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text and art by Thor Wickstrom

July/August 2019 Volume 18 umber 6 $6.95

Hey! No Wings aren’t Are too! Are not! Only the goalkeeper can use
hands. That’s you!
hands! hands.
But I don’t have hands!

There must be a
rule about that!

Goal! Hey! No What’s the rule Hey! No Show me
tails! about tails? trees! the rule!
Hold on, I’ll
find it!

Hey! No Er...Anyone for
lasers! badminton?


Volume 18, Number 6 July/August 2019

Liz Huyck Editor
Tracy Vonder Brink Contributing Editor
Emily Cambias Assistant Editor

Karen Kohn Art Director
Erin Hookana Designer
David Stockdale Permissions Specialist

ASK magazine (ISSN 1535-4105) is published 9 times a year, monthly except for combined Can youplay soccer in space? page 19
May/June, July/August, and November/December issues, by Cricket Media, 70 East Lake Street,
Suite 800, Chicago, IL 60601. Additional Editorial Office located at 1751 Pinnacle Drive, Suite Departments
600, McLean,VA 22102. Periodicals postage paid at McLean,VA, and at additional mailing
offices. For address changes, back issues, subscriptions, customer service, or to renew, please 2 Nosy News
visit, email [email protected], write to ASK, P.O. Box 4 Nestor’s Dock
6395, Harlan, IA 51593-1895, or call 1-800-821-0115. POSTMASTER: Please send address 29 Ask Ask
changes to ASK, P.O. Box 6395, Harlan, IA 51593-1895 30 Contest and Letters
33 Bot’s Mighty Math
July/August 2019,Volume 18, Number 6 © 2019, Cricket Media, Inc. All rights reserved, back cover: Marvin and Friends
including right of reproduction in whole or in part, in any form. Address correspondence
to Ask, 70 East Lake Street, Suite 800, Chicago, IL 60601. For submission information and What came before soccer? page 6
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Printed in the United States of America
From time to time, Ask mails to subscribers advertisements for other Ask products, or makes
its subscriber list available to other reputable companies for their offering of products and
services. If you prefer not to receive such mail, write to us at ASK, P.O. Box 1895, Harlan, IA

1st Printing Quad/Graphics Midland, Michigan June 2019

Teacher guides available for all our magazines at

Is it time to renew?


Suggested for ages 7 to 10.

e has this ball been?
Does your uniform have a secr
Features Wher page 19

6 A Half-Time History of Soccer ug h? Are your socks to
by Gordon Grimwade

10 Who’s Who on the Field
12 Soccer Tips for Tricky Players

by Rachel Delaney Cra t

17 A Perfect Ball
by Rachel Delaney Craft

20 How to Wear a Bottle
22 Get Ready for RoboCup

by Evan Ackerman

26 X-Treme Soccer
28 Power Ball


page 20

page 15


Gardening on the MoonItoThfahiEussehaneoathvsadirjeultuM,htrn’mdsshoaootu’wagisoarsnr.sont,oosbn.tE,wiaoielvgIewn-etvogdse’incesnrir’hxrlwolictanwswhalowhuslateliacadtednapvhen.resglerat,eAa—nas.cttnttooojhTsrsduuhaohsflletrngidteivhlgsrtgeheuerMaprrorvlaoaoepciesntno.wlkaynticsteh?atmisIhtfiitbttgrsnoeoIedmruosncawcoiomnidklataewstaeeJlosmholttTtdfaoeehhltoeghpnnihrhaiewneoesuc.eetesttdilado.htdTmttrnlhpsehidOohnytuoeipegnhadvynnwfllhta2ueie,lcmra’itntr0snsgetsthsptoih1aetbneert9fotrrteehaysoh)n,p,edcfe.ule.nCteaasscetThidon.rspohsgpeishattiholAn,E,tsfsredtofrainatyadintoprrdsenleozloaoestaadesdnfthtssnoeptaddvafrosit,(feneeiothnwberdaedr,uecu.,anptbetsdsutot
moon gardening. All great things
This lander set down a garden
capsule to see if plants could
grow on the moon.

start out small!

Moon gardens need This tiny shoot is the
a moon gardener. first moon plant.

2 ask

TwmatIhttyayatuesyewnsra’eAblMpcstrlaneTaooyehbTaawnr.cSurtohcronysnhidnctiaeiaguernenaofinlbnitaseayoo1attmsnnotnng7srsane1Muoaosotnto0eu5twGiitshu.rnp,orlsoaeorirtse,prTmdfhuhfssaeorouooahreluewilueislesbswnlcsegklrpgnhs,giooahouisi.odwnudglmmttnTcsshietotofBcna.eelrnediuiryuaml(osdvtelriele7mtnhepdgoeexafiw8dtegiinfxerdrrahsefwouesnesatkhrdiaftmssgiotgberuohzonea.mhno)omeoneafd.aeeuTmamrttpldwotenhelhcia.trfrihesUkns9.etna6torrPoaarseawpdhmyllAeua.ecT.nritlo.fdaUlTtislTrgrnnvnihtoertoeoheewthxIinnle’inwmvoatsnetse’s.tlshathoseahangehtfegrdbrrloobtaasuuioiegsrptnrsesrddtedko.tse,c.okswsisiaelnm.gsoseaadililsn,aob, nniagd’.tsmBmkunoatovllwies squeak!
onto the scene.
From just a leg bone, one artist imagines

M. intrepidus might have looked like this.

Spotted Salamander Surprise

This salamander’s Researchers in Florida have
frilly gills let it live discovered a new salamander
entirely under water. right under their noses. You’d
think it would be hard to miss—
New hide and they grow 2 feet (61 cm) long.
seek champ!
The salamander has gray skin
with leopard-like spots and frills 3
around its face. It spends its
whole life swimming in ponds.
It has no hind legs, so the

back of its body looks like a
snake. Scientists named the new species
the reticulated siren. This is the first time it’s been
caught and studied, though people had glimpsed the
sneaky salamanders before.


Ready, team? If
we play hard we can

win this!

Soccer is all Assuming a spherical Did anyone else
about physics. Applying ball of 400 grams, to notice the bird’s
the necessary amount of move it 20 meters nest in the field?
force at the correct requires a force of...
Of course, we have
angle. to factor in wind
resistance, friction from
It’s not about grass, and axial spin....
playing hard, but smart.
Goal-keeping is like a subtle
game of chess. It’s all

about strategy.

I can’t let anybody
trample this nest.

4 ask

A great keeper’s sixth So which way should I must jump in all directions
sense tells him which I jump? Left? Right? to block any shot.
way to jump before the
ball is even kicked. I can’t decide!

Phil! Stop dancing. Trip! put down your Nestor! Aww, look at the cute
notebook. little birdies.

We did it! That wasn’t so hard.
Strategy is exhausting.

ask 5

A Half-Time
by Gordon Grimwade
o ular s ort Because I art by Rupert van Wyk
play it!

The First American Leagues Players of the Mesoamerican
ball game wore a lot of
In Central America and Mexico, padding to protect their hips
the Olmec, Maya, and Aztecs and chests from the heavy
played games with balls made from rubber ball.
the sap of rubber trees. These balls
were bouncy, but heavy—a soccer-sized ball text © 2019 by Gordon Grimwade, art © 2019 by Rupert van Wyk
could weigh 10 pounds (4.5 kg). Players used their hips
and bodies (but not hands or feet) to try to bounce
the ball through a small stone hoop. The games were
played as part of religious ceremonies. No one knows
exactly what the rules were, but sometimes the losers
were executed!


North American Native people
also enjoyed kickball games. Aqsaqtuk
was played by the northern Inuits using
animal hide and whale-bone balls stuffed
with grass, caribou hair, and moss. One
legend tells of two villages playing against each
other with goals 10 miles apart.

Tsu Chu OK, your
Around 2,300 years ago, the Chinese
were playing a kickball game called Tsu
Chu (or Cuju). Players tried to kick

a leather ball stuffed with feathers
through a hole in a high screen.

Tsu Chu was part of
military training—and
also played for

6 ask

History of Soccer

Roman Rollers

2,000 years ago, Roman soldiers played a
kick-ball game called harpastum to keep fit. The
ball was about the size of a modern soccer ball.
Two teams—with anywhere from 5 to 200 players—
tried to keep the ball on their own side of the center
line. Both hands and feet could be used, and games
sometimes got violent.

Football Travels

Europeans probably learned football from Roman

armies playing harpastum. Over time, they made

their own rules. Instead of trying to keep the ball,

players tried to get it into a goal in the other

team’s territory. Hey! No


Play Outlaw Football
In 1314 England’s King Edward
In me l II banned football. He wanted his
Europe, subjects to practice archery rather
football than smash up their villages. Edward does
matches could not seem to have had much luck with his
be more like unruly subjects. Later kings also tried to
small battles. Rival outlaw football, with little success.
towns competed against
each other with huge teams, sometimes
hundreds of players. The playing field could be a
street or a whole town. It could even stretch
from one town to the next. Players often
kicked and fought each other as they raced
through the streets and fields. About the
only rule was not to kill anyone.

ask 7

King’s Secret Queen’s
Despite the football
ban, in the 1530s King Queens may
Henry VIII may have have played secret
secretly enjoyed the football too. A
game. Among the king’s 450-year-old football was
list of possessions is a discovered hidden behind a wall of
pair of football boots. the bedroom of Mary, Queen of
Scots at Stirling Castle, Scotland.
Rules No one knows if Queen Mary
herself used it, but she did
Gradually, football became less wild. But when enjoy sports.
teams met to play, they often found that they were
using different rules. This led to arguments! In 1863
the British Football Association wrote down 13 basic rules
for soccer. They decided on 11 players per team and set
the size of the field—though not the size of the ball. The
rules also said players couldn’t touch the ball with their
hands. Some teams didn’t like that rule and started

their own clubs. Rugby football, or just rugby
(named for a school) has an oval ball, and
players can use their hands.

Why Is It Called Soccer? Soccer in the U.S.

In most of the world, the game of kicking a In the early 1800s, rugby became
round ball into goals is called “football.” But popular at American colleges. This game
Americans and Australians call it “soccer.” turned into American football. But round-
This is to avoid confusing it with American ball soccer was still played too. Immigrants
Football and Australian Rules Football, from soccer-loving countries brought their love
of the game to America. Now, around 3 million
different games that developed from rugby. kids play soccer in youth leagues all over the U.S.
In England, the official name for soccer

is Association Football, or “A-soc” for
short. And so, “soccer.”

8 ask

Brazilian soccer legend Pelé shows Women’s Soccer
off one of his signature moves,
called a bicycle kick. Women have always played soccer
too. In some villages, married women
The Beautiful Game played against the unmarried women.
During World War I, some women working
There are many styles of soccer playing. at an English ammunition factory started a
Brazil is known for an acrobatic style team called the Dick, Kerr Ladies. They played
that borrows from capoeira, the martial to sell-out crowds. But in 1921, the Football
Association banned women from using their
art of dance-fighting. Brazilians call soccer fields. So the Dick, Kerr Ladies went to
their style ginga. And it works— America and helped make soccer popular there.
Brazil has won more World Cups
than any other country.

World Cup Next year we’ll
be the champions!
The main event of soccer is an international competition called the
World Cup. It is held every four years. The Women’s World Cup is also held
every four years, but not in the same year as the men’s. The prize is a gold
trophy—though the team doesn’t get to keep it. They get a replica. The U.S.
women’s team is currently the top women’s team in the world. They won

their third World Cup in 2015 and will defend their title in 2019.

ask 9

Who’s Who
on Field
Soccer teams have

11 players: 10 on

the field, and one

goalkeeper. Teams

can arrange their

players in any

way. Usually

each player

has a special

job, or position

to play.

10 a s k

art © 2019 by Paula Becker

The offside rule says you can’t Commentator
pass to a teammate ahead of you Describes the game
unless at least two players from the for radio and TV
other team are between your teammate and and tells everyone
the goal. Usually one of these is the keeper. what they should
If there’s just the keeper in front when your have done instead.
teammate gets the ball, he or she is “offside.”
Oops! This play
is offside.

a s k 11

by Rachel Delaney Craft Tips
art by Mark Hicks


The opening whistle sounds,
and the starter kicks the ball
Time to play!

ho will be the champions
Heads! today? And how will they

do it?

Kickoff she wants it to go. Swinging her leg text © 2019 by Rachel Craft, art © 2019 by Mark Hicks
forward from the knee, she kicks the
Before the game, the team captains ball with the top of her foot, where her
Tails! flip a coin to see who gets the ball shoelaces are.

Let’s take first. Each team stands on their half The ball arcs across to Lily,
the coin who passes it to Lucas by kicking it
of the field, outside the center circle. sideways with the inside of her foot.
Soccer players kick with the top or
and buy ice Today, blue team has won the toss. sides of their feet, not the toes. That
cream! makes it easier to control the ball.

When the whistle blows, Jovi plants

her non-kicking foot firmly beside

the ball, pointing the direction

How to Move a Ball forces act on them.

Soccer balls move because

º The force of your kick moves the ball up and forward.
The stronger the kick, the farther the ball goes. Players

learn by practice how hard to kick.
friction, or rubbing. On the
º The ball is slowed by the grass. In the air, the ball has
ground, the ball rubs
to push through air molecules.

ºAcGtinragvittoygectohnesrt,anthtelysepufollrsctehsemboavlle down. in a curved
the ball

path, up and back down.



The blue team has the ball.

Lucas dribbles it toward

the red goal, while the red

players run alongside and try

to steal it away.

In soccer,“dribbling”

means kicking the ball What?
along while running. Lucas You said
moves the ball with short to dribble
kicks with the sides of his the ball!

feet. He wants to keep the

ball close to his feet, but

not so close that he trips

over it. He also keeps his Soccer players practice dribbling by kicking a ball around cones.
In a full-length game, a player can run over 6 miles (10 km).
eyes up, looking around at the other

players, not down at the ball. Trap

Suddenly Kim from the red team Kim kicks the ball high to her I’ve got it!
teammate Will. Will sees the
steps in and kicks the ball away. Red ball coming and moves into
position to stop it. The ball hits
now has the ball! his chest with a
thump and drops to
Both teams have spent a lot of the ground, ready to
be kicked. Stopping
time practicing their dribbling. They the ball is called
kick the ball along in short bursts
In soccer you
with both feet, swerve around, and are not allowed to
touch the ball with
pass it to teammates. your hands or arms,
so players trap the ball
with their chests, legs,
or feet. The goal is to
make the ball drop, not
bounce away.

Trapping stops the ball ask 13
so players can kick it.

I always Kicks aimed to the
know where low corners are
most likely to get
all the past the keeper.
players are!
See the Whole
Time for Team
stealth mode.
As Will turns toward
the goal, the blue team Goal!
keeper moves to block
him. Other blue players As Ana kicks the ball, the keeper sees
are also running his way. her and dives to the ground with his
But over to the left, he gloves out. Goalkeepers have just one
sees his teammate Ana. Will turns his job, to stop the ball. They are the only
body as if he’s about to kick into the players allowed to use their hands.
goal—then shoots the ball sideways to They wear gloves because speeding
Ana. No one expects that. She quickly balls hit hard.
kicks the ball into the net—score!
Scientists have counted up where
One of the most important skills the most goals get through. They’ve
in soccer is to know where the other
members of your team are. If your way found that the best
is blocked, is there someone else ready place to aim is low
to score? and into the corners
of the net. These are
the hardest shots
for keepers to save.
It forces them to
dive, which keepers
hate doing.

After a goal is
scored, the game
re-starts with the
ball in the middle.


Ball Tricks

In the second half of the game,

Mila tries some fancy ball moves

her older brother has been teach-

ing her. She gives the ball a short

dig upward to pop it up into the

air. Oops! One of her kicks doesn’t

land quite right, and the ball flies

up into the air, then veers left.

What just happened? It’s fun, but
Mila has accidentally done it makes the
banana mushy.
a banana kick.

Banana Kick The secret to this amazing

There are many different ways to kick is to get the ball spinning in
kick a ball. One of the most dra-
matic is known as the “banana kick.” the air. When a ball spins, one side
How did it get that name? Because it
makes a ball swerve like a banana! moves in the opposite direction

Ball to the air flow, while the
A full-size soccer ball is 27 inches
(69 cm) around and weighs one other side moves with the
pound (about 430
grams). Kids play air. The ball swerves
with smaller sizes.
toward the lower

pressure side.

This is called the

Magnus effect.

This is also the

secret to curve

balls in baseball

and tennis.

To make the ball

curve to the left, a

Cleats Shin guards player kicks it a little to
Soccer shoes These stiff plastic
have soft guards act like the right of its center. To
spikes on the armor to protect
bottom to help the lower leg from make it curve right, kick
get a grip on the ball or other
slippery grass players’ kicks. it left of center. The harder Kicking the ball off
and mud.
you kick, the more it will bend. center can make its
path curve, or bend.

ask 15

Banana kicks are hard to do. It Near the end of the game, the
takes a lot of practice to kick in exactly score is 1-1. Then one of the red
the right spot and with just the right players knocks the ball with her
force. But they can be very dramatic, arm—foul! A foul is breaking a rule,
sending a ball curving around a line such as handling the ball or tripping a
of defenders and into a goal right player. The referee awards the blue
behind them. team a free kick. Blue team selects a
player, lines up the kick, and...the ball
Hey! I need Headers goes in. Blue team wins, 2-1!
that brain.
Mila’s wild ball
Ouch! That’s gotta hurt. shoots toward
Kim’s head. Kim
ducks out of the
way. It might be
dramatic to jump
up and hit the ball
with her head—
but it’s also painful.
A speeding soccer
ball can hit with
up to 600 pounds
of force. That’s
quite a blow—like a
punch from a boxer.
That much force can
bounce a player’s
brain back and forth
in the skull, bruising
it inside.

Ball blows can bounce Everyone cheers and slaps
and bruise brains. hands for a good game.
Rematch next week!

OK, everyone Now we’re ready
be safe! for bikeball.


Perfec BaWant to play soccer? aft
art y A´ska

A First, you’re going to need a ball. ll

A perfect soccer This old leather ball has In Europe, early soccer balls
ball should be a pig’s bladder inside. were made from blown-
round, light, and tough up pig bladders wrapped in
enough to stand a lot
of kicking. It’s taken leather. (The bladder
awhile to get there. is where animals
store pee.) Animal
bladders are
not completely
round, so these
balls were lumpy,
and each was a
different size.

A solid rubber ball, In the 1850s, inventor Charles Goodyear came up
bouncy but heavy. with a way to get thin sheets of rubber to hold a
shape and not
In the Americas, crumble. Soon
Maya and Aztecs rubber balloons
made balls from solid replaced animal
rubber. These jumbo bladders inside
bouncy balls were balls. Rubber
heavy. Players could be bladders could
injured or even killed be made
if the ball hit them. perfectly round,
and all the
same size.
In the 1940s,
balls got valves,
making them
easier to inflate.

Leather covers soak up water. So balls often got Modern balls Modern balls have
heavy in the rain or if the grass was wet. Ball have a cloth layers of cloth
makers tried painting them with waterproof coatings. layer between and foam under
That helped a bit. Eventually, plastic replaced real the bladder a waterproof
leather. Now most balls are made of waterproof and the skin, shell.
to make them
synthetic leather, tougher. Some a s k 17
to stay light also have
and dry in all layers of foam for better
weather. bounce. The inner bladder is
made of butyl, a plastic that
Inside a soccer holds air better. Some balls are
ball’s cover is still hand-sewn, but many are
a rubber or glued or heat-bonded together.
plastic balloon.

Your Ball or Mine? This design held its shape well, even

The first Old hand-made leather balls were works after many kicks. text © 2019 by Rachel Craft, art © 2019 by A,ska
World Cup had of art. No two were exactly the same.
an official ball Nielsen’s design became the official
design—but This caused problems in the first
each hand- World Cup, in 1930. In the final match ball of the 1970 World Cup. A black-
made ball was between Uruguay and Argentina, the
a bit different. teams couldn’t agree on which ball to and-white pattern helped the ball stand
use. So they played with Argentina’s
The familiar favorite ball in the first half and out on television screens. It also made
black-and-white Uruguay’s in the second half.
Telstar ball is it easier for players see how the ball was
named after At first, using their own ball,
this small Argentina was ahead 2 to 1. But when spinning, so they could kick better. The
satellite. they switched balls, Uruguay took
ball was named Telstar, after the first
the lead and won 4 to 2. Many
people think this World Cup satellite to relay TV signals and phone
was won more by the ball
than by the players! calls in space. How can
anything be too
Too Perfect?

Over the years, ball

makers have tried

out many different ball designs. But

things don’t always go as planned.

The 2010 World Cup

A New Star ball, the Jabulani,

In 1962, a goalkeeper from was meant to
Denmark named Eigil
Nielsen stitched together be a high-tech

20 hexagons and 12 marvel. Teams
pentagons to make
a rounder ball. of scientists

worked on

it. They gave

it eight curvy

Telstar balls were panels, heat-
used in World
Cups from 1970 bonded together.
to 2006.
But in play, it The Jabulani looked nice.
18 was a disaster. But it played oddly.

Players said it moved strangely, as if it In 2018, the official World
was haunted. Kicks curved the wrong Cup ball paid a visit to the
way. Goalkeepers missed easy saves. International Space Station.
Everyone hated it. What went wrong?
The next World Cup ball
With fewer panels and no stitching,
the Jabulani was much smoother than also had odd-shaped panels,
the old 32-panel ball. In fact, that was
the problem—it was too smooth. but it was given a rough

When scientists tested the Jabulani texture and longer seams.
in a wind tunnel, they found that the
smooth surface made a whirlpool of air And to everyone’s relief, it
in back of the ball. This pulled on the
ball in funny ways. Rougher balls push played just fine.
through the air more easily.

In 2018, Russian cosmonauts on

the International Space Station got The Telstar 18 is
to play with the newest ball design, named after the
the Telstar 18. The space-tested ball original Telstar ball.

then returned to Earth and was See? Rough Nice try, but you
used in the first game of the 2018 surfaces still have to take
World Cup. The cosmonauts’
play better! a shower.

thoughts? Flip kicks are definitely

easier in zero-G.

Ball for Everyone air vent
a s k 19
Would you like a soccer ball that never goes
flat? That lasts for years? That you can run
over with a car, and it will still be good?

Kids everywhere love to play
occer. If they can’t afford
to buy a ball, they often
ake one out of plastic
ags, trash, tape—
nything that’s handy.
These balls are lumpy and don’t last long. To help soccer-loving kids,
some engineers started the One World Play Project. They designed
a soccer ball made entirely of soft, strong foam. Air vents allow air
to escape when the ball is crushed so it won’t burst. These vents also
allow air in, so the ball inflates itself—no bladder or pump needed. Then
they set up a company to get the balls to kids who need them.

HoWweatro a

Bottleart by Dave Clark

When the U.S. National Women’s Soccer
team heads to the World Cup this June,

they’ll be wearing plastic bottles.
Or, what used to be plastic bottles.

Their new team uniforms are a light, Polyester cloth is also made from plastic. art © 2019 by Dave Clark
tough cloth spun out of fibers made In fact, it’s spun from exactly the same PET
from recycled plastic. formula as bottles. On the inside, polyester
Drink bottles are made from a kind of and bottles have the same long molecules.
called PET (short for polyethylene
raphthalate). This is plastic #1, if you So instead of
ook at the number stamped on throwing bottles
the bottom. out, it’s possible
to recycle them

into cloth.


rs , use
bottles are
sorted by
color and

20 a s k

The plastic bits are
washed and dried.

The hot plastic comes out The clean bits are
through a plate with tiny melted in a long
holes. It forms long, heated tube,
thin strings, much moved along
thinner than a hair.
by a screw inside.

The strings are To soften
bundled together the thread,
into a stiff it’s stretched
thread. over rubber
Now it’s
ready to rleaeMcbywaocfkuaurlitentnoedgmirf1po8ptloroahimlosaly.tlanedinAcsutdmbestwaareo9kkistn0eiftn%rslegfoos8mr.li0ets%s
be dyed,
woven into a s k 21
fabric, and
made into

Get Ready for

by Evan Ackerman

xcept or the Every year, teams of students play against each other by size: large, text © 2019 by Evan Ackerman
NAO bots, each from all over the world medium, or small. These robots follow
RoboCup team gather for an unusual soccer most of the same rules as real soccer
builds its own tournament. This one is played players. But the field is small and
robots. entirely by robots the teams built and games short, to save batteries.
There’s also a special league for
The robots at RoboCup come in foot-high toy NAO robots. All the
apes and sizes. Some are robots are identical, but each team
man-shaped. Others look programs their NAOs differently.
ike hockey pucks. The small- NAO bots play in teams of five with a
st robots play with a golf miniature soccer ball. In this league,
all. Mid-sized bots use a real the team with the best program wins.
cer ball, though the players
Whatever they look like, every
are short and move around on robot in RoboCup must be autono-
wheels. The winning team plays mous. That means they act on their
against humans—someday, own—humans aren’t steering them.
they may even win. The robots use cameras to see where
robots are ccer ball is.
usually much ey talk to
slower, so they ach other with
ireless signals.


Does that count as hands?

22 a s k

Yellow3 eyes the ball. Motors whirr Now where did
as it slowly raises a foot. It stops and that ball go?
scans the field for other players. Its on-board
computer calculates the angle and force needed
to land a kick. Time is running out—the other
team will soon figure out how to turn around.
Does this little robot have what it takes to

win the Robot World Cup?

Teams of NAO Pass it
robots play against to me!
each other.

a s k 23

Then each robot has to decide where human team. 2050 is a long way off,

At last! A team to move, when to pass, and when but the robots have a lot of work to
that does exactly to shoot. The humans who built the do. Even if you’ve never played soccer
robots sit on the sidelines and watch. before, you’re probably better at it than
what I say!

Once the game starts, the robots are any of these robots.

on their own. Why is soccer so hard for robots?

Players take a Who Needs Soccer- For one thing, walking and running
break to recharge. Playing Robots? are quite complicated. Humans have
hundreds of different muscles to help
Why are robots learning to play soccer? us take steps and balance. Robots
usually have just a few motors to try
Soccer is a game that uses

lots of skills. Players to do the same thing. So most walking

have to move around robots move like slow toddlers.

a field, spot and kick A robot’s computer brain also

a moving ball, avoid can’t process information as quickly

obstacles, and work as a living brain. Everything the robot

together. These skills does—including how to learn—has

could help robots do to be programmed by a human first.

many useful jobs. But robots are getting better. So

But robots are not far, the best soccer players are the

very good at any of these small rolling robots, because they

What things—yet. RoboCup is a fun don’t need to figure out how to walk.
do you think way for robot-builders to practice They zip around on wheels and kick
the snack will be and make better robots. by punching the ball with a piston or a
puff of air.
today? The founders of RoboCup hope

that by 2050, a team of These robots are able to do many

robots will be able things that human players do, without

to beat a top looking like humans at all. And maybe

that’s the key—find the

Oops! robot way to move, instead
Little help! of copying humans.

This is how
you kick.

The hardest part of soccer
is not falling over.

24 a s k


Wouter Kuijpers and Ainse Kokkelmans are part
of Team Tech United Eindhoven, champions of the
018 RoboCup in the mid-sized nonhuman league. We
asked them a bit about their work. They are from the
N e ands, so they say football instead of soccer

favor thing about working is hard, but making sure What is it like to
on football-playing robots? two or even five robots play wa our robots play?
together is incredibly hard.

It is really cool to Will robots ever beat wracking at the same time.
see some new skill you have umans at football? As long as everything goes
programmed in action. It is well, it is really fun to
even better when it results in Every year, the robots watch. But if a programming
get etter and better. They bug shows up, then
What is the hardest have even managed to score sometimes you wish you
t ng teach the robots goals against humans! It might could just control them. But
take a while before they are unfortunately, that is against
Playing together. better. But who knows, maybe
ui ing a robot that can when we’re old we’ll watch That
robot football on TV instead tickles!
do all kinds of tricks
FI World Cup.

If robots do master The best robot
soccer, their skills will be soccer players
useful for more than just don’t look much
sport. One day, RoboCup like Lionel Messi.
robots may be able to find your
shoes or help elderly people with
chores, as well as playing soccer
with us whenever we want.

Want to Think I can beat
play? a fire hydrant?

X-treme Soccer

Soccer is the most Glacier Game
In 2016, teams
popular game in the from Italy and

world. It’s even been Switzerland
played a match
played in space. And some on the Allalin
Glacier, 11,482
other surprising places! feet (3,500
m) high. This
Cycleball holds a record
Is running too slow for for the world’s
you? Why not give highest game, not
cycleball a try? This is counting space.
soccer played on bikes,
with only two players Toss me
a side. To make it half a ball!
more exciting, the
bikes have no brakes.

I think it’s out.

Swamp Soccer Ocean
If your soccer field is always Soccer
muddy, why not invent mud The island
soccer? That’s just what the Finns villagers of Koh
did. Swamp soccer is played in Panyee in Thailand live right
swamps or bogs, or backyards when on the water. Their houses stand on stilts. So where to play soccer?
you have accidentally left the hose The kids of the town got together and built themselves a big wooden
on all night. Teams are small and raft out of scraps—a floating soccer field. The field was slippery, and
games are short—playing in mud is bad aim would send the ball into the water. They got very good at
hard work. But fun! controlling the ball. So good they became regional champions!

26 a s k

Elephant Soccer
In Thailand and Nepal, sometimes
you’ll see a match with extra big

players—elephants. Human riders
guide them as they kick and
thwack the ball. In elephant

soccer, trunks are allowed.

Animals like
to play too!

Space Soccer
In 2018, Russian cosmonauts Oleg
Artemyev and Anton Shkaplerov played
a weightless game on the International
Space Station, orbiting 250 miles (400
km) above the earth. Fancy kicks are
much easier in zero G!

Beach Soccer
Beach soccer is played on a beach, usually in bare
feet. The field is smaller than a regular pitch, the ball
is softer, and teams have only 5 players. Beach soccer
started in Brazil in the 1950s and is now played
around the world. The sand makes for a completely
different game.

Ice Soccer
Antarctic research stations have
long stretches of waiting. Soccer
games help break up the boredom.
The earliest recorded game of
Antarctic soccer was played in 1902.
Modern players use brightly colored
balls, which are easier to see on the
snow or rock.

a s 27

P ower Bal

When you’re done kicking this ball around,
it will help you read a book.

This ball has a This clever ball was thought up by
secret—it makes college students Jessica Matthews and Julia
electricity. Inside is a Silverman as part of a class project. Now
all generator, similar to a they have sold thousands. They continue to
improve the design. The biggest challenge
hake-to-light” flashlight. is making the balls tough
enough to sta d a lot of
As the ball rolls around, kicking with ut damagin
the plug. M thews has
For inve The Soccket a magnet slides around started a co pany called
Jessica lights up coiled copper wire. This Uncharted ower. She wants to
Matthews, after play. charges up a small battery. find ways use the play-generator
play is power. in bikes, c rts, and even under
After an hour or so floors. Ne d power?
Play to charge Make
up, charge up of play, the ball can power a your
to play! small reading light for the evening. The
Good id are wor
light plugs right into the top of the ball. kicking ound.

The ball can also charge up a cellphone

or a tablet computer. The inventors

call it the “Soccket.” They hope it will

help kids get light at night, for reading

or doing homework. And if you don’t

like soccer, they also make a power-

generating jump rope.

28 a s k

Hey, Sage! Samuel N. in Virginia Alligators do sometimes Scientists would love
wants to know, when an alligator vomit—but usually not to know our secret!
gets sick, does it vomit? because they’re sick.

Alligators almost
never get sick,
is why.

We have super-strong
immune systems. Germs
are no match for us!

What if they eat something vile? Don’t worry, Only about It takes awhile to
Owls puke pellets of fur and bones. we don’t eat
Sharks vomit squid beaks. What very often. once a week. digest a big meal.
about alligators?

Gators aren’t picky eaters.
They dine on fish, frogs, turtles,
small mammals, and birds. Even
other alligators. If they can
catch it, they’ll eat it.

They must have They have very strong I ate a duck that landed on my head. It I ate a whole
strong stomachs. acids and other chemicals was delicious. But I barfed up that radio wild hog—hair,
in their stomachs that tracker it was wearing. Sorry, scientists! hooves, and all.
break down food—even I puked up the
bones. But alligators will biggest hairball
vomit things they can’t you ever saw.

Well—better outside Yes, I prefer to
the alligator than in. stay outside of the
alligator as well.

In our February issue Send your letters to Ask Mail,
we asked you to invent 70 East Lake St., Suite 800, Chicago, IL
something that kids 60601, or have your parent/guardian
would find useful. email us at [email protected]
Thanks to all you
talented tinkerers for A Machine that
sharing your ideas! puts Dishes Away
Hannah T, age 9,

The Hand Greeter Rocket Shoes
(makes people happy) Caden L.,
Agata, age 8, age 9,
Illinois Minnesota

Time Machine 3000
Daniel K., age 10, California

Dear Marvin, Hey, Marvin! Dear Marvin,
I have a good prank for you I know a prank! Tie a string Maybe you could switch Plush’s
to play on Plush. Make a fake around Plush’s doorway, spaghetti with dead worms!
rule book filled with fake rules causing her to trip onto
like “hippopotamuses cannot eat pillows. Then another string Henry H., age 8
cupcakes or use binoculars.” leads to a wooden board with Texas
Then put it somewhere Plush a tub of paint. Tie another
will see it. string to the bottom of the Dear Fellow Pranksters,
can. Then, RUN! Ha ha! Thanks for all the
Prankly yours, great ideas! This summer will
Joseph C. and his sister, Tyler W., Illinois be super fun!
Marvin, King of Pranks

30 a s k

Super Carpenter
Cleaner Robot
Lillian L., John Henry
age 7, A., age 8,
Georgia by email

Snowball Robot that
Machine copies what
Liam C., you do!
age 10, Veronica L.,
Ohio age 6,

Homework Ice Cream Truck The Changing Stool
Helper Tracker Goggles Juliana A., age 10,
Wyatt M., Henry, age 9, by email
age 7, by email
New York
Dear Ella,
Dear Plush, Thank you for the lovely picture!
Do you like art? I love art. I love art too. It’s such a good
It’s very fun. Once I made feeling to create something
a cool art project. I called wonderful, instead of, say, putting
it the unicorn balloon. I worms in people’s lunch. Though
love unicorns. What’s your there is also an art to a really
favorite color? Mine is pink. excellent prank-back. Unicorn
Here’s an outfit that would balloons gives me an idea....shhh!
look good on you. I won’t say more for now.

Ella B., age 9, Plush the Patient

a s k 31

July/August Contest

That’s My Ball

There are many ways to cover a round ball
in interlocking shapes. And even more
ways to decorate them. For this month’s
contest, come up with a new design for the
best-looking, best-playing soccer ball ever.
Send us a drawing of your design, and
we’ll take some free kicks with the most
fantastic in an upcoming issue of Ask.

Contest Rules: 5. Your entry must be signed or emailed 7. Email scanned artwork to
by a parent or legal guardian, saying it’s [email protected], or mail to:
1. Your contest entry must be your very your own work and that no one helped Ask, 70 East Lake St., Suite 800, Chicago,
own work. Ideas and words should not you, and that Ask has permission to IL 60601. Entries must be postmarked or
be copied. publish it in print and online. emailed by August 31, 2019.

2. Be sure to include your name, age, and 6. For information on the Children’s Online 8. We will publish the winning entries in an
address on your entry. Privacy Protection Act, see the Privacy upcoming issue of Ask.
Policy page at
3. Only one entry per person, please.
4. If you want your work returned, enclose

a self-addressed, stamped envelope.


Fun science and tech for the seriously curious CURIOU S COLLECT
ages 9–14 IONS

32 a s k Subscribe at:

by Ivars Peterson


Soccer Shapes

Next time you get out the pentagon If the pattern were
soccer ball, take a close made up of only hexagons,
look at its pattern. hexagon it would lie flat: text © 2019 by Ivars Peterson
On most balls, you’ll
see patches in two If you sew these But a flat sheet can’t
shapes. There are 20 patches together, they curve into a ball. (Still, some
hexagons, with six equal make a round ball. people who don’t look closely
sides. And 12 pentagons, do draw soccer balls with
with five equal sides. only hexagons!)

Every pentagon If you were to use just
is surrounded by pentagons and sew the edges
five hexagons. What together, it would make a
arrangement of six shape with twelve faces,
shapes surrounds each called a dodecahedron. But
hexagon? this is a bit too pointy to
make a good soccer ball.
Why do balls have
this mix of shapes? By mixing hexagons and
Imagine flattening out pentagons, the pattern closes
the ball cover on a up into a round ball.
table. You’d have to
cut some seams to get Some soccer balls use
it to lie flat. There different shaped patches,
are gaps between the even curvy ones. There are
patches. But when all many ways to make a sphere!
the edges are sewn
together, the shapes curve
together into a round sphere.

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