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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Geek Week: A Magical Gathering for Fantasy Fanatics

Post written by Charlotte Conway, Public Programs Assistant.

A Magical Gathering for Fantasy Fanatics

I cannot wait to meet all the witches, wizards, and muggles alike who will attend this year’s Fantasy Fanatics day at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery’s wondrous Geek Week. We Hufflepuffs certainly do appreciate a friendly gathering. And with so many magical things to do, it’s a wonder where I will start this year!

I may just begin in my favorite section of the museum, with the animals! In my years at Hogwarts, we were permitted the usual creatures – cats, rats, and owls. There was always the occasional dragon or phoenix on school grounds as well. But what excites me most about this year’s Fantasty Fanatics day are the real Fantastic Beasts. I may have heard of or even seen some of these creatures before, but I never had the opportunity to see them so up close. And I will finally have the chance to ask all my questions to some expert beast handlers as well.

I even heard rumors there may be dragons at this year’s Geek Week. Not to worry, I am certain they will be well contained. They so rarely escape, and besides, they are miniature this year! Those fire-breathing creatures are so small you can even take one home with you. I am just so excited to see all those fascinating creatures!

Of course I won’t be ready for the day without my wizarding attire first. A quick stop at the Costume-Making and Photo Booth station should prepare me with the proper Hufflepuff attire. I simply must wear my yellow tie so everyone knows my House. There will be costumes for simply everyone – even the muggles can become magical with a little costuming and a lot of imagination!

Once I have my clothing in order, I suppose I will need to make my wand next. Each wand is unique to its wizard, you know! Once I have my wand, it would be in good form to learn some powerful spells to perform. I may need them for protection against the dragons! It will be wonderful to learn alongside so many upcoming witches and wizards, too. I even hear they may allow muggles to try out some spells!

Next, I will certainly need to make my way to Divination Class. Divination is spectacular, and it connects with the muggle science of astronomy! Muggles have come so far in their understanding of the planets and stars. We can learn a lot from their scientists and astronomers.

Speaking of science, I hear they may be concocting a special class on the Science of Mermaids at this year’s Geek Week, too. I try to avoid those aquatic humanoids on school grounds – they can be quite unpleasant when provoked. The Mermaids at Geek Week seem to be of another sort entirely, though! I’ll be quite pleased to see what they have planned for this unique learning experience!

With such a marvelous assortment of exciting, educational activities, muggles and wizards alike will rejoice! Where will you start this year?

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

Join us for Geek Week: Fantasy Fanatics on March 21.

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Geek Week: Superhero Showdown

Post written by Jason Wolvington, Associate Director.

Superhero Showdown

I remember the day clearly.

I was in 4th grade, and home sick for the day. You know how those days went: simultaneously happy to not be in school, but disappointed you couldn’t enjoy it because you were feeling so bad. Stuck in your room, there wasn’t much to do but rest, assuming you hadn’t faked it for the day (I didn’t, I promise). In my case, resting meant curling up in my bed reading tattered old Uncle Scrooge comic books I had accumulated over the years. When Dad came home from work later that night, he handed me fresh a stack of comics he picked up at the local 7-11 to help me feel better. As I flipped through the books, I stopped on a random issue of Spider-Man that was mixed into the stack. What happened next was pure magic.

What’s this?! I don’t read these kind of comics!  *scoffs at idea of superhero comics* Where’s my Disney?!  *stares in disgust at the Spider-man cover*   Where’s my Rocky and Bullwinkle?! *begins to flip through the unfamiliar pages of Spider-Man* Where’s my…..?!  *sentence cuts off as eyes grow wider by the amazingness of this new superhero world* And that’s how my love for superhero comics began. I’m still an avid comic book collector to this day, no doubt using my super-human museum skills to help organize, preserve, and protect my collection. Sure, I love the monthly adventures of my favorite superheroes, but I think deep down it’s much more about what comic books do overall: as a kid, they inspire awe and ignite your creativity and imagination (remind me to tell you one day about the “Atomic Chicken” comic I created in junior high). And as an adult, they’re an escape from pressures of the world around us, and a platform for powerful storytelling on a variety of subjects.

All that said – and unsurprising to you, I’m sure – I’m a total geek. And let’s face it: I know there’s more out there. You know who you are.

You who love to watch Star Wars every single time it’s on TV. Who catches up on the latest Game of Thrones theories, and won’t realize you missed dinner because you were so immersed in your latest video game adventure.

At FCMoD, we love geeks. And we love nerds, too. You’re the ones who keep life interesting, never stop exploring, and are always looking for ways to make the world a better place.

Welcome to #GeekWeek, friends…hope you enjoy your stay.

Check out fcmod.org/geekweek for details on the festivities!

Join us for Geek Week: Superhero Showdown on March 22.

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Geek Week: Sci-Fi Strikes Back

Post written by Charlotte Conway, Public Programs Assistant.

Sci-Fi Strikes Back

On the surface, science and fiction may appear to be complete opposites. Fiction tells us stories about people, places, and things that are imaginary. Science gives us knowledge about our world through observation and experimentation. Yet, the two are not as dissimilar as they seem. In fact, science fiction, the genre dedicated to imagining the world through the science and technology of the future, has helped many scientists with their work in the real world!

Take, for example, the inventor of the submarine. American scientist Simon Lake was inspired by the undersea adventures in the science fiction novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne! And Lake is not alone in drawing inspiration from science fiction: the inventor of the cell phone, Martin Cooper, gives credit to the communication devices he saw on the show Star Trek.

In our modern world, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) has garnered a lot of attention, and for good reason. In the 21st century, many jobs will lie in the STEM fields. Yet without the arts, even the most advanced scientists can lack the imagination necessary to developing creative solutions.  A large part of the engineering process is to imagine possible solutions to a problem. And when those solutions don’t work, it’s back to the drawing board to come up with new ideas.

Through a stretch of the imagination, sophisticated scientific advances can be made!

 

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

Join us for Geek Week: Sci-Fi Strikes Back on March 20.

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All About Animals!

Post written by Alexa Leinaweaver, Live Animal Husbandry Coordinator.

All About Animals!

Saturday, Dec. 15, animals are taking over all of Fort Collins Museum of Discovery! Come to the museum and learn more about all of these amazing creatures at Museum Takeover: Animals. 

 

What do we mean when we are talking about animals?

What do you picture when you hear the word “animal”? Some people think of living things that move, but that are separate from human beings. Some imagine the specific kind of animal they know best, such as a pet.

“Animal” actually refers to a large family of living things that are related to each other and share similar characteristics – including humans. We are still discovering new species of animals in the world, so we don’t know exactly how many there are. However, scientists estimate there are around 1.2 million different kinds of animals!

All animals are multicellular; have to eat food of some kind rather than generating it themselves; breathe oxygen; and are able to move themselves around (motile). Animals are generally bilaterally symmetrical, and most animals have specialized tissue, or organs, in their bodies.

 

How scientists differentiate between different kinds of animals:

There’s a lot of variety in kinds of animals in the world. Scientists have come up with many different ways to distinguish one species from another. Some of these techniques include: What does the animal look like (size, color, number of legs, etc.)? Where does it live (on land or in water)? What does it eat? What kind of structures or organs does it have in its body? Try and think of some other ways you could tell different animals apart.

 

Of the estimated 1.2 million different species, 80% of them are arthropods! This group includes spiders and insects. There are also approximately 32,000 different kinds of fishes. Mammals, which we may think of first when we hear “animal,” have some 6,000 different kinds. Humans, dogs, and cats are all mammals.

You may have heard about the difference between vertebrate and invertebrate animals. Vertebrates (like humans) have an internal skeleton, whereas invertebrates do not. Many invertebrates have what is called an exoskeleton, and they have a rigid shell on their outside that has to be shed as the animal grows. Some animals (like jellyfish) have no skeletal structure at all!

Animals have several different ways of obtaining food, and scientists can classify animals by how they eat. Predators kill and eat a prey species – imagine a wolf pack hunting and eating an elk. Parasites feed on their prey species without killing it. Herbivores (animals that eat only plant matter) are actually defined as a parasite. Imagine an elk eating grass, or a tick sucking blood from that elk: both are parasites. Finally there are detritivores, who eat bits of decomposing organic matter. Many insects, such as roaches or millipedes, will eat this way.

 

Extreme animals:

  • Biggest (by weight): Blue whale
  • Tallest: giraffe
  • Longest: Bootlace worm
  • Fastest: Peregrine falcon
  • Most poisonous: Poison dart frog
  • Most venomous: Box jellyfish
  • Best vision: Bald eagle
  • Able to see the most colors: Mantis shrimp
  • Most Deadly (non-human): Mosquitos

 

Animals at the museum:

The museum has several animals on display in the Animal Experience, but they all come from just two families: Arthropods (insects, arachnids, etc.) and Chordates (amphibians, reptiles, mammals, etc.).  Take a moment to compare the different kinds of animals we have. How do they move differently? Do they have an internal skeleton or an exoskeleton? Each of our animals requires different kinds of food, as some are predators, some are parasites, and some are detritivores. See if you can guess which is which! What else do you observe about the FCMOD animals?

Animals in your own life:

Take some time to appreciate the animals you see every day! If you have a pet, take good care of them and show them some love. Come to the museum and see our more unusual critters, and sign up for one of our animal programs. Or, take a walk outside and enjoy spotting some animals in the wild.

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LaserDome: Lady Gaga – Recap

Did you make it to the LaserDome: Lady Gaga show in the OtterBox Digital Dome Theater last weekend? Couldn’t make it, but still want to enjoy our curated playlist of Lady Gaga tunes? Well, we’ve got you covered! Check out the Spotify playlist below to re-live it or experience it for the first time! Every LaserDome playlist is carefully curated and arranged by our music-loving staff members here at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, so we are sure you’ll enjoy this playlist as much as we do!

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LaserDome: Pretty Lights – Recap

Did you make it to the LaserDome: Pretty Lights show in the OtterBox Digital Dome Theater last weekend? Couldn’t make it, but still want to enjoy our curated playlist of Pretty Lights tunes? Well, we’ve got you covered! Check out the Spotify playlist below to re-live it or experience it for the first time! Every LaserDome playlist is carefully curated and arranged by our music-loving staff members here at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, so we are sure you’ll enjoy this playlist as much as we do!

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LaserDome: Madonna – Recap

Did you make it to the LaserDome: Madonna show in the OtterBox Digital Dome Theater last weekend? Couldn’t make it, but still want to enjoy our curated playlist of Madonna tunes? Well, we’ve got you covered! Check out the Spotify playlist below to re-live it or experience it for the first time! Every LaserDome playlist is carefully curated and arranged by our music-loving staff members here at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, so we are sure you’ll enjoy this playlist as much as we do!

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LaserDome: David Bowie Recap

Did you make it to the LaserDome: David Bowie show in the OtterBox Digital Dome Theater last weekend? Couldn’t make it, but still want to enjoy our curated playlist of David Bowie tunes? Well, we’ve got you covered! Check out the Spotify playlist below to re-live it or experience it for the first time! Every LaserDome playlist is carefully curated and arranged by our music-loving staff members here at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, so we are sure you’ll enjoy this playlist as much as we do!

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