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.

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!

Saturday is for Storytelling

This Saturday night at NYSCI, visitors can collaborate on a story with digital artist and performer, Haeyoung Kim. Part performance, part workshop, Kim’s Moori will use audience members to help create a dynamic narrative. Users will download the Moori app, and use the app to pose questions and answers, and to generate algorithmic sounds and visuals. The result will be an interactive performance featuring collaboration among audience members. Part of Harvestworks’ 2013 New York Electronic Arts Festival, the event begins at 4 pm with Night Games, an interactive dance game, followed by cocktails at 6 pm, and EXPOSED – Sound featuring Moori at 6:30 pm.

Haeyoung Kim is based in New York City and explores the texture of sounds in electronic music. Her work has been presented in various museums and galleries including the American Museum of the Moving Image, PS1, Nam June Paik Center in Korea, and Kunsthalle in Austria.

Get Your Dance On

This Saturday, dance the afternoon away on a science-inspired dance floor at Night Games. Using 3D surround sound and Playstation move technology, dancer’s movements are analyzed by software and used to modify the dance experience. The movements and instrument choices of the dancers create the music, and costumed creatures encourage revelry and participation in this collaborative performance. Throughout the dance, Night Games brings a conscious awareness to participants that their individual actions impact the collective ecosystem. So bring your enthusiasm, good vibes and your best moves to NYSCI this Saturday!

It’s a Small World

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Last week, ten thousand miles from New York, students learned about microorganisms from one of our educators. Anthony Negron, manager of our Virtual Visit program, employed videoconferencing technologies to connect with St. Kevin’s Primary School in Sydney, Australia. Using microscopes, NYSCI exhibits, and a live feed of various microorganisms, the students learned where the tiny creatures are found, and how to classify them. The program helped to launch a new technology room at the Australian school and was attended by students, parents and educators.

Brett Salakas of St. Kevin’s Primary School and coordinator of the event called the program a “wonderful experience” that “greatly enhanced our science unit on microorganisms. The well-balanced program gave the students an insight in the topic which we could not provide here in a regular classroom.”

Design, Make, Play

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.”

Where’d You Get Those Pants?

imageA 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.

Biomodd’s Spongebot is a recent addition to their installation at NYSCI. Come see Biomodd as part of NYSCI’s exhibition ReGeneration, on through Jan 13.

LED Grow Lights like the ones we’re making today at NYSCI

LED Grow Lights like the ones we’re making today at NYSCI

Next at NYSCI: ReGeneration

New York Hall of Science Presents ReGeneration, Opening October 27

Ten artists present their interpretations of cultural sustainability

Queens, N.Y.ReGeneration, a new exhibition exploring the relationship between sustainability and cultural vitality, opens October 27 at the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI). The exhibition includes interactive works by 10 artists that inspire visitors to think about the notion of cultural sustainability through collaborative engagement and futuristic visions built upon the history and traditions of New York’s diverse neighborhoods. The exhibition runs through January 13, 2013.

 

Despite the near ubiquity of the term “sustainability,” there remains significant ambiguity about everything from the actual meaning of the term to overarching solutions to the challenges we face as a community. Technology and behavioral changes including energy production, agriculture, recycling and pollution reduction are all on the table as we work to understand and address the challenge of sustainability.

View the exhibition site here.

ReGeneration is an exhibition about the future,” says NYSCI president and CEO, Margaret Honey. “We challenged the artists to take inspiration from science and imagine a future where we live sustainably, not just in the foods we eat or the materials we use, but in our fundamental approach to how we view our communities and the interdependence between people and our environment.”

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