Circuitry learning for the future
You know those cool science experiments where you take a potato and turn it into a battery with a few pieces of metal and nimble hands? It produces enough power to run a small digital clock or lightbulb and is a great way to introduce STEM thinking and skills. The makers of MakerBloks have brought that concept into the digital age with hands-on building and a digital activity book.
What are MakerBloks?
MakerBloks is changing how kids and parents use tablets. Children (ages six and up) learn everything from electronics to cooking with magnetic building blocks that interact with a digital activity book and a variety of tablet games. MakerBloks helps to get kids working with their hands and thinking outside of the screen to keep learning fun and engaging.
MakerBloks link up to each like dominos, only magnetic. Each MakerBlok links up magnetically and when you assemble each component they form real circuits. Kids can build everything from a lie-detector to a voice changing microphone and more. MakerBloks are intuitive, safe, and connect via Bluetooth. With Bluetooth, the blocks can interact with the digital activity book, available on your tablet. In each chapter of the activity book, blocks can be used to tackle problems and solve puzzles. The activities are based on the story of a curious young girl, Gabi, who lives in MakerCity. Use your blocks to help Gabi and her neighbors solve the puzzles and keep your kids engaged in STEM activities.
What kinds of circuits are included?
Currently, MakerBloks offers three kits: a spy kit, music kit, and circuitry kit. The spy kit lets you build a lie-detector, burglar alarm, and more. The music kit lets budding musicians build their own instruments that can play orchestral, space, and farm sounds. With the circuitry kit you can make your own toys, build a Simon-says game, or a voice changing microphone.
There are twelve types of blocks with which you can interact:
- Battery Block: everything starts with this block. All the other block rely on this to do their jobs.
- Push Switch: push this and it will trigger the actions of the block next to it.
- LED Light: comes in all the colors of the rainbow and will literally light up when you have an idea.
- High Resistor: this block dims the light or sound of the block beside it.
- Medium Resistor: this block reduces noise and light a little, but not too much.
- Low Resistor: this block reduces noise and light a little, you’ll barely know it’s there.
- Photoresistor: is sensitive to light. If you cover it, it won’t do anything, but if you put light on it…
- Rocker Switch: just like a light switch; flip it and let your ideas flow
- Variable resistor: this knob lets you control the intensity of the action
- Buzzer: this block makes noise! It’ll cheer you on when you’re right and warn you when you’re wrong
- Splitter: takes the energy of the power block and spreads it in three different directions.
- Processor: the brain of the whole block set. It makes the games logical so you can enjoy the fun.
Even if you don’t have children, these blocks could be lovely tools for teaching inventiveness to anyone, young and older alike. This would also be an amazing tool for teachers. MakerBloks is definitely worth a look if you’re interested in STEM activities or fostering a sense of thinking outside of the box.
Airbnb addresses issues in accessibility by adding new filters and photos
(TECHNOLOGY) Finding accessibility-friendly Airbnbs lodging has not been the easiest process, but the company just unveiled new features to help.
In a commendable step forward for the platform, Airbnb has updated its filtering features and added additional location photo screening to make its platform more user-friendly for those with disabilities. This is the first big overhaul since 2019. Studies have demonstrated that guests with disabilities are more likely to face discrimination on the platform and the platform is making moves to address this issue. In a tweet on November 9th, the CEO of Airbnb, Brian Chesky, posted: “We’re reviewing every accessibility feature on Airbnb for accuracy. To date, our agents have double-checked photos of features in more than 25,000 homes.” The tweet features an 18-second video showcasing the accessibility features interface, which looks promising at a first glance.
In a curious decision, the number of accessibility filters has been lowered from 21 to 13, in what is described as an attempt to streamline searches. While there is room for skepticism on that notion, better screening and search optimization for the remaining accessibility features is a welcome improvement. Perhaps we’ll see some of the nixed search filters, such as handheld showerheads, make a return in future updates.
The standards and burden of evidence for listing accessibility options have become more stringent. Each feature now must be clearly documented with photo or video evidence, which are reviewed by designated trained staff. With standards now clearly defined for hosts to use to determine accessibility compliance of their spaces, the process should be smoother for all parties involved. Examples of clarified guidelines include defining a ‘wide entrance to bedroom’ to be at least a 32-inch doorway, with photos of the measurement to confirm, as well as similar additional documentation being required for accessible parking spaces. Where previously hosts just had to show a space clearly marked as accessible, images or video now need to also show how far from the primary entrance the space is, as well as prove that the space is clearly labeled with official signage or has a private driveway a minimum of 11 feet wide.
As a disabled person myself, and with a partner who has two defective knees– I can say there are a few filters I will miss. However, the more reliable accuracy of the labels for postings is a large step forward. I look forward to not getting any more third-story apartments showing up in searches for wheelchair-accessible properties. Planning my next vacation will likely be much less frustrating, if only we could agree on somewhere to go.
Update (December 07, 2021 at 12:58pmCST): Liz DeBold Fusco, Communications Lead for North America at Airbnb tells us, “To better serve our guests, and with input from our community and partners, we have updated the filters to make it easier for guests to find homes which suit their needs. One of those updates is simplifying to focus on essential and most used filters.”
Can you afford missing a paycheck? Finance tips for freelancers
(FINANCE) Freelancers who are not always promised a regular paycheck could benefit from staying on top of their finances. Here’s our tips!
Most Americans don’t have a regular savings account and could not handle a $1,000 emergency, let alone miss practically a month of pay. We all could benefit from some careful reflection about the precarious nature of our personal finances.
Particularly those of us who don’t receive a regular paycheck.
Entrepreneurs and those invested in the gig economy have volatile incomes, and literally no promise of a paycheck ever – that can impact your personal finances in a number of ways.
Variable incomes are normal for this group and can impact entrepreneurs in ways as simple as handling debt.
If this is you – here are a few things to keep in mind that can help you deal with the volatility of living on a variable income and handling your personal finances.
- Set up an emergency fund. Start with 500 if you have to, and remember this is an emergency fund for your personal expenses, not your business. If you have an emergency fund, make sure you identify what an emergency is and also be prepared to put money back when it comes out. If you have a hard time not spending money in front of you, put your money in a local bank or CU that you don’t have immediate access too.
- Stick to a budget. when you can’t forecast your income appropriately, controlling expenses is so critical it’s the few things that are in your control.
- Don’t mix business with personal. While you may be pouring your personal energy and time into your start-up or gig, be careful about mixing expenses for two reasons: First, it messes up your budget. You need to have separate budgets for personal and business. Second, there could be tax challenges – consult a tax professional for more information. Here’s a little primer to get you started.
- Save for retirement. There are tax benefits and come on, don’t wait till you can’t work anymore. Also, an IRA IS NOT AN EMERGENCY FUND.
- Practice good financial behaviors. Automate bill pay. Online statements. Digital receipt tracking. The more you can automate your life, the better you are. You already have so many demands on your time, reduce that so you can spend more time doing what you love and what matters.
- Consider diversifying your income. Either ensure you have multiple strings or a backup gig (even if it’s just uber driving) or be prepared to do temporary or contract labor during your slow seasons.
The path to entrepreneurship is rough. If the government can be unstable, those of you who work in the world of startups, gigs, and entrepreneurship, need to be even more on your toes. The “normal recommendation” for saving is 10% of your income, but normal may not be enough for you. Be prepared and save (more) of your paycheck.
Disclaimer: I am neither a tax nor investment professional. This is personal financial advice and I encourage you to visit a professional if you need more specific plans of action.
iOS 15 beta has blur nude photos opt-in, but its not without fault
(TECH NEWS) To protect children from explicit content, the most recent beta version of iOS 15 includes a feature that allows users to blur nude photos.
In a move to protect children from explicit content, the most recent beta version of iOS 15 includes a feature that allows users to blur nude photos received in the Messages app. Amid privacy concerns, the feature has yet to be released.
This iteration of the feature is distinct from the original one insofar as it will no longer alert a parent or guardian when nude photos are encountered. While this may seem like a controversial change, several experts pointed out that exposing nude content on a child’s device in some households could result in abuse or, as Harvard Cyberlaw Clinic instructor Kendra Albert suggests, the outing of “queer or transgender children to their parents.”
With the most recent version of this feature enabled, children who receive inappropriate photos via the Messages app would be able to do two things: choose to avoid (or see) the content, and choose to send a report to a trusted adult if they see fit to do so.
Blurring photos is just one of several aspects of Apple’s Communication Safety suite, a feature that aims to prevent child sex abuse by making it easier for children to avoid and report predatory content.
Another feature that Apple has tested – but not released – is their Child Sex Abuse Imagery Detection (CSAM-detection), which scans and reports iCloud content that shows child pornography or abuse to Apple moderators for further review. As one can imagine, the feature drew mixed criticism, the majority of which came from privacy advocates.
While the vast majority of humanity can (hopefully) agree that fighting against child exploitation is a noble cause, these groups argue that scanning and reporting individuals’ personal photos via an algorithm opens the door to government interference and increased surveillance. Switching the algorithm’s baseline to scan for things like anti-government content, for example, would be easy, these groups posit, making the feature extremely dangerous in principle.
There is no current release date set for any of these aforementioned features, though iPhone users can reasonably expect them to drop at some point during iOS 15’s development.
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