Ready, Set, Go!

The race is on to get our nation’s kids up to speed on science. With U.S. students getting low global rankings in science and math proficiency, the need for innovative ways to interest youth in the sciences has never been more urgent.

We’re leading the way with SciGames, a new project developed by SciPlay, The Sara Lee Schupf Family Center for Play, Science, and Technology Learning. SciGames uses technology to turn playground play into interactive games. For instance, by attaching speed sensors to a common playground slide, the slide transforms into a powerful educational tool. Instead of simply racing to the bottom of the slide, kids can experiment with different variables, such as what type of material to sit on as they glide down the slide. This turns the act of sliding down a slide into a fun game that explores science concepts such as friction, and kinetic and thermal energy.

SciGames will also include the development of a mobile app that teachers and students can use to aggregate the data collected during the games on the playground and to conduct analysis of that data back in the classroom. This bridge between formal and informal learning environments is a hallmark of our initiatives to improve and reform education in science, technology, engineering and math.

As a finalist for a $3.44 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the SciGames project is poised to reach approximately 8,000 New York students over the next five years. We are one of only 23 foundations, museums and schools that are finalists for an Investing in Innovation Fund, or i3, grant. The i3 program supports projects that will improve student achievement or student growth, decrease dropout rates, or close achievement gaps.

So get ready. If the kids get high marks in this race, we’ll all wind up winning.

A swing + falling water = Waterfall Swing

The Waterfall Swing is a 19’ tall steel swing set with a computer controlled interactive water plane, capable of making shapes and text. Using water released from solenoid valves, a plane is created in front of the swing rider, a sensor tells the machine the rider’s position as shapes and messages descend around the rider’s path.

Check out the Waterfall Swing this weekend at World Maker Faire, NYC.

Playful Learning at NYSCI

Linear Motion Animation Still

NYSCI educators will be testing three educational games this June and July. Produced by SciPlay, NYSCI’s Sara Lee Schupf Family Center for Play, Science, and Technology Learning, the games will be prototyped with middle school students, and will eventually be adapted for use in NYSCI’s Science Playground.

The goal of the games is to have the students use experimentation to understand science concepts such as rotational and linear motion, force, velocity, friction, and kinetic and potential energy. In the Rotational Motion Game, kids explore circular motion by moving a small bowling ball in a circle using a mallet, while a camera and projector track and display the ball’s path. In the Cart Activity Game, students are challenged to create either constant velocity or acceleration by pushing a cart on a linear track. In the Slide Game, light sensors positioned at the top and bottom of a playground slide help calculate each student’s speed down the slide, allowing participants to investigate friction, and kinetic and potential energy.

The three games are part of research about playful learning that is at the core of SciPlay. SciPlay aims to create hands-on experiences that instill an understanding of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The activities created as a result of prototyping sessions and other research at SciPlay will be adapted for use in classrooms and playgrounds throughout the country.

Recent Press

Giant Spider Web at the Science PlaygroundNYSCI has been the focus of much media interest over the past month. Just this week, the Daily News reported on the $2 million award we received from Google to launch the Global Science Technology Initiative. Earlier this month, the Daily News also covered the kickoff planning meeting for World Maker Faire 2011.

The New York Times featured NYSCI’s Science Playground in an April 15 article about the most extraordinary play spaces in New York City. And the April 23 edition of the Times quoted both Margaret Honey and Maker Faire’s Dale Dougherty in an article about online instructions for do-it-yourself kits.