Weekend Science Video Goodness: New Year For the Science Rap Academy

Tom McFadden has debuted the first video of this year’s Science Rap Academy.  Seventh and eighth grade students at the Nueva School prepare a music video based on a science concept, usually reworking a rap or hip-hop song.  The first video focuses on colony collapse disorder, and is called “Please Don’t Kill My Hive

The next video will be available on Monday.

Also coming on Monday is the premiere of the television version of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk program.  He has been making the publicity tour, appearing on The Nightly Show to talk conspiracy theories and on the latest edition of Science Goes to the Movies.  Tyson discusses how scientists are represented in some films, and the episode covers the movies Kingsman: The Secret Service, The Lazarus Effect, and Them!

One Year Out From The Next USA Science And Engineering Festival

The Fourth USA Science and Engineering Festival starts a year from today.  While booking of acts continues, ‘Science Bob’ Pflugfelder is already scheduled to appear.  If you can’t wait a full year, there are at least a couple of ways to engage with the Festival before then.

There is the Traveling Festival.  It will make its next appearance later this month at the FIRST Robotics Championships in St. Louis.  Michigan Tech’s Mind Trekkers are operating the festival, which will tour around the country leading up to next year’s Festival.

Later this month is the X-STEM Symposium.  The second annual symposium will take place April 28 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. (the same location as the Festival).  Targeted at middle school and high school students, the symposium is a combination of presentations, hands-on demonstrations and demonstrations from experts in a number of science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.  If you want to go and haven’t registered, April 17th is the last day.

So It’s Now A National Maker Faire

I missed the buried lede in last week’s announcement by the White House of the “Week of Making.”  I assumed there was going to be a second White House Maker Faire during that week, when it states there will be a *National* Maker Faire.  At the moment the Faire’s most active web presence is on social media.  Its website currently is just an information subscription request.

The Faire will be held at the University of the District of Columbia.  The University is partnering with the District Government, the organizers of the DC Mini Maker Faire and Maker Media to put on the event.  Several government agencies are committed to attend the Faire, which will take place June 12-13 (the beginning of the Week of Making).

More information is forthcoming.  But with the Week of Making less than 2 months away, I wish the information would come sooner.

Science Movie/Video Corner

This weekend marked the limited U.S. release of Ex Machina, one of many robotic-themed movies released this year.  The movie likely hasn’t reached your city, unless you are outside of the U.S., where the film has been more widely distributed.

The second episode of Science at the Movies is now available.  The theme is pattern recognition, and the films covered are The Imitation Game and Into the Woods.  Clearly you should not watch this program to get information on the latest releases.

In other video news, Tom McFadden may be about to open our minds with a new YouTube show.

Here you can see him take a Science Times (New York Times science section) newspaper article and rap it for you.  He’s promised to do this every week.

Are You Not Entertained?

The White House Is Doing The Maker Faire Again

This year I missed any early announcement about this year’s White House Maker Faire.  The 2015 White House Maker Faire will take place during the week of June 12-18, what the White House is calling a ‘Week of Making.‘  The announcement talks much more about last year’s Faire than this year’s week.

Perhaps that’s because the White House is looking for people and organizations to step up.  In line with last year’s call, the White House is looking for commitments to supporting Makers in a number of ways, including:

  • Creating hands-on learning opportunities for students to engage in STEM arts and design through making in and outside the classroom
  • Broadening participation in making for girls, young women and underrepresented minorities
  • Supporting the development of low-cost tools for prototyping
  • Developing capabilities that enable maker entrepreneurs to produce their products domestically and scale volume
  • Engaging makers in developing solutions to pressing local and global challenges

In order to be ready to announce new commitments during the June ‘Week of Making,’ The White House wants submissions by May 15.  If interested, please fill out the form at this webpage.

Tomorrow Marks Fifth White House Science Fair

On March 23rd the White House will recognize the science and engineering achievements of students and teams of students in 34 different projects for the Fifth White House Science Fair.  The President should, as he has before, tour the Fair, and live video will be available through the White House website.  In case not every project gets time in front of the camera, please take a look at each of the participants here.  (One of the projects comes from my hometown, which is a nice surprise.)

My guesses as to what will get the most attention are the tech projects.  Robots are usually a good bet to get eyeballs, and a few robotics teams are exhibiting at the fair.  The jukebox piano and the augmented wheelchair could also catch a fair amount of interest.

I’ve been curious about how the projects are selected, and this recent Science Friday interview with current U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith and Associate Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy for Science Jo Handelsman hints at it.  White House staff apparently sort through science and technology fairs and similar competitions (one team was a finalist in Verizon’s Innovative App contest) and then select teams that represent a diversity of projects and people.  While I still think presenting at the White House Science Fair could be a great incentive for young researchers and tinkerers, there may not be a direct line for making that happen.

Coverage will begin at 7 a.m. Eastern tomorrow on The Weather Channel.  Live video from the White House should start around that time as well.  You can access that through the Science Fair website.



Do You Want To See Some Robots?

The DARPA Robotics Challenge will hold its 2015 finals June 5-6 in Pomona, California.  DARPA is the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a part of the Defense Department focused on leading edge research in a number of fields.  Over 10 years ago started conducting competitions in driverless automobiles through competitions, and the Robotics Challenge is an offshoot of that effort.  Like the 2012 Challenge, this year the focus is on automated robots that can perform critical tasks in situations where communications from humans may be compromised.

As you might guess, those interested in competing are already well engaged in the process.  But high school students interested in this work have an opportunity to see it up close and personal (H/T White House).  DARPA is looking for 2-3 minute videos from students in grades 9-12 (in schools in the U.S. and its territories) that describe the kind of robot-assisted society that the entrants want to see.  Entries will be judged on clarity of ideas, creativity of presentation and quality of the video.  You have until April 1 to submit your entry.

Good luck!