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Ask Judy Your Questions

ByTom MillerThe Secret Life of Scientists and EngineersThe Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers

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Judy Lee has lots and lots of power tools. And she’s not afraid to use them!

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Check out what she has to say in this Q&A.

Q: Gwen Nguyen

Hi Judy,

How do you make science fun for kids? My own kids and students tend to struggle with science vocabularies and concepts. What are your suggestions on how to teach complex science concepts and vocabularies to elementary and middle school students?

A: Judy Lee

Hi Gwen,

At that age, science can be a really abstract concept. Great teachers go the extra mile to get out of the book and make the lesson a tangible experience. If it’s something they can see, smell, taste, hear, or feel,they’re more likely to remember it.

Here are two sources for a starting point of ideas:

Design Squad Nation has a site for parents and educators. These are easy and fun activities using objects that are easy to find and low cost.

Bay Area (where I live) has an amazing resource for teachers and community groups. Companies donate ‘scrap’ or unwanted materials to them and they work with the materials to create hands on learning kits for teachers. Each kit has all the materials, instructions, and science lesson ready to go. Best of all they are cheap! It’s amazing what kind of science you can learn from something like a used cd. Check around your area to see if something like this is available. Or contact RAFT to see if they know of something in your area. They are very well connected.

Keep up the great teaching Gwen!

Q: Jason

Hi Judy

Lets say you are designing a boat powered by a water jet. What is the best placement for the water propulsion jet, above the surface of the water or below the surface of the water? In other words what placement produces the most thrust assuming the same power applied?

A: Judy Lee

Hi Jason. Great question! All modern jet boats are designed so that water propulsion exits the jet nozzle above the surface of the water. Why do you ask? Thrust, or the forward speed of the boat, is only determined by how much water and how fast it is sent out the back. With the jet stream under the surface, the jet of water is slowed down significantly because it is being slowed down by the environment it is exiting into (water). Placing the jet stream above the surface reduces the amount of resistance because it’s through air.

Here’s an easy way to test this concept. All you need is a bucket, garden hose with a nozzle, and a water supply. Turn the water on and place the nozzle above the surface. You’ll notice the the hose will try and jump away from the force of the water from the nozzle. Then try it with the nozzle completely under water. The hose won’t jump away. Instead, you’ll notice that the thrust disappears and the nozzle will sink to the bottom of the bucket.

Hope this helps.

Q: Jessie

Hi Judy,

If you were a contestant on Design Squad Nation, what would be your favorite thing to build?

A: Judy Lee

Since Design Squad Nation is a kids show, I would build an easy way for my dog Rosie to get to our back yard, which is down a long flight of steps. I built her a doggie door a year ago but as she’s getting older the stairs have become a problem for her. I would love to build her an easy way to get to the garden! Maybe a garden? a slide? a tube that massages her as she walks through?