• 10 Oct
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    This Tuesday 11th October is Ada Lovelace Day and there are lots of things you can do to get in the spirit of the day.

    Ada Lovelace on BrainPOP UK

    We’re big fans of Lady Lovelace and other amazing women in STEM and particularly Ada Lovelace Day which is an international celebration day of women in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM).

    The day aims to increase the profile of women working in STEM and promote and create new role models to both support women already working in STEM fields and to encourage more girls into pursuing STEM careers.

    Firstly our Ada Lovelace topic will be our free featured movie on Ada Lovelace Day so kids all over the world can find out about the life and achievements of the world’s first computer programmer. It’s fantastic to use as an assembly to kick start your school’s Ada Lovelace Day activities.

    BrainPOP - Ada Lovelace

    What else can I do to get involved on Ada Lovelace Day?

    1. Ada Lovelace Day Live is a great event they’ve dubbed a “science cabaret” in London which sounds like it might be one the coolest things ever and they’ve got a lot of amazing speakers including:

    • Yewande Akinola, design engineer focused on sustainable water supply systems and the engineering design coordination of large projects in the built environment
    • Dr Sheila Kanani, planetary physicist, science presenter, secondary school physics teacher and space comedienne with a background in astrophysics and astronomy
    • Dr Kat Arney, science writer and broadcaster whose work has featured in the New Scientist, Wired, the Guardian, the Times Educational Supplement, BBC Radio 4, the Nake

    With music, comedy, geekery and a splash of inspiration it’s suitable for the over 12 crowd and you can get tickets on their eventbrite page. If you can’t make it or you just want to get a taste of what it’s like you can take a look at videos from their past events.Marie Curie2. There are fantastic school resources in the Ada Lovelace Day education pack which includes lesson plans and downloadable posters to help break the gender stereotypes around STEM careers and build up girls’ confidence with STEM subjects.

    3. Code Club, a fantastic network of volunteer-led after school coding clubs that are aimed at children aged 9-11 have created some a Ada Lovelace Day scratch lesson showing how to create a poetry generating machine.

    Wangari Maathai Screenshot

    4. Finally you can create something about a woman in STEM that you admire, whether it’s writing a blog post, giving a presentation, making a video, recording a podcast, creating a comic or animation, anything you like that gets across what you want to say and share it with the world!

    We can’t wait to learn about all these inspiring women and their work!

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  • 10 Dec
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    Who are Ada, Mary, and Grace? And why are we blogging about them?

    Today is Ada Lovelace’s birthday. In 1842, Ada wrote the first algorithm designed to operate a machine. Without which, ultimately, there’d be no BrainPOP 🙁

    So we think Ada’s #awesome and thought we’d highlight Ada and two other inspirational women from the history of STEM, all of which appear on BrainPOP UK. Without their insights and fierce intelligence, the world would be a very different place.

    Remember, coding isn’t just for boys. If you’re a girl inspired by Ada and keen to learn more about coding try the following websites. Who knows, maybe your programming will change the world too.

    • CASInclude – “Improving inclusivity in Computing for children at school, regardless of gender, race, SEN, disabilities or socio-economic background.”
    • Made With Code – “Made with Code inspires girls to pursue their dreams with code.”
    • Code First: Girls – “We offer free coding courses, events, and hackathons, for girls who want to learn more about the industry and meet other like-minded young women”
    • Girl Geek Diaries “My name is Carrie Anne. I am a geek, and these are my diaries. They are a collection of video logs about using and making technology, along side interviews with inspirational women in the fields of computing, science, technology and engineering.”

    Ada Lovelace

    Ada Lovelace on BrainPOP UK

    One of the earliest computer programmers actually lived before the first real computers even existed! In 1833, Augusta Ada Lovelace, daughter of the famous poet, Lord Byron, met Charles Babbage, a key figure in computer history. Lovelace and Babbage became fast friends, since Ada was not just a good hostess, but a skilled mathematician. When she translated an essay about Babbage’s Analytical Engine, she included her own notes describing how to use the machine to calculate a set of numbers.

    Many historians recognise her as the world’s first computer programmer—although some people insist that Lovelace could not have come up with the program on her own and must have been working under Babbage’s supervision. In her original notes, however, she outlined possibilities for the machine—such as musical composition—that Babbage does not seem to have considered.

    Whether she was the “first” programmer or not, she was a remarkable woman, and the U.S. Defense Department honoured her contribution to computer history in 1980 by giving her name—Ada—to a new computer programming language.

    In our movie on Ada you’ll learn all about her early years, including her famous father, her battle against a major illness, and her love of mathematics. You’ll also meet Ada’s mentor, Mary Somerville, whom we come to next…

    Mary Somerville

    Mary Somerville on BrainPOP UK

    As Tim mentions in the movie, Ada Lovelace received guidance from her mentor, the writer and scientist Mary Somerville. A native of Scotland who lived from 1780 to 1872, Somerville was one of the most distinguished female scholars of her time.

    As a child, Somerville received little formal schooling. Girls in the late 18th century were not believed to need education; they were expected to marry and fill their lives with household duties. Young Mary was even scolded by her family for reading so much—it was considered very unladylike at the time!

    But Somerville began studying algebra on her own after her art teacher explained how maths underlies many different concepts in art and science. She also became fascinated by an article on algebra that she read in a magazine, so she convinced her brother’s tutor to introduce her to the subject.

    As an adult, Somerville continued her pursuits in science and maths. This led her to befriend some of the most distinguished scientists and mathematicians of the day, including British astronomer John Herschel, British mathematician Charles Babbage, and French mathematician and astronomer Pierre-Simon Laplace.

    Somerville’s first well-known work was a translation of one of Laplace’s astronomy papers, which she clarified and made easier for non-scientists to understand. She later wrote her own books on physical, geographic, astronomical, and molecular sciences. Some of these became so popular that they were used as university textbooks for many years.

    Of the many awards Somerville would go on to receive, the most impressive was becoming one of the first two women (along with astronomer Caroline Herschel) elected to the Royal Astronomical Society in 1835.

    Grace Hopper

    Grace Hopper on BrainPOP UK

    In the decades after World War II, a generation of mathematicians and engineers defined the limits of a new job title: the computer programmer. One of the most important of these early figures was Grace Hopper.

    Hopper taught maths at Vassar College before joining the Navy during the war. In 1944, she was assigned to a computer research team at Harvard. There she worked on the Mark I, one of the earliest modern computers.

    As she rose to the rank of Rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy, Hopper made her mark on the budding world of computer science. She helped develop some of the earliest programming languages. And she popularised the term “debugging” for fixing computer glitches. At first, the term was literal—a moth got stuck in the machinery!

    Perhaps Hopper’s most far-reaching contribution was her push to base codes in natural languages. At the time, computers had to be coded in machine language—the symbols and numbers that computers “think” in. Hopper changed all that when she wrote the first compiler, a program that could convert certain words and mathematical formulas into machine language. Her work led to the development of COBOL, a natural language-based code still widely used today.

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  • 08 Jul
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    BrainPOPpers Hayley and Jude had the pleasure of attending the first Blackpool Celebrating Science Conference, an innovative event where children from local schools had the opportunity attend lots of different science based workshops.

    The day ranged from handling creepy crawlies and constructing erupting volcanoes, to making bananas chime with a MaKey MaKey.

    Blackpool Celebrating Science Logo

    Celebrating Science

    The conference brought representatives from primary schools around the area to St. Mary’s Catholic College; a school specialising in maths and computing with fantastic facilities.

    St. Mary’s kindly let BrainPOP UK and the other workshop leaders take over classrooms and labs for the day to put the kids through their scientific paces, and of course to inspire the teachers with different ways science and ICT can be incorporated into lessons.

    Though the first group was as quiet as you would expect for first thing in the morning in a strange venue (and one filled with big kids!) it wasn’t long before they opened up and started getting stuck in.

    First up we got them to tell us what they already knew about electricity and the types of things we use it for, then showed them the BrainPOP UK Electric Circuits movie to bridge any gaps in understanding and introduce the concept of conductors and insulators – our focus for the day.

    Blackpool celebrating science workshop


    The Desk of Curiosities

    After the kids told us what they learned from the movie about conductors and insulators they then came up to what we dubbed the “Desk of Curiosities” which was crammed with a selection of oddities from our homes and the BrainPOP UK office.

    The kids had the opportunity to feel the objects and work out what they were made of, then voted as to whether they thought they would or wouldn’t conduct.

    They had fun working out what some of our troublesome items were such as a marble apple and some sneaky items like a ceramic statue with a hidden piece of copper tape.

    We went through the piles of “yes”, “no”, and “maybe” objects by connecting them up to a MaKey MaKey and testing them by using this piano made in Scratch. If the object conducts then the piano would chime! We even had all the kids hold hands and used ourselves as one of the conductors to start a talk on safety around electricity.

    We purposefully chose some surprising objects like the banana and the Play Doh and the kids got a chance to reassess some of their guesses when a result surprised them. In the end we finished up with our conduction hall of fame and talked about which ones we were most surprised by and thought of other things we’d like to test if we did the experiment again.

    One of the best moments of the day was when one group (disbelieving that the banana we had just tested could really conduct) insisted that we peel it, break it in half and eat a piece before they believed we hadn’t tampered with it! That constant questioning lies at the heart of good science.

    We finished up by making our own game pad to control BrainPOP’s GameUp games – the most popular one of the day was a maths game called Dublox which we played as a team. There were even kids who had finished other workshops watching us at the windows working out the puzzles for when it was their turn later!

    A Grand Day Out

    All in all we had a wonderful day hearing all about what the kids had learned and experienced in other workshops (the creepy crawlies were particularly popular) and seeing how much fun they had in ours. We got some fantastic questions about electricity and conductors from the kids, and even the secondary school prefects who were guiding the students to their workshops couldn’t help but join in to help solve Dublox.

    The kids seemed to enjoy the day as much as we did and we received some lovely feedback from both teachers and children. A teacher from Devonshire Primary School said, “It gave me ideas on how to use ICT in science. Useful videos to use as part of a lesson. Would use in a lesson and interested in getting a ‘MaKey MaKey’!” and a quote from one of the children who attended, “I really enjoyed it. I learnt that it doesn’t have to be a metal as a conductor.”

    If you’d like to give trying out BrainPOP and the MaKey MaKey in your own lessons you can find a lesson plan to try based on this workshop here.


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  • 25 Jun
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    In this lesson idea, adaptable for KS2 year groups, pupils explore electricity, electric circuits, conductivity, and basic computer peripherals.

    Pupils will learn the basics of electric circuits using a BrainPOP UK topic and explore conduction by experimenting with connecting different materials to a MaKey MaKey.


    A MaKey Makey is a relatively inexpensive kit that allows you turn everyday objects into touchpads. It allows you to use anything with at least a small amount of conductivity connected to the MaKey MaKey to do things like press the space bar or control a computer mouse. You can even use it to make a piano out of bananas!

    Pupils will:

    1. Gain a basic understanding of electric circuits and the components they need to work.
    2. Explore aspects of the scientific method through experimenting with different materials.
    3. Gain a basic understanding of conduction.
    4. Practice evaluating different materials and how they can be used.


    • Computer with internet access
    • BrainPOP UK access
    • Interactive whiteboard (or projector)
    • Selection of objects e.g. fruit, toys, leaves, playdoh etc. – a good range of items made of different materials that do and do not conduct are good
    • MaKey MaKey


    Conduction, electricity, materials, circuit, computer, insulator 


    Play around with the MaKey MaKey to make sure you are comfortable using it and setting it up, as well as getting an idea of the various kinds of things that work with it.

    A good place to get more information on how they work/how to use it is their official website: www.MaKeyMaKey.com. You can find all the support you’ll need at http://www.makeymakey.com/howto.php

    Watch through the Electric Circuits BrainPOP UK movie and note where you would like to use pause points to check understanding or expand any points illustrated in the movie.

    BrainPOP UK Electric Circuits

    Choose a Game Up game for the pupils to use their built circuit with – I like using Simple Machines or Dublox, but it is a good opportunity to pick something relevant to topics being covered in lessons.

    I like to prepare a “game pad” (see image below for an example) using a sheet of A4 paper with pencil graphite connecting the MaKey MaKey to playdoh buttons. This keeps the wires out of the way and makes a very easy to use controller. It’s also a great talking point for showing how circuit boards, like the MaKey MaKey, work.

    Makey Makey controller

    Lesson Procedure:

    1. Play the BrainPOP UK Electric Circuits movie on the interactive whiteboard. Pause the movie at predetermined points to ask pupil’s questions to check comprehension and engagement. If you wish to you could also use the quiz to check understanding.
    2. Talk about the concepts in the movie and discuss conductivity with leading questions such as – “What are wires made of? Why? What other things might be good to use as wires?”
    3. Have pupils look at the assembled objects and talk about what they are, what they’re made of, and what they’re usually for. Have pupils think about what objects would be a conductor and why they think so.
    4. Have pupils sort the objects into yes, no, and maybe piles based on whether they think the object will conduct.
    5. Hook up various objects they’ve picked from each pile to the MaKey MaKey and show them whether it works or not. If they were incorrect ask them why they think they were wrong and if it’s made them change their mind about anything in the other piles.
    6. One activity I like to do is to have all the pupils stand and hold hands and use them to close the circuit on the MaKey MaKey – this is a great opportunity to explain safety when it comes to electricity as it shows them that they are also conductive and why it’s important to insulate things like wires.
    7. Give the pupils opportunity to choose what objects to use as controls and try it out with the game and evaluate whether they could make it better to use.
    8. If you have prepared one a playdoh controller can be used here with pupils taking it in turns to use it to play the game. Have them critique the game pad and whether they think it’s any good. “What would you do better?” 

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  • 04 Mar
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    We’ve added a brand new Spotlight to BrainPOP UK this month focussing on a hand picked selection of our STEM resources (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths).


    BrainPOP UK STEM Spotlight screenshot

    This Spotlight is a sample that showcases the breadth and depth of STEM topics that can be found in BrainPOP UK, across multiple subjects. Use these topics to create a buzz and excitement around STEM with your students!

    • Binary from “Number & Calculation”
      Want to learn computer-speak? In this BrainPOP UK movie, Tim and Moby teach you all about the binary system, the language of computers!
    • Building Basics from “Forces & their Effects”
      What stops a skyscraper from falling down and a giant bridge from collapsing? This BrainPOP UK movie won’t answer those particular questions, but it will show you some basic building techniques.
    • Calculus from “Algebra”
      A word that strikes fear into even the most conscientious of students. But as Tim and Moby demonstrate in this BrainPOP UK movie, there’s really nothing to be afraid of.
    • Computer History from “Modern History”
      How did we get from punch cards to PDAs? Find out in this BrainPOP UK movie, as Tim and Moby guide you through the history of computers.
    • Digital Animation from “Art & Design”
      Ever wonder how the questions you mail us become the BrainPOP UK movies you see on your computer screen? Discover the process as Tim and Moby introduce you to the basics of digital animation.
    • Dolly the Sheep from “Religion, Society & Ethics”
      Baaah! You’ve heard the story of Dolly the cloned sheep, but do you know the science behind how she was made? In this BrainPOP UK movie, Tim and Moby look back on her life – from the test tube to the pasture to her early demise.
    • Hydraulics from “Forces & their Effects”
      Think liquids are wimpy? Think again! In this BrainPOP UK movie, Tim and Moby explain how some of the strongest machines in the world are powered by the liquid power of hydraulics.
    • Leonardo Da Vinci from “History: Famous People”
      Is there anything da Vinci couldn’t do? Find out all about Leonardo da Vinci’s incredible skill and talent as Tim and Moby introduce you to the life and work of this famous sculptor, and… painter … and inventor … and anatomist … and mathematician…
    • Nanotechnology from “Products & Industry”
      Can you imagine a computer smaller than a grain of sand? How about a tiny robot that can rove through the body and destroy cancer cells? In this BrainPOP UK movie Tim and Moby teach you about nanotechnology, the scientific arena that hopes to make these things a reality!
    • Scientific Method from “Scientific Enquiry”
      Got a hunch about something but don’t know how to prove it? In this BrainPOP UK movie, Tim and Moby walk you through the steps of the scientific method – a process which can be used to design any kind of experiment.
    • Space Flight from “The Universe”
      Ever wonder how spaceships leap off the planet and fly into outer space? In this BrainPOP UK movie, Tim and Moby will teach you the basics of space flight!
    • Stem Cells from “Life Processes: Cells”
      What are stem cells and why are they so controversial? In this BrainPOP UK movie, Tim and Moby give you the rundown on what makes stem cells different from regular cells.
    • Video games from  “Products & Industry”
      Do you spend hours in the computer room battling digital orcs and dragons? Do your thumbs ever get sore from mashing game controller buttons a little too intensely? If so, this BrainPOP UK movie on video games just might be for you.
    • Simple Machines learning game
      It’s up to you to use found objects to create simple machines that will help Twitch solve challenges with a minimum of force.

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  • 02 May
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    Hurworth Primary have been using BrainPOP for a few years now, and when I met Mr Dooris at the BETT show this year, he said everyone was really enjoying the site but when I got to the school I was shocked to discover Moby had been creating all kinds of mischief!

    It seems Moby found out the school was having a project week to celebrate National Science and Engineering week and thought he would get in on the act…

    As you can see Mr Dooris stumbled upon a mysterious set of orange footprints, weaving in and out of each classroom. At the end of each trail, in each classroom, was a question.

    This stimulus gave the children the opportunity to research the answers and create their own BrainPOP type movies with what they had learned.

    The selection below shows just a handful of the information-packed, brilliantly presented and funny movies the students made. Please take a few minutes to watch their work and leave comments, we know they’d appreciate it.

    Bobby and Adam give us the run down on gravity:

    Ella and Charlie tell us a great way to remember the order of the planets in the solar system:

    Alfie & Sam wonder if plants can breathe and this leads to them to explain the ins and outs of plant respiration:

    And the learning didn’t stop there. After making the movies, the children uploaded them to a collaborative site and watched and commented on each other’s work – what a great way to help and encourage classmates!

    Not only did everyone learn some new science facts, by the looks of it they also worked on developing great presenting, writing and filming skills.

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