I just had to tackle DIY bouncy balls


Here at Robot Test Kitchen, we’re big proponents of learning from failure. Sometimes I take it a step further and see a fail as a challenge, and that was the case with DIY Bouncy Balls. After reading Heather’s post and seeing that picture of cup full of multicolored goo, I knew it was something I would eventually try, and I finally got around to it this week. I knew it would be a challenge, and I started by googling “DIY Bouncy Ball Fail” and read through a few of the results before coming up with my hypothesis — it all hinges on finding the right amount of cornstarch. I experimented with several batches before coming up with the best proportions and technique. This is not a difficult project, but it is tricky to get it to work, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it this effectively if so many people hadn’t graciously and/or humorously shared their struggles (Thank you, Heather!).


Did I have any difficulties? You bet. I capped the program registration at 16, but I ended up with 25 (I had enough supplies on hand, but it took a lot more running around —  a couple of amazing parents pitched in to help out). I left the bouncy balls I made the day before the program out on a shelf and that’s how I learned you really need to keep them in a ziploc baggie or they’ll harden; my program attendees just had to take my word that the colorful rocks I showed them had been bouncy the previous day. And of course, as any youth librarian who has ever presented children with cornstarch, Borax, glue and food coloring knows, there was a lot of cleanup involved.


Ball 1 ended up being the bounciest; by reducing the cornstarch in attempts 2-3, they didn’t retain their structure. Ball 4 was the most pleasantly round yet still bouncy.

So here’s my recipe:

  1. In the first cup, combine 1/2 teaspoon Borax with 1 Tablespoon VERY WARM water. Stir well.
  2. In the second cup, combine 1 Tablespoon glue, 1 Tablespoon cornstarch, and a few drops of food coloring. Stir well.
  3. Pour the water/Borax solution into the glue/cornstarch solution and stir; it will quickly form into a nice glob.
  4. Remove the glob from the cup, shake off excess water, and roll it into a ball between your hands. It helps to blot the ball and your hands with a paper towel.
  5. Once it’s rolled and blotted enough, it should bounce quite well. Manage your expectations though — this is all about learning and creating, and the ball will not be the same as the kind you get in a vending machine for a quarter.
  6. Store it in a ziploc baggie.

Overall, it was definitely worth the mess.

Have You Updated Your Cubelets OS?

Cubelets, tips and tricks

Recently Modular Robotics, the maker of Cubelets, updated their Cubelets operating system (OS4).  If you are planning on buying any new Cubelets, you’ll want to update your old Cubelets so they can talk to each other. You need a bluetooth cube to do this.

Last week, I needed to buy more batteries.  It’s been my experience you can’t have enough batteries or Cubelet Drive cubes (the ones with wheels).  So I ordered more. They asked if I wanted to updated cubes. Did I want my Cubelets to respond faster? You bet.

There is a great video that explains how easy it is to update these cubes.

Last Friday, I did just that. I downloaded the Cubelet app and followed the tutorial; first updating my bluetooth cube.  There was a hiccup or two.  I was slightly impatient with the process — I started it late on a Friday afternoon, and I was on desk.  Not the smartest move on my part.  But I handed it off to a co-worker who cruised through the process.  Here are a few screen shots of what it looked like for me.


The countdown to my speaker cubelet being updated.

The countdown to my speaker cubelet being updated.

The last step of the update with clear easy instructions.

The last step of the update with clear easy instructions.

Easy, clear instructions made this update go smoothly. We have a considerable collection of Cubelets, and they were done in under four hours. Also, we have both kinds of battery Cubelets (the ones with rechargeable batteries and the USB batteries).  Both battery Cubelets updated without any problems.

True Confessions: Faking it…and Feeling Good

Programs, True Confessions

Yesterday was a pretty great day for me.  I had my first Homeschool Hangout…a place where homeschool kids can spend time at the library.  We did a tour, talked books, and played with LittleBits.  During the program, I asked what sort of things they’d like to do and playing with robots and computer coding came up.  Verdict: I didn’t panic.

Yesterday afternoon I met with an instructional coach for the local school district.  He’s been witness to some of the technology realia we have (Cubelets, Dash and Dot, Beebots, etc.). We met to discuss how we could incorporate these materials with a sixth grade class at one of his schools.  We met for about 90 minutes, playing together, bouncing ideas off one another.  It was a great collaboration and I learned a lot from him.  That’s not new.  But what blew me away was his comment that he learned from me.  What? How is that possible?  We ended our meeting with two and possibly three different collaborations in the schools next month.

This morning, the lightbulb went off.  I’ve been faking this technology stuff for about 18 months, and finally, it’s stuck.  The faking it til I make it?  I think it hit.  Now, am I as knowledgeable as Jacquie?  Not on your life.  But I’m right where I need to be.

Everything we’ve talked about on Robot Test Kitchen: failing and trying again, perseverance, being open to new things.  It’s all come together.

I’m gonna make it after all!
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