Dispensing candy

Who says programming should be scary and full of syntax?

We are learning thinking like a programmer through various designs for a candy dispenser.

Look at the creativity and fun associated. Without realizing children are building algorithms, IF ELSE blocks and handling boundary conditions.

We will soon graduate into demonstrating Newton’s laws using Python.

Learning using programming, than learning programming.

Building bridges, pulleys and catapults

As we wrap up the first phase of this semester, children are rapidly finishing up their projects. The creativity and persistence being displayed by everyone is so infectious.

We should see videos from each child next week, but here is a sneak peak.

Some of the designs …

Look at the craftsmanship of this catapult …

… the creativity …


and the struggles …


Don’t get fooled by how simple this looks, it shoots like crazy …

French call it Bricolage … we call it Jugaad … I call it brilliant. A wonderful way to demonstrate the pulley mechanism … sewing machine anyone?


Complex contraptions that are still evolving as we build them …


Simple but no simpler way to build a catapult out of pencils …


Some awesome bridges that go above and beyond the original design … unstoppable creativity

Can’t wait to see all the projects being finished soon … and post the videos online.


Shooting the monkey and floating the watermelon

Today was probably super high on fun and learning quotient.

The idea was to continue exploration of Newton’s laws and the concepts of weight / weightlessness. People often confuse weight and mass. Mass is not easily changeable. It’s more real. Weight is experienced. That was the theme of the initial discussion.

We talked about why weight is felt due to the ‘Normal force’ acting on us. So if the Normal force doesn’t exist, weight cannot be felt. That’s what happens in free fall. If the elevator is in free fall you feel weightless.

This is what happens with astronauts in space. They ‘feel’ weightless.

A rising elevator makes you ‘feel’ heavier. A falling elevator makes you ‘feel’ lighter.

We talked about the science behind simulating weightlessness on earth. In fact I could show it in the living room by jumping off the chair with a watermelon in my hand … and using the slow motion camera on my phone.

Then came the crown jewel of our program. The shooting monkey experiment.


That’s me dressed up as a hunter !!

It’s a sad story of a monkey being shot by a hunter. The monkey (Fred) is hanging by the branch.

The hunter aims perfectly to shoot the monkey. All should go as per plan and sadly the monkey should get shot.


The monkey is smart. It let’s go as soon as it sees the flare of the gun.


The hunter is smarter. He expects the monkey to let go and decides to adjust for the falling monkey. He has three choices.

(A) Leave it as it is (B) Lift it up even more (C) Lower the gun to catch it falling


What would you recommend?

We built an interesting mechanism to demonstrate this phenomenon (Built by our intern Kautilya and my two sons). We had so much fun.

From next week we will be starting the journey of building our projects.

Our inspiration is the Classical Mechanics lecture by Walter Lewins. (Watch from 35:03). Hats off to the master.

Does Beckham defy Newton’s laws?

Many think David Backham is GOD on the football field. So can he defy laws of physics too?

We talked earlier that Newton’s law states an object has a tendency (inertia) to stay on a straight path with constant velocity, unless an external force changes it’s direction and/or speed.

Yet, Beckham seems to some how get the ball to curve and change direction on it’s own.

He is not the only one. There are many others who can do insane curve kicks.

We were all surprised and debated it.


Is it the wind said one kid. But, that can’t explain it all because they are able to do it at will.

Is it spinning? Yes it is but, that doesn’t explain how it can move without touching the ground.

Will it work in vacuum asked another. Brilliant question. The answer is know.

Here is the explanation. Magnus Effect. (By the way, this is how the reverse swing is generated by many in cricket)

We talked about the science behind the London Tower bridge. How are they able to lift the ~1,000 Tonne section without applying so much force?

There is no space for a lever. They didn’t just use pulleys and hydraulic mechanism. They used a very simple principle of balancing weights, just like the counter weight in an elevator. Check this for more details.

Image result for london tower bridge

We then debated what weight really is about.

If it just about mass and gravity, would it ever change when you weight yourself in the same place? What if you are moving in an elevator. Does the scale read differently? Why? Neither gravity or your mass changed. Yet the weight changes.

(If it was that simple, why do we need to pay for weight loss or gain. Just travel in an elevator.

Why do astronauts feel weightless in space? The answer I got was “there is no gravity in space”.  That is a common mis-perception.

Gravity of earth is felt quite strongly where the space station orbits. The acceleration (g) will be reduced by just 15% !!

If the space station orbits at an altitude of approximately 400 km above the Earth’s surface, then the value of g at that location will be reduced from 9.8 m/s/s (at Earth’s surface) to approximately 8.7 m/s/s. This would cause an astronaut weighing 1000 N at Earth’s surface to be reduced in weight to approximately 890 N when in orbit. While this is certainly a reduction in weight, it does not account for the absolutely weightless sensations that astronauts experience.  Source: PhysicsClassroom.com

We left these open.

Discussion for next week. We will be talking a lot about weights and weightlessness.

Turn right to go left. Makes perfect sense


Doc Hudson: I’ll put it simple: if you’re going hard enough left, you’ll find yourself turning right.
Lightning McQueen: Oh, right. That makes perfect sense. Turn right to go left. Yes, thank you! Or should I say No, thank you, because in Opposite World, maybe that really means thank you.

In the famous movie Cars there is a scene about Hudson Hornet teaching McQueen how to race on a dirt track. Our session today was about exploring the science of turning corners and why this works in some cases.

Here are the scenes we watched.

McQueen failing to make the turn …

Hudson Hornet explaining what he needs to do and then showing it …

We started with the basics. A rotating object will have a tendency to continue in the same path.


This is the implication of Newton’s 1st law. Path of inertia.


Yes we can still turn a sharp corner while riding a car or a skateboard. Thanks to friction in our wheels. But, if there the corner is too sharp, we usually have banking to increase the friction.


In this case the dirt road doesn’t offer enough friction and there is no banking. So the car will tend to drift and spin.

The rear wheels will over rotate causing the car to spin. Happens when you turn on ice too. To compensate you need to turn the front wheels away from that spin and also ensure the back wheels are horizontal offering maximum friction. You steer into the turn.

Counter intuitive.

You can see this in many car racing movies.

Experiential learning program | July-Sept 2018

July-Sept 2018 LDEW2

Similar program will be conducted simultaneously near Purvafairmont Apartments, 24 Main, HSR Layout at 4 PM in the evening. See details below

All of us as parents are convinced that just relying on school education is not enough for our children. We know the world  they will live in tomorrow will require them to develop new life skills and develop true passion for their work.

Also, children learn best by doing – not just regurgitating textbooks and taking exams. While there is tremendous value in traditional school education, we are all looking for ways to complete / complement that.

That is the purpose of Stable Bow. To complement / complete traditional school education, so children learn by Exploration, Experimentation, Experience and Expression.

I will be conducting a 12 week program for children in partnership with Words Work Library and Children’s Center in Lakedew residency, Harlur, Bangalore as well as near Purvafairmont Apartments, HSR Layout.

The real objective of the program is to instill a love for learning, critical thinking and appreciation for collaboration in young minds. This will happen through the context of exploring PHYSICS (thru projects, programming and writing)

The ‘why of StableBow‘ can explain more about this thinking.

Topics for the program:

  • Physics: Kinematics
    • Includes study of motion of objects and the effect of force … including  study of force, Newton’s laws and 2D movement of objects
  • Programming: Building projects using Python and Jupyter notebooks
    • No prior programming knowledge is needed

Details of the program in Lakedew:

  • Intro session July 8th 9 AM
  • 12 sessions from July 15th – September 30th
  • Every Sunday 9:00 – 10:30 AM
  • For children ~9-14 years / classes 5-8
  • The sessions will be in the Words Work Library and Children’s Center, Lakedew Residency, Harlur (directions click here)
  • Fees Rs. 1,500 per child per month

Details of the program in Purvafairmont:

  • Intro session July 8th 4 PM
  • 12 sessions from July 15th – September 30th
  • Every Sunday 4:00 – 5:30 PM
  • For children ~9-14 years / classes 5-8
  • The sessions will be in the Budding Kidz Montessori Preschool, Next to Purvafairmont, 24 Main, HSR Layout (directions click here)
  • Fees Rs. 1,500 per child per month

How to join the program:

  • Click here to register

There will be a lot more happening than just the topics at hand. The experience and interactions will be much more crucial than the content itself.

See some of the videos by the children. Also see this one on Rube Goldberg’s machine, Pascal’s principle and another on waves.

Over 12 weeks, children will EXPLORE, EXPERIMENT, EXPERIENCE and EXPRESS in this journey of learning. Kids can expect three things …

  1. Learn to Learn (EXPLORE) … discussion on learning concepts such as Growth vs Talent Mindset and Deliberate Practice
  2. Creation. Build a Project (EXPLORE, EXPERIMENT and EXPERIENCE) … teams of 2-3 will build a project (say a ‘hydraulic mechanism’). In the process appreciating the application of physics, challenges of coming up with original ideas, facing the obstacles of building / tinkering with real things and above all working as a team
  3. Critically Analyze and Synthesize (EXPLORE and EXPRESS) … we will watch small movie clips, critically analyze the layers/nuances (camera angles, sound, expressions, story telling etc.) and articulate those ideas. Kids love this

Please see the following links to understand more about StableBow and the program. Of course, we can talk more when we meet in the introduction session on Dec 16th.

There are real engineers now in Purva

Over the last 3 weeks all these children have taken the challenge of building some complex Rube Goldberg machines.

It required them to come up with their own ideas. Some funny, some complex … but all creative:

  • Cat scratcher machine (Arushi)
  • Plant watering machine (Shreya)
  • Super hero domino (Ishanth)
  • Study time alert machine (Vikram)
  • Cube lifting machine (Surya)
  • Auto garbage machine (Srihari and Srikanth)

They then designed the mechanisms …


… followed by lots of debates, failures and fun moments !!

Their amazing creations are now uploaded on YouTube …

All the fun culminated in certificates all around and proud parents.

Amazing designs in Lakedew

We finished our third session. It was time to explore the designs from all project teams. As always, it was so motivating to see the energy and creativity of all teams.

Here is what the team calls as the Lazy Jack (TM). A fairly sophisticated mechanism to lift a light using two jacks and one hydraulic mechanism. Ambitious to say the least.

Another team wants to crush fruits in what they call the Fast and Furious Juicer (TM). Won’t be surprised if I see it on amazon market place one of these days. See the details in the illustration!!

The third team had to abandon their design after we debated the idea. They were a bit disappointed but, recovered quickly by evening to come up with a new design. This is an all girls team.

Wonder women 🙂

I always think the journey of learning far outweighs the content of what you learn. The kids are learning so many lessons – some technical and others life – because they are driving this journey. They have an idea and they are working to make it happen.

No one is managing them. They are managing themselves.

We also debated around one idea, and a quick experiment settled all debates. Let’s just do it 🙂

Graduation day … Purvafairmont Waves

So happy to see all parents tuning up to see their kids graduate on a Sunday morning. All the kids did so well thru this session.

This time we used waves as the topic to learn together. We not only talked about the theory behind waves but various applications. Thru the journey we learned about SIN and COS. We also created simulation of a wave in a Python notebook.

As ever, the topic is incidental. The learning process is what makes the impact.

The biggest thing I wanted the kids to learn is appreciate that programming is not about coding. It is about developing a new mindset. It is about learning anything with design, iterations and simulation.

The journey of creating a wave simulator made them appreciate the possibilities of learning thru programming.

wave equation

Most of us would be be so intimidated by the equation above. But, many of them managed to not only understand the intuition behind this, but also simulate it in a Python notebook. In fact, one kid even created a way to demonstrate interference. That’s the power of learning experimentally.

Very happy to hear all the feedback from the parents that children are starting to love this way of learning. Once we create the right environment, children’s desire to learn is unstoppable. Every child is unique. Allowing them to be themselves seems to explode their creativity.

Here is the certificate to reinforce the same message.

Waves Purva Jan 2018 Cert of Appreciation.png

Can’t wait for the summer camp in May.

We are going to create a Rube Goldeberg machine*. So much fun !!

* A Rube Goldberg machine and the world record winning version.