The Engaged Scientist: Fostering Successful Museum-Researcher Collaborations

September 24th, 2007 - Posted in 2007, Dimensions by Wendy Pollock

September/October 2007
IN THIS ISSUEASTC Dimensions cover September/October 2007

The IMLS-funded VolTS (Volunteers TryScience) project described in the September/October 2007 issue of ASTC Dimensions is a recent U.S. effort aimed at helping ASTC members forge better relationships with practicing scientists and engineers. But collaborations among content experts and museum educators are nothing new. Such partnerships date back to the founding of the field and continue to strengthen our institutions. Whether as museum volunteers or as partners in grant-funded projects, scientists and engineers welcome the chance to tell the public about their work and contribute to the goal of a “science-literate” society. In this issue, we share some examples of successful projects and examine the factors that make for success (or challenges) when two cultures—research science and informal science education—meet.


• Where Science Meets the Public: Remembering the Founders of the Field, by Wendy Pollock
Content and Commitment: Insights from the VolTS Front-End Study, by Renee Miller
• A Passion for Public Engagement, by Eric Marshall
• In the Comfort Zone: Working with Scientists on Exhibition Design, by Sheila Grinell
• The Universe in a Cell: Partnering in a SEPA Project, by Roberta Cooks
• Better Communicators: Postdocs at the Exploratorium, by Kristin Abkemeier and Carolyn Sutterfield
• Portal to the Public: Bringing Scientists and the Public Together, by Lauren Russell and Dennis Schatz
• Making the Right Match: Four Approaches to Collaboration, by Theresa Mattei, Carolyn Sutterfield, Kathy Patterson, and Missy Miller
• Attracting Faculty: Getting Researchers Involved with a University Museum, by Beryl Rosenthal
• Spotlighting Research at Universum, by Cristina Heine

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Content and Commitment: Insights from the VolTS Front-End Study

September 24th, 2007 - Posted in 2007, Dimensions by Wendy Pollock

By Renee Miller
From ASTC Dimensions, September/October 2007

In November and December 2005, Randi Korn & Associates Inc. (RK&A) conducted a front-end study for the Volunteers TryScience (VolTS) project (see sidebar at end). The evaluators conducted and analyzed 26 in-depth telephone interviews with members of three groups:
• scientists and engineers who volunteer in educational programs outside of science centers
• scientists and engineers who currently volunteer in science centers
• science center staff who work with volunteers.

Working with scientists and engineers

September 19th, 2007 - Posted in ASTC Connect, Partners by Wendy Pollock

Ongoing engagements with research scientists, mathematicians, and engineers help assure that the content of science centers remains strong and current. Starting September 24, we’ll be hosting an ongoing series of discussions and problem-solving sessions within a new ASTC Connect forum to help support those working to foster and strengthen these relationships.

The first, week-long discussion kicks off with a focus on exhibitions, hosted by Sheila Grinell, author of A Place for Learning Science and most recently CEO of the Arizona Science Center. Staff of ASTC-member institutions and their collaborators (in particular, their science advisors and partners) are invited to join.

The discussion takes off from the current issue of ASTC Dimensions, “The Engaged Scientist: Fostering Successful Museum-Researcher Collaborations” and Sheila Grinell’s article “In the Comfort Zone: Working with Scientists on Exhibitions.”

To sign up, go to ASTC Connect and set up an account. Then contact Margaret Glass at mglass[at] for access to the forum.

ASTC 2007: Go behind the scenes with the MythBusters

September 17th, 2007 - Posted in Annual Conference by Wendy Pollock

Can ninjas really run on water? Why did the Hindenburg explode? Would those high-tech heists you see in the movies really work? In every episode of “MythBusters,” the Discovery Channel’s award-winning weekly science show, co-hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman and their team design creative experiments to debunk, decode, and demystify the stuff of popular legend. We’re thrilled that at ASTC 2007, Adam and Jamie will take us behind the scenes, share some favorite MythBusting stories, and talk about the scientific process and the art of making science fun. Join us for this exciting keynote session on Sunday, October 14 at 9:00 a.m.

About the MythBusters:

Adam Savage has been an animator, graphic designer, carpenter, set designer, toy designer, and rigger. For the past 10 years, he has been working in the special effects field, creating anything from puppets to rifles. In his spare time, he teaches advanced model making for several schools, including the San Francisco Academy of Art. Adam has honed his skills through more than 100 television commercials and 12 feature films. Always interested in creating things, he enjoys exploding and destroying things just as much.

Jamie Hyneman is a multifaceted man: wilderness survival expert, boat captain, diver, linguist, animal wrangler, machinist, and chef, to name a few. After earning a degree in Russian languages and literature, he ran a sailing/diving charter business in the Caribbean for several years before he moved over to the visual-effects industry. Jamie’s special-effects company, M5 Industries, is a leader in creating unusual props, especially those that involve animatronics or robotics.

More about the Mythbusters

Science at the nanoscale

September 14th, 2007 - Posted in Annual Conference, Partners by Wendy Pollock

An official Nanoscape Assembler at a 2006 Exploratorium event © Exploratorium

How do science centers engage the public in science they can’t see? The Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network (NISE Net) will share their stories during the ASTC Annual Conference, October 13–16, Los Angeles. The challenges are tough, network members report. As one member reflects, “The scale is unfamiliar, the science is hairy, and many people think we’re talking about iPods!”

A growing network of science centers working with funding from the National Science Foundation, NISE Net has been interviewing visitors, prototyping exhibits, planning programs, and developing web resources over the past two years. They’ll share some of the results of their work so far in showcase-style sessions set for Sunday afternoon and Tuesday morning.

On Monday morning, Jeffrey C. Grossman, head of the NSF Nanoscience and Engineering Center at the University of California at Berkeley, will speak about nanotechnology research and future applications. Dr. Grossman’s research focuses on development of simulation tools to understand, predict, and design novel nanoscale materials. Applications range from predicting new materials for efficient photovoltaics to examining the microscopic properties of water.

Conference-goers are encouraged to check out exhibit prototypes in the Exhibit Hall, drop by one of the nano sessions, offer comments, and learn how these exhibits and programs could end up on the floor of their museums.

Photo by Erin Wilson © Exploratorium: An official Nanoscape Assembler with his gold nanoparticle at the Exploratorium’s summer 2006 Nanoscape event.

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