HMNS hosts second annual Science Hack Day

  Saturday, April 18, the Houston Museum of Natural Science was the stage for Science Hack Day Houston! This is the second year in a row that we have been able to host this event presented by Brightwork CoResearch. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Science Hack Days, here’s a quick synopsis.


  Science Hack Day Houston participants are people from all walks of life. They can be anything from programmers to researchers, experts to novices and everything in between. Each of these people attends the event because they want to create something new. Many of the attendees do not know each other beforehand. In the first few hours, they must find a team to work with, come up with a project idea, and start working on a prototype. They have 36 hours to create their project, so there’s not a lot of time to dilly-dally. The next day, the teams present their ideas and prototypes to the public. It’s amazing what they can create in such a short amount of time!

  This year, we saw some impressive creations that we’d like to share with you. Team Bat Cane came up with a sonar device that could be worn on the hands and feet. When the device was within three feet of an object, it would vibrate and flash lights to indicate that the person was about to hit something. One of the team members demonstrated the prototype by walking through a maze of people, and he didn’t hit a single one! You can see a picture of him demonstrating the prototype below!


  Another team came up with a new way to interact with space. Using data from NASA, they developed a program that would let you view the stars in space as if you were the sun. They used an oculus rift so you could look at the stars in all directions. In addition, they created space music to listen to while you view the stars. This isn’t like the soundtrack to any space movie you have seen. They actually took the electromagnetic vibrations that occur naturally in space and formed them into a song. It sounds a little spooky, but it makes you feel like you are really immersed in space!


  Science Hack Day Houston was the stage for a multitude of impressive projects. These talented people had 36 hours to meet new people, create a team, figure out a project, and create a prototype to present on Sunday afternoon. It was a science collaboration marathon. If you missed it this year, join HMNS to see the science extravaganza at Science Hack Day Houston 2016.

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:


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.


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!