megaband departs!

The Megaband, along with Christie, Phillip, and Jaqi, are gone for a whole week at the Joshua Tree National Park in the Mojave Desert. So exciting! The collaborators have planned an incredible line-up of experiences, from excursions with the National Park Association and star gazing with astronomers, to time working on the Mirrors arc projects and visiting the Integatron to hear its unique sounds. There have been mirrors art installations popping up all over the desert and they will be visiting them to see their unique take on the mysterious and beautiful landscape that is Joshua Tree. Though it is a no-tech trip, we got this glimpse of them yesterday via Ellen’s phone:

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We can’t wait to hear updates and stories of their adventures, and I hope to post as much as I can! Though these San Francisco natives assured me that they would melt in the heat, I can’t imagine that they’re having anything but an incredible time. We wish we were all there!

go extinct on kickstarter

One of our community mentors, Ariel, a biologist and science educator who served as an expert during the Clocks arc, just launched her all-new card game, Go Extinct! on Kickstarter.

It takes Go Fish to the next level by teaching players about evolution. The Megaband students worked with Ariel quite a few times during the last arc to playtest and work on the details of Go Extinct! They wrote a ton about it on their school blogs! As Ariel told us, the kids gave high value feedback on early iterations of the game and helped work on the details. They even star in the Kickstarter video and in pictures throughout the page.

For her Clocks arc project, Jane created her own Cat Family version of Go Extinct! – and she is featured on the Kickstarter page. Jane’s design process began with parsing a primary scientific article published in Science and ended with her designing the board game colors and card flavor text. Ariel and her team took inspiration from their work with her and are offering five backers for the project an opportunity to design their own expansion pack.

In order to be successful, the Kickstarter campaign must reach $15,000 before May 31st. You can pledge and get an early copy of the game on the page here. Help support this great resource and awesome game!

high school projects

Although I don’t have pictures of them, I wanted to give an update on the work that the six Brightworks high school students have been doing this arc. Last week, they went with Ellen to see the documentary Finding Vivian Maier, about the recent discovery of a prolific photographer who took thousands of photographs throughout the 1940s to 60s while working as a nanny. In writing and philosophy classes they have been exploring what it means to have a self and the ways in which people express that self, the role of the artist in art, and the art of self portraiture, so exploring Maier’s mysterious past and ephemera made the perfect connection.

They have all chosen various arts-related projects for this Expression phase.

Grace is making a video montage in the spirit of Christian Marclay’s 24-hour movie The Clock, but her version will be a compilation of clips from movies of characters looking in mirrors.

Tytus has been planning an epic origin of a superhero comic, with a fight scene interlaced with exposition.

Isaac is composing a new album for the Mirrors arc and just learned how to play a saw, which sounds like a scratchy recording on a record player.

Ben is making a detailed spray painted self portrait, made of the puzzle pieces of his front and back.

Max is planning a new short film based on the psychological impacts of sitting in front of a mirror – this time in the form of a character who has to sit in a blank room for months with only a mirror for company.

Madison has been working on portraying her face in different styles and with several media in preparation for a series of self-portraits based on the work of Vincent van Gogh, Frida Kahlo, and Andy Warhol.

It’s been great to see these older kids take the reins on their projects and watch them make progress independently, with little guidance and directions from their collaborators! We’re excited to see where their ideas take them and what they create by the end of the Expression phase of Mirrors.

solar concentrators

The Hawks have started working on their group Expression project for Mirrors: making solar marshmallow roasters. Inspired by their work from before spring break, each Hawk is taking a different approach to the solar concentrator challenge. Mackenzie reports that she and the Hawks are determined not to make the Expression project a competition between each student, but rather an opportunity to share ideas openly, credit each other’s work, and build on each other’s successes and failures. Already they have started forming partnerships and alliances between themselves as their ideas and strategies begin to line up!

Aurora and Natasha were inspired by the Archimedes Death Ray episode of Mythbusters and spun Plaster of Paris to make a parabolic shape for their solar concentrator.

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They learned that a parabola is a slice of a cone that goes on into infinity, which makes it good for gathering light! After learning that very little sticks to Plaster of Paris, they settled on covering their parabola with reflective tape and created a clear focal point.

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Now they have to figure out if their parabola is big enough to generate enough heat to roast a marshmallow.

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Bruno also made a parabolic Plaster of Paris mold, but covered his with mirror tiles instead of reflective tape.

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He was inspired by the disco ball hanging above the cork floor and resolved to make an inside-out disco ball for his solar concentrator.

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Mackenzie writes, “If you look into Bruno’s parabola and align your eye with the focal point, you will see a dozen of your own eyes looking back. This is how you know that all the mirrors are correctly placed to reflect light to the focal point.”

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Quinn experimented with several different conical reflective surfaces as well as the ideas of several of the other Hawks.

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He found an old satellite dish at home and covered it in reflective tape, then added mirror tiles to give it a boost in reflecting light and creating heat.

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Ben made several small iterations where he experimented with creating stronger and stronger focal points. He tried a light fixture lined with foil and a piece of U-shaped bucket lined with reflective tape. But none of the of the focal points were strong enough.

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Ultimately, he decided on a hanging piece of reflective material in a frame to create a large hanging parabola.

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Lola and Lucy would like to bake a pie in their solar concentrator. They found a Styrofoam container in storage and painted the outside black so that it will absorb more heat.

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They lined the box with foil and put a plexiglass cover on the open end. When they tested it the first time, it already reached 250 degrees!

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On Friday they took their first iterations outside to test them and found the hot spots for each. They will continue with next iterations this week!

back in the swing of things

What a week! We can hardly believe it was spring break last week – everyone was busily working on project declarations, more mirror experiments and explorations, and getting back into the swing of things. Today was one of the better Community Fridays – everyone gathered in the dining room and art studio areas and there was a happy buzz of thinking interesting thoughts, doing cool things, and being together.

The art studio hummed with monochromatic paintings and castle decoration.

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The Hummingbirds hosted a foot soak and relaxation station.

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Some of the boys played nearby.

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Ariel, our favorite game designer, hosted a game test with several students for a fellow game designer. Apparently the game is a combination of Monopoly and Settlers of Cataan.

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Many students continued work on their declarations and research papers, like Aidan, and some even were approved by Ellen and Gever in meetings this morning!

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We’re looking forward to a brief restful weekend, and then back at it on Monday!

marshmallows and mirrors

Mirrors, magnifying glasses, and thermometers in hand, the Hawks ventured outside to conduct a very kid-friendly experiment: roasting a marshmallow using only the sunlight.

The kids played around with which surface to place the marshmallow on it make it heat. Lola suggested a small metal bucket, and Ben and Quinn thought a mirror would be best.

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Aurora and Bruno experimented with magnifying glasses to see how the light expanded and condensed on the marshmallow to conduct heat.

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Natasha, Lola, and Lucy wanted to double the intensity of the light coming at the marshmallow, so used a set of mirrors to direct light onto another row of mirrors to make things hotter.

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Clementine’s idea was to light the pile of tinder below the marshmallow to create a fire that would do the roasting. Mackenzie reports that Ben brought out a glass of water just in case of an uncontrolled burn.

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Mackenzie says that the marshmallow never roasted, but it did reach 106 degrees Fahrenheit!

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She said that the Hawks had a few ideas about their next iteration: more careful placement of mirrors so the light would hit all the same spot, more magnifying glasses to intensify light, and perhaps a reverse disco ball that would concentrate light instead of disperse it. We’ll have to see what they come up with!

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out in the field

A core principle at Brightworks is to get kids out in the world almost as much as they are in school – the world has so much to show and teach us, and we greatly benefit from being in an accessible city with so many resources within our reach. Last week, there was a band missing every day as they found arc-related experiences all over town.

On Monday the Megaband visited the California Academy of Science to see a couple of planetarium shows about the earliest light from the creation of the universe, dark matter, and antimatter. The students’ curiosities were sparked after listening to the third segment of RadioLab’s show on symmetry and mirrors, called “Nothing’s the Antimatter.”

On Tuesday, the Elephants ventured out to the Exploratorium to check out the mirror exhibits there.

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Wednesday found the Hummingbirds in Glen Canyon Park, their usual weekly field trip to explore the nearby wild in the city.

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On Thursday, the Banditos went with the Hummingbirds to the Mirror Maze at Fisherman’s Wharf.

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The Banditos then met the Hawks at the Exploratorium for their own scavenger hunt around the museum.

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