Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Making the Invisible, Visible with iPads

This is a guest post from Maggie Keeler (@KeelerMS).

Microscope work in science class is often a solitary endeavor. Traditionally, one student searches to find a seemingly invisible organism while patiently waiting for the teacher to come confirm that they’ve found it. Not anymore! With the MotiConnect App from Motic, this isolated experience becomes collaborative. MotiConnect allows you to connect up to six iPads wirelessly to a Moticam X camera or digital microscope with Moticam software. Each student is then able to capture images, record videos, annotate, and measure images from the microscope.

The video below captures Osmosis in a Red Onion through a MotiConnect microscope.

Top Five Reasons Why I like MotiConnect?

#5. Unlike some other iPad Microscope cameras, MotiConnect does not require a hardwire connection to iPad. This allows multiple students to access the camera simultaneously and to independently choose when/what images or video he or she wants to capture.

#4. Moticam cameras generate their own Wi-Fi signal, so you don’t have to worry about whether your school network is running slowly or might go down during class.

#3. The Moticam X camera works on microscopes and dissecting scopes. It also has a macro setting which makes it possible to document experiments that wouldn’t be safe to observe up close. For example, the process of making alum from aluminum cans in a fume hood in chemistry class.

#2. MotiConnect makes microscope work accessible to more students. Traditional microscopes can be very difficult for students with visual or motor disabilities to use. By using MotiConnect and the iOS accessibility features, more students are able to experience the microscopic world first hand.

#1. Because the MotiConnect app saves images and video to the camera roll, the possibilities for sharing and app smashes are endless.  

Maggie will be leading an iPads in the Middle & High School Pre-Conference workshop at the November 12-14 iPad Summit in Boston. She will also be presenting "How to Bring Your Lab Notebook into the 21st Century: The Ultimate STEAM App Smash."

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Mercy HS Goes "High Tech & Wireless" with Swift Scopes

Swift microscopes helped Mercy High School students in Baltimore to go "high tech and wireless." As Kim Dacy of WBALTV11 reports, the students at Mercy think the new technology is "amazing."

Check out the show transcript here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Are Kangaroo Farts Eco-Friendly?

In the latest issue of Fisher Science Education's Headline Discoveries, Samba Lampich goes where few will go: farts. That's right, Lampich talks about the off-putting pungent smells that normally linger much longer than you'd want them to whether they come from a pet or a loved one. 

What we didn't expect to encounter as we made our way through Lampich's smelly piece, though, was that unlike other ruminants, kangaroo farts have been known to contain about 80% less methane than cows. Methane is the most potent of greenhouse gases (GHG) and according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the total emission from global livestock is 7.1 Gigatonnes of CO2  equivalent per year, which represents 14.5% of all anthropogenic GEG emissions. That being said, the amount of methane in kangaroo farts (or lack there of, for that matter) is impressive.

Lampich talks about microbiologist Scott Godwin of Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry in Brisbane, Austrailia, and his colleagues, who investigated the microbes in kangaroos' digestive tracts and published their findings in the March 13 issue of The ISME Journal. 

While most animals create carbon dioxide and hydrogen when they digest their food, animals like cows and sheep have microbes in their guts called methanogens that create methane. After looking at three wild eastern gray kangaroos, Godwin and his team found some methane-making microbes in the kangaroos' samples, but they also found  other active microbes including acetogens. These microbes take in carbon dioxide and hydrogen to produce acetate, which becomes a source of energy for the kangaroos.

Now that researchers know why kangaroos produce less methane, they need to figure out if implanting kangaroo microbes, which included the acetogens, into livestock would reduce their methane production. This would help reduce global warming!

Check out Lampich's full article, complete with a vocabulary list and factoids, along with the rest of the most recent issue of Headline Discoveries here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

In Honor of Shark Week: Science & Sharks!

It's that time of year again: shark week has dawned on the Discovery Channel and millions are tuning in every night to watch real-life Jaws survival stories and the tale of Megalodon. But what if everything they showed on Discovery Channel wasn't true? Ed Yong of National Geographic certainly doesn't believe that the prehistoric Megalodon that enchanted so many early in the week is true.

He said in an article published on National Geographic's website earlier today, "...the show was filled with lies, fabrications and actors playing scientists."

But if Megalodon isn't real, what is?! Here are some great shark facts that Yong brought to the table.
  • Thresher Sharks Hunt with Huge Weapon-like Tails: Though most sharks are most dangerous at their front end, thresher sharks are the exception. These guys have managed to weaponise their tails, making them deadly from the front or the back. Even worse, the top halves of their scythe-like tail fins are so enormous they can be as long as the rest of the shark!
  • Shark Dads Lose Babies to Unborn Cannibal Siblings: Inside its mothers' womb, an unborn tiger shark is busy devouring its brothers and sisters. It's just 10 centimeters long, but it already has well-developed eyes and a set of sharp teeth, which it turns against its smaller siblings. By the time the pregnant female gives birth, she only has two babies left - one in each of its two wombs. I guess the life of a tiger shark is a shark-eat-shark world - literally.
  • Prehistoric Great White Shark Had Strongest Bite in History: While the toothy jaws of the great white might be the most famous in the animal kingdom thanks to Hollywood, the great white's mouth has received very little experimental attention. Just recently, Stephen Wroe from the University of New South Wales has put the great white's skull through a digital crash-test, to work out just how powerful its bite was. A medium-sized great white, 2.5m in length and 240kg, could bite with a force of 0.3 tonnes. But the largest individuals can exert a massive 1.8 tonnes with their jaws, giving them one of the most powerful bites among any living animal. Cue the scary Jaws music...!
To read even more "actual facts" from Yong, check out his full article.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Let's Rock!: Build a Bottle Rocket This Summer

Have you ever wondered what launches a rocket? Would you ever guess that it was something as simple as built up pressure? Well try it our for yourself and make a bottle rocket in your backyard this weekend!

Here's what you'll need:
  • An empty plastic bottle
  • Cardboard made into a cone and 4 fins
  • A cork
  • A pump with a needle adapter
  • Water
Now let's get started:
  1. Push the needle adapter of the pump through the cork and make sure it goes all the way through. To do this you may have to trim the cork down a little bit.
  2. Take your cardboard cone and fins and apply them to the bottle. (The cone at the top and the four fins at the bottom, so that the bottle resembles a rocket.)
  3. Fill the bottle with water until it's about a quarter full and then push the cork in tightly.
  4. Attach the pump to the needle adapter. If your bottle rocket won't stand up on it's own with the fins you made, rest it on a table, but if you make strong fins, you should fine and your bottle should stand up on its own.
  5. Pump air into the bottle and prepare for lift off! Make sure that everyone is standing away from the bottle as it will go up in the air with force after just a few seconds.

So what about the science? Check out Science Spark's explanation.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Science & The 2014 World Cup Ball

Despite all of the buzz surrounding the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, scientists are keeping a very close eye on the ball.

As NPR reported, this year's ball, known as the Brazuca, has been the subject of intense and careful study, especially after the unpredictable performance of of its predecessor in the 2010 tournament in South Africa.

Though traditional soccer balls have 32 black and white panels, the rule book doesn't actually specify how many panels are on the ball or what shape the panels will be. So, in 2006, the maker of the World Cup balls, Adidas, started producing balls with fewer panels. The ball for the South Africa World Cup in 2006 just had eight. 

While Adidas claimed the new ball was state-of-the-art and rounder, John Eric Goff, a physicist at Lynchburg College in Virginia, explained that it got off to a rough start.

"When the players would try to kick the ball straight...there would be an erratic knuckling effect that would take place." 

This would infuriate goalkeepers, one calling it it a "supermarket" soccer ball. After more complaints started filing in, NASA's Ames Research Center in California got involved. After taking a look at the roundness of the 2010 ball, Ames found that the difference in the number of panels had changed the seams between the panels, and that in turn radically altered the ball's behavior. 

Bring on the 2014 World Cup, and Adidas has changed the design of the ball again. Now, it appears that the new ball has longer, deeper seams that keep it from swerving.

Read NPR's full report on the World Cup soccer ball here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Summer Science: Magic with Milk

Beat the heat with this great summer science experiment! Grab these typical household items and start a journey full of exploration and discovery. In this popular Dr. Mad Science experiment, you and your young scientists will observe how milk reacts with food coloring and soap.

Here's what you'll need:
  • Milk (it is recommended that you use 2%)
  • A bowl
  • Food coloring
  • Q-tips
  • Dish Soap (it is recommended that you use Dawn)
Now let's get started:
  1. Start by filling the bowl with milk and waiting for all the bubbles to go away.
  2. Put a large amount of food coloring in the center of the milk.
  3. Take Q-tips and dip them into the dish soap. Then put them in the middle of the bowl for 15 seconds.
  4. Watch as the food coloring expands on the surface of the milk.
So what about the science? Well here it is: milk contains protein and really small amounts of fat in it. Both proteins and fat are sensitive to chemical changes. The chemicals in the dish soap weaken the chemical bonds that hold the protein together in the milk solution and the food coloring allows us to visually see the changes in the protein molecules. Likewise, the soap molecules cause the fat in the milk to mix and swirl until the fat has been distributed across the entire amount of the milk.

Watch Dr. Mad Science do it!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

It's Summertime: Melting Ice Experiment

It's that time of year again: school's out for summer! That means your kids are at home and when they're not away at camp or outside enjoying the warm weather, they need something to do. So why not work a little learning into their schedule?

Give this ice melting experiment a try and you'll stay cool in the summer heat. Here's what you'll need:
  • Bowls or Dishes (for making the ice)
  • A large tray with sides
  • Salt
  • Liquid watercolors or food coloring
  • Droppers or a spoon
Once you have your materials together, get started!
  1. Fill all of your bowls or dishes with water and freeze them overnight. Shallow bowls work great with this experiment!
  2. The next morning, loosen the ice in the bowls with a little bit of warm water and place them face down on your tray. A large baking sheet that has sides will work fine.
  3. Give your kiddos a small bowl of their own salt - and regular table salt works great - and have them sprinkle it over the top of the ice domes.
  4. Once you start to see that the salt is melting the ice and little ravines and crevices are forming, bust out the liquid watercolors. (Or water dyed with food coloring.)
  5. Put your liquid watercolors in small jars and place one dropper in each.
  6. Squeeze the watercolors on the ice in small sections and don't be afraid to use more than one color on an ice dome.
  7. Observe how the color highlights all of the ravines, crevasses and tunnels that are forming as the ice melts. 
  8. Discuss what reaction takes place that makes the ice melt in the way that it does. 
Once you're all finished, go outside and check out the ice light catchers you created while you watch them melt some more. Throw in another discussion about the differences in the ways that the ice melts when salt is applied and when heat from the sun is applied. 

The Artful Parent did this experiment with her girls. Check out how it went!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Teach for America's Joe Koglin Leaves Corporate America for the STEM Classroom

Joe Koglin of Teach for America's Greater New Orleans Corps class of 2011 shared his story with STEMblog and we want to share it with you! After working in finance for a multinational conglomerate for six years, Koglin made the bold decision to leave corporate America for the classroom. 

As he writes in his post on STEMblog, "While my position had it all from the outside - the title, salary, and gravitas that comes with many STEM jobs - I craved something which would allow me to use my skills to help directly empower people and communities." 

After enough consideration to drive anyone crazy, Koglin wondered if he was even qualified to step into a classroom. "The answer was a resounding yes," he writes. "The vast majority of experiences from the STEM private sector transfer into classroom leadership." 

Koglin couldn't be more right. Or could he? He goes on to say that, "these skills are so incredibly needed in our country's classrooms." Yes, he just got even more right. 

Koglin's journey from financial suit to empowering STEM teacher is a story we need to hear more often in America. As we strive to be more competitive in STEM fields, it's STEM enthusiasts like Koglin who can help make that happen.

"STEM teachers are taking the societal changes they've encountered while teaching and tackling them head on. For STEM enthusiasts who want to change the world through innovation, there couldn't be a better place to start than the classroom."

Read Koglin's entire guest post on STEMblog.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Scientists Create World's Smallest 3-D Glasses

The world's smallest 3-D glasses belong to a praying mantis. That's right, researchers at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom have created some pretty nifty bug glasses specifically for the eyes of praying mantises. 

Reported by Sarah Gray on SALON.com, the goal of this buggy experiment is to better understand three dimensional (3-D) vision. Analyzing how praying mantises see in 3-D can help scientists understand the evolution of 3-D vision, as well as help develop and implement 3-D vision and depth perception in robotics. 

I know what you're thinking: So why use praying mantises in a study like this? Well, it turns out that the stick-legged bugs have vision very similar to our own. According to Newcastle University, praying mantises are the only invertebrates known to have 3-D vision. Other animals that possess this same type of vision include cats, horses, sheep, macaques, rabbits, toads and barn owls, as stated in the SALON.com article.

To perform the experiments, which involve presenting 3-D stimuli and moving targets in front of the mantises, the team uses beeswax to attach the tiny spectacles to the insect. With the glasses on, the mantises are placed in front of a computer screen for the series of tests. Once the experiment is over, the glasses are removed and the mantises are placed back in their living space to feed on crickets - what a life!

To learn more about the experiment and to hear from the researchers themselves, see the full SALON.com report.

A video of the experiment can be viewed below:

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What to do with All Those Leftover Peeps: A Dissolving Experiment

Easter has passed and if you're joining in a candy coma, we don't blame you. But if you don't think you could stuff another Peep in your mouth if your life depended on it, we don't blame you there either. Do you wish you could just make those sugar-filled, fluffy marshmallows disappear? Well consider your wish granted: cue the dissolving peep experiment.

Here's what you'll need:
  • Water
  • Vinegar
  • Apple Juice 
  • Soda 
  • Laundry Detergent 
  • Five Clear Glasses
  • Five Peeps of your Choice

Once you've gathered the goods, it's time to get started.
  1. Start by arranging your glasses on a tray. Add one Peep and one of your five liquids/solvents to each glass and label them. 
  2. Now for the hard part: waiting. As you wait to see what will happen to your Peeps, write down predictions - what you think will happen and why.
  3. After three hours, check on your marshmallow friends and record what kind of changes you see. At this point, the only thing you should be noticing is color change.
  4. After 16 hours, take a peek at your Peeps again and see what's changed. More color change should be occurring, though you might not notice any dissolving yet.
  5. On day two, you'll start to see signs of the Peep in the vinegar dissolving, and b day three, you'll notice the Peep in the apple juice starting to dissolve.
  6. End your experiment on day four (or keep on keepin'-on if you wish!). Carefully take each Peep out of their respective cup and observe what's left of them.
  7. Record what you observe (amount of Peep dissolved, color change, shape change, texture change, etc.) and have your kiddos write down why they think the Peeps reacted differently in each solvent.
If there's too many Peeps in your house for you to count at this point, do the experiment again and try out different solvents!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Enrollment in STEM Booms Since Recession

Good news for STEM advocates: a new study suggests that undergraduates at four-year institutions have become much more likely to study STEM fields, especially engineering and biology.

As reported by Scott Jaschik for Inside Higher Ed, the new study suggests that STEM enrollments are growing while professional field enrollments (especially business and education) are shrinking, contrary to what public discussion might suggest.

The new research was presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association last weekend and is by professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania Jerry A. Jacobs and professor of education at the University of California at Los Angeles Linda Sax.

Though much of the data normally discussed on student enrollment patterns is pulled from the National Center for Education Statistics, this new study is based in large part on the "freshman survey" conducted annually by UCLA on a national pool of freshman at four-year institutions. Jaschik points out that in their paper, Jacobs and Sax state that this data set enables them to spot trends much earlier than is possible with the federal database, since that information is based on graduation (which comes later than enrollment) and because government cuts have led to delays in federal data.

Using data collected by UCLA, Jacobs and Sax write that enrollment in STEM fields steadily declined between 1997 and 2005, hitting a low in 2005 of 20.7 percent. While modest gains appeared in 2006 and 2007, significant increases started to show up in 2008. The percentage of freshmen planning to major in STEM fields increased from 21.1 percent in 2007 to 28.2 percent in 2011, just as the recession was prompting students and families to focus on job opportunities in various fields. That represents a 48 percent increase in just a few years.

Read Jaschik's entire article to find out how the growth in STEM fields played out across the subjects and if the gender gap so commonly discussed in conjunction with STEM fields changed during the boom.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Three Egg-cellent Science Experiments for Spring!

Easter is just around the corner, but before you start dyeing eggs, experiment with them first! Here are three egg-cellent science experiments from science-sparks.com just in time for spring.

Eggs always break so easily. Or so you thought. To make an egg unbreakable, all you need is cling wrap! Wrap the egg in cling wrap, place it in your palm and close your hand around it so your fingers are completely wrapped around the egg. Squeeze as hard as you can. The egg should remain in one piece and your hands should stay clean. If you're feeling bold, do the same thing without the cling wrap.

Age-old bouncy balls don't have anything on bouncy eggs. To make an egg bounce, place the egg in vinegar for a couple of days to remove the shell. Be careful when you remove the shell and wash the egg - if you puncture the membrane, it will break. To bounce it, drop it carefully from a low height and the egg should bounce back up from the surface. Try bouncing it on different surfaces. Better yet, try to figure our at what height the egg breaks.

Honey, I shrunk the egg! For this experiment you'll need two eggs, water, two glasses, vinegar, sugar and a pin. Get started by removing the shell of the egg after soaking it in vinegar for at least 24 hours as you did when creating a bouncy egg. After you've exposed the membrane, make up a concentrated sugar solution by dissolving sugar into water. Place one egg in water and the other in the sugar solution. Let them sit for 24 hours. You'll notice that the egg in the sugar solution looks much smaller than the one in the water. Prick the egg that was in the water glass with a fine needle and watch a jet of water shoot out! Put the shrunken egg in water and watch as it grows and reabsorbs water (this may take a few hours). 

For seven more eggy experiments, check out the Science Sparks website.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Happy Pi Day! But it's also Einstein's Birthday...

Today is March 14, or 3/14; infamously known as Pi Day. Number aficionados across the country are chowing down on pie and discussing the importance of numbers as we speak. But did you also know it's Albert Einstein's birthday as well?! The theoretical physicist was born on March 14, 1879, in what was then the Kingdom of Wurttemberg in the German Empire.

As Andrea Peterson of The Washington Post states in her refresher course, pi is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. Most of us learned the abbreviated 3.14 number in grade school, but pi can actually be calculated our infinitely without a discernible repeating pattern. The number is both irrational and transcendental. 

Einstein started working at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. in 1933 and remained associated with the institution until his death in 1955. Princeton now celebrates Einstein as part of an elaborate "Pi Day weekend" featuring walking tours, pie judging, pie throwing, a pizza competition, and an Einstein lookalike contest, among many other activities.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

National Inventors Hall of Fame to Induct Father of 3D Printing!

You'd probably be surprised to find out that 3D printing has been around for decades. Yes, decades! Though a lot of buzz has surrounded 3D printing as of late, the first somewhat functional 3D printer prototype was built back in 1984. This year, the printer's inventor, Charles Hull, is being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

In the U.S. Patent Office's eyes, this puts Hull up there with inventors like Thomas Edison, Jobs/Woz, the Wright Brothers, Einstein, and Eli Whitney.

As Greg Kumparak of techcrunch.com reported earlier this week, Hull had a realization in 1984: if you pointed a highly focused UV light at a special, goopy material (referred to as a "
photopolymer"), the material would instantly turn solid wherever the light would touch. If you did this repeatedly, layer by layer, you could essentially "print" an object into existence. Cue the gospel choir: Hull dubbed the process "stereolithography," and 3D printing was born.

It's not surprising that 3D printing has come a long way since 1984. New techniques combined with easier-to-use software and cheaper hardware have made objects printed much stronger. And as advancements continue to happen, Hull finds himself in the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Other inductees include Frances H. Arnold; Richard DiMarchi; Mildred Dresselhaus; Ashok Gadgil; Howard Aiken, Benjamin Durfee, Frank Hamilton, and Clair Lake; George Antheil and Hedy Lamarr; William Bowerman; Otis Boykin; David Crosthwait; and Willis Whitfield.

All of the inductees will be honored during a special Induction Ceremony scheduled to take place on May 21 at the U.S. Department of Commerce's United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). At that same time, The National Inventors Hall of Fame will unveil the new National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum located on the USPTO campus.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Snow Science & More!

Mother Nature is making it pretty clear that winter isn't over yet, so why not embrace it? Whether you're loving the extended chilly weather or you're so ready for the thaw that you've considered relocating, there's one thing we can all agree on: In all its wonders, snow is pretty fascinating.

Goli Mohammadi of makezine.com put together a great compilation of snow-related projects, a collection of interesting articles on the science of snow, maker-made snow videos, and eye candy snow art. Here are some of our favorites.

Mohammadi says it best: "Are you feeling left out of the snowmageddon but live in a cold environment?" Well take a look at how former Make: Labs intern Steven Lemos shows you how to make your own snow gun. This project is a bit on the pricey side, requiring about $90 worth of parts: a few items from your local hardware store, some quality spray nozzles, and access to a pressure washer an an air compressor. Price aside, the end result is impressive.

No, you don't need to rub your eyes. What you're seeing is really what you're seeing. Caltech physics professor Ken Libbrecht is one of the most well-known snowflakes scientists and photographers. Check out the details of his photo-microscope rig and see how you can emulate stunning shots like his.


Last but not least on our brief list of favorites from Mohammadi's collection is this awesome video from fashion photographer and filmmaker Jacob Sutton, featuring pro snowboarder William Hughes riding the slopes of Tignes in the Rhone-Alpesregion of south-eastern France wearing a suit made by John Spatcher. What better way to light up a snowy night than to slash deep powder turns with a custom LED suit, right?!

For nine more snowy projects and much more snow science, videos and art, check out Mohammadi's full article.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Science Behind the Olympic Torch

It's that time again. The time that the world anxiously awaits to come every couple of years. With an opening ceremony that has been guaranteed to awe, tonight marks the beginning of the XXII Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

At the center of the games, whether they be winter or summer competitions, is always one thing: the Olympic torch. So how do you ensure that the torch stands up to the elements; remaining reliable in difficult conditions like strong winds, heavy snows, or any surprises that a Russian winter can throw up? Well, with science and a great team of designers and engineers of course!

This year's Olympics torch is red, the traditional color of Russian sport. Getting away from aesthetics, the designers of the Sochi torch paid specific attention to the torch's construction and flame lighting system, ensuring that it remains lit. 

The body of the torch is made of aluminum. The color is light silver, and the finish is a low-dispersion matte. The torch's handle and central decorative stand are cast using a high-density, highly transparent polymer. 

The designers didn't forget about the carriers of the torch! The torch weighs nearly 1.8 kg, is 0.95 m tall and 54 mm wide. Its weight and center of gravity were carefully calculated to make the torch as comfortable as possible to carrying while running. Learn more about the 22nd Winter Olympics torch here.

Looking back to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, engineers made sure that the torch would be able to cope with British weather conditions by testing it at BMW's  Energy and Environment Test Center in Munich. Take a look at their impressive results.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Science Mystery: Valentine Vexation

What's sweeter than a good, ol' fashioned mystery? This entertaining and educational mystery was selected from the book One Minute Mysteries: 65 Short Mysteries You Solve with Science and put out by Science, Naturally. Great for kids, grown-ups, educators, and any one who loves good mysteries, try your science sleuthing skills at this one!

Mystery #11: General Science
Valentine Vexation

The school student council was putting up decorations for the Valentine's Day party later that day in the multi-purpose room.

Elinor came into the room a bit late. As council president, she had been talking with the principal about some of the details.

Her friends were sitting around a table, blowing up balloons and snacking on the food some parents had brought. Soo was sipping fruit punch, Jada had a cupcake, Olivia was munching on carrot sticks and Cimone was eating a peanut butter sandwich. As each girl blew up a balloon, she used a marker to decorate it.

When they finished, Soo headed off to a corner to put up pink streamers while Cimone started to arrange flowers on the tabletops. Elinor, Jada, and Olivia gathered up some red, pink and white balloons and started to tape them onto the walls.

As she was getting ready to tape up one of the balloons, Elinor saw that a message had been written on it: "Elinor likes Gary."

"Who did this?" Elinor called out.

"That's for us to know and you to find out," Olivia said.

"I will find out," Elinor said, taking the balloon out into the hallway.

She soon returned and said, "Okay, Cimone, confess. I know you did it."

"How do you know," Jada asked?

Can you figure out how Elinor knows? Here's the answer:
"In the hallway, I unknotted the balloon and let the air out slowly, sniffing it as it came out," Elinor said. "I knew that the air in the balloon would smell like anything that was on the breath of the person who blew it up. The air smelled like peanut butter."

You can find the January mystery on Science, Naturally's website.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Design Your Future with the STEM Career Lab!

Do you want to explore STEM careers and find out which one you think is for you? Then this is the resource for you! Stemcareerlab.org was designed to help high school students explore future STEM career fields.

Today's STEM professionals create virtual worlds, design amazing machines, invent new materials, construct earth-friendly buildings and engineer cutting-edge air vehicles. And that's just to name a few! Through the collection of videos on stemcareerlab.org, students can hear from STEM professionals about their educational pathway, what it is they love about their jobs, and how they really do use the science and math they learned in high school. 

Professions on the website include advanced manufacturing and materials, aerospace engineering, agricultural engineering, architecture, biomechanical engineering, biomedical engineering, construction management, electrical engineering, human performance, systems engineering, virtual reality design, and water resource management. 

Check out a video today and start planning your STEM future!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Can TV Characters Boost STEM Learning?

That's right: TV characters. I'm talking Dora the Explorer and Big Bird reincarnate in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) loving form. Can relationships with characters like these really help young children learn STEM skills? 

A team of researchers at the University of California, Riverside, Northwestern University, and Georgetown University seem to think so and are gearing up to formally answer that question in a five-year project funded by a $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation. 

Rebekah Richert, associate professor of psychology at UC Riverside and principal investigator on the project will team up with Ellen Wartella, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al- Thani Professor of Communication, professor of pyschology and professor of human development and social policy at Northwestern University; and Sandra Calvert, director of the Children's Digital Media Center and professor of psychology at Georgetown University. 

In a series of studies with children ages 18 months to six years, the trio will examine how toddlers and preschoolers learn from educational media and how that can support STEM education.

Richert, who's known for her previous research on how children transfer what they see on television and in books to real life, and how they distinguish between fantasy and reality is interested in answering questions like, "How can we promote early STEM learning with high-quality media?" and, "How can we develop better avatars and promote diversity in STEM fields?" 

Superheroes and fictional characters that endorse various subject matter and embrace educational material, projecting it onto young audiences isn't a new concept. Nonetheless, the NSF-funded project will look to answer what kind of character could best be used to stimulate STEM learning. Is it a character like Nickelodeon's Dora the Explorer or Sesame Street's Big Bird, or something different all together?

The psychologists will kick things off by conducting a workshop at Northwestern in the spring of 2014 involving experts in science education, computer-game design, and television learning for children to consider how best to direct future research.

Read more about the project and see what Richert had to say on UCR Today.

Monday, January 13, 2014

CSI: Forensic Nurses on the Scene

Who said nurses could only find jobs in hospitals? Now, more than ever before, forensic nurses are playing significant roles in coroner and medical examiner's offices.

As Stacy Miller reports on the Advance Healthcare Network website, it was Jennifer Schindell, BSN, RN, F-ABMDI, who after working in hospitals in Alaska, Idaho and Orgeon, found it extremely strange that more investigators didn't come to the hospital to delve deeper into cases involving trauma, abuse or neglect.

While there, officers could have collected evidence from the patient's clothing and other belongings while gathering information on injuries and collecting patient statements. Schindell explained that having law enforcement officials who were present at the crime scene would also have been helpful in treating her patients, because she would be able to ask questions about what happened to her patient before they were brought in.

So Schindell got to work at bridging the gap herself. With experience working in med/surg, critical care, neuro/trauma, flight nursing and some time caring for inmates in a jail, Schindell got to work training to become a forensic nurse. Her hard work paid off: Today she is the deputy chief medical examiner and forensic nurse for Linn and Benton counties in Western Oregon. She is also a board certified medicolegal death investigator and is currently working on her master's in medical anthropology at Oregon State University - she will graduate next year.

To read more of Schindell's story including what it's like to work in a medical examiner's office, what it means to be a nurse coroner and what the classes are like, check out Miller's entire article.

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Science Behind New Year's Resolutions

Almost half of Americans set a new year's resolution each year, however just a mere 10 percent of them are actually successful. Not surprisingly, at the top of the list of popular resolutions are lose weight, quit smoking, get out of debt and spend more time with family. Possibly a bit more surprising, here are some scientifically supported techniques to increase your chances of success this year!

1. Don't keep too many resolutions at once.
  • In an experiment performed at Stanford, one group of students was given a two-digit number to memorize, while the other group was given a seven-digit number to remember. Then, each student was asked to walk down a hallway while keeping their respective number in mind. Once they got to the end, each student was given the opportunity to eat a piece of cake or fruit salad. The study found that the seven-digit memorizers were practically twice as likely to choose the slice of cake (like memorizing the extra numbers took up "good decision making" space in their brain). That being said, pick one or two key goals for 2014 and you'll be much more likely to achieve them.
2. Set Specific Goals (really specific).
  • In health behavior change and maintenance studies, the effects of setting specific, difficult goals leads to higher performance when compared with no goals or vague, unmeasurable goals like, "do your best."  So, here's how you can apply this rule: The harder the goal, the more imperative it is that be specific and set measurable goals and write them down. For example, if it's losing weight you're trying to do, set a realistic and specific goal of how much weight you want to lose (i.e. 10 pounds) by what a certain date (i.e. April).
3. Focus on the carrot, not the stick.
  • A review by faculty members at the University of Chicago Booth School of business concludes that, for people who are new to certain goals, receiving positive feedback causes them to be more likely to adhere to a new task. Since you're not an expert at your newly declared resolution, don't underestimate the power of being positive and encouraging yourself about your progress. Instead of dreading an extra monthly payment on a loan, think about how much quicker the balance on the loan is shrinking and all the things you'll be able to do when the loan is paid off.
4. Tell Some Friends and Family.
  • An experiment conducted on the effects of social support at the workplace found that weak social support often leads to elevated levels of heart rate cortisol, which are indicators of anxiety and stress. It goes unsaid that having the support of others is really important when trying to accomplish a goal, though many people forget about this. Increase your chances of success by telling a few supportive individuals in your life about your resolution - they won't only be your cheering section, they'll be there to celebrate when you achieve what you set out to do.
Now that you have some scientifically based rules for accomplishing your resolution, go out and put them to use.  Good luck!

Friday, January 3, 2014

San Antonio Scores $1.5 Million STEM Grant

Thanks to a $1.5 million National Science Foundation grant, minority students at Alamo Colleges in San Antonio will get the help they need to excel in science, technology, engineering and math fields beginning in 2014.

As mySA.com reported, just last month, Alamo Colleges announced that St. Phillip's College will head-up the implementation of the three-year grant, called the CIMA Alliance, which will benefit all five area community colleges. 

Cima means summit in Spanish. For a city rich with Hispanic culture and traditions, the name couldn't be more appropriate. 

Even more impressive, the grant was one of only two funded by the science foundation's Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation Bridge to Baccalaureate Alliances program. 

CIMA hopes to involve 900 misrepresented minority STEM majors in activities such as undergraduate research and peer and faculty mentorship. The grant also aims to up minority STEM enrollment by 10 percent and boost transfers to STEM majors at four-year schools by 20 percent. 

The grant will enable the district to create STEM study centers at three campuses as well as fund tutoring efforts, STEM student clubs and professional development for faculty, among other activities. 

Read the entire mySA report here.