Three elected to serve on ASTC’s Board of Directors

October 19th, 2012 - Posted in ASTC News, Featured, Member News by Larry Hoffer

Guy Labine, CEO, Science North, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada; Tit Meng (TM) Lim, chief executive, Singapore Science Centre, Singapore; and Alexander Zwissler, executive director and CEO, Chabot Space and Science Center, Oakland, CA, were recently elected to ASTC’s Board of Directors, and officially took office October 16, at the close of ASTC’s 2012 Annual Conference in Columbus, OH. In addition to Labine, Lim, and Zwissler, David Mosena, president and CEO, Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, and Carol Valenta, senior vice president, Saint Louis Science Center, were re-elected to a second three-year term.

The Association’s officers—ASTC President Bryce Seidl, president and CEO, Pacific Science Center, Seattle; Vice President Linda Conlon, chief executive, International Centre for Life, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom; Secretary/Treasurer Chevy Humphrey, president and CEO, Arizona Science Center, Phoenix; and Member-at-Large Joanna Haas, executive director, Kentucky Science Center, Louisville—were re-elected to serve the second year of their two-year terms. (Immediate Past President Nancy Stueber, president and CEO, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, Portland, also serves on ASTC’s Executive Committee.)

Board members continuing their terms included: Dennis Bartels, executive director, Exploratorium, San Francisco; David Chesebrough, president and CEO, COSI, Columbus, OH; Ann Fumarolo, president and CEO, Sci-Port: Louisiana’s Science Center, Shreveport; Nohora Elisabeth Hoyos, executive director, Maloka, Bogota, Colombia; Ronen Mir, general director, MadaTech: Israel National Museum of Science, Technology, and Space, Haifa; Neville Petrie, CEO, Science Alive! New Zealand’s Science Centre, Christchurch; Stephanie Ratcliffe, executive director, The Wild Center, Tupper Lake, NY; and Barry Van Deman, president and CEO, Museum of Life and Science, Durham, NC. With her resignation as president and executive director of the Great Lakes Science Center, Cleveland, Linda Abraham-Silver stepped down from the Board at the end of her term.

Around the Zooniverse

October 18th, 2012 - Posted in Annual Conference, Featured by Christine Ruffo

On Monday, panelists in Online Citizen Science and Science Center Participation: Parallels? presented early findings of a three-year study examining motivation and engagement patterns of volunteers for, an online citizen science project that engages volunteers in science investigations during leisure time.

Arfon Smith, chief technological officer,, began by giving an overview of Zooniverse and its purpose. It began as one project, Galaxy Zoo, which asks the general public for help in analyzing an extremely large data set of galaxy images. The contributions made by citizen scientists to that project have resulted in over a dozen published papers. That success led to the launch of other projects that now comprise Zooniverse, which has developed a basic ethics code for its citizen science projects: participants are considered to be “collaborators” not “users”; the work must contribute to real research; and projects should not waste people’s time.

Jordan Raddick, education coordinator, ESRI, Johns Hopkins University, and Jason Reed, online motivation researcher, Adler Planetarium, then presented what they learned about volunteers so far. They’ve found that people with no previous experience with Zooniverse understand what they are supposed to do, enjoy using the projects, personally get something out of it, can feel that their efforts and the projects make a contribution to science, and can intend to and actually do more with the project. Among experienced users, “I enjoy contributing to science” was the most common motivation for participating.

Karen Carney, associate vice president for visitor experience and learning, Adler Planetarium, talked about the Adler Planetarium’s motivations for engaging visitors in citizen science through exhibitions and programs, including the goals of bridging visitors to ongoing science and helping people to understand the nature of science. She also described some of the challenges of engaging on-site visitors in online projects and posed questions for attendees to consider and discuss. What motivates people to participate in science in different kinds of informal settings? Are any motivations or behaviors the same between ISE engagement and online citizen science? Can we convert bricks to clicks or vice versa?

Science Centers and Public Broadcasting: Building Strong Partnerships

October 16th, 2012 - Posted in Annual Conference, Featured by Larry Hoffer

(Session summary by Sean Smith, ASTC’s director of government and public relations)

Has your science center ever thought about partnering with a public television or radio station? If so, take advantage of the insight offered by presenters Dante Centuori (Director of Creative Productions, Great Lakes Science Center), Jen Cassidy (Vice President of Programs, COSI), Brent Davis (Senior Director of Content and Executive Producer, WOSU Public Media/WOSU@COSI), and George Viebranz (Mathematics and Science Education Program Director, WVIZ/PBS and 90.3 WCPN ideastream) at the Science Centers and Public Broadcasting: Building Strong Partnerships session held in the WOSU@COSI studios on Monday afternoon.

During the session, attendees heard about how COSI and the Great Lakes Science Center (GLSC) collaborated with their local public broadcasting stations (and vice versa) on a variety of programs, which resulted in beneficial outcomes for all.

Davis began the session by offering some history of the WOSU-COSI connection, which began in the COSI space six years ago. Most of WOSU’s local television segments are actually produced in the COSI studio, and Davis mentioned that this is a real asset that other science centers across the country could potentially offer public broadcasters—a large public space. WOSU’s science center space provides them with good public visibility and a favorable impression, both of which are significantly more substantial than a more isolated campus outpost would offer. Other positives from the COSI-WOSU relationship include built-in audience participation, access to COSI floor demonstrations that teachers can use in the classroom, COSI expertise, etc.

Cassidy used COSI’s Lost Egypt: Ancient Secrets, Modern Science exhibition as example of the way the COSI-WOSU relationship has worked. When COSI went to Egypt, it took a WOSU producer and a professional photographer with them; these images were used in the exhibit. The partnership was a huge success, as it created quality, useful, content for both organizations, proved useful beyond the original plan, and even saved—and made—money. The natural physical/geographic proximity to one another was a plus. Cassidy also mentioned that some of the content visitors can see in the Innovation Showcase exhibit was produced at WOSU, which helped offer consistency in look and quality, additional cost effectiveness, etc.

Viebranz noted that the Great Lakes Science Center and ideastream also share a close proximity and are only 8 city blocks apart. The CEOs of WVIZ and 90.3 decided to merge, and the organizations collectively renovated a historic Cleveland building in the city’s Playhouse Square; the affiliation began about seven years ago. They intentionally built the smallest theatre in the district, with seating for 300; the space is particularly good for kids, and they are able to do remote broadcasts as well. The ties between the two organizations include a shared mission and vision (to strengthen community through science and science education) and an interest in strengthening public and private education systems and the general education of the public. Summed up? “Partnership, purpose, and proximity.”

Centuori shared details from the Great Lakes Science Center’s perspective, and highlighted the collaborative content creation and distribution. He offered an example from the public television series The Human Spark, which helped the science center get new audiences—college age people and young adults. The GLSC held a special preview event for the first episode of the show, and Centuori noted that it was neat to watch a science-related program with a hundred others with similar interests. The partnership was a win-win—it provided exposure for the premiere event, the television show, and the science center. In addition, WVIZ got a commercial (done by GLSC) that they didn’t have to pay their staff to do, etc. The partnership also extends to WVIZ’s PSI: Physical Science Investigation (, which offers multimedia online resources including 28 interactive virtual physics labs. WVIZ ideastream was able to take advantage of the GLSC location, and used its exhibits and demos. The grant-funded website includes videos for teachers in addition to students. It was a perfect partnership, as ideastream had the grant funding and production capability, but was looking for content expertise. GLSC had that content expertise, along with a unique facility, staff with media experience, and was looking for ways to broaden its collaborations within the region. In addition, both organizations had a major interest in improving middle school physical science learning and instruction; because of this collaboration, they didn’t need to work with actors, create scripts, etc.—they actually worked with real experts, which came across a lot more naturally than something more tightly scripted. And again, it was cost-effective.

For more information, please visit:,, and

Live Demonstration Hour: Recap and Videos

October 16th, 2012 - Posted in Annual Conference, Featured by Larry Hoffer

(Recap written by Kenzie Moore, COSI membership processing associate and ASTC 2012 communications volunteer)

This year’s annual Demonstration Hour featured beds of nails, smashed cinder blocks, hydrogen bombs, a diablo, a bouncing championship competition, and hovercrafts…not to mention some very enthusiastic, very intelligent, and very tie-dyed presenters. One of the busiest sessions of the day, which just goes to show that you should really never underestimate the power of a well-designed, well-presented demonstration. (Really, who doesn’t wish they had the ability to build themselves a hovercraft?)

Videos of each demo:

Bed of Nails

Newton’s Hoverboard

The Diablo That Measured a Ceiling

Hydrogen Bombs

Battle of the Balls

Brief Educational Session Recaps: Monday, October 15

October 16th, 2012 - Posted in Annual Conference, Featured by Larry Hoffer

(Session recaps provided by COSI outreach educator and ASTC 2012 communications volunteer Jeremy Rader)

Get Connected: A Hands-On Approach to Distance Learning
Museums have been using distance learning to reach their audience for over a decade but the technical and logistical obstacles are a big barrier to those looking to expand into the field. Presenters from three institutions spoke about the successes and challenges they have encountered in distance learning. The New York Hall of Science, COSI, and Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum started the session with a live demonstration to show just how easy it can be to reach an audience hundreds of miles away from you (but really they were just out in the hall). Video conferencing equipment has been the standard for the past 15 years, bringing high quality audio and video but a high price. With advances in technology you now need a laptop with a webcam to pull off the same feat. Using webcasting software and laptop means a much lower cost to those looking wanting to enter the field. After a brief explanation of the technical differences between the two methods, the attendees and presenters broke off into three hands-on stations to focus on a different area. One session focused on the challenges of presenting an audience not in the same room as you. Another talked about the use of kits to provide an added level of interaction. The third dealt with non-traditional audiences (e.g, hospital patients). To conclude the session the presenters talked about creating an online collection of the information discussed as a tool to use and a collaboration platform to continue the discussion started today.

Digital Planetarium Demonstrations
COSI’s planetarium featured demonstration from three providers today: Evans & Sutherland, Seiler-Zeiss, and Sky-Skan. I sat in on the Evans & Sutherland demo. With the use of today’s technology, providers are able to present an ever-increasing amount of content to their audiences in dome theaters. Gone are the days of static star fields and laser light shows. Today’s program featured a fully interactive space to explore. Zoom in over Columbus and see the city’s watershed or zoom out and see the entire solar system and beyond. But the show doesn’t stop at the stars. Live action films are now being produced for dome theaters, creating an incredibly immersive dramatic presentation. Evans & Sutherland also highlighted the use of their software to take video created for flat screen and render it to fit a dome. The presenters pointed out that institutions using the equipment are doing so in new and innovative ways that they had not foreseen.

Fire and Ice: Show Us Your Science
Gadgets Stage at COSI was the platform for an afternoon full of bubbles, flames and big booms presented by several institutions: Pacific Science Center, The Franklin Institute, The Children’s Museum of Philadelphia, Great Lakes Science Center, and COSI each took the stage to present 1 or 2 of their favorite demos. The show started with bubbles: air filled bubbles that fell to the floor, helium bubbles that floated to the ceiling, and hydrogen bubbles that burst into a fireball when ignited. Next we moved onto a giant cloud. Liquid nitrogen and hot water combined to create a cloud that shot into the sky. Keeping with the weather theme, a fire tornado was created next. Using a spinning platform and a mess grating, a tornado of fire over three feet tall was produced, glowing green from the chemicals added to the fuel. The day was capped off by a series of explosions featuring dry ice and a selection from the local grocer. A watermelon, pumpkin, zucchini, and even a fruit cake took center stage before being blown to smithereens. The highlight of the demo may have been duct taping the zucchini after a defective bottle left a huge crack in it. All in all there were a ton of great demos shared as well as the science content to back them up and the safety measures needed to do them safely. I’m sure everyone left with some new ideas they hope to implement back at their home institutions.

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