It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s … a man walking around with metal wings
Most kids dream of being a superhero when they grow up. Adiel Fernandez, science instructor at NYSCI, gets to be one for two days this month.
Or at least he’ll look like one, thanks to his project Metal Wings, which he built for this year’s World Maker Faire. Inspired by X-Men superhero Archangel, the aircraft-grade aluminum wings have a wingspan of 12 feet and are mechanically controlled by motors. These motors, or more technically “servos”, will be connected to special gloves he has created that will allow him to open and close the multiple segments of the wings just by moving his fingers, giving the illusion that the wings are moving on their own. The beating of the wings will also be linked to Adiel’s heartbeat, although that aspect of the project may not be ready in time for the Faire.
Adiel came up with the idea for the project about a year ago when his brother showed him photos from a comic book convention. “Archangel is such an interesting character,” said Adiel. “His wings are so unique and different from any other winged superhero or villain. I can’t believe no one has tried to put together a set of wings like his.”
Although he has been “making” since he was a small child (he often took his toys apart to see how they worked), the Metal Wings project included some relatively new territory for Adiel: microcontrollers and metalworking. But in true Maker spirit, he tackled the project anyways.
Check out Adiel’s wings along with projects from more than 500 other Makers (all superheroes in our book!) at this year’s World Maker Faire, which will be held at NYSCI on September 17 and 18.
Not many people can say they’ve hooked up with the four elements, but NYSCI Librarian Rebecca Reitz is working towards doing just that.
Wielding only a crochet hook, Rebecca will use yarn, beads, seashells and other decorative items to create her fiber art piece EARTH.AIR.FIRE.WATER. The first part of the project will focus on Earth and will be displayed at World Maker Faire, a two-day festival celebrating the do-it-yourself movement.
Rebecca’s EARTH project was inspired by a recent vacation in the Adirondacks. Using yarn with various hues of greens and browns, and lots of improvisation (inventing the patterns as she crochets), she has created afghan squares of various Earth-themed subjects, which will be exhibited at World Maker Faire.
“I like reinterpreting the world in crochet – a medium I love,” said Rebecca. “People find a form of expression that best suits their character, and I found crochet.”
Since she was a teenager, Rebecca has been crocheting a variety of items including hats, scarves, blankets and even some molecule-inspired jewelry. At last year’s Faire, she presented three-dimensional, crocheted mushrooms attached to real pieces of wood. And NYSCI’s Science Technology Library displays some of her yarn-bombing work year-round.
To learn more about her art, hook up with Rebecca at World Maker Faire, which will be held at NYSCI on September 17 and 18.
At this year’s World Maker Faire, event organizers and Faire-goers alike will be hoping for warm days with sunny skies. But one Maker will be cheering on the wind.
Karl Szilagi, NYSCI exhibit technician, will be presenting his project, Listen to the Wind at this year’s Faire. Comprised of 30 kites of various sizes attached to one main line, Listen to the Wind showcases the sound a kite string makes when it’s under tension. The sound created by the kites will be amplified and transmitted to a pair of headphones, which will be available to Faire-goers. Karl hopes that his project inspires people to think more deeply about the seemingly simple act of flying a kite:
“I would like visitors to take away from the experience an understanding of how the humming of a kite string can reveal powerful forces at work that are often inaudible and otherwise invisible.”
Karl became interested in kites in the late 1980s after seeing several people flying kites high in the air in Central Park. He then started creating his own kites and has since built approximately 1,500 kites, although this is his first kite involving sound.
So what exactly does a kite sound like? Find Karl at World Maker Faire to find out!
NY Waterway Contamination, From the Outside Looking In
Guest blogger Erin Schneider, NYSCI intern and graduate student in Environmental Geo-science at Queens College, writes about her recent experience on board the R. Ian Fletcher, a research vessel that regularly conducts water quality testing on New York’s waterways.
“You see those green signs,” John Lipscomb, Captain of the R. Ian Fletcher, the Riverkeeper patrol boat, pointed towards the shore. “That indicates a CSO. There are 460 CSO’s in New York City that dump about 30 billion gallons of sewage into our waterways annually.” The recent fires at the Combined Sewage Overflow units in Harlem and Ossining have been a benchmark for Riverkeeper’s initiative of public awareness of this local health issue. “We got immediate media coverage,” Lipscomb explained, “because people were upset over the 250 million gallons being let in after the fire in Harlem.” What many don’t realize, however, is that every time it rains, raw sewage is being dumped into the Hudson and other rivers by way of these CSO’s.
As a native New Yorker, I was horrified to not only learn about the regular occurrence of the introduction of raw sewage into our waterways, but also to see the many public access sites they are located at. There was even one stop we made along our journey that has an underwater pipe pumping a plume of sewage upward. Cruising down the river, bordered with lush green trees, waterfront houses, parks and other hidden wonders, we passed families playing in the water and men and women fishing off docks only yards away from actively flowing CSO’s. Although the river can be quite clean in many places, unfortunately, there are other locations frequently exposed to high levels of contamination. Yet the public doesn’t seem to be adequately informed. What’s more unsettling, is that while locals are using these waterways for recreational use, we were taking precautionary measures, using gloves to keep the water off our skin, or alcohol to clean our hands if they did contact the water.
In light of the fire in the CSO on 125th in Manhattan, there have been tremendous breakthroughs with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and their agreement to make their data publicly available in a timely fashion. Additional water quality sampling took place immediately following the fire, conducted by both the DEP and Riverkeeper, in collaboration with Queens College and Columbia University, the data of which differed greatly. While the DEP announced that the majority of their water samples contained Enterococcus within the acceptable EPA guidelines of 104 cells of Entero per 100 milliliters of water, they originally failed to state that their water samples were being collected in the middle of the river. Riverkeeper took samples in both the middle of the river and in the near-shore environment, and found that contrary to the reports by the DEP, the concentrations near the discharge points ranged from 132 to 104,620 per 100 milliliters (click here for locations and Riverkeeper data reports). The Riverkeeper patrol boat, which is complete with a lab on deck for the processing and analyzing samples collected at locations, makes regular stops to sites along the East and Hudson rivers, the Gowanus and through a channel in Williamsburg.
Having the privilege of joining the Riverkeeper, it became even more obvious to me just how crucial these studies are to increasing the public’s awareness of how our environment is being affected. It was bitter-sweet to experience New York from the water looking into the city, passing so many of New York’s beautiful iconic buildings, piers and neighborhoods along our journey, to then witness that almost unbeknownst to us, these same sites are being subjected to raw sewage contamination. I gained a new appreciation for my home state, and these research efforts that will hopefully continue to positively affect the exposition of these environmental and health issues.
It was hot but breezy, and the smell was indeed almost sweet. But there was nothing lovely about the raw sewage that pipes there discharged into the Hudson River — some 120 million gallons a day — from Wednesday to Friday night, when the plant returned to treating sewage.
For her summer project, Explainer Jade Johnson wanted to get involved in an archaeology project. But finding a cliff dwelling to excavate—that’s a little hard to do in Queens.
So Jade set out for Colorado’s Crow Canyon Archaeological Center in the Mesa Verde region, home to ancestral Pueblo Indians. Sometimes referred to as the Anasazi, the ancient Pueblo people are best known for the dwellings they built high along cliff walls.
Jade learned about ancient Pueblo history and helped with basic archaeological fieldwork, including excavating and cataloging artifacts. Much of the fieldwork took place at the Dillard Site, Crow Canyon’s current excavation, with visits to the Mesa Verde National Park, a U.S. National Park—created to protect the Pueblo cliff dwellings.
Jade documented her experience with a blog post and web video.
“It is amazing to see what was built in the canyons considering how difficult it must have been to carry materials in and out of them everyday,” said Jade, referring to the Mesa Verde region where she conducted research. “Places like this are rare and I hope I can visit again someday.”
Sewage routinely contaminates the Hudson River, according to a report released on Tuesday after four years of water testing in which one-fifth of the water samples indicated that the river was unsuitable for swimming and other recreation.
The study, issued by the environmental group Riverkeeper, underscores how a big sewage discharge in July, caused by a fire at a treatment plant in Manhattan, was part of a persistent and far more widespread sewage problem along the 155-mile river.
After coming under fire for a lack of information about water quality in city rivers, the Department of Environmental Protection is designing an alert system which would issue warnings whenever it dipped.
Last week, we travelled together with our families to the New York Hall of Science, in Queens, where Charles and Ray Eames’s Mathematica exhibit, originally created for IBM in the 1960s, is on permanent display. It’s a masterpiece of lo-fi installation design, not a screen to be found, just clear, hands-on exhibits that illustrate concepts with creativity and without pandering.
The day after our visit, my daughter wanted to return.
SciPlay & Joan Ganz Cooney Center @ Sesame Workshop ebook study sign-up
SciPlay is teaming up with the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop for a research study on how families with children ages 3 – 5 choose books to read together. If you’re interested in participating, please fill out the survey at the link below, and then come out to the New York Hall of Science on August 25 or 26!
Children will receive a small Sesame Street gift for participating:
How do you get someone excited about the technology behind a computer processor? By breaking it down into smaller parts. Literally.
NYSCI’s Deconstruction Zone at last year’s World Maker Faire was so popular with kids and adults that it is being brought back for this year’s festival, which will be held on September 17 and 18. With screwdrivers and pliers, kids and adults at the 2010 World Maker Faire took apart computer and electronic equipment with a goal of, well, to take apart computer and electronic equipment. And they had a blast doing it. Clearly someone forgot to tell them that it was a form of science education.
In this age of standardized tests, rote memorization, and textbooks, it’s easy to see why most students dread their science and math classes. Where, really, is the fun in traditional science and math education? But taking apart electronics? Now, that sounds fun!
And having fun can lead to a deeper exploration of the sciences. In a recent PBS Newshour show, Dale Dougherty, editor and publisher of Make magazine and founder of Maker Faire, said
“I see making as a gateway to engineering and science. When I talk to engineers and scientists, I can ask them, what fascinated you as a kid? And someone said, well, you know, I used to take refrigerators apart.”
World Maker Faire has hundreds of these kind of fun opportunities for visitors. The two-day event brings together hundreds of “Makers” who show off their inventions and encourage visitors to become Makers themselves and to create, build and invent. In the process, they show us the “fun” in science, technology and math. When you see trendy people with their cool inventions, suddenly science and technology doesn’t seem so boring or geeky anymore. And when you get to invent your own cool products, a career choice in the sciences seems not only possible, but appealing.
NYSCI has been exploring ways to harness the spirit of “making” to increase interest in the sciences. NYSCI and Maker Faire staff worked to ensure that the inaugural World Maker Faire included a large range of activities for children and families. And after the festival, NYSCI hosted a two-day workshop with more than 80 leaders in education, science, technology and the arts to explore how the Maker movement can stimulate innovation in education.
This year’s Faire will be even bigger than last year, with hundreds of additional Makers and even more activities for children and families. And more opportunities to show kids and adults, that science is fun—whether or not you keep your computer in one piece.
For the past few weeks, NYSCI Explainers have been learning how to design and pitch a mobile application that would support one of the exhibits on the museum floor. On Tuesday, the four groups presented their app ideas to the President of NYSCI, Margaret Honey, and senior exhibit staff, of which one group was to be selected to get their app professionally developed and placed on the market. Congratulations to the “BioHatchers” group who won the competition!
Interesting article about what’s happening in 2011 of DIY and the Maker Movement … a great intro to this years World Maker Faire:
About a year ago, I wrote a weekly post at Wired’s Gadget Lab called “DIY Friday.” The first story was about MintyBoost, a USB charger made from AA batteries and an Altoids tin, devised by Adafruit’s Limor Fried. That was what DIY/maker hardware news mostly looked like in the last week of August 2010.
Now, let’s look at the first week of August in 2011:
MakerFaire Detroit, sponsored by Ford, Pepsi and Microsoft as well as Etsy, Boing Boing and O’Reilly, gently wound down after officially closing July 31, featuring everything from giant Halloween displays to sewing tutorials to tiny children on crazy leaf-blower go-karts. I wish I’d been there.
Microsoft presented a handful of proof-of-concept projects for its .NET Gadgeteer, a competitor to Arduino that likewise promises easy-to-build open-source hardware gadgets using Microsoft’s .NET framework and Visual Studio/Visual C# Express. (Thisminiature arcade cabinet looks awesome.)
GE launched a Facebook campaign targeting DIY makers to share designs for model aircraft and an airport, using 3D printers from the revered independent MakerBot.
MakerBot got some more competition in the field of inexpensive, easy-to-build-and-use home 3D printers: Ponoko featured the UP! printer on their blog (which comes helpfully pre-assembled), whileMAKE featured Ultimaker, which touts its speed. “This is what happens when you do something that’s successful,” MakerBot’s Bre Pettis said. “Other people figure it out, too, and start businesses. More 3D printers are good.”
Animals are a part of our daily lives. Whether you wake up to see your dog holding his leash in his mouth, hear birds chirping outside your window, or have a squirrel steal a bite of your food when you’re not looking, you share your space with animals. But do animals think, or are they governed only by instinct?
Creating Wild Minds has been a large undertaking, involving many people and institutions. The project’s development team includes Diana Reiss from Hunter College’s Department of Psychology, who is best known for her work on mirror self-recognition among dolphins and elephants; and John Fraser, a conservation psychologist and educator currently serving as Director of the Institute for Learning Innovation’s New York office. Partner institutions include the Staten Island Zoo, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, the Oregon Zoo, the California Science Center, Santa Barbara Zoo, Science Central, Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, COSI (Center of Science and Industry), and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
Programming planned for Wild Minds will include NYSCI-style hands-on, do-it-yourself activities that you can try with animals in and around your home. What do you think your pet will think of that?
Queens kids got up close and personal with some mythical creatures at Dragon Boat Family Day at the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) on Saturday, July 16.
“Children are the future of the competition, so it is important to involve them with the Dragon Boats while they are young,” said Henry Wan, chairman for the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival (HKDBF), which will be held on Meadow Lake on August 13 and 14. “We are a family event and we look forward to seeing all of these kids at the festival.”
An actual Dragon Boat held center stage in NYSCI’s Great Hall and children marveled at the 40-foot long teak boat. Expert rowers and amateur athletes were also in attendance, passing their knowledge onto the next generation of racers.
Studying E-Books at the New York Hall of Science by Zachary Levine | Jul 18, 2011, published in The Cooney Center Blog.
Just over a week ago, I had the pleasure of assisting members of the Cooney Center staff in a two-day research study at the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) in Queens, NY. The study, conducted in corroboration with NYSCI, focused on the interaction between children (ages 3-5) and their caregivers when reading two different science books: one regular book and one on the iPad. Would the iPad serve as a distraction to children or would it actually promote as much parent-child conversation and interaction as the print book?
In order to answer these important questions, the children and their caregivers were asked a series of questions after each book was finished as well as at the end of the session. In theory, the research study seemed like a fantastic idea but you can never be certain until you try it out in the field. So, off we went to Queens. When we arrived at NYSCI for the study, Dr. David Kanter, who is founding director of SciPlay, warmly welcomed us. (SciPlay, formally known as The Sara Lee Schupf Family Center for Play, Science, and Technology Learning, was launched in 2010 as a design and research center fpr teaching children about science through play.) He then brought us to the Preschool Place, where we would be conducting our study. I was assigned the job of recruiting and signing up families for the study—a worthy job for a first time researcher! As families starting pouring into the museum I thought that recruiting would be a piece of cake. Boy was I wrong!
The main problem seemed to be that both the parents and their children didn’t want to sit down and read two books. They either didn’t have enough time or the kids refused. After all, a science museum with cool gadgets and a mini golf course is kind of hard to compete with! Nevertheless, once I got people to sign up for the study, everything went pretty smoothly thanks to the Cooney Center’s great research staff. Of course, a few families walked out in the middle of the study because their child couldn’t sit still, but overall, most families were very cooperative. In addition, I found that this type of research really excited a lot of families and many even asked us to put them on our mailing list so that they could see the study when it was finished. In the coming weeks we will be reviewing the results of the study and I think they will be quite fascinating. We hope to share them soon! I want to give a special thanks to Dr. David Kanter, Alice Stevenson, and the staff at the New York Hall of Science for their help at the museum. It was truly the perfect setup.
When you think of a coach, images of push-ups and laps around the track may come to mind. At NYSCI, our coach doesn’t carry a whistle or make you do jumping jacks, but she will help you think differently about science.
Jasmine Maldonado has been a Science Coach Specialist at NYSCI since 2007. She provides teachers with different approaches for their science lessons.
“The NYSCI approach is more hands-on and inquiry-based as opposed to just teaching out of a textbook,” says Jasmine. “We encourage teachers to ask their students questions that require explanations, not just yes or no answers.”
As a Science Coach Specialist, Jasmine is an integral contributor to The Partnership for Inner-City Education, which works to improve science education at Catholic schools in New York City. Jasmine visits schools new to the program on a weekly basis and checks on existing schools on a biweekly basis.
Since it’s start in 2007, the program has worked with approximately 100 teachers and 3,000 students. Participating schools have seen increased use of the school’s science labs, an increase in hands-on and inquiry-based science teaching across the grades, increased student participation in regional science and technology competitions, and improved state science exam scores.
Interest in the program is high. Two more schools were just added to the program during the 2010 – 2011 school year, with more expected next year. Due to demand, NYSCI is hoping to expand by bringing on another Science Coach Specialist.
In a study looking at the efficacy of the coaching model, The Partnership for Inner-City Education stated:
"NYSCI’s work with our schools has transformed the way science is being taught. Students are so engaged during and inspired by their science classes that they are dreaming about pursuing careers in science. The teachers are highly motivated by the children’s enthusiasm and want to continue to expand their knowledge in this subject."
Learn about dragon boats, test your strength and race on rowing machines, experience traditional Chinese dances including a Lion Dance, watch kung fu masters perform Chinese martial arts, and decorate a lion mask to take home.
A 40-foot-long dragon boat will be on display. This dragon boat will be participating in the boat races of the annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in New York in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
Dragon Boat competitors from all over the North East coast will be manning these ”ergometer” machines that have been modified to have paddles, and are hooked up to large display screens so visitors can race against each other.
Charlie & Kiwi's Evolutionary Adventure at a bookstore near you
NYSCI’s famous Charlie and Kiwi touring exhibit, curated and researched by our very own Science Interpretation Consultant, Martin Weiss, is now a best selling book presented and illustrated by award winning Peter H. Reynolds, and available on Amazon and at the NYSCI store. Charlie and Kiwi’s Evolutionary Adventure opened at NYSCI in May 2009, and then began touring the United States in August 2009. Since then, it has received rave reviews, tackling the subject of evolution in a manner that appeals to kids of all ages.
The answer, Charlie learns is simply evolutionary.
Presented by Peter Reynolds and FableVision and supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation, this is an easy to understand scientific adventure. Charlie and Kiwi (with help from great, great, great, great, great Grandpa Charles Darwin) take you on a journey through time and through a huge scientific principle. The story of evolution—and that strange little Kiwi bird—reminds us that sometimes what seems like a raw deal (a bird that can’t fly) turns out to be just perfect!
The New York Hall of Science is New York’s hands-on science and technology center. They promote science and technology as important tools that help us understand ourselves and the world we live in.
FableVision is an award-winning children’s media developer and book packager founded by Peter and Paul Reynolds.
Peter H. Reynolds is the bestselling author and illustrator of The Dot and Ish and illustrator for the New York Times #1 bestseller Someday by Alison McGhee. He is also the illustrator of Little Boy, Charlie and Kiwi and the Judy Moody series. He lives in Dedham, Mass. where he is co-owner of the Blue Bunny bookstore. Visit Peter online at peterhreynolds.com.
This week at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) annual conference in Philadelphia, a team of NYSCI Explainers and Interns presented the Virtual Hall of Science (VHOS) at the student showcase. VHOS is a virtual science center curated by NYSCI’s Instructors, Explainers and collaborating middle school students from our neighboring schools.
Explainers Valeria Aucapina and Charisse Sanchez and Interns Lauren Shum and Alexious Ross presented their VHOS exhibits to educators and technology professionals whose companies make and sell technology for educational purposes.
Teachers from the United States, Mexico, China and Japan expressed interest in learning more about VHOS and are eager to connect with NYSCI in this new medium. We are already planning our presentation for next year’s ISTE conference in San Diego.
Congratulations to Valeria, Charisse, Lauren and Alexious. Their great work is already being recognized. Lauren’s VHOS exhibit on renewable energy, earned her an invitation to mentor high school students in a technology program at Rutgers University. And the entire team was invited to attend the Science Online conference in North Carolina this coming January.
A research center connected with Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street, has partnered with NYSCI to study differences in learning between e-books and traditional print books.
Researchers from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop arrived at NYSCI yesterday to conduct the first day of their research with young visitors in Preschool Place. Studies will also be conducted on Friday and Saturday.
The research focuses on science books for children ages 3-5 and uses both traditional print and iPad platforms. The NYSCI-based studies comprise the first piece of a three-part R&D project driven by the following questions:
How does the co-reading experience differ on print and electronic platforms?
What implications do these differences have for science learning?
How can e-books be designed to maximize parent-child interactions?
The research at NYSCI examines the design of print and electronic science books. Design elements that are found to support parent-child interactions and child comprehension will be used in prototypes for the second phase of the study. The third and phase consists of the creation of an e-book maximizing parent-child engagement.
The collaboration between NYSCI and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center is undertaken by NYSCI’s Sara Lee Schupf Family Center for Play, Science, and Technology Learning (SciPlay). SciPlay was launched last September to build a national center of expertise in play-based learning. SciPlay researchers investigate how people of all ages can learn science, technology, engineering and math through play.
Collaborations with researchers such as those at the Joan Ganz Cooney Center play an important part of how SciPlay studies how to transform play into lifelong science learning.
More than 30 parent-child pairs will be recruited to participate in the first phase of this project. Cookies will not be provided.
This summer NYSCI unveils NYSCI Neighbors, a new membership category available to residents of our 11368 zip code. NYSCI Neighbors combats summer learning loss by providing families with unlimited access to NYSCI, along with a suite of resources including a guided orientation to NYSCI’s exhibits and programs, a reading list for the Science Technology Library, and a Field Journal to guide and document summer learning experiences at NYSCI.
In partnership with local schools, parent-teacher associations, and parent coordinators, NYSCI Neighbors deepens our connection with local families, excites parents and children about out-of-school learning, and positively influences how science—and NYSCI—are perceived in our community.
Josett Pacheco, Parent Coordinator at PS 19 in Corona says,
"Our parent community is very excited about the opportunity to participate in this program for the upcoming summer. Due to many budget cuts in our schools and community programs, something like this could not have come at a better time."
The multilingual orientation sessions and printed resources will address language and access barriers, and the field journals give students an opportunity to demonstrate their learning and encourage them to think of NYSCI as a fun destination within their community.
For decades, parents and educators have recognized the challenge of “summer learning loss”, a phenomenon where students lose from one to three months of learning progress during summer months. NYSCI Neighbors will keep students and their families engaged with fun and learning during school vacation months and also introduce NYSCI to new audiences, who will hopefully become year-round visitors. At the end of the summer, participants will be able to apply their NYSCI Neighbor status to an upgraded annual membership .
While focused on Corona in this inaugural year, NYSCI intends to expand the NYSCI Neighbors program beyond our immediate community next year.
“So much of learning is mediated through textbooks, and we know that in this day and age in the 21st century, we in fact need learning to happen in much richer, much more authentic kinds of settings,” says Margaret Honey, the president and chief executive officer of the New York Hall of Science.
NYSCI is proud to announce the launch of TeachersTryScience.org. A resource for teachers to collaborate on ideas and share their skills in science education. View the latest lessons plans posted by NYSCI and TeachEngineering and start uploading your teaching strategies by joining the TryScience community!
Teachers TryScience builds on the original TryScience.org, launched in 1999 as a portal for interactivity with more than 400 science and technology centers worldwide. TryScience.org offers activities, experiments and resources for field trips and classroom science learning.
With a little help from technology, people can see better, run faster, and do things more efficiently. NYSCI is currently working on an exhibition that will explore the user-focused engineering process that’s used to design products that enhance people’s abilities, from sneakers to eyeglasses, to wheelchairs and prosthetics. The exhibition, called Human+ (“Human Plus”), is a collaboration with the Quality of Life Technology Center (QoLT) and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). The end user figures prominently in building assisted technology products, so engineers have to consider the user at every stage of design. It is this process of asking, imagining, creating and testing that the exhibition will investigate.
Human+ won’t open until 2013, but NYSCI staff are already hard at work identifying projects to test with visitors. Working with a group of advisors that includes academics, engineers, and people with disabilities, NYSCI staff are searching for stories and projects that will capture the attention of museum visitors. A “soft-touch” robotic arm, a wheelchair with a snowplow attached, and prosthetic legs designed for running are some of the projects under consideration.
The exhibition’s main messages will include:
Engineering is a creative process that can design technologies to meet human needs and improve people’s lives.
Everyone can design something that helps people use their abilities to achieve their goals.
Users should be central to the design process.
Whether it’s sneakers or eyeglasses, or wheelchairs or prosthetics, everyone uses technology to accomplish things.
Opening in fall 2013 at NYSCI, Human+ will include examples of assisted technology projects, narratives from people with disabilities about how they have modified or designed technology to help them reach their goals, and stations where visitors can design and build products of their own.
NYSCI educators will be testing three educational games this June and July. Produced by SciPlay, NYSCI’s Sara Lee Schupf Family Center for Play, Science, and Technology Learning, the games will be prototyped with middle school students, and will eventually be adapted for use in NYSCI’s Science Playground.
The goal of the games is to have the students use experimentation to understand science concepts such as rotational and linear motion, force, velocity, friction, and kinetic and potential energy. In the Rotational Motion Game, kids explore circular motion by moving a small bowling ball in a circle using a mallet, while a camera and projector track and display the ball’s path. In the Cart Activity Game, students are challenged to create either constant velocity or acceleration by pushing a cart on a linear track. In the Slide Game, light sensors positioned at the top and bottom of a playground slide help calculate each student’s speed down the slide, allowing participants to investigate friction, and kinetic and potential energy.
The three games are part of research about playful learning that is at the core of SciPlay. SciPlay aims to create hands-on experiences that instill an understanding of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The activities created as a result of prototyping sessions and other research at SciPlay will be adapted for use in classrooms and playgrounds throughout the country.
The Design Lab, a project of NYSCI’s Verizon Center for STEM Learning, was profiled in the May 12 edition of Education Daily, a national publication for education professionals and policymakers. Dorothy Bennett, NYSCI’s director of design-based learning in schools, described the Design Lab as “a place where teachers can think outside the box and take some risks” with a goal of getting students engaged with science “in a kinesthetic way.”
Twenty Design Lab Fellows are working now through the summer on developing a suite of educational resources that will be available to teachers beginning in the 2011 – 2012 school year. A second class of Fellows will begin work in the fall.
Learning to love the chaos resulted from a day of prototyping at NYSCI for Brett’s thesis project, SoundStage.
SoundStage is an ambisonic surround sound mixer. By moving objects around the table, users can pan audio around the room and immerse themselves within a soundscape of their own creation.
In collaboration with SciPlay, Brett introduced SoundStage to NYSCI visitors, giving kids and parents an opportunity to put his prototype through its paces.
The outcome? SoundStage has potential for immersive storytelling with older kids. But for preschoolers, what Brett ultimately discovered is that SoundStage creates an environment for a unique sonic experience that leverages kids’ innate curiosity and tendency to play.