Science With Tom Looking For Feedback

Tom McFadden is, by day, a middle school science teacher.  But since long before he stepped in front of a classroom, he has been a science rapper (the nom de rhyme here is the Gift of GBA).

I’ve posted about Tom for a while, including his crowdfunded BRAHE’S Battles series and his Science Rap Academy.  He has a couple of current projects that would benefit from additional pairs of eyes.

First is the pending launch of his Science With Tom video series.  This is not to be confused with his Science x (Times) Rhymes or Science Rap Academy series.  It will not be a music-centric program, but a means of showing people what scientists do and who they are.  The program will do this in a fashion that demonstrates Next Generation Science Standards.  Tom would like feedback on the first episode and people to help spread the word.  If you’re so inclined, contact him through his website for more information (and just maybe an advanced look at the goods).

Looking further ahead, Tom is trying to get a panel at SXSWedu, an offshoot of the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin that focuses on education.  He’ll be there to promote Science with Tom and needs your votes to get a spot in the program.  Please vote online (registration is required).

Demo Day Includes Announcement Of I-Corps Expansion

The first White House Demo Day was on Tuesday, and is sometimes the case with White House events like this, the Administration took the time to announce other news related to the topic of the day.  The topic of the Demo Day was entrepreneurship, and the related announcements included commitments from federal agencies and private companies to further support entrepreneurship, with an emphasis on increasing participation from underrepresented groups.

One of the government announcements concerned the Innovation Corps, or I-Corps, started at the National Science Foundation in 2011.  The program pairs government-funded scientists and engineers with entrepreneurs to assist them in translating their lab work into marketable products.  Since the 2011 launch the I-Corps is now part of two Energy Department components (the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  The expansion announced this week will include the following agencies:

  • NIH will expand its I-Corps program to include projects funded through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) as well as some programs at the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.
  • Several programs at the Department of Defense.
  • The National Security Agency will start an I-Corps program geared toward the Intelligence Community which would be expanded to three other intelligence agencies.
  • The Agricultural Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture at the Department of Agriculture.
  • The Science and Technology Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security will put its SBIR-funded researchers through the I-Corps program.
  • The Small Business Administration will use I-Corp curricula for several of its resource and mentorship organizations, including the Small Business Development Centers.

Do read the full fact sheet to learn of the other announcements made by the administration on Demo Day.

Chris Hadfield’s Next Act Is Astronaut Troubadour

Chris Hadfield has pursued what many would consider an active retirement since leaving the astronaut corps in 2013.  This year is proving no less busy than most of the other years Hadfield has spent on Earth (outside of his time on the bottom of the ocean).

Part of what drew attention to Hadfield was his music performed in space.  This one in particular:

Today Hadfield’s first album, Space Sessions: Songs From A Tin Can, is available for pre-order. You can find it via his website, and the first single is available online at various streaming services.  Here’s the lyric video for the tune, “Feet Up.”

This fall Hadfield will premiere a monthly animated science series, “It’s Not Rocket Science.” It’s being funded through a Patreon account, in which patrons pledge a certain amount per item, in this case per video.  At present there has been over $2700 pledged per video, and Hadfield and his team intend to produced 10 episodes.

If that wasn’t enough, Hadfield will launch his Generator live show in Toronto on October 28.  He was impressed with one of Brian Cox’s (the astrophysicist, not the actor) live shows, and aims to repeat it in Canada.  I hope the event is successful enough for him to tour the program in Canada.

In Case You Need Your Science Text Parody In Bite-Size Chunks

Last fall Megan Amram released Science…For Her!, a science textbook written as though by a women’s magazine writer who knows little about science.

If you couldn’t be bothered to read the whole thing, but still want to dive in, Amram has a solution.  She has partnered with Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls on a web series, Experimenting with Megan Amram.  (Poehler’s website has a great deal of science, technology, engineering and mathematics – STEM – content worth exploring, not just this series.)

The show premiered this week, and will run weekly.  The first episode involves building a potato clock and an interview with Dr. Beverly McKeon, who runs the Graduate Aerospace Laboratories at the California Institute of Technology.  Do remember that this is a comedy science show (this is on Amy Poehler’s website after all).  The idea seems to be the morning show equivalent of a science segment.

The Next MacGyver Finalists Pull From Many Genres

Earlier today the National Academy of Engineering and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering announced the 12 finalists in The Next MacGyver contest.  The 12 finalists will present their concepts for a television show focused on a female engineer at the Paley Center on July 28.  The five winners will receive $5000 and be paired with a television producer to help develop a script that could be pitched in Hollywood.

The 12 finalists (11 individuals and one team) were selected from nearly 2000 entries, and their concepts are inspired by MacGyver, but by no means are intended to copy the show, aside from showcasing a talented engineer (or engineers).  The proposed shows cover a variety of genres and time periods, and one would even break the proverbial fourth wall of television with a social media element to the program.  Sadly, if the concepts advanced here have the typical Hollywood chance, at most one of them *might* get a pilot.  That’s too bad.

Manhattan Project National Historic Park Is On Its Way

Happy Fourth of July, everyone.

In late December Congress authorized the development of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park (NHP).  The Park, which would be managed by the National Park Service (NPS) in conjunction with the Department of Energy, will be in three separate locations that were critical to the development of U.S. nuclear weapons capability:

  • Oak Ridge, Tennessee
  • Hanford, Washington
  • Los Alamos, New Mexico

While some units in the NPS are non-connected locations with a common theme (such as the various parks and monuments in Washington, D.C.), the Manhattan Project NHP will be the only one so spread out that you would really need to fly to see each location.

The Manhattan Project NHP is also unique due to the collaboration between the NPS and the Department of Energy, which still has active facilities in each of the three locations.  Having grown up near one of them, I can state that there are historical sites already open to the public, but a coordinated effort between the three locations and the two agencies should augment the opportunities to engage with that history.  The Atomic Heritage Foundation has done a lot of work in this area, and will be an important partner to this final push to make the Manhattan Project NHP a reality.

This NHP would be one of the few sites administered by the NPS engaged with technology of the 20th century.  While technology of the day factors into many NPS displays and presentations, it is not often the driving force behind a particular park, monument or historic site (the Thomas Edison NHP being an exception that comes to mind).  Perhaps in the coming decades we will see NASA collaborating with the NPS on a space-focused NHP spanning sites in Florida, Texas and California.

Per the enabling legislation, the NPS and the Energy Department are hard at work in developing a Memorandum of Understanding that would outline their respective responsibilities in managing the NHP.  This must be done by December 19th of this year, at which time the NHP becomes official.  This would end a process started back in 2001 and shepherded by countless numbers of people.  Thanks.

So, There Was This Week Of Making…

Happy Canada Day, everybody!

The U.S. held its first National Maker Faire on June 12 and 13 in Washington, D.C.  It was part of a week-long celebration of Making, which included a few other events of interest.

The Faire was well attended by federal agencies and senior leadership from the Office of Science and Technology Policy.  There was also a showcase of Makers from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and the White House announced commitments from several educational institutions to expand efforts to support makers at their institutions.  Companies, state and local governments have also announced commitments to support Makers.  A long list of the commitments announced is available online.

I was struck in particular by the commitments from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to help Makers in commercializing their products.  As you might have guessed, the USPTO will assist Makers in protecting their intellectual property (though some Makers may be more interested in Creative Commons-type limited rights).  NIST will help Makers through the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP).  The MEP has Centers set up to assist small and mid-sized manufacturers with business and technical assistance, and will make those same services available to Makers.  (There was likely nothing preventing Makers from doing this already, but the commitment should demonstrate an understanding of Making that may not have previously existed at the MEP.)