Is Organic Better? Ask a Fruit Fly -
That’s what Ria Chhabra, a 13 year old from Texas, did. When in a debate with her parents over the value of organic products over conventional ones, she decided to scientifically prove it one was better than the other
Originally, she tested the vitamin C levels in organic fruits and compared them to conventional ones. She found that vitamin C was higher in the organic produce, and decided she wanted to study the consequences this finding could have on health. So she did what any other kid would do - research an animal model and reach out to college professors across the country to find someone interested in helping her finish the project.
One professor, Dr. Bauer at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, called her back. While “he would not normally agree to work with a middle-school student”, Dr. Bauer and Ria worked successfully to feed fruit flies different diets and test the effects of diet on their health. Ria’s work was published by the lab and then by a scientific journal. It is titled “Organically Grown Food Provides Health Benefits to Drosophila melanogaster” and available online. (For the record, she proved that Drosophila fruit flies fared far better on organic bananas and potatos than conventionally grown options.)
Today at 16, Ria continues to work with Dr. Bauer, now studying Type 2 Diabetes with fruit flies. Her family and friends are confident not in only in their choice to purchase organic foods but also that Ria will have a plethora of colleges to choose from in the coming years. Not bad for a 13 year old!
Last month, NYSCI entered the publishing world with our new book: Design, Make, Play: Growing the Next Generation of STEM Innovators. Published by Routledge, the book includes case studies of innovative programs throughout the country that get young people interested in science and technology. Programs like the Tinkering Studio at San Francisco’s Exploratorium, the MAKESHOP at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, and Design Lab here at NYSCI.
With a shortage of Americans in science and technology fields, this is a book everyone should read. As Ursula Burns, Chairperson and CEO of Xerox Corporation, said,
“If you care about the future of our country, you should read this book and then put its lessons to work.”
Last week, new guidelines for K–12 science education were released. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were developed by 26 states, along with the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Achieve. The standards emphasize critical thinking over content memorization and identify science and engineering practices that students should master to be fully prepared for college and careers.
NGSS also recommends that students learn about climate change. For the last two years, we have partnered with Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management on a program called My Carbon Footprint, an educational initiative designed to build awareness about climate change science. As a result of this project, we have developed two climate change curriculums – one for middle schools and one for high schools – that include hands-on activities that give students the foundation they need to understand climate change. Both curriculums align to the seven crosscutting scientific and engineering concepts identified in the NGSS framework: patterns; cause and effect; scale, proportion, and quantity; systems and system models; energy and matter: flows, cycles and conservation; structure and function; stability and change. The curriculums can be downloaded for free and can help guide teachers who implement climate change science lessons into their classrooms.
The NGSS guidelines are voluntary, but many educators are applauding the move away from rote memorization. Our president and CEO, Margaret Honey, said in a recent USA Today article that children should be taught
“how to learn and how to be discerning…When I was a kid, education was memorizing and learning lots of facts — that methodology of teaching absolutely no longer makes sense. That’s not the world we live in anymore.”
Most New Yorkers are familiar with Whole Foods Market, supplier of natural and organic foods across NYC and the country. What you may not know, however, is that they are opening a new location in Gowanus, Brooklyn later in the year - complete with rooftop greenhouse.
Whole Foods has teamed up with the local greenhouse produce organization Gotham Greens in order to build the first Whole Foods with food that will be grown and sold on site. Gotham Greens will “produce premium quality, pesticide-free produce year round” for the Gowanus location as well as other stores within the city.
Besides ensuring freshness of product, rooftop farming also uses less energy and resources for growth and transport. Instead of talking about how many miles food travels, Whole Foods is reducing their carbon footprint to footsteps! Urban farming makes productive use of highly underutilized space in crowded cities with little room for gardening or farming and is a highly sustainable and climate-friendly choice.
Would you be more inclined to purchase fruits and veggies that come right from one of your neighborhood rooftops? Is urban farming the farming of the future?
The Mars Rover is constructed of over 500 electrical components and aluminum parts that we purchase, make by hand, and/or machine on our homemade CNC Mill. In addition to the NASA-style six-wheeled rocker-bogie suspension system and the solar panels, the new Mars Rover is equipped with an infrared camera, a thermal array sensor, eight sonar sensors, and other technology. Using special control software that we will provide, kids and other visitors to the center will drive the Mars Rover remotely through the exhibit’s Mars-scape on a mission to find infrared-emitting rocks that may provide evidence of past life on Mars.
People are buzzing about the anticipated influx of billions of cicadas to the eastern United States. Some are eagerly awaiting their arrival, while others are sure to be spooked by the insects’ beady red eyes and orange wings.
The New York area is part of the Magicicada Brood II’s range and can expect to see the insects sometime in April or May. After spending 17 years underground, they will emerge when the ground, at 8 inches deep, reaches a steady temperature of 64 degrees Fahrenheit. To help residents predict the emergence of the bugs, NYSCI has teamed up with Radiolab and WNYC to offer workshops on how to build your own cicada detector. Participants will use the detectors to observe the ground temperature at their homes and record their findings on a special website. In the process, they’ll learn some DIY skills and citizen science, while helping the rest of us prepare for the cicadas’ appearance.
Busy at work at our #Skateboard Making Camp #juniorhigh
According to a recent Huffington Post article highlighting new research on the food industry, diet sodas - which millions turn to in order to cut their calorie intake - can actually be worsefor your body than regularly sweetened sodas.
A study of over 66,000 women during 14 years, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that diet soda drinkers are more likely to be overweight and that these diet sodas raised their risk for Type 2 Diabetes more than if they drank regular soda.
Here’s some of the science on why -
The food industry is deceptively creative with things like diet sodas. For more information on diet sodas as well as other processed food secrets, check out the article here and in the mean time, remember - all natural fruit juice is the best drink to have if you or your kids are looking for some liquid fuel.