The Museum of Tomorrow, Today

Post written by Laurel Baltic, Grants Coordinator.

The Museum of Tomorrow, Today

At FCMoD, it’s not hard for us to imagine what the future looks like. Every day, hundreds of people stream through our front doors. They tinker with hands-on exhibits, spark new connections in a Museum Takeover program about germs or trees, or dream big (and Big Bang) during a Space Explorers summer camp.

Inquiry, ideas, and the connection between the two are the drivers that transport us from now to what’s next. The future may be 2 minutes away: what changes when I try this? Or it may be decades away: what invention can I dream up that would make my life – and the world – better? We also spend a lot of time looking to the past, helping us spin stories about how we got from then to now, and how we’ll get to that future we’re imagining.

These days, it feels like everyone is forward-focused. Preparation for what’s next is a central outcome of formal and informal education. The phrase “21st century skills” echoes through the hallways of schools, businesses, after-school programs, and – of course – museums.

It wasn’t so long ago that talking about the 21st century required visions of hovercraft cars, colonies on Mars, and robotic pets retrieving your newspaper. Hello, Jetsons! But now, two decades into the 21st century, we have arrived.

What have we learned? Well, our parking lot is full of cars that still roll on wheels, our animals are still furry, and the closest we’ve come to the Jetson’s was our groovy 60s-themed Night at the Museum event last fall. The future may be impossible to predict.

But one thing is certain: our world – and the skillset it takes to thrive in it – is always changing.

When we talk about 21st century skills, we are not talking only about what is needed to prepare for future jobs or face upcoming challenges; we are thinking about the present moment. Our deeply held belief is that every person who walks through our door has these skills already. Our museum, our exhibits, and our programs are designed to activate them.

Because of this belief, it’s easy for us to think that 21st century skills are self-explanatory. You know, 21st century skills! The ones everyone is talking about? The ones that everyone knows?

Except… does everybody?

We recently read a blog post by one of our board members, John Williams, who leads the Global Services division at Advanced Energy. It was inspiring to read about how AE is investing in education and equipping talented people for careers of the future. Maybe they’ll be the ones engineering those hovercrafts!

John closed his post with a challenge: “What further investments can we all make in our future to ensure that the emerging workforce has the skills, motivation, and inspiration needed to continue to improve both our products and the world at large?”

Okay, but we’re a discovery museum. Our mission is about learning, reflecting, and having fun while exploring science and culture. What does this have to do with an emerging workforce?

Everything, actually.

That mission is our “what.” Every exhibit we build, every program we offer, furthers that mission. Look a little deeper at our vision, our “why,” and there’s more: to inspire inquisitive thinkers and encourage responsible stewardship of the future. That is the heartbeat of our everyday work, and where we rise to John’s challenge. Everything we do at FCMoD, we do looking toward the future. And when we look toward the future, it’s one rich with questions and learning.

Let’s break down what we mean by inquisitive: it’s about asking questions, constantly. The only way to move effectively into the future is to ask questions, and believe in our individual and collective ability to answer them, and then ask more.

Why? Why not? How?

…what if?

That is why our “what” is so important. To learn. To reflect. To have fun. We delight in the opportunity – the gift – to remind kids and adults how much fun learning can be. How good it feels. How asking questions and admitting what we don’t know doesn’t have to feel scary. If we admit how much we don’t know we can embrace how capable we are of knowing more. If we imagine the possibilities, we won’t spend so much time dwelling on the limitations. We really prepare ourselves for the 21st century.

This is how FCMoD invests in our future.

This is how we change the world. We’re excited to continue sharing our process – and our partnerships – with you. So, we’re going to use this blog series to break down the 21st century skills that we’re all so excited about. We want to share with you, with our partners, with our community, how proud we are of the ways that people learn at our museum.

Check back each month for a breakdown of a new 21st century skill, and how our team infuses it into specific programs and exhibits (that you can come experience for yourself!). Sometimes, they’ll feel familiar, like our next two posts: problem solving and collaboration. Sometimes, they might be a little jargon-y, like cross-disciplinary thinking or information literacy. Don’t worry: in every post, we’ll share how we define that skill, and how accessible it’s development is to anyone, right here at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.

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The Know-It-All Turned Student

Post written by Adam Goss, regular attendee of DomeLab.

The Know-It-All Turned Student

Like many artists before me, I think I know everything. I think my eye for design is better than everyone else’s, and that my aesthetic choices are best. I think I can do better than others where their projects have fallen short. I think that working alone is the only way to achieve perfection. At least that’s how I used to think before I started coming to DomeLab at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery (FCMoD). Nowadays, I’m the student. But for good reason.

The first time I watched a show in the OtterBox Digital Dome Theater was during the first (now annual) Fort Collins Fringe Festival in 2015. I watched an experimental show that combined practical effects, recorded 360-degree video, and live acting. The resolution was low, and I was a hard critic on the show. After all, it’s easy to be a critic. It’s easy to say, “I could do better.” Through regular meetups at the Dome, these people I was so critical of would eventually become my friends, and further down the road, collaborators on projects.

It was around this time that the Digital Dome Manager, Ben Gondrez, reached out to me via my hobby website – DIY Planetarium – and invited me to come tour the OtterBox Digital Dome Theater. I had recently finished college and had been helping people build inflatable domes for the past six years. I enjoyed dabbling in content creation in Blender; it was something I loved doing, but something I had never taken seriously.

Ben gave the most gracious tour of the Dome, its server room, and control console, ending with a long chat about planetariums and software. Before leaving, I asked the question that had been burning at my insides the entire time, “Are there any openings at the Dome?”

The museum was adjusting to its new facility and didn’t have any openings at the time, but Ben mentioned a new meetup that he was starting called DomeLab. Every other week, anyone was welcome to come to the Dome to share their creative works and collaborate with others. I was intrigued.

That evening, I went home and installed Blender for the first time in 2 years. I had 2 weeks to put something together to show at the next meetup. I decided to model a Mars crew transport prototype. I was rendering frames round the clock on every laptop I could bring back to working order. At my first DomeLab meetup, I only had 30 seconds of video to show, but I was excited to see how it looked.

The meetup had a handful of members, all of different backgrounds. Some were video producers, some were audio engineers, and some people were there just because they’d heard about DomeLab online – maybe like you are now! Ben spent some time showing us the Dome, its speakers and server racks, and talked about how to get things up on the Dome. Unlike a flat 16:9 movie screen, the dome requires a 180-degree fisheye projection, which requires a very skilled hand, or (more commonly) a fisheye camera – be it a physical camera or a virtual camera with a 3-D rendering engine. As a Blender user, I had rendered my frames using Cycles’ Fisheye Equidistant projection and was crossing my fingers that everything would look right on the Dome.

At long last, it was time to view my clip, and lo and behold, it worked. It wasn’t anything special, just a 6-wheeled vehicle crawling across a low-polygon Mars surface for 30 seconds, but to me, it was one of the most awesome experiences I’d had to date.

“Here was something I spent 2 weeks creating, and now I was viewing it in a gigantic full-dome theater… and the most amazing part is that Ben and FCMoD are opening their doors to the public for this every other week!”

Here was something I spent 2 weeks creating, and now I was viewing it in a gigantic full-dome theater, with a 5.1 Dolby speaker system that made my home setup sound like it wasn’t even trying. It is a content creator’s dream – viewing your work on a state of the art system, and the most amazing part is that Ben and FCMoD are opening their doors to the public for this every other week!

Over the next 6 months, I came to DomeLab on and off. I loved it, but as before, I wasn’t taking animation seriously. So, I decided to start taking DomeLab seriously in the summer of 2016 and began coming to every meetup. Since I live in Broomfield, this was a 2-hour driving commitment, but I felt it would be a good investment. As it turned out, this was truer than I ever could have imagined.

So why has DomeLab been so awesome? For starters, 2 weeks is “a long time” but at the same time, not that much time. It gave me enough time to put something together for the next meetup, while still keeping the pressure on to not procrastinate. For me, procrastination is my Achilles heel, and this was the fire I needed to keep growing creatively.

“….this was the fire I needed to keep growing creatively.”

I started watching Blender tutorials on YouTube for the first time in years. I tried new techniques. My modeling skills got better, and within a year, I had landed a small Dome animation contract. DomeLab really kept me growing creatively, and it’s hard to imagine how much further behind I’d be if I hadn’t started attending regularly.

Up to this point, I’ve talked mostly about me, and I’d like to talk about the other, and perhaps most important part of DomeLab: the people. I’d like to start with Ben Gondrez. For nearly 4 years now (and perhaps even longer), Ben has managed the Dome, and has opened the Dome to the public every other Tuesday, all because he believes in supporting local art projects. I’ve been around long enough to know that most museums are a walled garden, and rarely collaborate so closely with the community. FCMoD is different. Ben wants people to come in and experiment in the dome. He encourages first time members to come back with ANYTHING so that we can play it in the Dome. He invites musicians to come in and perform music. He coaches people and offers suggestions to people who want to “figure out this whole dome thing.” As a community, Ben is such an incredible asset to arts and creative works, and even after 3+ years of attending DomeLab, I can’t believe how lucky we are to have a museum that welcomes the public, and a Dome manager who cares enough to facilitate meetups.

The other side of the people equation at DomeLab are the members. During the beginning of DomeLab, members would come and go, but around 2 years ago, people started staying. We now have around a dozen “regulars” and almost always a few first-time guests. These members have humbled my creative arrogance and have shown me that I don’t know everything after all.

One of the members is building his own ray-tracing/path-tracing render engine from the ground up using linear algebra in C++. He creates mind-blowing abstract visualizations that are synchronized to his original electronic musical compositions. Another member is a Unity developer who creates interactive video games for the Dome that can be controlled from any cell phone or tablet – think multiplayer Asteroids for the Dome! There are members who create kaleidoscopic music visualizations in AfterEffects, videographers who share their 360-degree treasure hunting episodes with us, and musicians who come in to play music while Ben live VJs on the Dome.

“Every meetup is different, and every time I make new friends.”

I have learned to leave my ego at the door, and to enter with an open mind and heart. I could pick any random person at DomeLab and be guaranteed to learn something new. I have had the privilege of collaborating on several projects with these fine creative minds, and I can’t imagine life without DomeLab.

Sometimes, you need to check yourself before you wreck yourself, and DomeLab is the perfect tool to keep my ego in check while helping me grow creatively. The Dome is awesome. Ben is awesome. The people are awesome.

If you’ve made it to the end of my post, I hope to see you at the next meetup!

Happy Blending!

 

Interested in DomeLab?

DomeLab at FCMoD is an open meetup for anyone who wants to stretch their creativity in the dome. Whether you are a digital artist, painter, musician, DJ, VJ, photographer, or even a programmer this is for you! DomeLab is open and free to anyone interested in creating and collaborating on projects of all types so bring your creativity and #doitinadome!

For more information about DomeLab click here to join our Facebook group.

 

All images courtesy of Adam Goss.

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Memories from the Heritage Courtyard

Post written by Charlotte Conway, Youth & Family Programs Assistant.

Charlotte’s Courtyard Memories

The museum has had a special place in my life for many years. Growing up in Fort Collins, the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery always had a hand in my life. An especially fond memory for me was the summer camp I attended at the museum’s Heritage Courtyard at Library Park. The year was 2006 and I was 10 years old.  

The summer began as most summers did during my childhood. My mother sat me down to tell me about the various summer camps she had signed me up for, to my chagrin. Something about summer camps just did not work for me. The uncoordinated medley of arts and crafts and off-putting team building activities always left me feeling bored, uninspired, lonely, and misunderstood. However, there was one piece of this summer’s puzzle that was vaguely intriguing to me this year. For one of these summer camps, I had to come dressed up in costume: a historical dress resembling clothing worn in the 1900’s, to be exact. This piqued my interest…  

And my mother immediately pounced on my interest. The next day we drove over to a fabric store and perused all sorts of fabrics and patterns, deciding on the simplest prairie dress we could find. My mom is not a seamstress and neither am I, but we stitched together that dress and low and behold, it fit me!  

Driving over to the Heritage Courtyard on that Monday morning, dressed up as a little homesteading lady, I felt excited! I loved my dress, I loved the experience of making it with my mom, and I could not wait to show it off to everyone at the camp 

“What a memorable camp experience it turned out to be.”

It may have been the outfit that broke the ice for me. It might have been the compassionate camp leader we had that summer. Whatever the reason was, this camp experience could not be further from those summer camps I had attended before! I made friends with the other children at the camp. As a lover of learning, I enjoyed pretending I was a student from another time period. I loved practicing reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmitic on my little chalkboard writing tablet.  

I was finally happy to attend a summer camp. It is possible my mother was even happier than I was! This experience stuck with me for a long time. It eventually inspired me to apply for a job at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery. I had such strong, fond memories of that place, why not continue those memories?  

In retrospect, I could not be happier with my experiences with the museum. I was introduced to the museum through an incredibly positive summer camp experience – one that grabbed hold of me through my interest in history, reading, and writing, and sustained my interest through hands-on, fun, and compassionate experiences. 

It is my chance now to engage and excite children this summer through our exceptional summer camps and courtyard programming. Not every visitor and summer camper knows my personal relationship with the museum, but I hope I can pass on my continued passion for learning, even to those cynical students who haven’t found the right summer experience – until now!

Explore more this summer with summer camps at FCMoD!

Registration is now open! FCMoD members receive a discount on summer camps. The 2019 Program Guide is available here.

 

 

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Dance Express 30th Anniversary Archive Exhibit

Post written by Mary Elizabeth Lenahan, founder and director of Dance Express.

Dance Express 30th Anniversary Archive Exhibit

Founded for the love and joy of dance, Dance Express celebrates the creativity and dance talents of persons with Down syndrome and/or other developmental disabilities.  Because Theresa Lenahan loved to dance and had a natural sense of rhythm, and grew up with Down syndrome, her sister, Mary Elizabeth, knew dance was a wonderful means for self-expression and community participation.  And was inspired to start a dance company!

She founded Dance Express with the help of the Fort Collins’ community, dancers, families, students, businesses, and friends.  Mark Rosoff had the inspiration to create inclusive arts workshops and received funding from Fort Fund in 1988 to create four clusters: dance, art, music, and theatre.  He then aligned with Jane Slusarski-Harris, the new CSU Department of Dance director, to hold auditions for a dance company.  Mary Elizabeth Lenahan (then M. Elizabeth Miller) was studying occupational therapy at CSU at the time and assisted with the auditions on February 25, 1989.

Six dancers were chosen for the original troupe and performed at the first NewWestFest that summer.  One of those original six is still a member of the company.  Tamara Mahler has been a guiding light within the troupe and can be depended on to bring grace and beauty and a sense of fun to her dance compositions.

Annually, Dance Express produces dance and dance theatre performances, makes guest appearances, offers adaptive dance workshops in schools and community centers, hosts an annual regional inclusive dance convening, and provides dance training and access to the arts for people with and without disabilities.

“Essentially, Dance Express improves people’s lives through creative dance experiences.”

We are proud and grateful to be hosted at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery in the Archive as a part of our 30th Anniversary Celebration. The display will feature posters, programs, costumes, and more from the 30-year history of the organization and will be on view until June 30, 2019. Please be sure to sign the guest book and share your memories when you visit the display!

The exhibit will be on view from May 7 until June 30, 2019. Visitors may view the exhibit during our open hours: Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 am – 12:00 pm and 1:00 pm-5:00 pm.

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An Inside Look at the Road to Accreditation

Post written by Jill Stilwell.

An Inside Look at the Road to Accreditation

I had the great pleasure of working with the FCMoD staff on becoming Accredited. It was my job to facilitate the two-year process and help the staff navigate the steps to Accreditation.  Accreditation is awarded by our national museum association called the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). Being Accredited by AAM means FCMoD meets or exceeds the national standards and best practices for U.S. museums. Accreditation is the gold standard of museum excellence and a mark of distinction in the museum field.

Our first step was to study FCMoD’s core documents to make sure they met each of the standards as laid out by AAM. Some might say this part was a little tedious, but I found digging into the intricacies and policies that make FCMoD function fascinating. For example, the 41 page Collections Policy details how FCMoD obtains and cares for the community’s historic treasures. It addresses legal, ethical, and operational issues of preserving and exhibiting more than 38,000 artifacts and over 200,000 archival materials on behalf of the community. One of the many standards around collections calls for a museum to know the location and condition of every object in its collection. Check! And so on, for the dozens of standards around each of the core documents including the Collections Policy, the Emergency Plan, Code of Ethics, mission statement, and FCMoD’s strategic plan.

Accreditation is the gold standard of museum excellence and a mark of distinction in the museum field.

After submitting the core documents, we were approved to launch into the self-study. The six-month long self-study was an intensive look into the different areas of FCMoD, including education, collections care, organizational health, leadership, public service, and planning. Staff from across FCMoD took a deep-dive into not only what FCMoD does, but why and the impact it has on community. Staff researched, gathered information and statistics, and prepared answers to more than 100 questions in the study. Some questions were simple, like, “How many people visited FCMoD?” Most were more in depth, such as, “How does the museum incorporate learning theory and educational research into practice?” Although a challenging and time consuming process, staff commented on how much they appreciated the opportunity to articulate the breadth and depth of what they do every day and why it’s important to the communities they serve.

As the last step in the Accreditation process, FCMoD hosted a Visiting Committee for a two-day site visit. AAM selected two peers to visit, one an Executive Director from a science museum in Ohio, and the other an Executive Director from a history museum in Indiana. During the site visit, the committee compared the written self-study to reality and dug deeper into the inner workings of the FCMoD.  They met with all the staff teams representing the different areas of FCMoD, the Board and City leadership, and volunteers. They presented their findings in a written Site-Visit Report to AAM.

All of these materials, the Core Documents, Self-Study, and Site-Visit Report, were forwarded to the AAM Accreditation Commission. These folks made the final call, which we are pleased to announce was a resounding APPROVED! With that approval of Accreditation, we can be proud that our FCMoD is an exemplary museum in the eyes of our national organization, AAM. (But I think most of us already knew that!)

With this Accreditation, our Fort Collins community, our supporters, and you – the museum sure is in good company!

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Happy Earth Day!

Post written by Alex Ballou, Marketing Assistant.

Pedal and Paddle on into FCMoD this Earth Day!

Earth Day is an annual event celebrated on April 22. Worldwide, various events are held to show support for the protection of the environment. Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970. Today, Earth Day is celebrated in over 190 countries. Earth Day is a day dedicated the environment and finding sustainable solutions. Today, FCMoD would like to share some of the ways that our community can be rewarded for being environmental stewards.

Sustainable modes of transportation

Transportation alone is responsible for about 25% of energy related CO2 emissions and about 15% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Because of this, cycling is one of the most effective ways for individuals to minimize their role in adding to global warming. Bikes have an important role to play as sustainable transportation. Cycling creates a healthier planet, and for each mile that someone bikes instead of driving, they can keep one pound of greenhouse gas emissions from entering the atmosphere. Other modes of sustainable transportation include carpooling or use of public transportation. Those who carpool or bus significantly lower CO2 transport emissions. Walking is another mode of healthy and sustainable transportation. According to the CDC, if the destination you are walking to is within 1 mile you are more likely to walk to that destination, however, if the destination is between 3-4 miles there is still a likelihood of choosing walking as the main mode of transportation. FCMoD would like to encourage all guests, if physically possible, to consider choosing a sustainable mode of transportation to the museum.

To show our commitment, we have recently partnered with the Pace app in order to create a friendly and welcoming environment for those who would like to bike to the museum.

Our commitment to you

Since parking at FCMoD is limited and we strive to create a sustainable environment, if you bike, tube, walk, or take public transportation to get to FCMoD, we’ll offer 10% off your total admission for the day. We value the environment and we want to reward those who take great initiative to be environmental stewards.

Learn more about cycling

Next month, FCMoD will host Discovery Distilled: Beers & Bikes. This is a fun way to learn about biking paths and tune-ups. This is a great opportunity to chat with bike experts around town, drink some beers, learn something new, and have fun exploring the museum after hours. What’s more Fort Collins than beers and bikes? To find out more about the upcoming Discovery Distilled visit: fcmod.org/discoverydistilled

Interested in Biking to the Museum?

Here are the quick steps to use the pace app:

  1. Find your Pace (Use the Pace app to find a nearby bike)
  2. Make quick stops (Tap “Hold bike” in the app and lock up in order to have the bike waiting for you)
  3. Lock and end ride (Close the built-in lock and secure with the cable. Tap “End Ride” in the app)
  4. To find out more information about Pace click here https://ridepace.com/fortcollins/

Fort Collins community strides to be bike friendly. Fort Collins also offers an array of other bike share options. This Earth Day, let’s pedal our way around town to show our support of the environment.

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FCMoD at SXSW 2019

Post written by Ben Gondrez, Dome Theater Manager.

FCMoD at SXSW 2019

This March, thousands of creatives gathered in Austin, Texas for South by Southwest (SXSW). While many are familiar with the SXSW music festival, this annual series of festivals and conferences is designed to celebrate the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries. Founded in 1987, SXSW features leaders in each of those areas to come and present about various topics and emerging trends.

This spring, I was invited to participate on a panel discussion hosted during the SXSW Interactive conference. The panel, titled “Do it in a Dome! The Planetarium as an Arts Medium“, was organized by Dani LeBlanc, director of the Charles Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Science Boston. Along with Dani and myself, the panel included Monica Bolles, an artist developing experiences for dome environments, and James Wetzel, co-producer of adult programs at the Museum of Science Boston. Each of us had the opportunity to tell our stories of utilizing planetarium domes in new and innovative ways to engage with the arts. With most modern planetariums now operating with digital projections, the possibilities for what can be shown on the dome screen are no longer limited to stars and other celestial objects. This has enabled the creation of some truly impressive immersive art experiences.

Image Courtesy: Museum of Science Boston

At the Museum of Science Boston, Dani and James, along with the rest of their production team, have begun to program some very interesting events for adult audiences. Though some are surprised that a science museum would be hosting a live band or screening an immersive art piece, the team believes that in order to stay relevant to today’s audiences, science museum’s should be experimenting and broadening the horizons of what they can offer the community. Similarly to us here at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery (FCMoD), one way they’ve found to engage with their local creative community is through hosting live music performances in the dome that utilize the space in new and unique ways. Hosting live music under the dome creates a completely different experience than you would get at a more traditional venue; the experience becomes about the interesting ways the dome is used to compliment the live performance. Another use of the planetarium Dani and James have explored is hosting drag performances. The shows started as a surprise pop-up performance after their “Lady Gaga Experience” show but has since become a mainstay on its own. The producers at the museum work alongside local drag show producer Ian Diver to create these unique immersive performances, and have received a lot of support and a great response from the local community and media.

Image Courtesy: Museum of Science Boston, Jonathan Beckley

At first glance it may seem strange that planetariums, historically used for educating the public on astronomical topics, are now branching out and offering new experiences like live music, drag shows, or immersive art performances. While the mission of planetariums is to communicate science and astronomy to the public is absolutely vital, many institutions are beginning to branch out. Through these unique events, organizations like Museum of Science Boston and FCMoD are finding new ways to attract audiences that wouldn’t normally consider the local museum a place for them. Using planetariums for arts not only expands what was previously thought possible in these spaces; it is also changing the ways in which people are interacting with them. As these new audiences are finding that these spaces are for them as well, they are then becoming not only audience members but co-creators.

Here at FCMoD, we hope to encourage future dome artists and creatives through our DomeLab program. DomeLab is a regular meetup that offers the opportunity for anyone to come to the OtterBox Digital Dome Theater, learn how to create immersive experiences, and work with other creatives on projects to showcase there. This free program is open to anyone who wants to flex their creativity, whether they are a filmmaker, storyteller, musician, painter, photographer, or work with another medium; all are welcome. Come participate in creating the next generation of immersive experiences in the dome!

DomeLab meets every-other Tuesday at 7pm. For more information, follow us on Facebook or visit the museum’s event calendar.

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Volunteer Spotlight: Connie D.

Interview conducted by Laurel Drasner, Volunteer Coordinator.

Volunteer Spotlight: Connie D.

Position at FCMoD: Gallery Host & Museum Store Volunteer

When you started volunteering here: I started at FCMoD in January 2018.

Hobbies/Interests: I like to travel, read, volunteer and I love puppets!

Hometown: I’m from Pueblo, Colorado, but I’ve also lived in Greeley and Estes Park.

Current/previous occupation: I taught elementary school for most of my career, but I also worked at the Rocky Mountain National Park Conservancy for 11 years. I worked in the Gift Shop and was able to give puppet shows.

Favorite book: My favorite book is The Gift of Years by Joan Chittister. The book is about age and retirement and it inspired my recent move from Estes Park to Fort Collins and reignited my passion for volunteering.

Favorite vacation memory: My favorite vacation memory was when I spent 6 weeks in Africa with Earth Watch Volunteer Services to Scientists in ’95. We provided data to scientists by documenting what the elephants had been eating in the way of seeds and woody plants by going through their dung. Elephants do not assimilate their food well. We were also able to indicate how long the dung had been on the ground by documenting the insects that were on it. Very interesting!

One thing you want people to know about you: I also volunteer at the Demonstration Farm at Lee Martinez Park cleaning the chicken enclosures. I didn’t have any farm experience as a child, but it’s something that I’ve become interested in as an adult. I even put my last kid through college by milking cows on the weekend!

Favorite thing about volunteering at FCMoD: The staff is superb, and I also love getting to meet all the wonderful kids and adults who come to the museum!

Thank you for all you do for FCMoD, Connie!

Interested in volunteering? Learn more here.

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Staging a Successful Science Fair

Post written by Beth Unger, School Programs Coordinator.

Staging a Successful Science Fair

Fort Collins Museum of Discovery has a long-standing tradition of hosting the Poudre School District Science & Engineering Fair and this year, we’ve implemented a few changes that we hope will make this year’s fair the best yet! Follow our logic through the scientific method to learn more about the fair:

Background Information:

  • In April of 1994, the former Discovery Center Science Museum hosted the first Poudre R-1 Elementary School District Science Fair.
  • From 1994 to 2009, the District Science Fair was hosted at the former museum.
  • After the 2009 Science Fair, the Fair was relocated to local junior high schools (Boltz & Lesher) as Fort Collins Museum of Discovery began its transition to the new building where we are found today off Mason Court.
  • The District Science Fair has continued to grow each year to include more students from more schools.

Testable Question:

  1. Can we increase community engagement with the district fair by changing the location of the fair?

Hypothesis:

  1. If we move the district fair to Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, the projects will be viewed by more community members and inspire scientific curiosity and innovation in our visitors.

Materials:

  • 50 excellent student projects that have received top awards at their school fairs
  • 20 outstanding classroom teachers that coordinate their school fairs
  • 15 distinguished community judges (including FCMoD board members, graduate students from CSU, and community members from various other science fields)
  • 5 volunteers to help everything run smoothly
  • Support from our partners in the PSD Science Curriculum Department
  • A public space to display the creative and innovative projects that is free and accessible to our community
  • Many community members to view and be inspired by the projects

Procedure:

  1. Fourth and Fifth grade students participate in their school science fairs. Those who receive top awards at their school fairs advance to the district science fair.
  2. Students bring their projects to FCMoD to display in the Learning Labs at the museum.
  3. Judges preview student projects and make preliminary evaluations.
  4. Judges conduct one-on-one interviews with the students to learn more about their project and methods.
  5. All judges compare their notes on student projects, re-visit the most creative and innovative projects and collectively nominate the projects to receive awards.
  6. Students, family and friends, as well as museum visitors are invited to the awards ceremony to celebrate the achievements of all the science fair participants and to see who takes home the “Best in Show” prize!

Results/Conclusions: Come to the fair this year to find out for yourself!

If you’re interested to see how this project (and all the student projects!) turn out, join us for this year’s District Science & Engineering Fair! Student projects will be open for public viewing on Saturday, March 30, from 1:30-2:30 pm followed by the Awards Ceremony. After the conclusion of the fair, the public is welcome to view the Science Fair projects between 10:00 am and 1:00 pm free of charge on Sunday, March 31, in the Learning Labs.

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Geek Week: Gaming in in the Dome

Post written by Ben Gondrez, Digital Dome Manager.

Gaming in the Dome

Video games have certainly come a long way since they first began to become popular in the early 1970s. The first truly successful home video game was of course Pong, released in 1975 by Atari. The game consisted simply of a square icon that bounced from side to side on the screen as opponents blocked it from going off-screen with cursors that moved up and down to block it’s path and bounce it back to the other opponent. Controlled simply by a couple of knobs that each opponent would turn to move their cursor up and down, the game was simple yet extremely fun and engaging, especially as it sped up as the game progressed.

Photo courtesy of Flickr: mbiebusch

These days video games are not only much more advanced from a technical standpoint but also take into consideration things like narrative storytelling, the soundtrack and audio experience, multi-player experiences, and many more factors that create more and more immersive gaming experiences. With the rise in virtual reality these experiences are taking gaming to a whole new level by not only showing the players a different world, but seemingly transporting them there in person to experience all that a game and it’s virtual world has to offer. Probably the most popular VR game right now hearkens back to the days of Pong with it’s simplistic, yet completely addicting, game-play. This game of course is Beat Saber, the game where you are armed with two lightsabers slashing objects coming towards you all set to fun, dance-inducing music. Also, by incorporating whole-body motions like ducking under obstacles, this game fully immerses the player, and so many people get into it that it almost becomes a fitness workout. Games like this and other VR experiences create a powerful compelling alternate reality by overcoming your field of vision so that you can believe you’ve been transported to that reality instead of just viewing it on a screen.

Photo courtesy of Youtube: Ruirize

Here at the museum we have the OtterBox Digital Dome Theater, a 360° Dome theater that is a very similar experience to virtual reality, except for an entire audience! The Dome’s screen wraps all around and above the audience whose seats are reclined to be able to comfortably look up to take in the virtual worlds presented on it. Equipped with state-of-the-art high resolution digital projectors, the Dome can transport audiences anywhere the imagination can take you from deep under the ocean, to the farthest known reaches of the universe, to completely fictional worlds. There is truly no limit to where you can go in the Dome. One common remark we get after people experience the dome for the first time is “wouldn’t it be cool to play games on this!?” Well, you can!

During Geek Week, a week of programs that we hold here at FCMoD each year over Spring Break, you’ll be able to experience immersive gaming, and more, right here in the Dome! On Tuesday, March 19th from 10am – 3pm we’ll have a number of games available that have been created just for the Dome so that you can stop by, grab a controller and experience the future of immersive gaming in the Dome for yourself. Some of these are retro-inspired games like Space Invasion (inspired of course by the classic arcade game Space Invaders), but remade for the impressive 39-foot diameter dome screen. Others, like one game titled Xur, uses common game mechanics but with a 360° twist to make it even more challenging and fun to play on the Dome. Be sure to join us for this totally unique gaming experience, as well as the other days of Geek Week where we’ll be flying around the universe, holding Harry Potter Divination classes, and learning about the astronomical origins of superheroes.

Photo Courtesy of Evans & Sutherland

 

Check out fcmod.org/geekweek for other events this week!

Join us for Geek Week: Gamers Save the World on March 19.

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