Helix @ CSIRO

10 February 2016
by David

Sliding block puzzle

A big black rectangle.

Take 12 dominos and arrange them into a rectangle.

You will need

  • Set of dominoes
  • Blu-tac
  • Sticky labels, pens, scissors (optional)

What to do

  1. Turn all the dominos face down. You won’t need to look at the dots in this activity. Arrange them so that the shorter side is towards you.
  2. Arrange 12 dominoes in a rectangle three dominoes wide and four dominoes long. Continue Reading →

3 February 2016
by David

What’s the area of a pizza?

Four large pieces of pizza in a line.

Alternate the pieces left, right.

You will need

  • At least one pizza
  • Knife
  • Ruler or tape measure

What to do

  1. Cut the pizza into four pieces in the normal way (wedges which all meet in the middle). Try to make all the pieces the same size and shape.
  2. Take two of the pieces and place them with the cut sides next to each other, but put the pointy end of one next to the crust on the other. Continue Reading →

27 January 2016
by David


An oval with a start line.

Draw a racetrack.

You will need

  • 5mm square graph paper
  • A friend or friends
  • A different coloured pen for each person

What to do

  1. Draw a top-down view of a racetrack on the graph paper. The track should be about 5 boxes wide, and form a loop or a figure eight.
  2. Draw in a start/finish line
  3. You and each of your friends should each grab a different coloured pen. Use that pen to draw an ‘x’ on an intersection of grid lines on or just behind the starting line. This ‘x’ represents your race car. No two ‘x’s should be on the same intersection – that would cause a collision. Continue Reading →

20 January 2016
by David

Lemonade stand

Hat, sunscreen, pens, cardboard, change, lemonade.

You will need these items

Note: Laws about selling food and drink vary from place to place. Get an adult to contact the local council and check where and how you are allowed to run a lemonade stand before you do this activity. This activity may not be permitted in your region. If not, you could try doing this with your own family with “play” money.

You will need

  • A lemonade recipe and ingredients
    Lemonade 50c

    Make a sign that people can see.

  • An outdoor table
  • Chairs
  • Plastic cups
  • A big piece of cardboard to write a sign on
  • Pens and pencils to write on the sign
  • A container to put money in
  • Lots of coins so you can give people change
  • An esky and some ice, to keep your lemonade cool (optional)

Continue Reading →

18 January 2016
by David

When life gives you lemons…

Several squeezed lemonsand some lemon juice

Squeeze the lemons into a bowl

Safety: This activity requires boiling water. Younger scientists should get an adult to help.

You will need

  • 2 teaspoons citric acid
  • 2 teaspoons table salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1L water
  • Juice and rind of 3 large lemons
  • Kettle
  • Large bowl
  • Sieve or strainer
  • Wooden spoon
  • 2L jug/bottle

Continue Reading →

13 January 2016
by David

Make a piece of shortbread

Safety: This activity involves an oven and electric beaters. Younger mathematicians should ask an adult for help.

You will need

Brown batter in a bowl

Mix the butter, sugar and essence with a fork.

  • 15 g butter, softened
  • 10 mL caster sugar
  • 0.3 mL vanilla extract
  • 31 mL plain flour
  • 8 mL rice flour
  • Extra butter to grease the baking tray
  • Extra flour for kneading Continue Reading →

28 December 2015
by David

Guess Who’s my number?

Someone cudding a sheet of paper with numbers on it.

Cut out the rectangles.

You will need

15 December 2015
by David
1 Comment

Kirigami steers solar panels

A solar panel cut into a lattice shape.

Kirigami cuts make this solar panel move.
Image: Aaron Lamoureux

When you’re installing solar panels, it’s important to point them at the Sun. But the Sun isn’t always in the same place – it moves across the sky over the course of a day. If you can aim the panels towards the Sun as it moves, they can produce up to 40 per cent more power than if they are stationary. But it’s hard to aim a big, flat solar panel: especially when it’s attached to your roof. Continue Reading →