Capstone Blog Post #2 – Choosing A Main Inquiry Question & Sub-questions

Blog Post #2

Choosing a Main Inquiry Question and Sub-questions

After we knew what our topic was, we had to choose a main inquiry question and five sub-questions. Some aspects of this exercise were easy, while others were challenging.

One of the easier aspects of choosing my inquiry question and sub-questions was coming up with a list of ideas. We used a sheet of paper and post-its in several colors to write down ideas for the main inquiry question. Each question had to go in one of five categories (for example, math, science or geography). Most kids used this format while some used Google docs. I found the post-it format helpful, and came up with the question, “How do bioplastics and petroleum plastics (regular plastics) compare?”, as my inquiry question. However, refining my inquiry question was not that easy because there was a lot of information related to this subject. Mrs. Edwards helped me refine my inquiry question and based on her feedback, I changed my inquiry question to, “How do bioplastics and biodegradable plastics compare?

After I chose my main inquiry question, I started to think about how to dig deeper into the topic with sub-questions on the differences between bioplastics and biodegradable plastics.  As I read more and watched videos online on the topic, I wanted to highlight the differences between bioplastics and biodegradable plastics. I also thought about comparing the pros and cons of each, and how their technology and uses would advance over time. Now I need  to do more research on those questions.

I am really excited for the next step in the process, which is doing my interview and site visit.

Here are my sub-questions:

What is bioplastic?

What is biodegradable plastic?

What are the pros of both plastics?

What are the cons of both plastics?

How would both plastics further advance?   


Capstone Blog Post #1 – Choosing A Topic

Blog Post #1

Choosing A Topic

We were recently introduced to the biggest project of 5th grade – The Capstone. I am very excited about this project as there is a lot of research involved as well as interviewing an expert in the field. The biggest challenge I see is that we have less than two months to complete this project!!

Picking a topic for the Capstone turned out to be more challenging than I expected. I had numerous topics listed but had to omit most of them as they did not fit into the capstone framework. In the next round, I excluded topics that I thought would not work with my interview process. I finally needed to shortlist 2 topics for our first submission. My 2 choices were Bioplastics and “Why do we need two eyes”.

I had not heard about bioplastics till I saw a video about it the night before my topic submission. The video was so interesting that it made a huge impact on me. So Bioplastics became my top topic choice.

We either have to make a Ted Talk or Ignite presentation. I think I am going to do a Ted Talk for my presentation to showcase my project to all the students and parents. I have begun my research on the topic and I have made a list of people to interview. I am looking forward to a successful project.

Reflections On The Project – Blog Post #5

Blog Post #5

Reflections On The Whole Project


Now that I totally finished with my video and downloaded it to Google drive, Mr. Casal is going to put it on YouTube. I loved this project because it was really fun making the video, the practice interview got me ready to do an interview for Capstone and I learned about immigration and my dad.


Making the video was fun because I enjoyed the choices of choosing music and adding my own theme. I also liked how we could add a graphic/post into the video. Although making the video was fun, and many parts were easy, there were also some challenging parts. Some parts were easy like narrating the video and having an idea of what images to use. One thing that was challenging was finding the right images to use, for example finding an image of a frozen river was hard!  Luckily I was able to find one after searching for a while.


The practice interview (interviewing my dad) helped me conduct my interview and create open-ended questions. When I first wrote the questions, I realized that some of them were closed-ended. Those were not great interview questions because answers to those were always very short. Conducting my interview was pretty easy because it was my dad I was talking to.


In addition to learning a lot about immigration, I also learned more about my dad than I thought I would! About immigration itself I learned that immigrants choose to leave their country unlike refugees who are forced to leave. People also come to America to seek better life and for education. My dad came to the U.S. for education.


I loved making my Spark Video and I loved the website Adobe Spark. I hope we do more Spark Videos. Here is a link to my Spark Video:

Spark Video

Narrating Spark Video – Blog Post #4

Blog Post #4

Narrating Spark Video


Now that I am almost done creating Spark Video, I am ready to narrate my video. In order to do that, I am using a graphic organizer. I found the graphic organizer helpful. For example, it helped me figure out where to place text and pictures, what to specifically put on each slide and it helped me organize my dad’s story.


I practiced recording my voice on the video. On the first slide the recording didn’t come fully so I had to record my voice again. When I practiced on the second slide the recording worked. On the graphic organizer I made the text and the narration the same. Now when I think back, I am going to make the text different than the words and on some slides no text at all. When I practiced it was not challenging at all. It was actually easy because all you have to do is press the red microphone, hold on it and speak, then let go and the recording is there. I am really excited to narrate the rest of my Spark Video!


Preparing for Spark Video – Immigrant Interview #3

Blog Post #3

Preparing For Spark Video


Now that I have completed the interview with my dad, my next step is to create a video. I am planning to use Spark Video for my project. Do you know what Spark Video is? It is a tool that you can use to make a video or a graphic. There are many options to work with, for example, you can make a slideshow video or a poster or promo video and many more possibilities. There are also a lot of cool options to make your video or post interesting, like changing the layout, changing the theme and adding music. I decided to make a slideshow video because I thought that would be the most interesting.


I am preparing for how I want my video to look. I have to make a story about my dad coming to the U.S. and I decided to put the story in his perspective. Like I mentioned before I am making a slideshow video. Creating this video involves a lot of work. I’ve worked on some aspects so far like adding the pictures and making some slides different. Moving forward, I need to add more slides, record my voice and add music. I am planning to make the video at least 4 mins long. It is really good that I got to practice making a video on another project I did, because otherwise I wouldn’t know anything about it. I am really excited to complete my Spark Video.


Conducting The Interview – Immigrant Interview 2

Blog Post #2

Conducting The Interview


I interviewed my dad today and it went smoothly. I asked 15 questions and I got all the answers I was looking for. My video was a little over 5 minutes.


Before I did the interview, I thought I would knew everything about my dad but it turns out I was wrong. I knew where my dad landed, when and where he was born and why he came to the United States. But some of the answers that were new to me were my dad’s favorite new foods and what he had heard about America before he came.


Before moving to the U.S., my dad lived in a tropical climate where the temperature never dropped below 70 degrees. When he moved to America, he was really amazed to see that the Charles river froze during the winter. Since he was not used to the freezing temperatures he bought a really big coat/parka. One aspect of the interview that I agreed with was when my dad said he had mixed feelings about leaving India. He was sad about leaving his family behind and was excited because he was starting a new chapter in his life. If I were in that situation, I would also sad and excited at the same time. The interview was really fun and was a great experience because when I was asking questions, I felt like I was a journalist.


Interviewing my dad was an amazing experience and I can’t wait to make my dad’s story on spark video about coming to The States. Since my dad was really fun to interview, I would want to interview him on another topic.

Preparing for the Interview – Immigrant Interview #1

Preparing for the Interview

Last week, Mrs. Edwards introduced a really interesting project to the class.  The assignment was an immigration interview project. The first step was to choose a person to interview.  I did not have to look too hard because my dad is an immigrant, so I decided to interview him.

The next step in the process was to come up with 15 questions, of which at least 10 were to be open ended (or “green light”) and the rest closed ended (or “red light”) questions. The sample questions provided in the packet were helpful to me as a starting point, and I tweaked many of them to be relevant to my interview.  I made sure that I had enough open ended questions so that I could gather details about the immigration experience.

I plan to conduct my immigrant interview this weekend.  Now I have to think about what I need to conduct the interview.  I have a few ideas of what I am going to use: my phone, a tripod, a notebook and a pencil.  The pencil and notebook are just to make notes in case the video recording on the phone stops.  I am ready for this!

These are my interview questions:

Interview questions

Rube Goldberg #4

Rube Goldberg Post #4

Reflecting On Working Alone


I have been thinking about my decision to work independently, and overall I think it was a good decision.  As I reflect on the pros and cons of working alone, I think there are a lot more pros than cons.


Thinking back to the beginning of the project, when I was coming up with ideas, I enjoyed the freedom of picking my own ideas.

I wanted the final step to be meaningful to me.  I have recently been inspired by the idea of recycling, and thought that it would be great if I could combine my Rube Goldberg project with a recycling theme. I decided that the final step would be recycling a cup, and was happy with my choice.  


I also had fun designing the other steps, but sometimes wonder if I could have come up with even better ideas if I was working with others. During the building and testing, I felt like I could use some extra hands!  However, I also felt a great sense of accomplishment when I saw that I was able to make my designs actually work.  I feel good that I understand every little piece of my project from design to building. It probably took longer than it may have taken if done in a group, but I feel like it was totally worth the time and effort!  

Working alone also taught me the importance of time management and not waiting till the last minute. During my sketch submission, I waited until the last minute and had to stay up late to get everything done. I learned to manage my time better for the building and testing and am making good progress. It has been easy to work on my own schedule without having to find time slots that work for a group.


I have been enjoying this project so far, and look forward to successfully completing it.


Rube Goldberg #5


Rube Goldberg Blog Post #5

Testing the design

Testing the Rube Goldberg machine was both fun and stressful!  Though I was testing each step of my design when I was creating the sketch, I had to make a few changes when I put everything together.

The biggest change I made was redesigning the second to last step, which was originally designed to be a yo-yo knocking over a few dominoes which tips the cup into the recycling bin.  This step looked good on paper and worked when I tested it separately as I was sketching it out. But I realized that it did not work consistently when it was connected to the previous step.  I thought of replacing the yo-yo with a bell. The idea was that the ball would roll into the bell, and the momentum would transfer from the bell to the dominos.

This was also fun, because the bell rings before knocking the dominoes.  It’s like a reminder, “Remember to recycle!”

I had also not thought through how all the steps would flow together.  Thinking about how the various pieces should be arranged was challenging.  My aha moment was to use gravity help me! I started with the last step, which was the recycle bin on the floor, and arranged each previous step to be slightly higher.  This way, the initial step was at the highest point, and the momentum from the marble would keep increasing.

I also had a few challenges with the initial step of the marble rolling on the bridge to knock over the car.  The bridge was not smooth and had a couple of deep ridges.

I had to go through 4-5 cars to get the car with the right size wheels.  

The marble also would not roll smoothly over the bridge. I came up with the idea of placing dominos on the bridge so that the marble could roll over the smooth dominoes.

That worked well!

The ball would also keep rolling off the ramp, and I wasn’t sure how to fix that.  

I tried a few other balls, and finally a ball which was less bouncy was the answer.  This ball stayed on the ramp and fell into the cone as I had designed.

Overall, I had 14 fails and then success on the 15th try! I was so happy!

Rube Goldberg #6

Rube Goldberg Blog Post #6

The Final Reflection

While building the Rube Goldberg machine, I learnt a few science-related lessons and also a few real world lessons.

The process of designing, sketching and building was a great learning experience. I found that what you sketch on paper does not always work in reality. For example, I thought that a car moving on a bridge would be really cool, and it looked like it would work when I sketched it out. But I found that my bridge was not designed for cars (it was part of a train set!), and had tracks on it. The car that I picked had wheels that were smaller that the tracks, so I had to find a car with bigger wheels for it to work. I also saw that a marble rolls better on a smooth surface than a rough one (this is because of friction). I was also able to see how to use gravity to move different objects. These were some of the many science-related lessons that I learnt.

I also learnt is that if something doesn’t work, keep trying, and try new things. When I was building the machine, the second to last step with the yo-yo didn’t work and I was stuck on how to make it better. Then I thought, let me try something totally new! I made a new design using a bell and dominos, and it worked! I learnt that there may not be success on the first try, this learning experience can also be applied to life. I also learnt to manage my time and not wait till the last day to get my machine working. These were some of the many real world lessons that I learnt.

Overall, my experience with Rube Goldberg was awesome and I really loved all aspects of the project (thinking of ideas, designing, sketching, building, testing, re-building, re-testing, and the successful conclusion).  The project was always fun but sometimes it got a little complicated. When I had success in making the complicated steps work, I felt really proud of myself. The Rube Goldberg project has been a wonderful and memorable experience for me.


Here is a link to my Rube Goldberg machine:

Maya’s Rube Goldberg Project


Here is a photo of my sketch: