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.
We are super excited to welcome our (end of) summer collaborators from BioBus
BioBus is the world’s only mobile microscope lab powered by the sun and wind and it is docking in Rocket Park to run bio labs with NYSCI Explainers for our visitors. Using daphnia and a variety of other specimens, BioBus staff will lead hands-on activities with their high powered microscopes to help visitors explore micro-organisms and learn about cell division, development, etc.
The staff and bus arrived at NYSCI on Monday, July 28th, and will be with us through Maker Faire, running their labs for groups and sharing their work and equipment with the general public: Tuesdays through Fridays (9:30am-3:30pm).
From time to time, BioBus will be closed for installation as they commence with their install of 9 polycrystalline silicon photovoltaic solar panels with maximum power point tracking charge controllers.
By Maker Faire 2013, the BioBus roof will be covered in solar cells! At a maximum energy output of 2.25 kilowatts (kW), this system will allow for sun-run science any day and anywhere!
Last Saturday, 30 high school students turned into museum educators, helping our visitors understand microbiology, camouflage, skull anatomy, genetic diversity, matter, cellular structure and UV radiation. They provided info, instructions and encouragement to approximately 200 visitors who were trying out various hands-on activities.
The program is part of a partnership between NYSCI and ExpandEd, which is designed to provide high school students with experiences beyond traditional school classrooms. Throughout the Spring, the students participated in a 10-week program at NYSCI where they learned about the scientific method, astronomy, genetics, ecology, evolution, microbiology and other science topics. Saturday’s hands-on activities represented the conclusion of the 10-week program. But you may interact with some of them at our exhibits this summer: Twelve of the students will continue on with summer internships at NYSCI as Junior Explainers.
More than 60 of our Corona neighbors visited us today as part of a special museum initiative called NYSCI Neighbors. Parents of students from P.S. 14, P.S. 16 and P.S. 307, along with school faculty, were treated to a special bilingual (English/Spanish) chemistry demonstration and 3-D movie showing. In addition, Jessica Castillo, an Explainer at NYSCI, led the group on a bilingual tour of various exhibitions, including the Science Playground, the Search for Life Beyond Earth, and Sports Challenge.
Families and faculty of participating NYSCI Neighbor schools are eligible for a NYSCI Neighbors membership that offers borrowing privileges for NYSCI’s library and access to multilingual tours. The program began in 2011 to connect residents of neighboring Queens communities with our science resources and programs.
Photo: NYSCI Explainer Jessica Castillo tours a NYSCI Neighbors group through the Search for Life Beyond Earth exhibition.
Last month, NYSCI entered the publishing world with our new book: Design, Make, Play: Growing the Next Generation of STEM Innovators. Published by Routledge, the book includes case studies of innovative programs throughout the country that get young people interested in science and technology. Programs like the Tinkering Studio at San Francisco’s Exploratorium, the MAKESHOP at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, and Design Lab here at NYSCI.
With a shortage of Americans in science and technology fields, this is a book everyone should read. As Ursula Burns, Chairperson and CEO of Xerox Corporation, said,
“If you care about the future of our country, you should read this book and then put its lessons to work.”
Last week, new guidelines for K–12 science education were released. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were developed by 26 states, along with the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Achieve. The standards emphasize critical thinking over content memorization and identify science and engineering practices that students should master to be fully prepared for college and careers.
NGSS also recommends that students learn about climate change. For the last two years, we have partnered with Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management on a program called My Carbon Footprint, an educational initiative designed to build awareness about climate change science. As a result of this project, we have developed two climate change curriculums – one for middle schools and one for high schools – that include hands-on activities that give students the foundation they need to understand climate change. Both curriculums align to the seven crosscutting scientific and engineering concepts identified in the NGSS framework: patterns; cause and effect; scale, proportion, and quantity; systems and system models; energy and matter: flows, cycles and conservation; structure and function; stability and change. The curriculums can be downloaded for free and can help guide teachers who implement climate change science lessons into their classrooms.
The NGSS guidelines are voluntary, but many educators are applauding the move away from rote memorization. Our president and CEO, Margaret Honey, said in a recent USA Today article that children should be taught
“how to learn and how to be discerning…When I was a kid, education was memorizing and learning lots of facts — that methodology of teaching absolutely no longer makes sense. That’s not the world we live in anymore.”
A quirky fashion trend has been spotted around the city: crazily patterned pants with blue plaid, harlequin checks, and orange and brown swirls. The pants have crossed age and gender lines, with males and females, young and old, wearing the trendsetting garments.
The pants can’t be found at your neighborhood Gap store or at your favorite vintage clothing shop. In fact, they’re not really clothing at all, but a small photograph of pants attached to a thin stick. Using the “StickPic”, the camera on your mobile device, and a willing fashion victim, you can create a fun photo of someone wearing the crazy pants. But to make the photo truly come alive, you’ll need to use a little math.
StickPics are part of Digital Design Lab, a new project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that will create mobile apps for use in classrooms throughout the country. The Fancy Pants app, to be released later this year, will be the first of four apps that will turn your mobile phone into a scientific and mathematical tool. Fancy Pants will focus on proportions and forced perspective photography – math concepts that allow you to take a photo of your friend “wearing” those outrageous pants. Digital Design Lab will also include web videos with science-based design challenges and a website where students can post their ideas and solutions.
The central part of this project, however, are the apps, which will allow users to measure and document unexpected phenomena – like that guy wearing those pink psychedelic pants.