Discovering Engineering

February 22nd, 2010 - Posted in Featured, Member News, Partners by Christine Ruffo

On February 20, over 5,000 visitors flocked to the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., for Discover Engineering Family Day. The celebration featured dozens of interactive activities, from building gumdrop geodomes to experimenting with natural and nano-manufactured materials that show properties like water resistance. The activities were provided by local engineering chapters, national organizations, and museums, including the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network (NISENet) and the National Children’s Museum, Washington, D.C. The event also included a presentation by U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronaut Anna Lee Fisher.

Discover Engineering Family Day marked the end of this year’s Engineers Week, a global annual celebration presented by the National Engineers Week Foundation to raise public understanding and appreciation of engineers’ contributions to society. Other events included Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day and the finals for the Future City Competition.

About the image: The National Children’s Museum, Washington, D.C.,  presents Builder Bill and the Bewildering Bucket at Discover Engineering Family Day. Bill (also known as Matt Baldoni) shows kids how to construct a museum with pulleys, levers, and all sorts of machines. Photo by Christine Ruffo

Fun and games at COP15

November 25th, 2009 - Posted in Featured, Partners by Kate Crawford

How can we build greener cities? What impacts do our everyday actions have on the global climate? ASTC is inviting science centers around the world to  play Clim’City, an online game that allows players to measure how energy and development choices impact society over a 50-year period. The game encourages players to explore what works and what does not when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

A delegation from ASTC will travel to the upcoming 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP15) in Copenhagen to organize an international competition around Clim’City, an online climate change game developed by Cap-Sciences, Bordeaux, France. ASTC is committed to supporting its members as they address issues of science and society, and COP15 will provide the opportunity to highlight such work on both a local and a global level. The event will stream live from the Bella Center in Copenhagen on December 14 from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m.  Central European Time.

Clim’City will shine a spotlight on teens and educators from seven science centers around the world, giving them the opportunity to share what they’ve learned about climate change and to interact with a panel of climate policy and science experts, including the Deputy Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Communications Director of Climate Program office of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the science advisors for Clim’City.

Institutions wishing to join the competition can sign up on the Clim’City web site using the format “COP15InstitutionNameTeamName.” The game is appropriate for ages 15–18, and participants are welcome to play as teams or as individuals. Email kcrawford[at] by Friday, December 11, with your login information and high scores for each team. Winners will be announced during the December 14th event in Copenhagen. More information can be found on the IGLO web site.

All smiles

November 1st, 2009 - Posted in Annual Conference, Featured, Partners by Erin Van Rheenen

SMILEOn November 1, ASTC Annual Conference attendees had the opportunity take the new Science and Math Informal Learning Educators (SMILE) digital library for a spin. During an interactive workshop entitled “SMILE: Creating Community Around Digital Collections in Science Centers,” participants, each on his or her own laptop, learned how to create a SMILE account and how to search, collect, comment on, and share the math and science activities available in the library. Participants also learned more about seed grants (ranging from $2,000 to $10,000 each) that will be awarded to organizations that can contribute high-quality online resources to SMILE.

Even with the abundance of digital libraries now online, informal educators often have a hard time finding hands-on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) activities created especially with them in mind. SMILE, part of the National Science Digital Library (NSDL), aims to fill that gap. SMILE is collecting the best educational materials on the Web and creating learning activities, tools, and services—all designed for those that teach schoolage kids in nonclassroom settings. The program’s creators say they want to meet out-of-school educators where they live, so to speak, whether their “classroom” is a museum, an active volcano, the shark tank at the local aquarium, or (in the case of homeschoolers) their own backyard.

Coordinating the hands-on workshop were Keith Braafladt and Asia Ward of the Science Museum of Minnesota, St. Paul. Session support was provided by Darrell Porcello and Joel Rosenberg of the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley; Erin Van Rheenen of the Exploratorium, San Francisco; and Tara Lang of the Children’s Museum of Houston, Texas.

Guest blogger Erin Van Rheenen is lead editor and metadata manager of SMILE and senior writer at the Exploratorium, San Francisco.

About the image: A workshop participant completes an activity listed in the SMILE digital library. Photo by Christine Ruffo

September 14-18: Citizen Science

September 10th, 2009 - Posted in ASTC Connect, Partners by Wendy Pollock

Join Rick Bonney of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, September 14-18, in the CAISE Forum for discussion around the topic of a recent CAISE Inquiry Group report. Public Participation in Scientific Research: Defining the Field and Assessing Its Potential for Informal Science Education is available on the CAISE website.

To join the conversation, set up an account in ASTC Connect and join the CAISE Forum by using the keyword “informal.” Look for the area where this discussion is taking place. You’ll get an email telling you the conversation, which will run asynchronously, is beginning. Details: Terri Gipson, CAISE Project Director, tgipson [at]

Flickering lights

July 17th, 2009 - Posted in Featured, Member News, Partners by Christine Ruffo

Are firefly populations declining? Last year, the Museum of Science, Boston, in partnership with Tufts University and Fitchburg State College, developed Firefly Watch, a citizen science project, to help find out. The museum is asking volunteers to check their backyards for fireflies, one evening a week for 10 minutes throughout the summer, and to report their observations on the Firefly Watch web site. On the site, visitors can also learn about different types of fireflies, read featured research papers about them, and explore data that has been collected by the project so far. The National Children’s Museum, Washington, D.C., also has created a web site, Ready, Set, Glow!, to encourage children to participate.

Citizen science projects like Firefly Watch are engaging a growing number of people in working with scientists to investigate everything from light pollution to backyard birds. A report on Public Participation in Scientific Research describes more of these programs; it’s available in PDF format (3 MB) from the Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education.

About the image: Firefly Watch encourages the public to participate in research by oberserving fireflies in their own backyards. Photo by Don Salvatore, Firefly Watch, Museum of Science

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