Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Make a "putt-put" steam boat.

Putt putt steam boats have a long history. They are also known as "pop pop boats" and were very popular in the first half of the 20th Century, usually in a tin version with copper tubing. The Cub Scout Manuals from 1954-1977 included instructions for making them. It states that "They can be made quite simply - or you can build an elaborate version if you wish!"
However, Dorothy and her friends discovered the can be very tricky... you will need a cooperative grownup for this project for sure!

Notes for Mums and Dads
There is a lot of interesting information about them on the Science Toy Maker site here if your Mums and Dads are interested in reading more! More about their history and construction can be found on the "Pop Pop Pages" here.  They don't use a conventional engine but it's still a type of heat engine - or more accurately a "Pulsating Water Engine".  You can read all about heat engines here.

The Putt Putt Boat
These simple boats have fascinated toymakers, children and physicists for decades, and can be fun and fairly simple to make. There are actually two kinds of putt putt boat: the diaphragm kind and the looped copper tubing kind.  The advantage of the copper tubing engine is the relative ease of construction, and you cannot wreck it with too much heat. The disadvantage of the coil design is that it is often slower and makes little or no noise.

NB This Blog is aimed at children aged 6-10yrs, this is definitely a project for older readers!

Dorothy and I opted for a simple, achievable design using everyday items.


To make the boat shape you will need :-
  • A tall juice box or milk carton like this
  • Sharp Scissors
  • tape or strong stapler
OR use an aluminium (tinfoil) baking tray the size your Mum would bake a 2lb loaf in!

To make the boat "go" you will need

  • A brass or copper tube 3mm  outside diameter, 2mm inside diameter, 50 cm length. 
  • A binder clip with a base of about 2 cm
  • A small candle tea light or empty case and a solid fuel tablet
  • About 1 square cm of double sided adhesive tape  
  • A sturdy cylinder shape (e.g. piece of wooden dowel), about 2 cm diameter and 3 cm length
  • A piece of scrap wood minimum 4 cm x 15 cm x 1 cm
  • One screw with a length about equal to the thickness of your piece of wood and one screw 2 to 3 cm longer (for each you will need a matching screwdriver, not shown)
  • A piece of sturdy tube with a loose fit over the brass or copper tube and minimum about 20 cm long; 
  • For the optional rudder, you need about one third of an extra aluminium baking tray. 

How to make it :-

Cut the carton in half lengthways (you probably need a grown up to help you with this) and fit it together to make the boat shape below. You can use masking tape, or other tape which is water resistant/proof, or get a grown up to use a strong stapler.

Once finished and dry you can paint it with oil based paint to the colour of your choice :)


Then head over to this site for full instructions:- a video and tutorial. 

Then the fun bit - you get to test it out!




Sadly things don't always go to plan, ours took a little while to finish and perfect... 


but it's going now!



Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Carrot, Stick..... Or Carrot Stick? Why grammar matters!

Grammar - Using Commas

Our little guinea pig, Pickle has proved to be incredibly intelligent, affectionate and (for a rodent) pretty smart.

He's even been known to host his own talent show:-






He is also a perfect individual to teach you about Commas and their use!

Commas tell readers to pause and take a moment to understand what a sentence is about.
  • Put a comma after each item in a list
  • Don't put a comma before the word "and" - although many grown ups will tell you this is OK and called the "Oxford Comma"!
  • Put a comma after a group of words that belong together

They separate ideas within a sentence or items within a list.
for example - The shopping trolley was piled high with cereals, drinks, fruit, vegetables and bread.

Commas help you by showing you where to take a breath. They also show meaning.
Pickle likes carrot sticks and we use them to persuade him to do things! There is also another method of persuasion which grown ups often talk about called "carrot, stick". This means that you offer a reward and a consequence when you want children to do things! 

This method would never work with Pickle, he needs encouragement and no threat as with most animals. Adding that comma makes all the difference - even to a Guinea Pig.

Initially, getting him in from his outside run proved rather challenging. At times, it took upwards of 45 minutes to persuade him to come close enough to grab him and if he hadn't finished eating no amount of calling or treat offering would work!... (I told you he was smart!)

Eventually, after a year of training this is how I get him in.

With the emphasis on "I". He refuses to do this for anyone else!




Thing is, if you are a young guinea pig about town who values his street cred. it's not so cool to be seen to be cooperating so diligently. Treat-offering with shouting has absolutely no impact whatsoever. The "carrot, stick" (where "stick" is the shouting!) option is utterly ineffective.

Seems it was really a matter of grammar - same words, correctly put.  
A "carrot stick" works every time!



Just as long as there is no audience!!