STEM lesson guides for Panoply Interactives

Wonder Vision


Huntsville Art League’s Panoply 2015 Interactive presented by

256 Magazine (all access removed)






It’s a fun trick of the eye!

Wonder Vision is an optical illusion based on a toy from the 19th century called a thaumatrope.  It was a disk with a picture on each side attached to two pieces of string. When the strings were twirled quickly between the fingers the two pictures appear to blend into one.

wonder vision 1









The secret behind Wonder Vision is the same magic that animators use to make your favorite cartoons. When images flash in rapid succession, like when you spin the stick, your brain cannot process them as individual images any longer. Instead, your brain takes the two images and combines them into one “hybrid” image. When animators use this principle, they use sequential images, for example of a person running, and flash them in rapid succession to create the impression that the person is actually running. In reality, it’s hundreds or even thousands of individual images being blurred into one moving image. The images are moving faster than the human eye can process them individually.

Although the thaumatrope does not produce animated scenes, it relies on the same persistence of vision principle.  Persistence of vision is the eye’s ability to retain an image for roughly 1/20 of a second after the object is gone. In this case, the eye continues to see the two images on either side of the thaumatrope shortly after each has disappeared.  As the thaumatrope spins, the series of quick flashes is interpreted as one continuous image.

You can also blend colors when making a thaumatrope. For example, you could color one side red and the other side yellow. When you spin the thaumatrope, you will see orange!

What are some images you could make on a thaumatrope at home? The possibilities are endless!!



Treasure Trackers


Theatre Huntsville’s Panoply 2015 Interactive presented by






Have you ever been to somebody’s house and saw the refrigerator covered in magnets with pictures or places they have visited? How do they stick there? Why are they on the refrigerator and not on the wall?

How does the pirate ship move along the pirate map you made at Panoply?  There is a magnet on one side of the map and a metal washer on the other side.  How do they stick together?

MAGNETS are made of iron, nickel or cobalt, and they have an invisible area around them called a magnetic field. This magnetic field is what attracts magnets to objects.

A MAGNETIC FIELD is made up of tiny building blocks called atoms. ATOMS are so small you can’t see them, but they are all around you! They are even inside you! Billions and billions of atoms link up with each other, or bond, to make up the tissues and organs inside your body. Even more combine to make things like a planet! Atoms are made up of even smaller parts called neutrons, protons, and electrons. The electrons spin around the outside of each atom. A magnetic field is created when all the electrons of all the magnet’s atoms spin the same way.

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MAGNETIC POLES are on opposite ends of the magnet. This is where the magnetic field is the strongest. Each magnet has a north pole and a south pole. If you cut a magnet in half, each half of the magnet will have a north and south pole.


Opposite poles of magnets are attracted to each other. This means the north pole of one magnet is attracted to the south pole of another magnet.  This attraction pulls magnets to each other. The same poles of magnets repel, or push away each other. This means that you can’t put two magnets together using both of their north poles, or both of their south poles. If you try this, you can feel each magnet pushing the other magnet away.

trackers 1






Magnets are also attracted to metal, like iron, nickel and cobalt. This is why the magnet moves your pirate ship on the metal washer around your treasure map!


The center of the Earth, called the core, is made up of iron and nickel. This metal core gives the Earth its own magnetic field! This magnetic field is responsible for many things, and is the reason why compasses work. A compass needle’s north end is always attracted to the Earth’s North Pole; no matter which way you turn the compass, the needle always turns to point to the North Pole.  Since ancient times, and even today, compasses have been used by travelers all over the world to help them navigate to their destinations, all with the help of invisible magnetic fields!



Geo Art Lab


MindGear Lab‘s Panoply 2015 Interactive presented by




The Geo Art Lab explores art through shapes, lines and math.


The tangram is a set of seven flat shapes, called tans, that are put together to make larger shapes, or polygons. The only rules is that you must use all seven shapes, they need to touch, but they must not overlap. How many images can you make from these shapes?

geo art lab 1






Here are some images that can be made from this tangram:geo art lab 2 geo art lab 3











A Tessellation is when we cover a surface with a pattern of flat shapes so that there are no overlaps or gaps.

geo art lab 4

geo art lab 5 geo art lab 7 geo art lab 6






Patterns are an important part of both math and art.  Patterns are when something is in repeated groups.  M.C. Escher was an artist who used the same patterns over and over again.  He said that he was an artist who used had more in common with math than art.



Escher’s Tesselations Escher’s Bio Escher Website



PBS Kids Video How to Tessellate How to Tessellate 2




Penrose Tiling, also called Variant Tiling was named after Roger Penrose, who studied these tiles in the 1970s.  This is when a pattern starts in the middle.  The diamonds don’t have to be the same but they have to fit together.  The pattern will get bigger and move out from the middle.

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Animated Penrose Tiling Can you make a Penrose tile with a pentagon shape?

Cosmic Crowns


A Panoply 2015 Interactive presented by

national space club





Many, many years ago there was no sun; there were no planets, there was no Earth or Moon. There was only gas. A lot of it. The gas turned slowly, around and around like a gigantic flat dish. Slowly the gas was pulled by gravity and stuck together forming a giant ball of gas in the center – our Sun. The sun was not the only ball of gas that formed. Some little bits of gas were not pulled all the way to the center to be part of the sun. These little bits of gas stayed around the outside of the center and formed their own gas balls (the planets), including Earth. Some of the planets formed little balls of gas of their own called moons. Our Earth has one moon.

Because the gas started out as a flat dish, the balls that formed from that gas stayed on that dish and continue to rotate around the center (the Sun). That is why all the planets and moons can be found on an imaginary flat sheet going through the center of the sun. That’s why your head can be the sun and all the planets can form a crown around it.

cosmic crowns






NASA Solar System Exploration Website


NASA Explorer Guide to the Solar System


NASA Space Place – Solar System


NASA Solar System Exploration for Kids (Interactive)


Planets for Kids Solar System for Kids



Solar System 101 from National Geographics


The Solar System at a Glance




Prepared by: Huntsville, AL L5 Society (HAL5)


Art Bots


Sci-Quest, Hands-on Science Center‘s Panoply 2015 Interactive presented bylockheed

An Art Bot motorized contraption that moves in unusual ways and leaves a mark to trace its path. It’s made from simple materials and is based on the idea of motion created by an offset motor.
art bot 3
Have you ever seen a cell phone sitting on a table when it vibrates? It doesn’t exactly sit still on the table, it moves from side to side. What if the cell phone was lighter? Would it move more? Would it slide across the table? What if the phone had a marker attached to it? Would it make a drawing?
Yes! It would! That’s because many motors used for Art Bots are also used in cell phones! Art Bots move around the paper more than cell phones because they are much lighter than a cell phone and the motor isn’t inside a heavy case.

You can probably say Art Bots are like snowflakes, no two are exactly alike. There are many variable components to Art Bots that make the end art projects so different from each other. A variable is an element or feature that changes in an experiment or project. Here is a list of possible variable items of an Art Bot:
1. Location of the motor
2. Speed of the motor
3. Vibration of the motor
4. Weight of the motor
5. Type of markers used
6. Quantity (how many) markers are used
7. Weight of the markers used
8. Weight ON the markers or some of the markers
9. Colors of the markers used
10. Height of the markers on the Art Bot
11. Direction of the markers (straight vs. slanted)
12. Type of base used
All of these variables above will change the way the Art Bot operates and therefore will change the resulting art project. A motor that vibrates a lot will vibrate the markers more and the lines may be dotted. If one marker has a heavy weight on it, it may end up with a dark, thick line and not move as fast. If the Art Bot is weighted too heavy on one side it will spin in circles. The combinations and art designs are endless with Art Bots!

If you were to build your own Art Bot, what would you do? How many markers would you use? What would you do to make it move in perfect circles? Could you use the same Art Bot to make different patterns? How could you do that?



• Motor (1.5v-3v)
• Battery (AA or AAA)
• Electrical Wire
• Wire Stripper
• Masking Tape
• Cup or other art scraps (cardboard, lids)
• Hot melt glue stick
• Markers or Pens
• Rubber Bands
1. Strip the ends of the electrical wire and connect the motor using masking tape.
2. Experiment with ways to offset the motor (try clay, wood or a hot melt glue stick). What happens if you change the weight of the offset motor? Change the length of the arm on the motor?
3. Build a base and attach the offset motor (you can try foam board, milk cartons, cups and all sorts of things). Make sure there is enough clearance for your offset motor to spin.
4. Attach a marker to trace the jittering movement of your art bot.
5. Make some scribbles!

art bot 1art bot 2

Discover Music

The Huntsville Symphony Orchestra Guild‘s 2016 Panoply Interactive

presented by: 


At the Huntsville Symphony Guild’s Discover Music Interactive, you’ll have a chance to conduct your own experiments and hear a wide variety of sounds different musical instruments can make. But why do instruments sound different? And what is sound, anyway?

Sound is a vibration or wave of air molecules caused by the motion of an object. You must have movement to make sound! Sound coming from a musical instruments is made by the movement and vibration of air within a tube, strings, drum heads, or reeds. To learn more about sound, sound waves, amplitude and sound energy, click HERE.

Musicians have classified their instruments into woodwinds, bras and reed instruments, string instruments, and percussion instruments. Woodwinds include the flute and piccolo, while the clarinet, saxophone and oboe are examples of reed instruments. Trumpets, trombones, tubas and French Horns are all brass instruments, and instruments with strings range from pianos and harps to violins, guitars and ukuleles. Meanwhile, drums, gongs, mallets and cymbals are just a few of the many percussion instruments that musicians can play.

When you experiment with playing a flute, you are working to blow air across the edge of the flute’s mouthpiece. The air gets split when it comes into contact with the mouthpiece and produces a vibration, and we now know that sound is created by that very vibration. In reed instruments, the sound vibrations are made when air travels across a thin piece of wood called a reed – the reed vibrates and sound is created! With a brass instrument like a trumpet or tuba, sound is produced by placing the lips on the mouthpiece and blowing while vibrating the lips. For stringed instruments, sound is made by vibrating the strings, while the vibration of hitting a drum head or cymbal creates sound in percussion instruments. (See Method Behind The Music for more information.)

Once you master an instrument’s basic sound vibrations, you can experiment by lengthening the air columns inside woodwind, reed and brass instruments to hit different notes. On string instruments, you can lengthen or short the strings to produce different notes and pitches. And you don’t have to have a formal instrument to get creative with sound and music at home! You can experiment with different found items such as straws and rubber bands to make your own home-made symphony of sound. Just use your imagination and you can discover music and sound all around.

Out of This World Astronaut Helmets

A Panoply 2015 Interactive presented by



Have you ever gone swimming? Put your face in the water? Needed to hold your nose…hold your breath? Why is that? Because you cannot breathe water and you need to breathe to stay alive. You only can breathe air. But people do swim underwater and do not hold their breath. They use scuba masks to do this. The mask protects them from the water and provides the air so that they can breathe.

An astronaut in space is not in water. The astronaut is in a vacuum. Just like the swimmer he cannot breathe vacuum. The astronaut needs air. The astronaut does not use a mask. The astronaut uses a spacesuit and a helmet. The helmet protects the astronaut’s head from the vacuum and it provides a way to get air to the astronaut to breathe.

An astronaut helmet is part of the astronaut’s spacesuit, and they work together as one.

According to, the helmet has a vent pad that direct oxygen from another part of the spacesuit into the front part of the helmet. The helmet keeps the oxygen at the right pressure around the head. The main part of the helmet is the clear plastic bubble. The bubble is covered by a visor that has a gold layer that filters out the sun’s harmful rays and protects the astronaut from extreme temperatures and small objects that may hit the spacewalker. Source:

Prepared by: Huntsville, AL L5 Society (HAL5)

Jammin’ Jellyfish

A Panoply 2015 Community Art Interactive

Have you ever seen jellyfish swim at the aquarium? How do they do that? Jellyfish don’t seem to have any bones or muscles, so how do they move?

Jellyfish use a jet propulsion system to move through water. Cup your hand like you are about to pick up a ball. Now close your fingers. The air space inside your palm area just got smaller. The squeezing motion and air in that area is the same motion that jellyfish use to squeeze their bodies to push jets of water below them to propel their bodies forward in the water. The part of the jellyfish that looks like a ball is called a “bell.” The bell collects water, squeezes, and then pushes water out.

Some larger jellyfish don’t have bells that can squeeze tightly and therefore cannot push a large amount of water for movement. Their bells are wider and move in a rowing motion instead. Larger jellyfish cannot move up and down as easily as smaller ones.

Jellyfish also use ocean currents to move in the water. The jet propulsion system moves them up and down, but the current moves them from side to side. Therefore, jellyfish can’t really decide where they are going. They depend on the ocean’s movement most of the time. CLICK HERE to read more about how a jellyfish works.


1. Jellyfish have been around for over 500 million years, even before dinosaurs!
2. Many jellyfish are transparent (see-through)
3. Jellyfish are not fish
4. Jellyfish do not have brains, blood or nervous system
5. Jellyfish travel is groups called blooms that can be as large as 1,000,000
6. Jellyfish eat shrimp, crab and tiny plants
7. Jellyfish sting their prey. Sometimes humans are stung by jellyfish and some species are harmful to humans
8. There are thousands of different Jellyfish species
9. The lifespan of a jellyfish is anywhere from 2 months to 1 year
10. Jellyfish are kept in round aquariums to prevent them from getting stuck in the corners

There are many different shapes and sizes and colors of jellyfish. The colors of different species of jellyfish depend on the pigments of the microorganisms living inside of them. Most jellyfish are translucent, or “see-through” – but the things that they eat are not translucent. Therefore, they appear to be the color of the things that they eat. “You are what you eat.”
National Geographic video
Swim with millions of golden jellyfish

Panoply Interactives

Panoply’s interactive arts activities offer guests of all ages the opportunity to get creative with art, music and more! These activities are a sample of what can be found throughout the festival.