I’m not a girl scout. Nor am I a girl scout leader. But I was a girl scout growing up and I’m working to become an ‘entertainment engineer’. I was cruising around for topics this morning and came across the Girl Scout’s Entertainment Technology badge for Juniors and realized “Yes! This is something I can write about!”.
Hunting around for the badge requirements, I found a five-step list on the girlscouts.org website:
- Animate your own artwork
- Dig into video game development
- Try the science of amusement park rides
- Create your own special effects
- Surf a sound wave
My ideas are untested, but here is how I might geek out with some girls:
Animate Your Own Artwork
Animation is used all around us! Animation is simply a series of moving images, and can be found on smartphones, computers, film…
This is something I did at my internship this summer and surprised quite a few people with! I created an image in Microsoft Powerpoint, saved it, slightly changed the image, saved it, and continued this process until I was happy with it. I then searched for an online gif maker, uploaded my images, and downloaded my new animation!
The analog version of this would be a simple flipbook! Staple some index cards together along the short end, and ask your girls to draw an image that changes slightly on each successive card. Quickly flip through the book and- voila! Animation!
Researching around, quite a few blogging leaders were interested in Claymation- used in films such as Wallace and Gromit (2005), Chicken Run (2000), Coraline (2009), ParaNorman (2012), and The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993). The problem with movie Claymation is that it’s super time-consuming, and thus super-expensive. But that doesn’t have to be a problem for you! Grab some clay (or maybe even Play Dough) and remember to keep it simple! Generally you want at least twelve “frames” (or snapshots) a second for a smooth animation, most films are shown at 24 frames per second, and video games are usually between 30 and 60 frames per second!
A last fun idea that I’m going to leave with you here is the Victorian zoetrope. Think of this as a spinning round cake pan. You have a strip of paper on the inside of the wall of the pan, and slits are cut between the images. Bend so that your eyes are level with the edge of the pan (so you can only see through the cut slits) and spin the entire thing. As the pan spins, the images will move, and a ‘smooth’ transition will occur since the edge blocks the abrupt transition for image-to-image. The faster you spin the zoetrope, the smoother the animation will seem. Making a zoetrope could be a neat activity, but it would probably require the most work.
Dig into Video Game Development
After a quick google search, there are ways to do this if you want to go all-out. A search for “make a video game” brings up Gamefroot’s Game Editor, Flowlab’s Game Creator, and Buildbox’s Make Your Own Game. It also bring up a Digital Trends article about a journalist who was able to make a video game having no previous experience with code in about… 10 hours.
Personally, that’s a little longer than I would want to spend on a single step in a badge.
Reaching out for help, most leaders seem to use this as a guest-lecture portion: trying to find students at local universities or a well-done YouTube video.
Sniffing around, I found this and this which are about ten minutes total. There are longer videos that go more in-depth, but I thought those would best be left for individual exploration, if any of your girls want to do more research.
Try the Science of Amusement Park Rides
For an activity, plastic marble roller coasters (or a budget-friendly version) seem to be popular. But there are other things to explore here!
Design a lazy river- use sand and a fan to check curve radii (hint: tight curves will make for choppy water and an un-relaxing experience!).
Check out centrifugal force (angular momentum)! Have girls hold hands and spin in a circle. How easy is it to begin with their arms fully extended and pull themselves closer? This can also be done on spinning chairs- have the girls extend and bring in their legs. They’ll spin faster if their legs are closer to them! The physics here are used in a Rotor ride (seen here). On the ride, the rider’s body essentially wants to keep moving in a straight line (objects in motion tend to stay in motion). Because the round room prevents that, the rider sticks to the wall even when the floor is removed!
What sort of safety features might be used on roller coasters? What safety features are used?
What are some of the physical feelings you experience on a roller coaster (g-force)? Going down a drop, riders are often in free-fall for a short period of time and so experience zero-g’s (the same thing astronauts feel in space!) while when speeding up a hill or coming out of a loop, riders may feel multiple-g’s. You can also feel g-force when you take off in an airplane or plop down in a chair!
Create Your Own Special Effects
This is where you can have a ton of fun! There are loads of possibilities here- ask around and see if any parents have any special skills they could share. Personally, I know some stage combat and would love to show girls how movie fights are done safely. While it’s specialized, my school also has a pyrotechnics program and they occasionally do demonstrations for kids.
If you don’t have access to any special resources, you’ll have to be a bit more creative- which is the entire point of special effects! Two ideas immediately come to mind for me: gore makeup and Foley effects.
Working with and around actors has somewhat ruined me for movies- instead of believing everything I see, I instead look for how it was done. Gore and special effects makeup is an awesome example of that! Find a good (washable!) recipe for blood (usually some form of cornstarch, food dye, and water) and get a makeup kit suitable for bruises and let your girls go to town!
For a less messy activity, check out Foley effects. Foley is creating effects for film after the movie has been shot, and often involves very different objects than the ones seem on-screen. For example, the slashing ‘Z’ heard as Antonio Banderas opens The Mask of Zorro (1998) is made not with a sword, but with a wooden dowel. The Kill Bill movies apparently went through quite a few melons as they needed to slice through human heads, and, of course, most know of the clapping coconuts for horse’s hooves.
See what sounds you can make with everyday objects! Have girls take turns closing their eyes and guessing the effect as others create it! Foley is awesome!
Surf a Sound Wave
For this, I would spend some time on the science of sound. Sounds exist as waves and dissipate over distance (thus the point of whispering). To visualize this, have a still tub of water and drop an object in. The object disturbs the water, which sends out waves which become smaller the further away from the object. The waves also interact with each other, depending on if they hit the side of the tub and bounce off it or not (can someone understand you if you yell at a wall? Probably! Can you still understand them if there are other people talking at once?).
Sound waves also have different frequencies- a higher voice versus a lower voice. This can be seen in the waveform as how many up-and-down bits happen in a certain amount of time (say, one second). Higher frequencies have more ‘disturbances’ jammed into them than lower frequencies.
You can model this with a jump rope: have a girl on either end and have one of them jerk the rope up and down once. You can see the wave travel across the rope!
This is cool because what frequencies we can hear changes throughout our life! Try it! Your girls should be able to hear a wider range of frequencies than you can! Throughout our life we damage our hearing and lose the ability to hear higher frequencies.
Sound engineers know what general range of frequencies adults can hear and will use that knowledge to their advantage. In horror films, sounds lower than what adults can hear will sometimes be played, because while it cannot be heard, the sound can still be felt and will put people on-edge.
Occasionally, frequencies higher than most adults can hear will be played, either on accident or deliberately to drive away insects, small animals, and teenagers.
So there you have it. Here are some ways that I would geek out with girls to earn this badge. I’m not sure that I could earn this badge in a single meeting (because I would want to spend more time on time-consuming activities) but I think we would have enough fun that no one would mind stretching it out too much!