Organelles and bio-robotics

My son starts his mornings with his spelling curriculum.  After spelling, he usually wants to move on to science. We were on day two of the digestive system, and we barely got the books opened when he asked to talk about cells. We had gone over that already…that was week one and this is week five. I don’t mind reviewing just as long as it’s a review and then we get back on track. I did a quick search for organelles and found a cool website to use for review. Next was the big question that I did not expect, “What is an organelle made of? Is it made of cells?” I wanted to avoid that question because we were supposed to be discussing the digestive system, stomach, liver, and intestines. He insisted to know and the books I had didn’t say anything about what an organelle is made of.  After a few online searches, I thought I would email J. J is an old college friend who is a medical digital artist. Maybe he has connections. One thing led to another and I ended up having the most interesting morning and I never had to leave my house. Here is our conversation in email format:

September 30 at 10:31am from Tammy – A question
Hi J,
I have a question and wondered if you could help me out…you seem to have connections…lol! My nine year old is hung up on whether or not an organelle is made up of cells itself. We are suppose to be discussing the digestive system, but he can’t get passed this. I can’t find any information and he wants an answer. Can you find out something and get back to me? I would really appreciate it.

September 30 at 11:05am from J – Re: A question
Okay my answer was going to be no, they are made of atoms, but I asked my scientist/doctor friend for a complete answer.
This is what he said:

LOL! How Cute!  Yes, J., you are right, of course. An organelle is just a little part inside of a cell that helps make a cell a cell!A cell without organelles won’t be able to do the things a cell has to do to stay alive. Some organelles make energy for the cell. Other organelles make spare parts for the cell. Another organelle, called the nucleus, holds all the DNA for the cell. DNA is made up of the code for all of the cells parts—it’s the blueprint for the whole cell!  So, organelles are part of a cell. But it sounds to me, the young man or woman is wondering “If cells are made of organelles, what are organelles made of?” That question is answered using the biology of very small things, which blends into chemistry (biochemistry) and physics (biophysics).  Organelles are made up of atoms and subatomic parts.  This kid sounds excitable and inquisitive. He or she learns a little about digestion and quickly slides into questions requiring chemistry, biochemistry, physics, and biophysics to answer. It seems to me that he and his education are on the right track.

September 30 at 11:25am from Tammy – Re: A question
LOL! Thank you! So you have a glimpse into my life. I guess this is why I homeschool so we can delve into things like this. He loves science and wants to be a robotics engineer, but as of today I told him to change it to cell biology. I think my wording in the search wasn’t exactly right and that is why I had trouble finding my answer. I found this link, Order of Life, in my search and it explained it well enough for him and he accepted it. I just hope he doesn’t ask where a quark comes from…lol! Thanks again for passing my question along to your “connection”. Yes, he is very inquisitive. What an interesting day!

September 30 at 5:05pm from J. – My Dr. friend wrote this to me.
Oh that’s just awesome!  Do tell the snazzy home-schooling Mom he could study bio-robotics! There is a local neuroscientist, Miguel Nicolelis, at Duke, who can have brains directly communicate with robotics. It’s pretty rad stuff! He’d probably let them tour his lab, if she spoke to a grad student or post-doc!

I think I know where we are going on our next field trip.

The video is from researchers at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

Monkey’s thoughts make robot walk from across the globe.


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