School Programs

Eli Whitney Museum

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Balancing Circus

The Circus explores the art and science of balance, forces, center or gravity and performance. Conceived with a nod to artist /engineer Sandy Calder, each circus tests classic experiments at work. Expands STC curriculum.

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Machine Design: The Vocabulary of Motion

A basic vocabulary of movements controls every mechanical device. Leonardo daVinci identified and drew the most important of these. Learn one of three classic arrangements to control the direction, speed and shape of movement. Invent an artful application for your device. Then, connect yours to someone else's machine and let them work together with a set or series of pulleys to combine movement and meaning.

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The Whitney Relay

The Whitney Relay is a set of inter­connect­able parts that lets students master the art and science of energy transfer in the tradition of the Rube Goldberg Machine or its contemporary Japanese masterpiece: the Pythagoras Switch. Each student receives 5 ramps, 8 marbles, 6 blocks, and assorted parts to construct a chain reaction that could include your whole class. Thoughtful lessons in mechanics, invention and teamwork.

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Simple Machines

Whitney demonstrated the power of machines to guide and ease work. The screws, threads, levers and pulleys of this machine organize effort into power you can feel. Students assemble interchangeable parts and invent a personality for their machine.

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Pinball Machine

A popular project that teaches game design (beginnings, middles and ends), logic (rewards for difficulty), marble movement (caroms, momentum) and creative design (good games must still attract players.) A rare exploration of the work of play.

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Catapult

Explore the ancient and challenging mechanics of catapults. Rubber bands power this model. Safe for people and places when used with the ping pong ball provided. Make Happy Birds and fling them with accuracy.

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Rubber Band Car

Students construct cars powered by rubber bands and measure their performance after 20 minutes of practice. Lively insights into the mechanics, measurement and math of motion. Great for a followup program on creative elaboration. New design now employs wheels of diameter 1/π.

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Hill Quest

Wheels, axles, chassis parts, connectors and rubber bands are the basic components of each kit that allows students to construct cars that sprint or creep to the top of a wooden ramp…jousting with another student’s car. Challenge: Beat your opponent to the top of the three foot ramp and hold your ground. The project tests all the dynamics of Force and Motion and tests planning and problem solving.

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Electromagnet

Understand electricity through the same experiments that early scientists used. Wind a coil of wire. Suspend a bar magnet in it. Charge the coil with a battery to spin the magnet. Test polarity. Discover the origins of motors and Morse Code.

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Reversing Switch & Buggy

A battery's current flows in one direction. Clever arrangement of switches can reverse that direction. Construct a controller with a battery, motor and ultralight buggy which can go forward or backward. Learn wiring logic, precision, and trouble shooting.

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Violin

Construct a two string instrument and a bow. Devise experiments to modify pitch and tone and volume. Consider the variables of materials, tension, touch and your own dexterity... all experiments measured by ear.

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Robot Drum

Construct a music machine. Hear the logic of Leonardo's mind at work as he invents the first modern robot, an automatic drummer whose rhythms can be reprogrammed flexibly and whose tempos adjust automatically. Invent your own cadences.

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Camera Obscura

A complete light laboratory in a box. Construct a box that captures and focuses images. Use it as a camera obscura...an artist's drawing tool. Or make it into a model of the eye. Then rearrange the elements. Direct a light source on an image inside the box to project the image into a darkened room – recreate one of Leonardo da Vinci’s greatest leaps of invention: a projector.

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Solar System Model - the Orrery

Models organize big ideas for scientists and students; they identify and test questions and are ideal tools for thinking. The Earth/Moon Rotation orrery shows our planetary movement around the sun and demonstrates lunar orbit and moon phases when illuminated with an accompanying light.

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Sustainable House

Construct a birdhouse of sustainably harvested pine and re-used plywood. Learn the measurements of adapting house to species. Learn to site house for temperature and security. Learn annual recycling. Learn sensible building choices for birds (and people) Or a birdfeeder.

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Magnetic Pendulum

All creatures live in a web of resources that support or suppress their growth. Create a dynamic model of an insect’s or bird’s world. Suspend a magnetized creature on a pendulum. Add food and shelter (with magnets) that attract the creature and predators and hazards that repel it. The creature navigates a complex and fascinating path.

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Sustainable Energy

Windmills have captured renewable energy for up to 2000 years. In new forms, wind machines will harness even more power in the future. Construct a classic whirligig to control, measure and apply wind power. With adjustable rotors.

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Canal Boat

Canal boats tell the story of the first bold man-made trade network, of community cooperation, of the ingenious use of water power. Construct a boat, its mules, people and canal bed in 1/4th" scale. Operate a model lock. With the rich illustrations of Peter Spier's Erie Canal ©1970

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Cultures

To understand a people, study them where they live. Construct simplified model houses to consider the climates, resources, materials and traditions that define culture. Focus on a region. Focus on a historic area. Focus on a common pursuit like baking bread. Create façades of local architecture.

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Micro Architecture

Our micro-blocks and glue quickly and flexibly construct castles, temples, pyramids, Egyptian or Roman villas or fairy tale keeps. These models capture the exterior form and style of buildings and allow some interior detail. Castles and temples are perhaps the most expressive projects. We can adapt to your needs.

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Mill

The Mill is the complex integration of simple machines.

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Connecticut Clipper or New England Whaling

In the first half of the 19th century, Connecticut joined the race to California and China in sleek, bold Clipper Ships. Construct a model clipper with a hold to export and import cargo that built Connecticut's industry and commerce. Using the Charles W. Morgan, (a 19th c. whaling ship now berthed at Mystic Seaport) as a model, understand the industry that brought whalebone to the Strouse Adler Company Corset Factory in New Haven to make undergarments for upstanding Connecticut ladies.

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Slave Ship

Two hundred years ago, congress outlawed American ships’ transporting slaves. Slave trading did not stop. Even Connecticut’s ports were linked to this deadly commerce. Construct a slave ship printed with a powerful image that helped overturn this abuse. Learn the math and maps and misery of this trade.

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Woodland Village

Each student constructs half inch scale figures and a lodge… representing Quinnipiac or other woodland traditions…trees, tools, and totems that can be combined in a diorama of native American life. Adapt contemporary materials with the resourcefulness once applied to barks, skins and shells.

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Balance / Folk Toys

Immigrants brought to America traditions of crafting simple playthings out of common materials. These toys develop dexterity and inventiveness. Two toys from the catalog of classics. Understand Force and Motion or connect to Colonial curriculum or the geography of play. Yesterday's toys for today's kids – and they still evoke wonder. Nothing and everything is new.

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Vibrocraft

Build a vibrating motor block that will drive the Vibrocraft scampering around the room. Experiment with different kinds of 'feet' to discover just which work best for the desired results. An introduction to the art of experiment. Begin to understand friction and get some control.

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ElectriCity

Switch on understanding. Construct a house with a power source. Connect positive and negative test bars with contact points and switches for you to test different configurations of incandescent and LED lights. Test it. Understand series and parallel circuits. Test them. Rearrange them. Test again. Then experiment with other challenges.... Lessons in electricity and thinking.

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Light: Quicker than the Eye

Scientists and artists want to understand how the eye and brain work together. This device lets you spin patterns at controlled speeds. Blend images. Trick your eye into seeing colors where there are none. Make columns wobble in 3D after the artist Duchamp. Animate birds. Create your own illusions.

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