Monday, March 21, 2011

An Elementally Routine Weekend

It was a routine weekend. Well, by our standard anyway. It was full of elements and NASCAR. What? That’s not the weekend routine at your house?

After having no race on the schedule last weekend, NASCAR returned this weekend. My son didn’t watch too much of the race, but now that it has become part of our Sunday routine, he insists on having it on.

Instead, Kai spent most of the time that the race was on talking about elements. Yes, he is still into them.

At our weekly trip to the library, he got another book about them. The choice this week was a book about sodium and potassium. We read a little bit of it, but mostly he likes looking at the pictures of the atomic structures.

He also asked me to find a game online called Space Chem. Apparently, one of Kai’s TAs at school showed it to him. When Kai first asked me to look for it, I had trouble as I thought that he was saying Space Chum or Space Chimp as he was pronouncing the “Ch” as a “ch” sound and not a “k” sound. I finally found it after I had him spell it out.

It took my non-scientific brain a while to figure out how the game is played. It is a type of puzzle game and the premise is that you take on the role of a Reactor Engineer who manipulates atoms to create molecules. Once I understood what I needed to do, it actually was kind of fun and challenging to play, in a geeky sort of way.

Kai mostly wanted to watch me play it, as he enjoyed watching the atoms go around the circuit that we build in the game. I managed to get him to try it as well, and he was able to figure out the beginner puzzles that we did. But this game is really for people well beyond his age so I’m not sure how much he understood the storyline. However, it’s a step beyond single elements and into molecules, so hopefully he learned something useful. Though, he did drive Mom crazy asking her to do it. She tried a couple of the puzzles, but it wasn’t her thing and she wanted Kai to do them instead of constantly pestering her about it. And, he’s not exactly one to let things drop just because you ask him to.

Anyway, now it is Monday and the weekend is over. But, that doesn’t mean that the elements are forgotten. Today’s element of the day is actinium. Just so you don’t feel left out, its symbol is Ac and its atomic number is 89. Now, go have fun with it.

You can find a demo of Space Chem here.

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