Kinect Tracking Video: by Design-IO at NYSCI

Prototyping for Puppet Parade, NYSCI’s artists in residence Design-IO, use a Kinect camera:


This is what the Kinect camera mounted above the screen sees. We needed to mount it in this way so we could easily see when someone’s arm was outstretched in front of them. 

Making Space for STEM

Move over textbooks. Step aside complicated instruction sheets. On Monday, an unusual space opens that will teach kids and adults how to create and build circuits, metalworks, quilts, crafts, robots, and most importantly, that wacky, out-there project that you were told could never be built.

Maker Space is a new area at NYSCI that is made possible thanks to an investment by Cognizant’s Making the Future education initiative. The space, designed by the Brooklyn-based firm Situ Studio, will feature workshops on topics like sewing, soldering, and programming using open-source hardware. But the real skills being honed will be collaboration, risk-taking, creativity and innovation. These are skills that are necessary for careers in STEM. And skills that will help prepare the next generation of leaders.

"Curiosity, creativity and collaboration all come together in the activities we have planned for this space…" said Margaret Honey, president and CEO of NYSCI. "The network of collaborators that will work with us in this new venue represent an inspiring pool of talent to give our visitors  – especially young children – the tools they need to nurture the innate human tendency to be creative and see the world differently."

Beginning in May, visitors to NYSCI can participate in workshops and drop-in sessions at the space. Topics will vary but will include sessions on the basics of soldering, sewing (using machines and equipment donated by SINGER® Sewing Company), and circuitry.

So forget your old notions of what you can and can’t accomplish. At Maker Space, there’s room for all your ideas, but there’s no space for limitations.

Recipes for STEM Learning

The woman looked at the items on the table. Vegetable oil, egg yolks, linseed oil and other ingredients. The elements for a perfect creation were right there in front of her, if only she could find the right combination.

The woman was not cooking. She was attending a workshop where participants mixed powdered pigments with everyday materials such as oils, soap and sand to create unique paints. The workshop was part of the conference Design, Make, Play Growing the Next Generation of Science Innovators, which was hosted by NYSCI in collaboration with O’Reilly Media and the White House Office of Science Technology Policy. Design, Make, Play brought together educators, policy leaders, university researchers, and makers to discuss how the kinds of do-it-yourself innovations on display at the annual World Maker Faire can become inspirations for reforming and improving the teaching and learning of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in schools.

Paints weren’t the only things created that day – wooden cars, mini bobsleds, robots, pop-up cards and other projects required participants to try out new techniques, find solutions to problems, and use their inventiveness.

So what’s the best recipe for getting kids and adults interested in science? Start with a base of make-inspired projects then add a dash of curiosity and a pinch of critical thinking. Innovation is sure to follow!

View photos from Design, Make, Play

Design, Make, Play’s lead sponsor is Time Warner Cable’s Connect a Million Minds. Additional support is provided by the National Science Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, and the Kauffman Foundation.

From Pop-Up Cards to Vibrocrafts

Participants at today’s Design, Make, Play: World Maker Faire Workshop, Phase Two spent the day exploring ways to enrich learning and increase student interest in science and math with projects that focus on making, designing and engineering. Workshop activities included making pop-up cards with LEDs, creating a robot from scratch, and building a wooden car, among others. The two-day workshop is a collaboration between NYSCI and O’Reilly Media.

Pictured: A conference attendee builds a Vibrocraft in a session presented by the Eli Whitney Museum.

NYSCI Explainers as Designers Project

For the past few weeks, NYSCI Explainers have been learning how to design and pitch a mobile application that would support one of the exhibits on the museum floor. On Tuesday, the four groups presented their app ideas to the President of NYSCI, Margaret Honey, and senior exhibit staff, of which one group was to be selected to get their app professionally developed and placed on the market. Congratulations to the “BioHatchers” group who won the competition!

With a Little Help From Technology

PST Rich Stimuli Data Collection Project

With a little help from technology, people can see better, run faster, and do things more efficiently. NYSCI is currently working on an exhibition that will explore the user-focused engineering process that’s used to design products that enhance people’s abilities, from sneakers to eyeglasses, to wheelchairs and prosthetics. The exhibition, called Human+ (“Human Plus”), is a collaboration with the Quality of Life Technology Center (QoLT) and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). The end user figures prominently in building assisted technology products, so engineers have to consider the user at every stage of design. It is this process of asking, imagining, creating and testing that the exhibition will investigate.

Human+ won’t open until 2013, but NYSCI staff are already hard at work identifying projects to test with visitors. Working with a group of advisors that includes academics, engineers, and people with disabilities, NYSCI staff are searching for stories and projects that will capture the attention of museum visitors. A “soft-touch” robotic arm, a wheelchair with a snowplow attached, and prosthetic legs designed for running are some of the projects under consideration.

The exhibition’s main messages will include:

  • Engineering is a creative process that can design technologies to meet human needs and improve people’s lives.
  • Everyone can design something that helps people use their abilities to achieve their goals.
  • Users should be central to the design process.
  • Whether it’s sneakers or eyeglasses, or wheelchairs or prosthetics, everyone uses technology to accomplish things.

Opening in fall 2013 at NYSCI, Human+ will include examples of assisted technology projects, narratives from people with disabilities about how they have modified or designed technology to help them reach their goals, and stations where visitors can design and build products of their own.