Computer science education week is December 9-15 (http://csedweek.org/). To celebrate and spread the joy of coding the Visual World Investigate Lab will be holding an Hour of Code event on Thursday, December 12th from 6:30-8:00 (I know, this is really an hour and a half. Just more time to do cool stuff.). Our event is one of over 20,000 events taking place in more than 150 countries throughout the week. Anyone can code, so come and be one of the 3,000,000 people participating in these events worldwide. Check here for all the information: http://naturalsciences.org/programs-events/computer-programming-beginners-8.
What will we be doing? We’ll all be learning a little bit of code while making a cool computer game. Each person will get to watch their code come to life as we go through the steps of creating a fully functioning game. In the past we’ve made an asteroid-dodging spaceship game, a Tron game, and a darts game just to name a few. And, as a bonus, the program we use in the lab is free so after we’re done you can keep going outside of the lab.
Why would you want to do it? Well, apart from making a cool game you can use outside of the lab, what you learn will start you on your way to creating the next cool app or program, it may even help you get a job (http://code.org/stats). Also, we all interact with electronic devices daily. So you should know at least a little bit about what makes those programs on your computer/phone/tablet work.
To reiterate: come make a cool game, learn some coding, understand why your devices do what they do, and be part of a worldwide celebration of computer sciences in the Visual World Investigate Lab on Thursday, December 12 6:30-8:00 (go here to learn how to sign up: http://naturalsciences.org/programs-events/computer-programming-beginners-8).
Be the master of your computer.
You just know that any day that ends with your boss’s door decorated in Crime Scene tape is a day that begs further explanation!
Well, let us just say that this is our way of showing our gratitude and support for a boss who encourages us to try new things and use our creativity in our Museum program offerings. But let me go back to the beginning.
It all started with a mock crime scene revealing a poker hand of four Aces, King high, some clear plastic tape marking the cards, and some upset Poker buddies. It ended with over 200 people having moved through the crowds in the Naturalist Center and the three Investigate Labs to perform various forensic laboratory exercises, led by personnel from the NC State’s Crime Laboratory.
From lifting fingerprints, examining shoe prints, matching evidence bits, and hair analysis, to comparing shell casings, analyzing DNA results, and testing blood stains with phenolphthalein, people enthusiastically worked their way through each lab station to perform these activities and obtain answers to the Scavenger Hunt questions listed. There was even a station for parents to get their children fingerprinted.
The 2-hour event was a success and will no doubt lead to future events of this type. This was the second “forensics-type” program we debuted this month — the first one being the “Solve the Mystery” night when visitors had to determine the culprit who was responsible for an entire Prairie Dog town’s demise, as well as what had changed this year to make that possible.
Based on the success of these two events, we will look to possibly repeat these topics as well as add new ones for visitors to engage in. Watch the website and this blog for details about future offerings. In the meantime, here are some photos of last night’s festivities!
Just wanted to invite all of you to stop in our lab to see our latest additions to the lab, our new “Body Parts Display!” No we have not gone “ghoulish” – we are just preparing for the start of our new classes this year, including our three Human Health Mystery classes!!
The classes will have a variety of lab activities as well as an active dissection with students assisting us. In addition these HIGH QUALITY Somso anatomical models will lend a professional approach to our studies of the cardiopulmonary and renal systems. These incredibly accurate models capture the look and textures found in these structures, and will be a valuable aid in our labs.
But also ’tis the season of candy and fun, so we needed to have a little creative Halloween mischief with them.
If you come by the NRC on Halloween evening, you can also play “Pin the Smile” on the skeleton, and OF COURSE we have plastic spider rings for all participants. So come let your hair down, have some fun, and learn about how you too can participate in these upcoming classes, all courtesy of the Biogen Idec Foundation.
I just finished recording for the live internet radio show Verses in Motion on the YDM Network, which can be listened to here (my segment begins at the 30:35 mark): http://www.blogtalkradio.com/ydmnetwork/2013/10/06/verses-in-motion-episode-2.
Hosted by the multi-talented Laura Mercurio Ebohon and Eric Edubb, Verses in Motion is a London-based radio show about poetry, music, art and, new to this year, technology. During my segment I talked about the Nature Research Center and the VisLab while answering questions about my work, science popularization, and my recent trip to Beijing. I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of their program and look forward to keeping up with future episodes.
Thank you Laura and Eric for the great talk!
The next time you visit the Micro World iLab, you may seen a sign up on the activity table that has our “Magnification activity” (aka “The Giant Dime”).
Basically, I will soon become a “live exhibit” in the lab. Various kits and experiment and activity pieces are starting to arrive at our lab from various scientific equipment suppliers, and I will begin turning this assemblage into well-honed activities for the new lab classes sponsored by the Biogen Idec Foundation.
So, soon, the fun will begin!
by Todd Folsom
Shakespeare asked, “What’s in a name?” What’s in one particular name is 32 letters! The green sea urchin’s Latin species name is Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis. It is one of the longest scientific names for a species. If you come into the Naturalist Center on the second floor of the Nature Research Center, you can open the drawer containing sea urchin specimens and examine some Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis. Green sea urchins prefer to live in cold water so they occur in oceans located in the northern hemisphere. In this photograph, you can see the urchin’s spines and the longer flexible tube feet.
As tough as it is to handle a name with 32 letters, there is at least one more species with a longer name! This less well-known species with a 33 character name, Paralauterborniella nigrohalterale, is a freshwater midge. These midges are flies in the family Chironomidae, so are commonly known as chironomids. The larval and pupal stages live on the bottoms of streams and lakes. When the pupae are ready to emerge as winged adults, the pupae rise to the surface so the adult midge can exit the pupal exoskeleton, expand its wings and legs, then fly off to mate. If you observe a cloud of small insects swarming over a pond or stream, chances are that’s a mating cloud of chironomids.
It is easy to find Paralauterborniella nigrohalterale in samples taken from the bottom of freshwaters in North Carolina if you have a good microscope, good taxonomic keys and good knowledge of insect morphology. You would need all of that to understand why the image shown in this photo is the head of P. nigrohalterale and not the head of some other species!
But it is even easier to find lots of other cool creatures in the Naturalist Center, and who knows? … you might find a specimen with an even longer scientific name. If you do, be sure to let us know!
Todd Folsom has been a museum volunteer since 2000 and now splits his time between the Naturalist Center and the Micro World Investigate Lab (both located in the Nature Research Center). After obtaining graduate degrees in freshwater ecology, Dr. Folsom worked for Duke Energy’s environmental services section which is based on Lake Norman. The job took him to many interesting monitoring sites on lakes and rivers in the Piedmont Carolinas as well as in the Blue Ridge Mountains (and inside nuclear reactors!) He also became an expert in SAS software while analyzing environmental data so eventually moved to Cary for work as a software developer at SAS.
LOOKING FOR A GOOD MICROSCOPE FOR YOUR YOUNG SCIENTIST?
HERE ARE SOME THINGS TO CONSIDER:
WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO LOOK AT?
Will you be viewing big things like a spider, or tiny things, like a Paramecium? Big things are best viewed on a dissecting microscope. It usually magnifies things about 5-30x the object’s size. On the other hand, tiny things such as Paramecium require greater magnification. A compound microscope is best for that. It can magnify things from about 40x to over 1000x depending on the model.
AGE/ SKILL/INTEREST LEVEL
Student microscopes can come in categories such as “elementary,” “high school” and “advanced.” While that can be a good rule of thumb, perhaps ask “what is the student’s level of interest.” A young child with a passion for the microscopic world might easily move up into a high school or advanced model. An older child with a passing hobbyist interest might be content to stick to a simple model. Whatever model you choose, try for the most QUALITY you can afford, rather than one that offers a lot of “bells and whistles” but is cheaply made.
VIEWING COMFORT IS KEY
There are a couple of things to consider here. Do you want to look through eye pieces or view a monitor? A monitor on the scope is nice because it allows everyone to gather around and see the same thing simultaneously. But if you go this route it will need to be a microscope with a quality monitor or the images will not be worth viewing. That will add to the cost.
Eyepieces are cheaper and the traditional way to view things. This method will give your young student experience using eyepieces correctly so they will be prepared for proper use in school lab situations. For example, do NOT put your eyes right against the lenses but a bit back from them, and if using a binocular microscope, keep BOTH eyes open when viewing.
If you choose to use eyepieces, some suggestions for comfort:
- Avoid monocular models if you can afford it. Viewing is better in a binocular scope
- Avoid scopes with vertical eye pieces. A scope with the eyepieces at an angle is much more comfortable.
There are a number of light sources that can be used. We favor LED lighting. It is bright, the LEDs will last for a very long time and they do not get hot and cause burns. Just make sure your model has an adjustable iris or some way to adjust the level of lighting. Too much light can make viewing some things difficult.
Nothing is more frustrating than seeing a Paramecium shoot by and not be able to follow it. A mechanical stage that holds the slide in place, and a microscope with knobs to move the mechanical stage around, will be much more fun.
SOME LINKS TO CHECK OUT