilemma, right in your own home.
Today, the Explorers were digital detectives. They used data from several “Mystery People’s” Tweetster and SocialBook profiles in combination with their search histories to figure out their personal data and what event the people were preparing for. Students were surprised to learn that real-life companies do this every day! Social media sites keep track of what we post, like, click, and buy, and then sell that information to companies who turn around and use it to figure out what ads we might like to see. They also learned that their own private information can be easily found by anyone looking at their social media posts. It was eye-opening!
Thank you STEM Explorers, for joining Science from Scientists for a week filled with fun STEM activities!