Pre-Reading Activities/Topics

1. The names of our two main characters are Nick and Tesla, an obvious reference to
Nikola Tesla, an inventor and engineer best known for his work with electricity and
electromagnetic energy. Teachers may wish to have students predict the significance of
the characters’ names, given the novel’s title and relevant information about Tesla.
2. The genre of the novel is mystery. Teachers may wish to discuss traits of an effective
mystery (problem or question, suspense, answer or resolution) and use a basic plot
chart to identify the parts of the plot in which each trait is emphasized (introduce
problem in exposition/introduction; suspense increases in rising action to the climax;
answer to the problem in resolution of plot).

Ongoing Activities
Several activities can be done throughout the duration of the novel study. Each activity is
designed to help students become aware of the development of various aspects of the novel.
Any of these could also become part of any summative assessment.
1. Compare and contrast Nick and Tesla. What kind of kids are they? How are they alike?
Different? Use specific examples throughout the novel to support the inferences made.
2. Keep a log of quotations that are significant to the plot of the novel. These quotations
might be particularly revealing about a character, increase suspense, exemplify the use
of foreshadowing, et al. Students should copy the quote, note the page number, and
then explain the quotation’s significance
3. Keep a list of suspects and the evidence Nick and Tesla use to identify each suspect.
4. There are many coincidences that take place throughout the narrative. Keep a list of
these coincidences that add to the complexity of the conflict.

Chapter Questions
Teachers may wish to use these chapter questions to check for comprehension either on an
individual basis or through group (large or small) discussion. The questions range from those
using basic recall skills to the more complex, inferential questions.
1. What family tradition does the Holt family share regarding their names?
2. What kind of a person is Ellen Wharton-Wheeler? Include evidence from the chapter to
support your answer.
3. Define “robo-geddon” based on Silas’s comments about robots in this chapter.
1. Who is Berg? What does he tell the kids his job is at the museum?
2. How does Berg initially react to the kids? How does his perception of them change and
3. How are the animatronics supposed to work? What happens instead? Why is this a
1. Describe Katherine Mavis. Compare and contrast her character to Ellen Wharton-
Wheeler and/or Berg. What inferences can you make about the employees of the
2. Katherine Mavis uses technical jargon when common language would be more
appropriate. Select one of her passages and “translate” it into everyday language.
Consider passages on pages 40, 42, or 43.
3. Why is it important for the museum that everything go well at the rededication,
according to Hiroko?
4. Do you believe the latest problems for the Hall of Genius are the result of sabotage?
Why or why not?
1. What is Nick and Tesla’s backstory?
2. Who are the “strong suspects” for the sabotage of the Hall of Genius? Is it logical to
consider these characters suspects? Why or why not?
3. How does the description of the atrium on pages 53–54 add to the feeling of suspicion
that someone is trying to sabotage the rededication?
4. Draw the atrium, using color to represent the suspense of this particular scene.
5. What is Ms. Wharton-Wheeler’s project? How might this information increase Tesla’s
suspicion that Ms. Wharton-Wheeler is somehow involved in sabotaging the museum’s
6. An allusion is a reference the writer makes to something (such as a movie, book, or
historical event) he or she assumes the audience already knows. What allusion does the
writer make on page 61? How does that enhance the reader’s understanding of Tesla’s
1. What idea does Silas have about the Bat-signal? How and why does Tesla modify it?
2. What inference can be made about Uncle Newt, based on the contents of his toolbox
and the fact that “none of the contents came as a surprise to Tesla” (page 69)?
3. What inferences can be made about Silas and DeMarco based on the assignments Tesla
gives them in order to investigate the curator?
4. An onomatopoeia is a word that represents a sound. “Ow!,” “pow!,” and “screech!” are
all examples of this literary device. How does the writer use onomatopoeia in this
chapter to increase Tesla’s concern about Silas’s involvement in this “case”?
5. What tune does Silas use for his laserhand theme song?
6. Should Silas activate the laserhand? Why or why not?
1. Contrast Nick’s reaction to the space exhibit to Tesla’s. What might explain this
2. What connection does Ms. Wharton-Wheeler’s exhibit have to Nick and Tesla’s parents?
3. How is the rhetorical question “How could such a simple plan possibly go wrong?” (page
89) an example of foreshadowing?
4. Who or what is Coolicious McBrainy?
5. What discovery does Tesla make about Ms. Wharton-Wheeler and Katherine Mavis?
1. Based on what you have learned about each of these characters’ jobs, what is the
difference between a museum director (Katherine Mavis) and head curator (Ellen
2. Do you agree with Tesla’s explanation on page 105 of why Ms. Wharton-Wheeler would
want to destroy the museum? What evidence in the text led you to your assessment of
Tesla’s explanation?
3. How is Ms. Wharton-Wheeler’s comment on page 104 that the X-Treme Learnasium “is
no place for curious children” different from what we might expect?
4. Why does Tesla keep referring to Ms. Mavis as the X-Treme Learnasium’s executive
“traitor”? Would you agree? Why or why not?
1. Tesla assigns “jobs” to each of the kids. What are they?
2. How do you know that Nick is less enthusiastic than the others to discover the meaning
of the e-mail?
3. To whom is Nick yelling “Be careful!” on page 136?
4. Using evidence in the chapter, at what time do the events take place?
1. What does the phrase “bask in her glory” mean (page 145)? How does Tesla use this to
explain why she was in Katherine Mavis’s office?
2. What distracts Tesla while Ruffin speaks to her in his office?
3. Compare and contrast Tesla’s two interactions with Coolicious McBrainy. Be specific in
noting details.
1. What password and username does Uncle Newt use to log in to the computer controls
for the Hall of Genius?
2. What do you think Silas has been “doing about” feeling bloated and gassy since lunch?
3. Who is chosen to eavesdrop on the meeting between Ms. Wharton-Wheeler and Ms.
Mavis and to wear the gadget glove? Do you agree with this choice? Why or why not?
4. How does the mascot Coolicious McBrainy seem different to Tesla when she sees him
this time? What could be an explanation for the different personalities of the mascot?
5. What evidence is there that the kids’ plan did not work?
1. Why would Tesla not have gone to Berg for help?
2. Does Berg believe the story Uncle Newt and the others share with him? What evidence
is there in this chapter to support your answer?
3. Why does Hiroko wink at Silas and Uncle Newt?
4. Why does Tesla call Nick “Little Mr. Sunshine”?
5. What is the sh-sh-sh sound on the recording? Why is identifying that sound important?
6. Why does the mascot quit?
1. Why does Uncle Newt put on a mascot suit?
2. Describe the rededication party from Uncle Newt’s perspective. Describe the
experience Ms. Mavis intended her guests to have.
3. Who is the owl Uncle Newt follows into the Hall of Genius? Why does Uncle Newt think
the owl is there?
1. Why is Carstairs wearing the owl mascot costume?
2. What clue does Uncle Newt discover that leads him to suspect the police really have not
been called?
3. Carstairs, Uncle Newt, a guest at the gala: no one seems to be able to use their cell
phones in the museum. Using this information, what do you think “jammers” do?
4. Why does Tesla blame herself for endangering her family and friends?
5. How is Nikola Tesla’s biography in the Hall of Genius related to the mysterious project?
How are the mystery and the biography connected to Nick and Tesla’s parents’ project?
6. What is the real objective of the criminals? What evidence do Uncle Newt and Carstairs
use to determine this?
7. What do you think the group plans to do with the semi-invisible fluorescent ink tracker?
1. What does it mean that Tesla works “best under pressure” (page 236)?
2. Do you agree with Tesla’s decision to lie to Silas about playing rock, paper, scissors to
determine who would wear the gadget glove? Why or why not?
3. An oxymoron is a combination of opposites: a loud silence, for example. How is the
phrase “cacophonous chorus” an example of an oxymoron? How does this phrase help
you understand what is going on in the Hall of Genius?
4. What is on loan in the “Something New under the Sun” exhibit? How do you know?
1. Katherine Mavis describes the equipment found on the culprit mascots as “cutting-edge
technology” (page 256). What does this mean and how does this help you understand
the conflict of the narrative?
2. Who does the culprit turn out to be? What is the group’s motivation for stealing the
equipment from the museum?
3. Was DeMarco ever really frightened while captured? How do you know?
4. How does your perception of Ellen Wharton-Wheeler change from the beginning to the
end of the narrative? Why?
5. How does the end of the book resolve the main conflict of the narrative yet also leave
the audience waiting for and/or wanting more?

Targeted Vocabulary
Vocabulary instruction is often subjective; the methods for vocabulary instruction are varied.
The targeted list is organized by chapter, and the chapter lists are all related by concept. Some,
for example, focus on characterization. Others focus on setting. Teachers can pick and choose,
adding and/or deleting words based upon their students’ level and the teacher’s school/district
protocol for vocabulary instruction.
animatronic (7) prowling (19) sarcastically (34)
glumly (7) distracted (21) askew (36)
feebly (9) berserk (23) slovenly (37)
curator (9) pensive (23) regarding (37)
tacky (13) censor (24) profoundly (37)
ranting (15) foisted (27) indignantly (39)
gaped (16) din (31) annoyance (41)
suppressed (16) despondent (42)
dismissively (45)
sabotage (46)


scowl (48) bogus (69) trespassing (83)
grudge (50) deferring (72) marvel (85)
pondered (50) grimaced (77) emitted (87)
vengeance (51) distraction (79) intently (88)
atrium (53) lurched (80) innocuous (88)
eerily (54) segue (89)
ominous (55) improvised (91)
disregard (59) bulbous (93)
instinctively (62)
morose (62)


convincing (101) protocols (124) betrayed (146)
intimidating (101) glitches (125) sheepish (146)
recommit (103) reluctance (126) contrite (146)
scorn (103) incredulously (127) prone (154)
appendage (108) smugly (128) deflated (157)
traitor (110) skeptically (134) modestly (160)
exasperation (112) stalked (135)
demeanor (113) skulking (137)
resigned (116) garbled (137)
leverage (118) labyrinthine (138)
foiled (141)
thwarted (141)
incriminating (141)


obliviously (167) fluke (183) bearings (204)
scout (167) unison (183) indistinct (204)
glowered (173) synopsizing (184) prestigious (205)
striding (174) muster (187) philanthropists (205)
dour (175) contempt (188) amplified (207)
grim (181) grimaced (193) scanning (210)
distorted (181) ingrates (197) awed (210)
profusely (211)
sneer (216)


haunches (217) invincible (236) scamper (253)
dread (218) consulting (237) bizarre (253)
regain (220) crestfallen (237) snarled (254)
sulky, sulking (220, 221) groused (238) captive (256)
impersonating (221) conspicuous (241) mastermind (257)
perturbed (222) rousing (242) calamatize (259)
immense (223) nonchalant (242) muffled (261)
resolve (224) mock (242) detour (264)
cacophonous (243) heist (266)
astutely (244) mused (269)
accurate (245)
diversion (249)

Chapter Summaries

Nick and Tesla, along with their friends Silas and DeMarco, “help” Uncle Newt prepare the
animatronics in the Hall of Genius for the reopening of the Northern California Museum of
Science, Industry, and Technology. Unfortunately, the head of the animatronic mannequin of
Nikola Tesla is missing, so the kids head off to find it.

After finding the missing head, Nick and Tesla meet Berg, a rather suspicious and unusual
museum security guard, on their way back to the Hall of Genius. Once back in the hall, Nikola
Tesla is reassembled and a final check of the animatronics is done. To everyone’s dismay, all of
the animatronics begin turning on by themselves and speaking and moving wildly, resulting in
chaos. That is, until the lights go out.

The lights and electricity come back on and when Katherine Mavis, executive director of the
museum, arrives, she explains how devastating it would be to the museum not to have every
exhibit, including the Hall of Genius, ready for the rededication. She also alludes to problems
the exhibit had that led to the dismissal of the hall’s original creator. Tesla, overhearing Ms.
Mavis, does not believe the hall’s most recent problems are a coincidence. She believes they
are a case of sabotage.

Tesla comes up with a list of suspects, including the museum’s curator, Ellen Wharton-Wheeler.
She chooses to investigate Wharton-Wheeler first, especially after learning from Berg that the
curator has her own “project”—replacing another museum display—the subject of which Berg
refuses to reveal.

Tesla assigns everyone a specific responsibility to ensure that she and Nick can safely
investigate Ms. Wharton-Wheeler’s exhibit undetected. Silas is instructed to wear the newly
created LED glove to warn DeMarco about Ms. Wharton-Wheeler’s return. DeMarco, in turn, is
to then warn Nick and Tesla so they can leave the exhibit before Ms. Wharton-Wheeler gets
there. Silas is “attacked,” though he’s not sure by what.

Nick and Tesla look through Ms. Wharton-Wheeler’s space exhibit for evidence that she is a
saboteur. While Silas is chatting with Coolicious McBrainy, a six-foot owl that is to be the
museum’s mascot, he misses the return of Ellen Wharton-Wheeler. He is late in signaling
DeMarco, who has just enough time to warn Nick and Tesla, but not before Tesla sees an
incriminating e-mail on Wharton-Wheeler’s computer.

Nick, Tesla, DeMarco, and Silas avoid being discovered by discussing Wharton-Wheeler’s exhibit
with her. They learn she does not like the museum’s new marketing brand, the X-Treme
Learnasium. Still interested in the e-mail between her and Mavis, the museum’s director, the
kids decide to search Mavis’s office. They just need to evacuate the entire administrative wing
of the museum to accomplish this.

Tesla adds an alarm to the gadget glove that DeMarco wears to cause the evacuation. While
Nick and Silas appear to leave with everyone else, Tesla hides and then returns to Mavis’s
office. Although Mavis logged off her computer before evacuating, foiling Tesla’s attempt to
find the incriminating e-mail, Mavis did leave her planner open. Tesla discovers that Mavis
plans to meet with Wharton-Wheeler in about an hour. As Tesla leaves Mavis’s office, Berg
discovers her.

Tesla explains to Ruffin, head of museum security, that she was merely sitting in Mavis’s chair
and really had not done anything wrong. Berg begrudgingly agrees. During Ruffin’s lecture
about trust, Tesla becomes distracted by an unfamiliar room shown on one of the security
monitors. After leaving, she and the boys devise a plan to eavesdrop and record the meeting
between Mavis and Wharton-Wheeler.

After attaching a recording chip to the gadget glove, the kids determine that DeMarco will be
the one to hide in the meeting room. Unfortunately, the plan obviously goes awry when the
kids find the glove discarded in the hallway; the only thing that is recorded on it is a cryptic
message from DeMarco.

Uncle Newt and Hiroko react calmly to the kids’ news of DeMarco’s possible abduction. When
they tell Berg, however, he reacts skeptically but calls the police anyway. While Hiroko waits
with him for the police to arrive, Uncle Newt and the kids go in search of DeMarco. They realize
there are more suspects than they originally thought when, as the rededication begins, they
discover there are many people wearing the mascot costume.

Uncle Newt puts on the costume discarded by the man who quit and mingles with the guests at
the gala. He follows one mascot suspiciously leaving the atrium into the Hall of Genius, only to
discover that it is Mark Carstairs, the former designer of the Hall of Genius who had been fired.
Carstairs claims he is trying to save the museum from a conspiracy to destroy it.

Uncle Newt, who believes Carstairs’s story, calls the police, despite knowing Berg already has.
While speaking to the “police,” Uncle Newt realizes all calls are being rerouted to someone
within the museum. After discussing recent happenings, Uncle Newt, Tesla, and Carstairs
realize the museum is not the focus of the impending crime: the new exhibit is.

Uncle Newt, Nick, Tesla, and the rest decide to let the events of the evening unfold as planned.
When chaos erupts, Tesla puts into action her plan to track the culprits by launching her
footprint tracker in the direction of the new exhibit. Once electricity is restored and the lights
come on, Nick uses the LED light on the gadget glove to track the glowing prints to the two
costumed mascots who attempted to flee.

The culprits are captured and discovered: the band! DeMarco is found unharmed in a storage
room, and Tesla considers the possibility of a connection between the theft of the equipment in
the exhibit and the secret work her parents are doing . . . leaving the reader awaiting the next

Extended Writing/Research Topics/Opportunities

The CCSS ask students to conduct basic research. The ability to formulate a question and use
credible sources are two important components. A third is the ability to write unified
informative and argumentative pieces. The following are several general topics that can be
used as interdisciplinary writing assignments for both English language arts and science
objectives. Depending on how the topics are worded, they can be used as either informative
writing topics or argumentative topics.

1. In the first three chapters, many different scientists are introduced to the reader as
animatronics in the Hall of Genius. Which one is most deserving of the title “genius”?
Write an argumentative essay to support your opinion.
2. Explain in an informative writing or a visual poster or presentation the difference
between robotics and animatronics.
3. Make the gadget glove, following the directions in the book.
4. List each time the owl makes an appearance, noting similarities and differences among
these appearances. Present your findings in an informative essay or presentation that
explains the writer’s use of this character to increase suspense in the narrative.
5. What is Silas’s role in the narrative? What kind of character is he? Write an
argumentative essay or use a Venn diagram to contrast him to Nick, Tesla, and/or Uncle
Newt, making sure to include evidence and examples from the text to support your