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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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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