Hand Turkey Geometry – A STEMy take on a holiday classic

turkdance9The leaves have changed, snow has arrived in much of the country, and Thanksgiving is only days away! Before we leave to spend a day celebrating all that we are thankful for with our families, we’re sharing an activity that shows that the Thanksgiving holiday can be about more than gorging ourselves on the best food the year has to offer. So without further ado, let’s put those hand turkeys to mathematical use!

First, a little background information. This Hand Turkey Geometry activity is based on the Hand Geometry activity we use in our SMU CSI curriculum. Hand Geometry is a biometric tool that is used to identify people in a variety of places. However, hand geometry is not completely unique to each individual and is not typically used for highly secure information.

800px-Handprint_turkey_activityFollow these procedures to make and analyze your hand turkey. The materials needed for this activity are pretty basic, but if you’re feeling particularly crafty you can take some time to decorate your hand turkey too. Let’s bring the arts out to play with STEM!

Materials you will need:

-Paper (construction paper is great, particularly if you want to decorate your turkey)
-Pen or pencil
-Your hand
-Scissors (optional)
-Calculator (optional)


  1. Trace your hand on a piece of paper. To do this, just place your hand on the paper, palm down and trace all the way around. Cut this out if you would like (you don’t have to, but it makes a much better looking turkey if you cut it out!)
  2. Measure (in centimeters) the length and width of each of your fingers and write these down (you can click on the table below to get an easy-to-print version or you can just make your own table to organize your information).  Record the length as a fraction in the first length column and then convert the fraction to decimal and record the number in the second column. For example, if index finger from point A to B is 3 ½ cm, the length is 3.5 cm in decimal form. Repeat the same process for the other four fingers and record the measurements in the table.
  3. Measure your palm length and width. The length of your palm should be measured from point C to point L and the width of your palm should be measured from point I to point K in the picture shown.
  4. Multiply the length and width of each of your fingers and your palm to find their areas. Write these answers in the table.
  5. Add all of these results to find the total area of your palm.

Hand Turkey Geometry Table

So, what did you find? Are there similarities in your hand turkey areas?

Now that you’ve used your thanksgiving hand turkey to learn about your hand geometry, put these numbers to further use to find your Biometrics Alias! Whether it’s Frankie “Danger” Blitz or Bonnie “Black Widow” Mayfair, your biometrics alias is sure to keep you incognito!

We wish all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Save the World, Study STEM: Recovering from Catastrophe

In this edition of our Save the World, Study STEM series, we examine the prominent role that the STEM fields play in the recovery from and prevention of catastrophe. War, natural disaster, famine, disease… unfortunately these catastrophic events are all a part of being human. From the nuts and bolts of rebuilding a community to building peace in war-torn areas, STEM provides many tools that help humanity return to their daily lives.

Yet the contributions of STEM during catastrophic events go beyond the obvious, as many people are now taking new and innovative approaches to the recovery from these events. Fire and rescue workers in Australia are using tablet technology to address natural disasters, experts in design tools to help Syrians gain access to quality information, and professionals are using mathematics to coordinate disaster recovery activities.

Tackling Natural Disaster with Tablet Technology

Brockman_4_mine_brushfire,_2013Response time during natural disasters is of critical importance. According to a recent article in the Brisbane Times, Queensland Fire and Rescue Services is now trying something new to help cut down on response time: tablet technology. Instead of using a paper system, these responders will now be able to upload images and data of the damage caused by natural disasters instantaneously. This technology will allow governmental entities to get the most up-to-date information far quicker than the old system allows, making it easier for people to receive the help they need. Read more. 

Design Thinking in Syria

347px-Golan171Experts in design thinking are now applying their knowledge to help localize the peace-building process in Syria through localized communication networks. According to a recent story that aired on The Takeaway, this process is led by someone with “the mind of a designer and the heart and dedication of a great humanitarian.” This story has all the elements of innovation and applies seemingly unrelated concepts to the betterment of this war-torn community. Listen to the full story. 

Mathematics for Disaster Recovery

800px-Mathematics_concept_collageMathematics entered the equation of disaster recovery in 2005 when professionals in China proposed a mathematical approach “to express diverse entities in information and disaster recovery system such as applications, facilities, resources, sub disaster recovery plans, budget, etc.” This equation really takes everything into account and shows how mathematics can have humanitarian aims. Read paper*.

The Save the World, Study STEM series is aimed at shedding light on the heart and soul that guide people in their STEM-related pursuits and the contributions that the STEM fields make in bettering our world.

*Access to this paper requires access to IEEE Explore.

Create Your Own App Challenge

Create Your Own App Challenge2Anyone with a smart phone or tablet likely sees the direction that technology is going through the use of apps. Back in the good ol’ days, running a software application on a computer required the use of some kind of external apparatus (who remembers floppy disks that were actually floppy?) Yet now, through the magical click of a button, technology allows us to magically install a HUGE variety of applications quickly and wirelessly.

When this technology first came out, it seemed like an untouchable brainchild of a brilliant group of people—and no doubt it was, minus the untouchable part—and quite mysterious to us laymen. Yet, the truth of the matter is that you do not have to be an MIT-degree-holding software engineer to create an app. People from all over and with a variety of educational backgrounds are plugging into the development of this exciting technology…

And we think you should too!

That is why we are excited to present our very new “Create Your Own App Challenge” scavenger hunt. This hunt will lead you and your students through a basic orientation to the mechanics of the technology created to use apps, an introduction to the many ways that apps can be applied to a number of different interests and subjects, and finally it will lead you to the Verizon Innovative App Challenge. This competition is open to middle school and high school students, and submissions are due December 17th. So, without further ado, we send you off into the sunset (well, the sun is setting somewhere in the world) to learn all about apps and tap into your creative side. Create Your Own App Challenge Scavenger Hunt

Will Work (Out) for Subway Fare…

Let’s face it, the comforts of our automated, tech-savvy lives reduce our need to be physical. Sure, there have been numerous articles written about the benefits of physical fitness, but the fact of the matter is that we can still have a productive, successful day without exerting a ton of physical energy.

Well, that is changing a bit for Moscovites willing to save some cash by getting physical. I recently came across this amazing article about a Russian campaign that is promoting physical fitness by allowing patrons to pay their subway fare with squats. Yes, squats. 30 squats will get you a shiny new single-ride ticket on the city of Moscow’s subway system.

I love this for so many reasons:

  1. It gives citizens an economic incentive to enhance their physical fitness. Those of us caught in the daily 9-5 grind and  urban sprawl know that exercise often lies outside of our daily duties. I’m not saying that economic incentives do not exist for people to get fit, but we often have to “find the time” to hit the gym, the park, or the Tae Bo DVDs (am I revealing my age with that reference?) This system actually builds physical fitness into people’s everyday routines AND provides an instant monetary incentive.

  2. Peer pressure. Those of you who have ever made a late-night vow to hit a 6 AM spinning class probably know that we are less likely to hit the snooze button when we know someone will be there waiting for us. And who wants to be the only sweaty person to arrive to work sporting their bike helmet and spandex? What better way to build in a buddy system than to facilitate fitness in such a high-traffic public place? I mean, come on guys, everyone is doing it!
  3. Plus, exercising in groups can also make us nicer. According to this article from Medical News Today, “a greater production of endorphins during these activities, suggest the authors, could be a way to help humans to bond in groups and improve social interactions.” And where else could we benefit from nicer people than at the subway station?
  4. It can make us smarter. Ok, this one is kind of about exercise in general. With the onslaught of different programs targeted at preserving the brain and the memory using cognitive games, it’s easy to forget the role that exercise plays in brain health. According to this CNN health article, a study published in 2012 in the journal Neurology found that “working out is more effective at protecting the brain than cognitive challenges such as games and puzzles.”

During my former  years as a collegiate athlete, exercise was an integral part of my daily duties. It wasn’t until I graduated into the world of the working professional that I realized what a luxury it was to have physical fitness be mandatory for my success. So, I pose the question to you: How else can we build economic incentives for physical fitness into our everyday routines?

CSI Day Camp Takes Colorado Springs by Storm!

Last week our team traveled to the beautiful city of Colorado Springs for our 4th CSI Camp-for-a-Day. Ok, you may be thinking “4th? But this is the first I’m hearing of them!” So allow us to back up.

Our CSI Summer Camp program has been one of our largest STEM programs for the past three years. Seeing as how these camps only take place in the Dallas area, we thought it would be a great idea to condense the program and travel the country with a series of day camps. So, after a pilot program fielded in Killeen, Texas in 2012, we packed up our camp materials and brought our CSI day camps to a number of military communities around the country in 2013.

During our CSI Camps-for-a-Day, our campers are able to gain hands-on experience with the STEM behind crime scene investigation. While a one-day time frame isn’t quite enough to sneak in all the activities from our summer camps, campers are still able to gain CSI skills in order to solve a mock crime. By teaching fingerprint dusting and sensor, paper chromatography, and face recognition analysis, these camps help students around the country gain a first-hand introduction to our project and STEM-based CSI curriculum and gain an introduction to CSI careers.

So, now back to Colorado Springs. This event took place at the wonderful Falcon Middle School, and included roughly 90 sixth and seventh grade students and 6 teachers. These sixth and seventh grade students moved through a crime scene investigation activity,fingerprint dusting and sensor activity, paper chromatography activity, and a facial recognition activity. Students then applied these skills to fit all the pieces together and determine the identity of our perpetrator!

Fingerprint Dusting activity

Fingerprint Dusting activity

Paper Chromatography Activity

Paper Chromatography activity

Additionally, campers had the opportunity to interact with local law enforcement and military professionals. The camp started off with a presentation Officer Wes Woodworth from the Colorado Springs Police Department and Rachel Brown, an Explorer from the CSPD’s Explorer Program. These two presenters introduced campers to the skills and tools crime scene professionals use in their investigations. After the presentation, these two split up, as Rachel led the fingerprint dusting activity, and Officer Woodworth took campers on a tour of his police car.

Officer Woodworth and Rachel Brown

Officer Woodworth and Rachel Brown

Rachel Brown leads Fingerprint Dusting activity

Rachel Brown leads fingerprint dusting activity

Campers check out the police car

Campers check out the police car

Woodworth and Brown

Woodworth and Brown

Campers were also treated to a presentation by the Ft. Carson K-9 unit. These professionals introduced campers to a few of their wonderful working dogs and to the duties these dogs carry out.

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DSC_0331 - Version 2

This camp was such a huge success, and we are wonderfully grateful to all who attended. Everyone was extremely engaged, from the students, teachers, and administrators at Falcon Middle School, to the wonderful guests from the Colorado Springs Police Department and Ft. Carson.

Falcon Middle School teachers and principal (middle)

Falcon Middle School principal (middle) and teachers

But don’t just take it from us, check out this great article about the event and this wonderful video, which was put together by District 49 media.

And just in case we made you terribly sad that you couldn’t personally attend this event, you can still participate in solving this crime through our “Closing the Case” scavenger hunt!


Why we do what we do (and how we’re bridging the gap between our programs)


I wanted to start this post by thanking all of you who are taking the time out of your busy lives to check out our blog. On Friday, we officially hit the 6 month mark for this blog and were excited to surpass 5,000 visits to this site in that period. We are honored to be a part of such an incredible community and look forward to continuing sharing the STEM content, ideas, and stories that intrigue us. I hope that our blogs amuse, inform, and even sometimes challenge you and the way you think about and advocate STEM. We always welcome your thoughts and insight so please send us a note or comment on our posts to engage in this important conversation!

This week we hit the road to visit old and new friends in Colorado to host a CSI Teacher Workshop and CSI Camp-for-a-Day and thought it would be a great time to explain a little more about why we do the things we do and how our various efforts are more connected than they may seem at first glance.

We mentioned that our team works & lives all over the country, right?

We mentioned that our team works & lives all over the country, right?

As you may (or more likely not) have noticed, we have two distinct sets of programs within our STEM portfolio: our STEM websites (KidsAhead & STEM-Works) and our CSI camps (Summer camps, camps-for-a-day, and teacher workshops). The websites are the internationally-reaching arms of our portfolio and aim to provide students and advocates around the world with engaging STEM content from around the Internet. Since we pull quality STEM content from around the Internet, as well as add our own novel content, these sites are a great place to find all kinds of materials to advocate STEM (and in the case of KidsAhead, it’s a great place to have your students check out for content that interests them).

On the other side of the portfolio, we have our CSI Camps. This includes three different programs:

  • CSI Summer Camps: offered in Dallas, TX and include a full week of hands-on activities and engaging presentations from real world forensic scientists and law enforcement officials
  • CSI Camps-for-a-Day: a condensed version of our summer camps offered over the course of one day in military-connected communities (we’re headed to Colorado Springs now to meet our next group of teachers and students!)
  • CSI Teacher Workshop: a program geared toward teaching our SMU CSI curriculum to teachers and providing them with resources to successfully utilize this curriculum in their classrooms and communities

So, now that you have a basic overview of the work that we do, and in honor of our CSI events in Colorado this week, we decided to launch a special edition of our bi-monthly scavenger hunts on KidsAhead to bridge the divide between our websites and CSI programs. This scavenger hunt, which was launched yesterday, invites you to take part in the fun and help to solve a mock crime that is related to the one that was investigated this week at our CSI Camp-for-a-Day. For more information about this “Closing the Case” scavenger hunt please visit http://bit.ly/HAoSZS. Try this challenge out and when you complete it and identify the perpetrator share your findings with us here !

This month’s exciting STEM news – October, 2013

Here we go again folks… some cool STEMy things from the month of October:

The Animal Kingdom IconAnimal Kingdom

For those with cat allergies, there may be an alternative for you… A monkey that purrs like a cat is discovered in the Amazon rainforest. Read article.

Extreme Weather IconExtreme Weather

A study released this month ranks 2013 as one of the least extreme U.S. weather years ever… That’s  a low ranking we can definitely get behind! Read article.

Medical Innovations IconMedical Innovations

Two Americans and one German were awarded the Nobel medical prize this month for solving “the mystery of how the cell organizes its transport system. Read article.

Robotics IconRobotics

No assembly is necessary for these robots out of MIT… they are self-assembling robots! Read article.

Space IconSpace

Step aside Felix Baumgartner, Arizona-based space travel company World View Enterprises says it plans to start offering trips to the edge of space. Read article.

Under the Sea IconUnder the Sea

Strange things are emerging from the deep in California. Some call them oarfish, some call them sea serpents… you be the judge! Read article.

Video Games IconVideo Games

Ok, this isn’t really a story from this month, but if you haven’t seen Jane McGonigal’s Ted Talk about how gaming is good for your health, it’s definitely worth seeing. Watch this Ted Talk.

Wind Energy IconEnergy

The MIT news reported this month that innovation in renewable-energy technologies is booming!  Read article.

So there, various STEM subject lovers. We’ve got you covered!