Pepper Mint in the Fantastic Underwater Science Voyage
Pepper Mint in the Fantastic Underwater Science Voyage is a science and story set intended to allow kids to explore the use of hydraulics in construction while learning about chemistry, physics, electricity, and even a little history. The manual alternates between the story of 11-year-old Pepper as she sets off on a discovery voyage with her mentor and a series of exploratory construction projects. Kids play with water to discover buoyancy and surface tension, then build a simple hydraulic coupling between two syringes. Using pre-cut, often colorful wood pieces, kids assemble Pepper’s ship (alas, not intended for actual immersion), then add increasingly complex hydraulic components, including a crane that moves vertically and in rotation and a sea creature that launches from behind a coral reef. Finally, there is an opportunity to construct a simple battery-operated propeller (again, not water-friendly!) and circuit.
Though the wooden components are easy to work with and usually very sturdy, occasionally there are tight fits and slightly fragile pieces that may require adult assistance. Less sturdy are the connectors between the syringes and the boat parts; these cardstock pieces are easy to rip and fail to hold the syringes securely, and adding tape or glue to hold them in place is not always successful and can hinder the range of motion of the syringes, easily causing frustration for kids (and parents!). In practice we found it was best to tape early and with enthusiasm, and eventually we were able to build even the most complex construct successfully.
Overall, this was a lot of fun to play with and kids will learn a fair amount, so parents should not be deterred by its lesser problems — instead, consider this a great opportunity for a trip to the library to learn more about chemistry, physics, biology, and maybe even history.
Emily Crawford ©2019 Parents’ Choice
Emily holds a BSE in electrical engineering and computer science from Duke University and a Master’s in computer engineering from Georgia Tech. She is a homeschooling parent and lives with her husband, three children, five cats, and thousands of LEGOs in Blacksburg, Virginia. .