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!

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.

New York City from the Hudson River

“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.

CSO warning sign

            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.

CSO

            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.

Water sampling

World Maker Faire is Back!

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.


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.
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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.

Coaching Science in Catholic Schools

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." 

Now, go run another lap around the microscope.