Glass vials, a row of chemicals, and an alcohol lamp. Perhaps nothing symbolized the excitement of science in the early to mid-20th century better than a chemistry set. The classic kits got kids tinkering, experimenting and thinking about science. In the process, they inspired a generation of inventors and scientists, some of whom became Nobel Prize-winners. But somewhere along the way, spurred by safety concerns and legal changes, chemistry sets faded in popularity.
A new competition, launched this week, aims to find the 21st century version of the classic chemistry set. A collaboration between the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Society for Science & the Public, the Science, Play and Research Kit competition (SPARK) challenges participants to generate a new set of experiences and activities that encourage imagination and interest in science, bringing the spirit of the classic chemistry set to today’s children.
Margaret Honey, NYSCI’s president and CEO, is an advisor to the competition, which will offer tangible ways to get more kids experimenting with science.
The competition’s top award is for the best science kit prototype with a prize of $50,000. Additional prizes ranging from $1,000 – $25,000 will be awarded for runners-up and idea submissions.
Earlier this month, the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society published research citing that emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels was partly responsible for about half a dozen extreme weather events in 2012.
It’s clear we all need to do our part to deal with this issue. Here at NYSCI, we’ve been focusing on education. In partnership with Deutsche Bank, we developed climate change curriculums for use in middle schools and high schools. The curriculums can be downloaded for free on the My Carbon Footprint blog.
And now, we’re offering a free workshop about climate change communications on Thursday, October 10 from 10 am – 3:30 pm. Part of our work with the Climate and Urban Systems Partnership (CUSP), the workshop is designed for organizations and institutions that want to introduce climate change messaging into their existing programs. The workshop is open not only to groups with a primary focus of climate change education, but also to organizations interested in city systems, such as transportation or public health, that will be affected by climate change. Registration for this workshop is open through September 30. Do your part and register!
Last Tuesday, Mars rover Curiosity completed its first autonomous mission, a major milestone for the rover, which has been on Mars for over a year. Back here on Earth, we had our own rover-related milestone: a new rover for the Search for Life Beyond Earth exhibition.
Rover Camille is a robotic replica of a Mars rover that helps our visitors learn about the Red Planet. Named after Camille Beatty, one of the rover’s creators, the robot is made from 750 parts, many of which were built from scratch. But perhaps the most extraordinary part of this story is the creators themselves; two young girls from North Carolina built the rover with their father in their garage.
Camille, age 13, and sister Genevieve, age 11, worked together on soldering, machining, designing and assembling the rover. Just last month, the rover was unveiled to an appreciative crowd at NYSCI.
The two girls are currently working on a second rover for NYSCI, to be named Genevieve. As for rover Camille – will she be given a chance to roam free like Curiosity? Not likely. But word on the street is she’s been eyeing the two rockets located just outside her exhibit.