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STEM Book Club: Nick & Tesla

Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab by “Science Bob” Pflugfelder is a middle grade read for 4th-6th graders.

Nick and Tesla are extremely smart 11-year-old twins who like inventing and find trouble fairly easily. When they are shipped off to spend the summer with their eccentric Uncle Newt–an inventor and goofball–they expect to be bored out of theirs minds but find they are anything but.

When Nick and Tesla lose their rocket and the pendant their parents gave them, the twins are determined to get it back. Little do they know they are about to embark on a mission that includes dangerous dogs, Christmas light alarm systems, kidnappings and other makeshift contraptions. As the plot thickens will Nick and Tesla be able to use their inventor smarts to save the day?’

This is our December book for our STEM book club. First we start of with discussion. Here’s what I used as a guide:

  1. What is this book about? What themes do we find throughout?

  2. Where did this book get its name? Why do you think the title is: “High-Voltage Danger Lab?”  

  3. Who was Nikola Tesla and why do you think the author named his main characters after him?

  4. (Page 31) – “My laboratory is your laboratory. Go nuts!” What would you do if given free rein in this sort of situation? Jump right in like Tesla or proceed with caution like Nick?

  5. Uncle Newt created an invention to compost garbage. What was it? What is composting and how do you think we could do it better than Uncle Newt?

  6. (Page 63) – Why do you think being told “no” only makes us want to do the “thing” more? 

  7. What method would you use to distract the dogs? Any ideas other than what Nick, Tesla and their friends created.

  8. This book contains quite a bit of foreshadowing. What is foreshadowing? Give some examples from the book.

  9. What is going on with Nick and Tesla’s parents? Where do you think the book series is going? 

  10.  This book is technically a mystery. What traits make up an effective mystery?

Then we get into our STEM activity:

Semi-Invisible Nighttime Van Tracker (page126)

Today we are going to experiment with a different kind of invisible ink. However, here are three ways you can create invisible ink at home!


The Science:

Black lights are not that different from any other type of light. The difference is that black lights emit most of their light waves just outside the range humans can perceive, in the Ultraviolet (UV) part of the spectrum. When a UV light wave hits an object containing substances known as phosphors, those phosphors will naturally fluoresce, and glow. Phosphors are present in many daily use objects like Vaseline, tooth whiteners, bank notes, laundry detergent etc. Oh, and highlighters!

Both lemon juice and Baking Soda/milk are mildly acidic and acid weakens paper. The acid remains in the paper after the juice or milk has dried. When the paper is held near, heat the acidic parts of the paper burn or turn brown before the rest of the paper does.

**Adult supervision required**


How’d it go:

Miraculously, I was right on time with my scheduling today. We finished exactly on time, which almost never happens. I did have to alter my STEM activity though. After several, failed individual attempts to heat up my lemon juice ink, I nixed it and decided to use grape juice to reveal our baking soda messages. This worked well but made for too quick of an experiment and the kids were left somewhat wanting. Otherwise, everything went great.

That’s all for now!


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