Catonsville STEMsharks

By: Bidemi Oladiran (AmeriCorps VISTA)

The 4-H Catonsville STEMsharks club reconvened on March 11, 2016 after a three month hiatus.  The club meeting began with bold and exciting plans for the club’s future, part of which included doing two sponsored projects. Other plans included forming a robotics league and participating in competitions at the Baltimore county and state fairs. Afterwards, the club voted for new officers, there were three presidential, vice presidential, and treasurer candidates, along with one secretarial candidate vying for the position of officers. All the candidates gave their speeches for why they would make the best officer for the position. One of the vice presidential candidates suggested that “the kids should run the meeting not the adults.” Both adults and children were excited by this prospect as they cheered and laughed.  The secretary candidate and the three candidates for treasurer also gave their speeches. The treasurer candidate speeches were just as invigorating to listen to as they expressed their vigor for the position would be supported by the fact that they were “good with money, and always wanted to be a banker, so this would be good practice” as well as the fact that they were “good at math, and like testing math skills.”

Afterwards when the candidates gave their speeches the club meeting continued with the activity of the day. The younger age group the between ages 5-7 were the clovers and were separated from the older children. The clovers completed their engineering project, which consisted of building a tower out of gum drops and toothpicks. One of the clovers Mira expressed that she wanted to “build the tallest tower.”

CAM00286 (1) In the meantime the older age group moved on to learning about computer logic, and how computers learn and think.  All the members learned that computers know two numbers “0 and 1” and that this was called binary, and as a joke it was “how computers learned to play angry birds.” The members learned that computers need to know when and how to count things, and as an exercise they would be the computer and learn to read and write in binary.  The members were split into three groups of five, four members of each group would be the volunteers acting as the binary code, while the fifth member recorded how the members would count to fifteen using binary.  The four volunteers of each team had numbers 1, 2, 4, 8 and when they sat down they were all zeros, but when they stood up, they were all ones. If they stood up their number was included (1), if they sat down their number wasn’t included (0). For instance, if you wanted to get to 13, numbers 1, 4, 8 would stand up and they would be ones, but 2 would stay seated and would be a zero.

Afterwards, the members were asked what kind of patterns they saw, the members revealed that “for every zero there’s the same amount of ones.” Another pattern is that whenever it was an odd number, the members designated as 1 stood up. The members also learned that a bit, is short for binary digit and 8 bits is called a byte, 4 bits is called a nibble and allowed the members to count to 15. They also learned that 5 bits would allow them to count to 31 and a gigabyte is one million people standing up and down, a computer is a million times faster. The members continued with the lesson by learning about NAND gates which are basic digital logic gates.

The NAND construction and digital construction consists of various types of gates including NAND, NOT, AND, OR, NOR, XOR, and XNOR. With these gates, any logic combination could be realized, but the members focused on mainly NAND as well as AND gates. The NAND is and inversion of an AND gate, so if the first two inputs is 0, the output is 1 for NAND gate rather than 0 for an AND gate. The concept of NAND, AND gates was more challenging for the members. As the meeting came to a close the votes for the new officers were tallied and the new officers were names. The elected president was Georgina, the Vice President Dino, the secretary went to is Aiden and the Treasurer is Gareth.  Congrats to them all! With new officers chosen and a new direction for the club, the members looked forward to the next meeting.


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