Teen Tech Tip of the Week #27: Hydrogen and Helium make Energy Elemental 
Welcome back to the Tech Tips blog! As you may have noticed, we are really excited about the library's Teen Summer Reading program. Our theme this summer is 'Reading is Elemental,' and here at the blog we are going to be giving you a weekly dose of posts relating periodic elements and technology all summer long. Join us this week as we look at our first topic: Hydrogen and Helium and the genesis of all the Earth's energy.

The Genesis of Energy on the Sun


Constant complex atomic reactions (nuclear fusion reactions, for extra credit ) are taking place on our sun called Proton-Proton chain reactions. During these reactions, Hydrogen (H) atoms are combined together to create isotopes of Helium (He). See the image below (note: MeV denotes megaelectron volts, a measure of electric energy). The result generates electricity that radiates all the way to Earth. The resulting He isotopes undergo more atomic reactions that involve Beryllium and Lithium, further resulting in a release of energy. The sun's energy is radiated to Earth in the form of electro-magnetism.

Earth's Energy


In one form or another, the energy that you use comes from the sun's electro-magnetic ray. The food that you eat transforms the sun's energy during photosynthesis and uses it to create mass (e.g. glucose sugar in plants) storing energy that your body uses when you consume and digest your food. The stored energy is also passed to your body when you consume fish and animals that eat plants.

So What Does this Have to do with Technology?


The energy that you use to power devices like your phone, TV, and computer also originates in the sun. Depending upon where you live in the world, your main source of electrical power varies. The main sources of fuel that we use in KY are coal power and natural gas (to power our homes and charge battery powered devices) and petroleum-based gasoline (to power our transportation).

Coal and oil are fossilized versions of plant and animal matter that have undergone extreme heat and pressure for millions of years. Energy in the form of heat is generated when we burn those substances, and we use that to generate electrical energy (for more on this, stay tuned for the post on Copper). So when you use your computer to update your status or play a video game, the energy that is needed to power the device originates in the Hydrogen and Helium reactions on the sun.

Alternative Ways to Harness the Sun's Energy



Since there is a limited amount of fossil fuels left on Earth, scientists have been designing alternative ways to harvest energy from the sun's rays.

The most direct way is through solar-powered energy which can be divided into two categories. First, passive solar energy harnesses just the heat given off from the sun's rays and concentrates that energy to heat water or a greenhouse, etc. Second, scientists use photovoltaic panels to actively transform the energy in the sun's rays into electricity that can be used to power batteries.

Biofuels, like bio diesel are made from low-cost, mass produced sugary plant substances like sugar cane, corn and soy. The sun's energy is stored in the plant's sugars and is distilled into a purified ethanol and used to power machines and automobiles.

Onyx Photovoltaic Estimation is a cool, free app that uses your phone's screen to estimate the amount of power that a photovoltaic panel would generate at any location.

There is a diverse world of alternative energy that is constantly changing due to technological improvements. Here's a cool app to keep you up to date from Renewable Energy World:

(Montage of alternative sources of energy: wind, hydropower, and photovoltaic cells)

Here's an extra credit question for your Teen Summer Reading activity point: how are wind-powered and geothermal electricity also forms of the Sun's energy?

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Teen Tech Tip of the Week #26: Explore the Night Sky  
Welcome back to the blog after a bit of a break. We wanted to give you a little extra time for the past two topics, since they are rather difficult to digest. This week we are getting far out and are looking beyond our own planet into the sky and beyond.

(Source: NASA)

Next week (June 1) marks the beginning of LFPL's summer reading for kids and teens and the themes for each are science-related: 'Build Your Brain' and 'Reading is Elemental' (respectively). For the entirety of summer reading we are going to look at a variety of science subjects on the teen blog.

For this post we are going as far out as we can possibly go: outer space! Below are several free resources to explore the entire universe:

Resources for Viewing the Night Sky


Google Earth (View>Explore>Sky, Mars, Moon) is a great place to start finding your place in our universe. Users can view pictures and find links to educational resources directly from a 3D map. Look at terrain features for Mars and take a virtual tour of the Apollo landing mission on the moon.

Stellarium will create a realistic view of the night sky in real time for any location on Earth. View constellations from all over the world including many different cultures.

Celestia is a 3D space travel simulator that allows you to travel through their extensive collection of astronomical bodies. View close ups of planets from our solar system and see the interactions of all objects at any point in the universe's history. Both NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) utilize Celestia for outreach and public education.

WorldWide Telescope was developed by Microsoft and displays a 3D map of the universe taken from the Hubble telescope and nearly a dozen Earth-bound scopes. Download the Windows client or use the browser-based viewer.

Skychart (Cartes du Ciel) lets you turn your computer into a planetarium by mapping and labeling planets, stars and constellations. Overlap photographs to get a closer look at each object.

Aladin is a great tool for researchers that lets you browse through maps, images and dozens of databases of scientific research.

Louisville Astronomical Society - Since 1931, the LAS has been gazing and educating Louisville on our solar system and beyond. They offer monthly public star viewing at their Urban Astronomy Center located at E.P. Tom Saywer Park.

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Teen Tech Tip of the Week #25: Computer Programming (Pt. II): Computer and Mobile App Development 
Last week we started to break the surface of computer coding a bit, and we introduced you to some free sites that allow you to learn the basics.

Some of you may be wondering, 'so how do the pros do it?' This week we will explore that question and give you the tools that you need to make and distribute your own apps.

Workflow Basics


Now that you have had a bit of time to key around with different programming languages, let's talk about what to do with the skills that you have begun to develop. We will discuss putting your skills to work through computer and mobile app development, but keep in mind that your skills are not limited only to building apps.

Apps are typically self-contained programs that perform a series of tasks related to the same overall function. Apps all have some sort of graphical user interface (GUI)--which is a fancy way of saying the buttons on the screen that the user pushes and the content being displayed.

Operating systems for devices have evolved to include easy access to a marketplace (Apple App Store, Google Play, and the growing Windows Store) rich with free and low-cost apps.

There is currently quite a bit of free software available designed to create apps for a variety of marketplaces, and the software is aimed at professional developers and hobbyists alike.

Though development varies across platforms, the basic concepts are all the same. Each platform has a specific set of tools called a software development kit (SDK) for creating apps. Those tools usually include the following: code editor, interface builder, frameworks (prefab code libraries), code debugger, a simulator that gives you a live test of your app, and some way of measuring how your app performs on a specific device.

To integrate all the tools, programmers utilize an integrated development environment (IDE). It may be helpful to think of the SDK as the tools necessary for building an app, and the IDE functions like the workbench keeping all the tools together and at close reach.

Many apps also require an application programming interface (API) to communicate to an operating system, a database, or some other piece(s) of software.

Below is a list of resources broken down into three popular development platforms Android, iOS, and Windows. Getting started can be a bit tricky, so I have included getting started resources and tutorials. The image above features an infographic detailing the general workflow for building an app. In the tutorials below, you will find similar charts more specific to your needs.

Android


MIT App Inventor - this browser-based IDE runs on Java and is a great to start. Tutorials found here.
Eclipse IDE and Android SDK (Bundle) - a more robust IDE from Eclipse
Building Your First App Tutorial - get started with installing and developing with this tutorial
Resources

iOS


iOS Developer Center - sign up and start making iPad, iPod and Mac apps
XCode - Apple's IDE and programs are written in Objective-C
Getting Started
ManiacDev - a one-stop for new and professional developers alike with libraries and tutorials

Windows


Visual Basic Express - Microsoft's IDE and apps are typically written in C# or C++
SQL Server Express - Microsoft provides you with a free database engine to power your apps
C# Tutorials - to get you started making apps with VS
MDSN - Microsoft's developer network with all the resources you need


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Teen Tech Tip of the Week #24: Computer Coding (Part I): Programming Language Basics 
Hello and welcome back to the blog for a giant two-parter. This time we are looking at computer coding and free resources that you can use to learn various programming languages to create computer and mobile applications, video games, and build websites.


Computer code is all around us and powers every electronic device. As an exercise for those who may have never seen a code before, hit F12 (Internet Explorer), Ctrl+U (Firefox and Chrome), or Cmd+Opt+U (Safari) to see the source code for this webpage.

In an increasingly digital age, learning computer skills is a fundamental necessity, and learning programming is like learning the language. Learning to code has never been easier, and everyday more resources are popping up to teach you how. Currently, there is a high demand for programmers in the job market. This post is dedicated to giving you some of those resources.

Learning to Code


Codecademy is a great place to start learning the nuts and bolts of various programming languages: HTML/CSS, PHP, jQuery, Javascript, Python, Ruby and information on API's. There are dozens of projects that allow you to put your skills to use designing games and personalized web applications.

Python is a great place to start programming. This scripting language is expressive and easy to understand. The Python community has come together to create tons of libraries and tutorials to get you started and beyond.

Scratch is a graphic programming language that teaches users the basics of object-oriented programming (OOP). This program was created by MIT and teaches you to create games and animations. Check out Learn Scratch to get started. Teachers interested in including Scratch into curriculum may be pleased to note the 'Lesson Plans' section.

Alice Developed by Carnegie Mellon University, Alice is similar to Scratch and teaches users OOP in a 3D environment through the use of storytelling.

Happy Nerds Want more? Happy Nerds has put together a fairly comprehensive site with more resources for learning to code for various platforms.

SmallBasic is based on Microsoft's .NET programming language. The SmallBasic language editing software (called an integrated development environment, IDE) allows you to break problems down into small steps and test each one along the way, in other words: teaching you how to think like a programmer.

The library has a Code Club for teens who are interested in learning more about coding and meeting others who share the same interest. Click Here for more information.

Click here to check out programming books that the library has in its collection.

Check back next time for part two where we teach you the skills to design and implement your own computer and mobile apps.



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Teen Tech Tip of the Week #23: Geographic Information Systems 
Welcome back! This week we have an exciting topic at hand, mostly because of how powerful the tools are. In this post you will learn how to make interactive maps to study and compare geographic information.

Take some time to let this map load, and be sure to check out all its features. This week's topic is a rather difficult one, so take some time and explore all that it has to offer.


View Larger Map
(Map relating the proximity of farmers markets to the types of crops harvested in each region. NOTE: Click Legend in the top right corner and give the map a moment to load)

What is GIS?!


Geographic Information Systems, or GIS, are systems that store, analyze, and graphically present geographic data, called spatial data. Map presentations (like the one featured above) are created by adding layers of data onto a base map.

In the example above, I started with a map of the US, and then I added a shapefile containing a map of all the counties of KY. Next, I added a layer containing all of the farmers markets in the US and a final layer that shows the diversity of crops harvested per county in the US. This simple map shows the relationship between the density of farmers markets and the agricultural productivity of KY counties.

Maps like this one can be analyzed to better understand that relationship, and information like this may be important to farmers looking to corner new markets. In fact, GIS is a very large field that encompasses many disciplines of study like science, the environment, infrastructure, business, social studies, history, geography, and geology. Many jobs are available to people with strong GIS skills, as well.

Below are some resources to get you started in this exciting field.

Free Map Making Software


Here are some free applications that allow you to access data and make maps:

ArcGIS Online
ArcGIS Explorer Desktop
ArcGIS Explorer Online

Data Sources


Your map is only as good as the data that you have to display. Whether or not you realize it, KY is in the top 5 states in the nation for GIS data! Here are bunch of great place for fast, free data:

KY Geological Survey - offered through the University of KY, the KGS is the repository for a wide range of KY Geospatial data

Geospatial Data Library - this is the KGS library of data including links to the KY Geonet, Office of Geographic Information Systems, KY Dept Fish and Wildlife, University of Louisville GIS, the US Geological Survey, and more.

Tutorials


You've got all the tools you need, now what?! Watch some of these videos to get you started:

Getting Started with ArcGIS Online
ArcGIS Explorer Quick Start Tutorial

If you are looking to take these skills to the higher level, be sure to check ot some of the GIS courses offered through My Library University.

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