Techie Mommy

Techie Mommy is a blog designed to discuss children, parents, and the technological world surrounding them. You’ll see articles that reflect on topics from screen time to STEM, toys to education, along with many others, written by parents.

Backpack Trackers

Posted January 24, 2019 10:00 AM by Reese

I recently had a conversation with a colleague who uses a backpack tracker for her first grader. The conversation came up because we were meeting when her child was leaving school to get on the bus. She received notifications on her smartphone when her daughter left school grounds, and then again when she got home. Their school district is the second largest in the state with more than 4,000 elementary students, so I can certainly understand her desire to know her six-year-old safely leaves school and returns home at her usual times.

My curiosity piqued, I did a little research and found that there are many options available for those interested in using this technology. I saw one that seemed especially advantageous for those parents who have children with special needs. It’s certainly the most expensive of the bunch and has high monthly fees for monitoring services. But it offers features far beyond regular trackers that could prove priceless to special needs parents should their child become lost.

My son attends a smaller school district very close to our home and isn’t a special needs student, so I don’t personally use this tech. However, I totally appreciate its worth for those who do. I can also understand usefulness beyond elementary and special needs students for those toddlers who tend to run off unexpectedly at high rates of speed. I do think it would be prudent to use caution employing a backpack tracker for children past their toddler and elementary years. Older children may view this technology very differently than the younger set.

Since I’m not touting any specific device, “child backpack tracker” is what I used for my Google search if you’d like to research one for a child in your family.

28 comments; last comment on 01/29/2019
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Kindergarten Homework?

Posted November 15, 2018 11:39 AM by Reese

Every day, my five-year-old comes home from kindergarten with math homework. Every. Single. Day.

My guess is that all the attention on STEM in recent years has led to adding homework at this early education level. While it does present its share of challenges, I feel a benefit of daily homework this soon is that it perpetuates good habits for future grades where the workload is heavier. I’m not at all opposed, as homework also gives me the opportunity to take a look at what my son is learning in school.

Once in a while, we lose track of time and sit down to do homework a little too late, and his abundantly absorbent mind has soaked up enough for the day. Those are the days where completion becomes a challenge. But the colorful worksheets and clever activities do lend themselves to a bit of fun. Most days, my eager little student dutifully sits by the dining room table fully engaged in each undertaking as I read aloud the instructions for the assignments.

Overseeing homework has led me to believe that the math concepts are far more advanced than when I attended elementary school. It’s only November, and my kiddo has already learned greater than, less than, equal to, patterns, sorting, and more. Perhaps homework reinforcing the daily lessons is to thank for the students being able to grasp these advanced concepts so rapidly?

Overall, I think the benefits outweigh the challenges and that kindergarten homework is an amenable concept. What are your thoughts?

39 comments; last comment on 10/01/2020
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Model Rockets and STEM Education

Posted October 25, 2018 12:00 AM by Hannes
Pathfinder Tags: education model rocket STEM

Last weekend, my son received a model rocket kit for his sixth birthday. Having built and launched rockets when I was a kid, I was excited to take it out to a local soccer field and try it out. The smell of burnt-out engines immediately brought back memories of my own rocketry adventures.

For those unfamiliar with the hobby, model rockets are small, lightweight scale models made of a cardboard tube, plastic nose cone and plastic or balsa fins. Rockets are powered by small, cylindrical engines – most of which use black powder propellants – inserted into the tail end. Hobbyists plug an electric match into the nozzle end of the engine and ignite the propellant using a battery-powered controller clipped to the match’s wire. The whole apparatus is fired off of a launch pad with a thin vertical rod to guide the rocket’s trajectory.

While combining children and black powder might not seem like the best idea, model rocketry is a safe and enjoyable hobby. For a kid my son’s age, model rocketry is great on a few levels. On one hand, people of any age generally get a thrill launching anything hundreds or thousands of feet in the air. But model rocketry can also provide an opportunity for education in science and engineering.

Choosing an engine for a flight is a good place to start. Low-power commercial rocket engines are rated using a [letter][number]-[number] system. The letter indicates the engine’s class, which describes its total impulse. For example, “A” engines have a total impulse of between 1.26 to 2.5 newton-seconds, while “C” engines have a total impulse of between 5.01 and 10 newton-seconds. The first number represents average thrust, expressed in newtons. The second number is the delay, in seconds, between propellant burnout and the ejection charge, which deploys the parachute or other recovery system.

Parents of younger kids will obviously want to keep the physics to a minimum, but a child as young as six could understand the importance of choosing the correct engine. A heavier or larger-diameter rocket that needs more thrust to get off the pad would benefit from a higher first number. And it’s easy to explain that launching in a smaller field on a windy day would call for less total impulse, unless the kid never wants to see his or her rocket again.

Finally, kids and parents can experiment with different delay times relative to the size and shape of the rocket. Too little delay and the parachute may deploy while the rocket is still coasting; too much and it may hit the ground before the recovery system deploys. Kids can benefit from learning that no flight is a failure if they’re able to learn more about an ideal engine for their particular model.

Older kids would likely benefit from a more in-depth explanation of engine performance, maybe even including graphs, curves and formulas. NASA maintains a helpful Beginner’s Guide to Rockets that goes into detail about aerodynamics, thermodynamics and propulsion systems.

Have you tried model rocketry, either alone or with kids? If so, did you try to incorporate STEM education?

Image credits: Justin Lebar / CC BY-SA 3.0; U.S. Air Force photo)

11 comments; last comment on 10/26/2018
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Kiddie Videos

Posted October 11, 2018 2:00 PM by Reese