Museum Week – Women In Culture

This year, Museum Week is all about Women In Culture, so it’s the perfect time to tell you about one of our very own wonderful women, Laura!

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Laura, the GSC’s Robotics Coordinator

As the Robotics Coordinator at the GSC, Laura maintains robotics classrooms for kids age 5-14 years old, creating class themes and lesson plans. She’s also involved in our YAM (Young Adult Mentor), Robotic Ambassadors and Teacher Assistants programs – programs designed for students who have aged out of our camps and classes but would like to remain involved in robotics through volunteering their time to help with teams and classes.

We took a few minutes with Laura to hear about the role of women in our culture.

What does the GSC do to support girls in STEM and what specifically is your role in this?

At the GSC, we support girls in STEM by providing classes in brick building, programming, design, coding, and a girls-only FIRST Lego League team, the Flying Robo Puggles. We also support up to five FIRST Lego League teams and four FIRST Lego League Jr. teams, open to all students. As the GSC’s Robotics Coordinator, I directly provide support to all of these initiatives.

Why do you think it’s important to encourage girls to get involved with STEM?

I think it’s important to encourage girls to get involved with STEM because as they get older, they’ll need confidence to share their ideas. Traditionally, there’s often a focus on male ideas and points of view, more so than the female perspective. As a society, we still have this bias but need to get to a point where gender doesn’t matter. What matters, instead, is a person’s skills and knowledge.

Can you share a success story?

Meenakshi Singh is a young lady who came to the GSC to join the girls-only Flying Robo Puggles in 2012. She spent three years on the team, then became a YAM for four years. As a YAM, she shared her experience being on a team and supported the students with their ideas and projects. This year, Meenaskshi is graduating high school from NC A&T STEM Early College and was a member of FIRST Tech Competition (FTC) team, Wannabee Strange, where she was one of the main robot programmers over the last two years. It has been so wonderful to watch Meenakshi share her love of robotics and to see her find her passions in life. Meenakshi will be attending MIT in the fall to study electrical engineering and computer science.

Left: Meenakshi working on coding the robot. Right: Meenakshi and her FTC team.

Read about Meenakshi’s personal experience here.

How does it make you feel to see girls like her transition through our programming and follow a career directly related to what you’ve been teaching?

I feel so blessed to be a part of someone’s journey through life. It’s incredible how that small amount of time we spent together has given her the confidence to follow her passion.

#MuseumWeek #WomenInCulture #thefutureisfemale

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away….

We all know what a Solar System is, right? It’s a collection of planets, moons, asteroids, comets, and other smaller bits (all held together by the gravity between them) that circles around a star — in our case, the Sun — that stands at the center of the whole thing. So, a solar system is where we live. But where does our solar system “live”? What happens when we zoom out and see the effect of gravity at a much larger level?

Our solar system and at least 100 billion other star systems are part of a larger grouping, also held together by the gravity between them, called a GALAXY. And just like the planets of our solar system tend to orbit in a flattened disk or plane around the sun, all the billions of stars that make up our Galaxy orbit the center in a highly flattened disk. In fact, our galaxy is pretty much as flat as a pancake; it’s disk is 1,000 times longer across from side to side than it is thick from top to bottom! If we could zoom out from our galaxy, the “Milky Way,” and see it from afar, it would look like a huge pinwheel or whirlpool of stars, which is why ours and many others are called SPIRAL GALAXIES.

There are something like 100 billion visible-to-us galaxies in the universe. When we look at them, each one is quite literally “a galaxy far, far away.” They are so far away that the light we see from them, traveling at a speed of nearly 6 trillion miles per year, takes millions of years to reach us. Because of that, we see each galaxy “a long, long time ago” — not as it is today, but as it was when its light first started the journey through space to get to us.

For the first time ever, the GSC now has a powerful new telescope which, outfitted with a sensitive video camera, lets us view live, real-time images of distant galaxies from right outside our front doors! Watch for us to offer public viewings in the months ahead. In the meantime, here are are some actual views of galaxies with our new scope…

May the Force be with you.

Conservation Creation: 180 Steps Around the World

Summer is right around the corner and it’s once again time to take a tour around the world – all from within our very own Jeansboro Junction (located in Friendly Farm)! On this tour, you will get the chance to learn about our farm animals and their natural histories, as well as earn a souvenir to take home with you.

While commercial farms tend to focus on a single crop or species of livestock, smaller family farms tend to have many different plants and animals, which is what you will see in our farmyard here at the Greensboro Science Center. When farmers are setting up their farms, they will often think about the relationships between their herds and their gardens. For example, horse manure is a great crop fertilizer and can be used to help grow vegetables for people as well as hay for livestock. Free-range chickens are great for keeping pests out of gardens while also providing eggs to sell or eat.

During the farm planning process, farmers need to be aware of the needs of both their animals and their gardens to ensure an efficient and healthy farm. For our activity this month, you will be planning and creating your own farm diorama! Below, you will see an example of a farm that we created, as well as how to make a horse for your farmyard.

What you will need:a box, craft supplies and a creative mind! Running short on craft supplies? Visit Reconsidered Goods to stock up on donated materials without breaking the bank!

Step 1: Figure out what kinds of animals you want on your farm and what they will need to live happy and healthy lives. To get started, remember that the three essential needs for any living creature are food, water and shelter. If you’re using the internet, search for animal care sheets (ex. Horse Care Sheet) to find out what each animal needs.

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Step 2: Make your cork horse! Start by breaking 3 toothpicks in half. Use the pointy ends to add legs and a neck to your horse. You will have half of a toothpick left over.

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Step 3: Attach a smaller cork to the neck area of the horse; this will become the head. Use glue to attach string for hair and googly eyes (if you would like) for the finishing details.

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Step 4: Create your diorama with the animals you want on your farm! For our farmyard, we decided we wanted to have a garden, free-range chickens with a chicken coop, a fenced-in pasture for sheep and horses, and a well to make providing water easier on our farmer. For an added challenge, try using only recyclable materials or materials from your yard!

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Greensboro Science Center Celebrates the North Carolina Science Festival

The Greensboro Science Center (GSC) is proud to participate in the North Carolina Science Festival throughout the month of April by hosting seven on-site events designed to inspire scientific curiosity. The North Carolina Science Festival is a month-long celebration of science that brings hundreds of events focused on fun, interactive science learning opportunities to communities throughout North Carolina.

Official events hosted by the GSC are as follows:

Tuesday, April 9
Science Trivia: Brewing Up Science
6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
To honor both the North Carolina Science Festival and North Carolina Beer Month, April’s trivia night will highlight the science behind brewing. This event is free to attend.

Friday, April 12
Brews & Bubbles
7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Guests of this annual conservation fundraiser will sample science – and beer – while learning about the GSC’s conservation efforts. This event is limited to guests ages 21+. Tickets are $40 for GSC members and $45 for non-members. Tickets are available online at greensboroscience.org/conservation/brews-and-bubbles/.

Saturday, April 13
Turtle Dog Day
10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Specially trained dogs will be tracking box turtles for GSC staff members to tag and release. Research collected about these animals will be submitted to the Box Turtle Connection. This event is free to attend.

Saturday, April 13
North Carolina Star Party
8:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
The GSC and Greensboro Astronomy Club invite the public to see what’s up in the night sky! Telescopes will be provided, but guests are welcome to bring their own. This event takes place rain or shine and is free to attend.

Saturday, April 20
Science Extravaganza!
10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
GSC guests will be invited to sample multiple branches of science by experiencing robots in action, nano stations, outdoor fun, must-see shows, and more. Activities are included with general admission or membership.

Saturday, April 27
Tuxedo Trot 5K and Kids’ Fun Run
8:00 a.m. (5K), 9:00 a.m. (Fun Run)
Participants will run, walk or waddle to the finish line to help save endangered African penguins. Race registration is required and is available online at www.tuxedotrot.com.

Saturday, April 27
World Penguin Day
8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Guests are invited to celebrate African penguins and discover how they can help this species in need. Activities are included with general admission or membership.

Martha Regester, the GSC’s VP of Education, says, “We love science every day, but the North Carolina Science Festival gives us a chance to highlight different areas of hands-on science, from astronomy to zoology. We hope that families will come out to join us throughout April to celebrate science and maybe find a new favorite area to explore!”

The Science of Beer

Beer is made from four basic ingredients: a grain (usually barley but sometimes wheat or rye), water, hops, and yeast. The basic idea is to extract the sugars from the grains so that the yeast can become alcohol and carbon dioxide, leading to beer.

First, the grains are harvested and processed by heating, drying out and cracking – a step called malting. The main goal of malting is to isolate the enzymes needed for brewing. An enzyme is a protein molecule in cells that works as a catalyst to speed up chemical reactions.

Next, the grains go through a process known as mashing. The processed grains are steeped in hot water for about an hour (similar to making tea… but it’s beer tea). This activates the enzymes in the grains, causing them to break down and release sugars. Once this is all done, the water is drained from the mash, which is now full of sugar from the grains. This sticky, sweet liquid is called wort. It’s basically unmade beer, sort of like how dough is unmade bread.

The wort is boiled for about an hour while hops and other spices are added several times to create different brews. Hops are a vine plant’s small, green cone-like fruits. They provide bitterness to balance out all the sugar in the wort. They also provide flavor and act as a natural preservative, which is what they were first used for.

The cooled, strained and filtered wort is then put into a fermenting vessel to which yeast is added. At this point, the brewing is complete and fermentation begins. During this time, the beer is stored for a couple of weeks at room temperature (in the case of ales) or several weeks at cold temperatures (in the case of lagers), while the yeast eats up all the sugar in the wort and spits out carbon dioxide and alcohol waste products. Yum!

At this point, alcoholic beer is born. However, it’s still in a flat and uncarbonated state. This flat beer is bottled and can either be artificially carbonated like a soda, or if it’s going to be ‘bottle conditioned’, allowed to naturally carbonate via the carbon dioxide the yeast produces.

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After allowing the beer to age for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, you can drink the beer – and it’s delicious!

 

Species Sampling: Crayfish

In late January, with temperatures hovering in the low 30s, a team of GSC staffers took to the streams to identify crayfish. Why, you might ask, would you wait for such a cold day for this particular project? We, the marketing department, had the same question as we were unceremoniously dragged from our heated office spaces to document the activity. According to our fearless leaders, Lindsey Zarecky, the GSC’s VP of Conservation and Research, and Brena Jones, of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, digging up crayfish is actually one area of research that lends itself to a winter excursion. The lack of new growth present at this time of year makes it easier to spot crayfish burrows and holes in the streambed.

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We know what you’re thinking… crayfish aren’t all that exciting. We thought so, too, initially. But read on! We’re going to share some truly fascinating factoids about a species present in our own backyards.

The first step to identifying crayfish, we learned, is locating them. Crayfish are burrowers. They are categorized based upon their habitat preference as primary burrowers (meaning they spend most of their time in burrows), secondary burrowers (meaning they are more often found in streams than burrows), or tertiary burrowers (meaning they are only found in burrows during breeding season). In order to find the animals, our team walked slowly through the stream, lifting rocks and looking for movement and searching for raised mounds that could indicate the presence of a burrow.

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Once the crayfish were found, the real fun began. Each animal was first identified by looking for several characteristics that distinguish one species from another. When it comes to pincher claws on a crayfish, size matters – for identification purposes, of course. The fat pinchers of the Cambarus are relatively obvious when compared with the long, narrow pincher claws of the Procambarus. Since crayfish can regenerate their claws, a tip Brena had for our team was to always look at the bigger claw for better accuracy.

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In addition to pincher claw size, the width between the lines on top of the animal’s carapace (or top shell), the presence or absence of spines on the carapace, and the pointiness or bluntness of the rostrum (which is a fancy word for the space between the eyes) can all be used for identification purposes. With that being said, there are a lot of undescribed species of crayfish in North Carolina, which can make identification challenging!

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Once the species was identified, some – ahem – personal information was also collected and recorded, such as the overall size and the sex. Males, Brena showed us, have an extra set of swimmerets, rigid in nature, on the underside of their tail. Each animal was also given a gentle squeeze. Pardon the scientific terminology here: a “squishy” crayfish may have recently molted. A shed exoskeleton means a growing crayfish!

Now, on to the big questions: why, exactly, are we digging up crayfish? Well, scientists, including the GSC’s own Lindsey Zarecky, are studying the effects of urbanization on wildlife. The recent sampling of species performed in our stream will establish a baseline for comparison as our facility continues to grow and expand. Knowing what the ecosystem looks like before, during and after construction will help scientists understand how to find a balance between continued development and maintaining native wildlife populations. The ultimate goal is to discover how to create a scenario where everyone wins – both humans and wildlife alike.

Greensboro Science Center Aquarist Participates in Prestigious Coral Restoration Workshop

Rachel-PR-BlogGREENSBORO, NC — Rachel Rodgers, coral aquarist in the Wiseman Aquarium at the Greensboro Science Center (GSC), participated in a five-day coral restoration workshop at Mote Marine Laboratory in December, 2018. Rodgers’ participation was sponsored by the GSC’s Conservation and Research Grant, funding which offers GSC staff the opportunity to pursue a conservation or research project.

The workshop was led by Dr. David Vaughan, President and founder of Plant A Million Corals and former Senior Scientist and Program Manager at Mote’s Elizabeth Moore International Center for Coral Reef Research & Restoration. Workshop participants were exposed to the history of coral restoration (both land-based and ocean nurseries), coral reproduction and the future of restoring coral reefs in light of bleaching, or starvation, episodes occurring around the world.

The workshop offered hands-on experience in land-based micro-fragmentation and fusion coral restoration efforts. Participants learned how micro-fragmentation expedites the growth of corals. Using a specialized saw to cut very small pieces of coral, usually 1-5 polyps, the coral tissue is stimulated to grow, allowing scientists to clone at 25-50 times the normal growth rate. Clone fragments of coral recognize each other and fuse together to form large colonies. By implementing techniques such as micro-fragmenting and fusion, scientists and aquarists hope to bolster the resilience of reefs at local scales.

Workshop participants included coral biologists, conservationists and academics who have been doing coral fragmentation on existing reefs. As the only aquarist to participate, Rodgers brought valuable knowledge about land-based work to the team, including water quality, building of aquarium systems and coral husbandry. Now that the workshop is complete, Rodgers is excited to maintain relationships she built during the experience. She plans to continue collaborating with fellow participants so coral labs can be built all around the world.

“This workshop brought a lot of hope,” Rodgers says. “You hear ‘50% of coral reefs are bleached and 30% are dead’ and you begin to feel hopeless. But, when you have dedicated people learning to build reefs, there is hope for coral reefs.” This experience not only taught Rodgers techniques for restoring corals, but strengthened her passion for the work she does as well as drew her into a world of coral restoration opportunities.

Rodgers was one of three staff who received project funding through the GSC’s Conservation and Research Grant program. The GSC’s staff can apply for funds to support research projects, conservation work or relevant professional development. Applicants must submit a written application, provide a presentation to the research committee and, if funded, present a program recap to the GSC’s board and staff.

Lindsey Zarecky, VP of Conservation & Research at the GSC says, “The GSC research committee is thrilled to be able to offer this grant opportunity. There is such gratification in seeing the hope, passion and illumination in the eyes of staff who experience field conservation work and become re-energized to do what they can to conserve wildlife.”