About Kelsey

Kelsey started working at the Museum through Xplorations summer camp, and this fall she started working as a programs facilitator. She is a presenter for several outreach programs, assists with overnight programs, and assists with education collections during summer camp. Her favorite dinosaur is a Triceratops found at HMNS Sugar Land. The Triceratops is also named "Kelsey."

There’s a hack for that: Science Hack Day comes to Houston

If you love science and you have a creative mind, you may the perfect hacker for us! On April 5-6, we are working with Brightwork CoResearch to host our first Science Hack Day.

What’s a hack day?

It’s an event where people come together and collaborate to create new and scientific ideas. It’s for coders, designers, scientists, makers and anyone who loves science. It’s like an organized think tank — and this year it’s happening at HMNS.

What kind of hacks happen? Check out these examples from past Science Hack Days from the Science Hack Day Website:

Syneseizure

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could feel sight? That’s what one team of science hackers sought to explore, creating a mask that simulated synesthesia, a condition where senses get mixed up (e.g. associating colors with numbers or seeing ripples in your vision resulting from loud sounds). The team wanted to simulate a synesthetic sensation by mashing up sight (via a webcam) with touch (via vibrating speakers).

Syneseizure is a fairly creepy looking hack: having only 24 hours to prototype it, the only mask sewing pattern the team could find was one for a gimp mask. Just going with it, they attached 12 vibrating speakers inside the mask and wired them up to an Arduino, then a webcam. The result is an all-encompassing head mask that vibrates on different areas of your face, corresponding with different visual information picked up by the webcam. This creates a sense of feeling if areas of a room are lighter or darker as you navigate around.

Galaxy Karaoke

What if you could turn an entire planetarium into a cosmic karaoke machine? That’s what a team of science hackers at the Adler Planetarium did over the course of a weekend. Previously, a bunch of awesome Galaxy Zoo forum members collected a complete set of real galaxy images from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which just happened to look like letters of the alphabet.

The Galaxy Karaoke team resurrected some previously hacked-together code, which takes these images and pastes them together into arbitrary words and sentences. The team then used this to generate lyrics to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” put the images into a 3D model of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, and choreographed a fly-past with the lyrics (spelled out using real galaxies!), in time with the song.

DNAquiri

What does DNA taste like? Aside from the fact that DNA is very small, the materials needed to extract it often aren’t edible. Or, if they are, they’re not as delightful as a cocktail. Despite the copious amount of food present at Science Hack Day, a band of biohackers were hungry for more. They sought to craft a recipe for extracting strawberry DNA that didn’t require indigestible ingredients and could also double as a cocktail. Using strawberry puree and some very strong alcohol, the biohackers were able to extract the strawberry DNA into polymer clumps you could see with the naked eye. The final cocktail was definitely something that could knock you on your feet — and it has paved the way for more delightful science-based delicacies.

Get involved!

We provide the space, the hackers provide ideas … and then the magic happens! The hackers have 24 hours to collaborate and create a project. At the end of the 24-hour period, they will present their projects to the general public and the best projects will receive awards!

There are lots of ways you can participate with our first ever Science Hack Day! You, too, can be a hacker, working to create new ideas and solutions. All you have to do is apply!

If you don’t have the time to participate in the event, you could always become a sponsor. Or if you just like watching science happen, visit the museum on April 5-6 to see those hackers at work!

And if you’d like to know more about what you’d be getting yourself into, click here for FAQs.

Let’s all be hackers!

‘Tis the season: Use your scientific smarts to wow ‘em during the holidays

As holiday and end-of-the-year parties are getting closer, it may be time to think of new topics to bring up when there’s a lull in conversation with coworkers, family, friends and new acquaintances. And what better way than bringing up some interesting science facts?

Here are some of the most interesting facts that I have learned while working at HMNS, and hopefully, some of these will catch your interest too.

Show off your excellent and expanding vocabulary.

sparkbirdHow about the word “spark bird”? A “spark bird” is any bird species that excites an interest in further bird watching.

How to use “spark bird” in a sentence: “The spark bird for Alexander Wilson, a legendary ornithologist in the 1700s, was the Red-headed Woodpecker.”

Offer some unconventional advice to those suffering from a winter cold.

Marshmallow can help ease sore throat pain. Unfortunately, we aren’t talking about the delectable variety of marshmallows you can buy in the grocery store. The marshmallow that we are referring to here is from the marshmallow plant, Althea officinalis. Historically, the sap from the marshmallow plant was used to treat sore throats in addition to coughs, colds and skin inflammation. Roots and leaves of the marshmallow plant can also be used to make teas. Yum! Marshmallow tea!

Settle some debates.

“Are they bison or buffalo?!” Great question!

If you are looking at the animal in North America, then the likelihood is that you are looking at a bison. The American bison (Bison bison) lives only in North America and is known for its large wooly head. Buffalo and bison are closely related, but buffalo are only indigenous to Asia and parts of Africa.

So if you’ve ever eaten a burger made of buffalo meat, the chances are that you ate bison instead. Or they imported some buffalo meat from another hemisphere, which would be a very fancy burger.

bisonorbuffaloOr just go for shock value.

Blue jays aren’t really blue.

This might sound a little farfetched, but hear me out. Feather colors can be determined by pigment or structure. When color is determined by structure, the feather itself can be a different color than what we perceive.

The blue jay is a perfect example. The structure of the feather includes air pockets that allow yellow and red wavelengths to travel through, but reflect blue wavelengths back. Thus, we perceive blue jays to be blue. If you were to take a blue jay feather and backlight it, then you would see the brown pigments showing through instead — because the light is not reflecting the blue wavelengths anymore.

I hope you enjoyed these interesting facts. Feel free to use them throughout the holiday season!

Ace your after-school activities: Build a robot from scratch with our LEGO Robotics class

Have you ever wondered how to program robots to do even the simplest task? Well,  it takes a lot of background work, to say the least. But in our LEGO Robotics after-school program, we teach students how to build a LEGO Mindstorm NXT robot from scratch — and how to program it to perform certain tasks.

Every Tuesday for 10 weeks, students learn basic programming, and they use that programming to solve weekly challenges. The challenges increase in difficulty as the students become more familiar with the programming and their robots. By week 10, students know how to program their robots to reverse, make turns and maneuver in a square formation.

In addition, students will learn how to work with different types of sensors that can be attached to the robot, including the ultrasonic sensor. When students learn how to program using the ultrasonic sensor, their robot can navigate through a specified course without running into a single obstacle!

lego_roboticsLEGO Robotics is a great way for students to gain experience with technology in a small class environment. One of our parents commented, “Aaron has really enjoyed this class. He is always excited to share what he has learned in class!”

The classes are open to children in grades 4 through 7, and they’re held at both the main HMNS location and the HMNS at Sugar Land. If you are looking for an educational after-school program, look no further than LEGO Robotics!

HMNS at Hermann Park: Tuesdays
March 26 – May 28
4:30 – 6 pm
$240 / $190 Members

HMNS at Sugar Land: Thursdays
March 28 – May 30
4:30 – 6 pm
$240 / $190 Members

Ready to get a piece of the fun? Register here!