Category Archives: Summer and Vacation Programs

Elephants and the Eameses: Our Own Take

Last week, Melissa Fitzmaurice and her students explored the work of Charles and Ray Eames. Campers and counselors drew inspiration from the designs of these modern builders to create their own whimsical array of colorful houses, warped furniture, solar-powered do-nothing machines, and elephants.
Students then broke into groups to study and pay homage to the many films made by the Eameses and their descendants. These showcase the Eames’ best-known inventions, and the Museum’s most beloved. Please enjoy the finished product:

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Eli Whitney Museum’s Rube Goldberg

Eli Whitney Museum: Rube Goldberg Video

Click on the link above to watch footage of this summer’s class Rube Goldberg: Chain Reactions Big and Small work together to construct a relay in the spirit of making connections.

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Eli Whitney Museum Kayaks and Kudzu Craft


The Museum’s 12 ft skin-on frame kayak class was featured yesterday on the Kudzu Craft website.  The class used Kudzu plans, artificial sinew and skin for these kayaks.  One of the highlight’s of the summer.

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Aeromodelers Flying at Quinnipiac University

The Aeromodelers from the EWM Summer Program flying their planes at one of the intramural athletic fields at Quinnipiac University. They had a blast.

Thank you QU!

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Hacking Neil Downie

Comments from the Hacking Neil Downie Workshop at the Eli Whitney Museum July 16-20, 2012.

Based on chapters from The Ultimate Book of Saturday Science Neil A. Downie, Princeton University Press (c) May 2012.  Page numbers are references to this book.


Nathan: We need big carrots.

Sally: Why?

Neil Downie’s Carrot Cannon (page 3.)

Sally: Yeah, well when you hit someone in the eye, don’t bring them to me.

Nathan: Hey, I thought carrots were good for eyes!

Motor Brushes (page 112.)

We made a classic mistake.  We created a propeller unit to put on top of “Doogals” we have made for three years.  It worked beautifully. The ones we made today, not so much.

Parker turned off the propeller on our demonstration model to demonstrate that it was already a superior “vibrobot”: well balanced and turned. It was important to make the Motor Brush work well first, then add the propeller. English propellers may be more efficient than the inexpensive American ones we use.


Josh B missed Monday and dragged himself in Tuesday still with a terrible cough.

Josh said: It’s just not a week I would ever miss. Cough. Cough.

To which everyone responded: Hacking Neil Downie.

Hacking: (American) to make innovative adjustments or applications, of established ideas or technology, understanding something that works by taking it apart and putting it back together.

Smooth-Wheeled Steamer (p 117)

Terrific fun.  And a reminder that most of us need more practice at balancing boats.

Telestrings (p 182)

A brilliant version of a device heretofore manageable only by very clever mechanics.  Thomas Jefferson designed a similar device to reproduce his signature. We will recommend the ultimate version to our friends at Monticello.


Projects that seem simple often present big challenges.  Projects that seem outrageous sometimes turn out to be simple. We changed the subtitle of An Eiffel Brick Tower (page 90) to Monster Eiffel.  Owen’s very first tower passed the limit of our ladders at 14′ 8″.  Friday we have retooled for a 16′ attempt.

The Popup Piston (page 9) is another delightfully simple pleasure. We like the trick of putting a small hole all the way through the block so that “experts” can pop the piston hat.  Those who do not know the secret, cannot.

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Theatre of Illusions: A Week Insight

Clockwise from top left…
  • “Jack’s Optical Illusions” – a book filled with printed optical illusions, like Duchamp’s spinners.
  • Praxinoscope:  An “animator”,  or a series of pictures lined up with mirrors to create a moving image.
  • Thaumatrope (on Jack’s dragon) – two pictures attached to opposite sides of a block of wood. When spun quickly, a similar effect to the animator is created.
  • Eames’ Room – a small, disproportionate room constructed of cardboard. When looking through a small hole in the side of the room, the room looks normal (until a clothespin person is added to each side). One person appears much larger than the other.
  • 3D cube – cut and painted pieces of wood used to create a seemingly 3D cube.
  • 3D hand drawing – a combination of straight and curved lines which create a 3D effect.

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A Summer full of Play… without any “iStuff”

Check out the article on the Wall Street Journal Site… David Gelernter’s challenge to make it “a Summer Without iStuff” and instead a summer full of creativity and play.

Sound familiar? Ei Whitney Museum’s Summer Programs 2012

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Martin Luther King Day 2012: The Power of Design

  • Monday, January 16th, 2012 9:00 am – 3:00 pm
  • Ages 7-12
  • $59.00 for nonmembers/$55.00 for members
  • Register Here

On Martin Luther King’s Day, celebrate understanding, ingenuity and generosity.

Namibia occupies the Atlantic coast of southwest Africa. Its area is almost 5 times the size of New England but much of that land is unfriendly desert. Its population is small. Some of its people enjoy modern prosperity. But many toil to live from the land much as their ancestors did.

Construction materials are scarce. Margaret Courtney-Clarke, Tonia Von Lieres and local volunteers have used cast off polypropylene grain bags filled with the abundant desert sand, wire, and simple roofing felt to construct solid, comfortable homes that ward off the heat of summer and the cold of winter.

Construct a micro-experimental house using salt packs. Create its family and the meerkats, zebras, and elephants that inhabit it. Get to know DRC, Swakopmund where the first experimental house was built (and where Shiloh Jolie-Pitt was born.) With stories and music from Namibia. Consider the power of design to make a better world.

To honor Dr. King, the Museum will invest 30% of the tuition for this workshop in materials for the Sandbag Housing Project, DRC, Swakopmund, Namibia.

Click here to register.

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