Full STEAM Ahead

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STEM – the acronym popular with educators and policymakers – shortens the decidedly clunky phrase: science, technology, engineering and mathematics. But something seemed to be missing. So leaders from science, engineering, mathematics, education and design have been advocating incorporating art and design into STEM education. In other words, STEM should now be referred to as STEAM.

A writer from The Atlantic, who applauded the new STEAM acronym, quoted NYSCI’s President and CEO Margaret Honey as saying “It’s not about adding on arts education. It’s about fundamentally changing education to incorporate the experimentation and exploration that is at the heart of effective education.” 

Happiness is a Butterfly

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There are some things in life we’d be glad to see less of: bills, litter, standardized tests. Monarch butterflies are not one of them. The striking orange and black wings of the monarch make it one of the most favorite butterfly species in North America. Unfortunately, this year’s numbers of monarchs are the lowest ever on record. At their peak in 1996, monarchs covered nearly 45 acres of forest in their overwintering grounds in Mexico. This year, they covered only 1.65 acres.

So spare some space in your garden this year for milkweed. If you’ve seen our current 3D film Flight of the Butterflies, you know how important milkweed is to monarchs. Milkweed is where monarchs lay their eggs and is the only food source for monarch caterpillars.

Click here to learn how to plant milkweed and nectar-producing flowers to create your own butterfly garden. Then sit down quietly and wait for the butterflies to alight upon you.

Playable Fashion

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Computer hackers and fashion designers don’t usually have a lot in common. But this weekend at NYSCI, teenagers at the Playable Fashion workshop will be a little bit of both.

Twenty teens at the free, two-day workshop will learn how to hack a digital game and will design and create their own wearable, game controller glove. In the process, they’ll learn about sewing, circuits, switches, sensors and the digital tools needed to produce a video game. 

The program, a partnership between NYSCI, Eyebeam and the HIVE NYC Network, encourages a multidisciplinary approach to learning, covering skills in technology, fashion and video game design.

Scarier Than Halloween

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What’s scarier than Dracula, spookier than the headless horseman, and more disturbing than a Miley Cyrus Twerking costume?

Answer: A mysterious disease called white nose syndrome. The illness is killing North American bats by the millions. Named for the white fungus that appears on the infected bat’s face and wings, the disease infects colonies of bats, making them wake up from their hibernation and causing them to leave their caves in search of insects to eat…in the dead of winter, when it’s freezing cold and there’s no insects to be found. Since 2007, when the disease was first documented, nearly 6 million bats have died from the disease, making this one of our nation’s most critical wildlife issues.

So what can you do about it? Start by learning the truth about America’s bats. They won’t drink your blood or get tangled in your hair. In fact, they are an important part of our ecosystem. This weekend, we have a family-friendly program by the Organization for Bat Conservation that will teach you and your kids the basics about bats. Plus, you’ll even get to see a few live bats in person!

Sparking Curiosity

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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.

Reclaim It!

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Tonight, we are presenting the New York debut of Empire Drive-In, a
drive-in movie theater where the cars are provided. Movies, live
performances and the chance to climb in and out of wrecked cars has
people buzzing.

But a deeper message underlies the fun of the outdoor shows. Artists
Todd Chandler and Jeff Stark created Empire Drive-In to get people
thinking about creative reuse, our disposable car culture, and
technological obsolescence. The 60 cars in the installation come from
a Brooklyn junkyard, the 40-foot screen is made from salvaged wood,
and even the concession stand is made from recycled materials. The
artists reclaimed these discarded materials: piecing them together,
sprucing them up, and putting them to work again.

Now if only we could do the same for our government.

Free Climate Change Workshop

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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!

Roving for Science

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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.

The Last Reef Receives Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival Nominations

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The 3D movie The Last Reef, which explores the planet’s vanishing coral reefs, has been nominated in two categories of the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Competition: Best Immersive 3D/Large Format and Best Original Musical Score. The Film Competition is part of the prestigious Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival and is considered to be the Oscars of nature filmmaking. Winners will be announced on September 26. The Last Reef is showing in our 3D theater daily through September 9.

Leap Back in Time

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Move over iPhone, the Motorola Dyna TAC brick cellular phone is back in town. At least for the weekend, anyway. The Motorola, along with the Pong video game, the IBM Selectric typewriter, and other devices from bygone days will be available for hands-on exploration on Saturday and Sunday at NYSCI as part of the ChronoLeap: Technolution event.

The event complements ChronoLeap: The Great World’s Fair Adventure project that partnered the University of Central Florida with NYSCI and the Queens Museum of Art. The project created a free, downloadable game that transports users to a virtual version of the 1964/65 World’s Fair, along with educational programs and activities that accompany the game.

So put down that smartphone, rev up your time machine, and get to NYSCI this weekend!