Making Design Lab: be inspired.


Bling is the Thing

Late last month, 450 of New York’s top business and community leaders gathered to discuss important topics such as the need to engage our youth in the sciences, the challenge of mitigating climate change, the direction of our nation’s educational system, and … how to create your own bling.

Using an LED and a battery, the Create-Your-Own-Bling project was a big hit at this year’s Evening of Science and Inspiration, NYSCI’s annual fundraising gala, which raised $1 million to support NYSCI’s research and programs. Using a theme of Design, Make, Play, the evening included activities such as building paper air dancers, writing laser graffiti, and doodling in the dark.

This year’s honorees included Google, which received the Vision & Benture Award for bold corporate vision to establish a creative corporate environment for achievement in science and technology; Kevin Parker, head of Deutsche Bank Global Asset Management, who received the Global Science Award for world-renowned excellence in engineering, technology and visionary leadership; and John Slaughter, the first African-American director of the National Science Foundation and former CEO of the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, who was awarded the Distinguished Leadership Award for transformation, ingenuity and excellence in science.

Making and Education

Photo: Andrew Kelly

On September 17, more than 300 people packed into NYSCI’s auditorium to hear a panel of experts discuss the impact that “making” can have on education and innovation. The panel, called “Making, Education, and Innovation,” was held on the first day of World Maker Faire, a festival celebrating invention, creativity and the do-it-yourself movement.

Margaret Honey, NYSCI’s president and CEO, participated in the panel as an expert on children’s education. Margaret explained that NYSCI works to

“create experiences, particularly for young people, that are inspirational and, like Maker Faire, are catalytic and transformative … Places like science centers or children’s museums or other kinds of community-based organizations are also really important hubs for community activity because we’re less of a barrier and more of a resource that engages.”

Other panel experts included Tom Kalil, deputy director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Dale Dougherty, founder of MAKE Magazine, co-founder of O’Reilly Media, and creator of Maker Faire; and Francisco D’Souza, CEO and president of Cognizant.

The entire panel discussion can be viewed online here.

Photo: Andrew Kelly

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.

Blow, Blow, Thou Maker Wind

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!

World Maker Faire is Back!

An Explainer in Crow Canyon

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.”

Mayor Bloomberg & Space Shuttle Atlantis Astronauts, a set on Flickr.
Mayor Bloomberg and the crew of Space Shuttle Atlantis in Rocket Park for a photo op with local media.  The crew is in NYC on a whirlwind tour marking the culmination of the Shuttle program, but had enough time for a Q&A with our excited NYSCI Explainers.

Mayor Bloomberg & Space Shuttle Atlantis Astronauts, a set on Flickr.

Mayor Bloomberg and the crew of Space Shuttle Atlantis in Rocket Park for a photo op with local media.

The crew is in NYC on a whirlwind tour marking the culmination of the Shuttle program, but had enough time for a Q&A with our excited NYSCI Explainers.

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.

Making Science Hip

Deconstruction Zone

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.