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STEM Book Club: The Jamie Drake Equation

Hi Guys,

Oh man, I meant to post this one on Friday morning but between sick baby, sick husband, sick mommy and a library comic convention to run… let’s just say, I am beat! Anyway, here you go!

For this months STEM Book Club, I decided to go with a sci-fi/astronomy theme. We will be reading/discussing: The Jamie Drake Equation by Christopher Edge.

Jamie Drake is your average boy with one big exception, his dad is an astronaut on the international space station and he is part of a big mission to find life in outer space. Jamie is very proud of his dad but he misses him a lot, especially with his birthday coming up and his dad missing it.

When Jamie stumbles upon a rouge scientist at a dilapidated space observatory, he accidentally downloads something to his phone and starts receiving weird signals. Where could this signal be coming from? Could it really be aliens?

With his dad gone, Jamie doesn’t know who to turn to and decides to investigate himself. But when something goes wrong with his dad’s mission, Jamie knows it is up to him to save his dad from space and all of it’s dangers.

 Here are our discussion questions for this book:

  1. What is this book about? What themes are found throughout?

  2. (Page 39/179) – What is the Jamie Drake Equation? Why do you think the author used this at the title of the book?

  3. (Page 2) – What is the Goldilocks Zone? How does earth fit into this zone?

  4. In 1977, NASA’s Voyager launched the Golden Record. Do you know what this is? How would you attempt to reach out to intelligent life?

  5. (Page 5) – “Invent an Alien.” This was Jamie’s school assignment. Take a minute and think about what type of Alien you would invent and why?

  6. How would you deal with a famous parent/sibling? Jealousy, admiration… what could be potential issues? What issues did Jamie have?

  7. (Page 88) – What is the Fibonacci Sequence? What do you think about this?

  8. What did you think of Buzz, the aliens in this book? What about their Hi’ive mind? Have you ever thought about there being aliens like this in the universe?

  9. How did Jamie save his dad? Is there a lesson here?

  10. Jamie had this idea of a Goldilocks family—the perfect family structure? What might be wrong about this idea? Is there such a thing as the perfect family?

 Then we get into our STEM activity:

DIY Spectroscope

Supplies: 1 paper towel tube; two 4”x4” and two 1”x3” squares of aluminum foil; Masking tape; 1” diffraction grating square; 


  1. Take one of the 4″ × 4″ pieces of foil and tear or cut a small hole in the center of it — a hole that is smaller than the square piece of diffraction grating.

  2. Being careful to handle the diffraction grating only by its edges, tape it over the hole. Tape only the edges of the grating, not across the middle.

  3. Center this foil-mounted grating over one end of the tube, taped side in, and tape it to the outside of the tube at its edges. Look at the room lights with the grating installed, to see the effects of the grating before the spectroscope is finished.

  4. Assemble the slit end on the table. Take the other 4″ × 4″ piece of foil and make a hole in the center as before. The diameter of the hole should be smaller than the diameter of the tube, to avoid gaps and tears.

  5. Carefully fold each of the two smaller strips of foil (the 1″ × 3″ pieces) in half along the length. Make a sharp crease at the fold of each. Lay them over the hole in the larger piece of foil so that their creased edges face each other with a very small gap between them (no more than the width of a toothpick, or the thickness of a coin). Tape the two creased pieces of foil in place over the hole, and make sure not to cover the slit with tape.

  6. Place the foil-mounted slit over the open end of the tube, taped side in, and wrap the foil around the end of the tube to hold it in place. Don’t tape the slit end to the tube, but you may secure it with a rubber band if you wish.

  7. Align (precisely adjust) the spectroscope. We want to align our slit with the diffraction grating so that we get a wide spectrum, which will be easy to see.

  1. Hold the spectroscope so that you can look through the diffraction grating end (the plastic square should be about as close to your eye as your glasses’ lens or as close as you would put a microscope). Point the slit end of the spectroscope towards a light source – this can be a light in the room or if you are outside, at the SKY, but NOT the SUN! Look for a rainbow in the spectroscope, probably a little bit off to the side or up or down (you should be able to see regular light from your source coming through the slit, but the rainbow will be off center).

  2. Never look directly at the Sun with the spectroscope or your naked eye! It can result in permanent eye injury!

  3. While still pointing your spectroscope at the same light source and holding the tube steady, twist the slit around until the rainbow is as “fat” or “tall” as you can make it. (Conversely, you can twist the tube while holding the slit end steady – either is equally effective.) Once you are satisfied, tape the foil of the slit end into position. That is it!

**Adult supervision required**

The Science:

The diffraction grating in the spectroscope separates light into the different wavelengths (colors) that the light is made of. The Sun’s (or the incandescent bulb’s) spectrum shows all the usual colors of the rainbow. Sunlight is white light, meaning it includes all wavelengths of visible light. The different colors seen inside the tube represent different wavelengths of light, but all are in the visible range.


How’d it go:

I was so excited for this STEM activity and it went really great. I’ve got a few kiddos who don’t like to follow along with the group and needed a lot of help. But other than that were all able to successfully create our own spectroscopes. Wooo!

That’s all for now!


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