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Friday, February 26, 2010

Barbie, the Insect Film Festival and Free Mini Experiment Kits

For those unaware of the big news the world of Barbie, it was recently revealed that one of Barbie's nextgummy/500x_2010computerengineer.jpg careers, by popular vote, is that of Computer Engineer! It's a good move as clearly women can be computer engineers, too! Her other career chosen is that of a news anchor. Interestingly, since people are getting more news from their computers and the internet, perhaps the role of the computer engineer is incredibly apropos.

Computer engineer Barbie is not due out until December. It would have been great if she was available this summer as the girl's camp I am a faculty instructor for is offering a section called GLEE, Girls Learning Electrical Engineering. It is aimed to highschoolers and they are making a cellphone! I'm just a bit jealous.

If all goes as planned, I will be at this weekend's Insect Fear Film Festival, (27th year!) helping out with the BUGSCOPE where you can "drive" a high priced, high quality piece of equipment in order to view bugs up close Even if you don't think you will watch movies, there are plenty of other FREE activities to be involved in.

For those of you local or somewhat local, I will be at the University of Illinois' Public Engagement Symposium 2010 at the I Hotel on March 3, 2010 from 3-7pm. The focus is on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) engagement, which is pretty much what I do. So while I am not a University unit in and of myself doing my outreach (and I am neither encouraged nor discouraged by my employing departments), I have many facets of outreach I do in conjunction with the University including GAMES,  Bugscope, tours and (formerly) the Science Olympiad (although I've had to drop my participation in the state level competition this year as I am busy with the other outreach I do).

I saw this as an opportunity to collect my thoughts on what it is I do and find a succinct way to present it to the public! In the spirit of public engagement, I am putting together two separate mini experiment kits to take home.

  • The first is to demonstrate the concepts of osmosis and tonicity using gummy bears! The kit will include a pack of mini gummy bears, a vial of distilled water to "grow" a gummy bear and a vial of very salty water to "shrink" a gummy bear and possibly grow salt crystals and of course, instructions.
  • The second will be to demonstrate the hydrophobic and hydrophilic properties of mascara and to talk about polymers. It will include paint brushes with mascara applied, a vial of water, a vial of oily make-up remover, cotton pads and instructions.

In either case, the experimenter (hopefully kids) can view my corresponding videos if desired and send me notes on the results of their experiments! I'd love to hear them!

Since I didn't have business cards, I decided to make some in the form of bookmarks. This emphasizes my belief in the importance of reading in order to create a good scientist. You are also less likely to throw them away!

While you are out there, be sure to stop by the iGEM team's table and see what they are doing in the world of synthetic biology!

Lastly, speaking of local, Laura at Chambana Moms kindly interviewed me for her blog. You can learn a little bit more about my philosophy of engaging kids in science, why I am a big believer in encouragement in general, whether young children should watch me destroy gummy bears and some big ideas for the future. If you care to take a peek. Here it is!

Until next time,

Kindly, Joanne

 

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