Why There May Never Be An East Coast/West Coast Science Rap War

Regular readers will know that Tom McFadden does his own science music videos outside of Science With Tom and Science Rap Academy.  He released a couple in May, before the ltest session of the Academy.  One reworks a recent single from Adele into “Wanna Know More,” which includes Stanford geneticist Alex Dainis.  He also convened a passle of scientists, engineers, educators and other enthusiasts for what could be a good mission statement for science, “Everybody’s Got Questions (Yup)” (reworked from E-40’s “Choices”).

Don’t worry, McFadden has put names to the faces, because you’re not likely to know everyone.  I certainly didn’t.  I did recognize Bill Nye and Emily Lakdawalla from The Planetary Society; Rap Guide(s) creator Baba Brinkman, science video mavens Michael Wilson (aka Coma Niddy, now on the West Coast), Hank Green, Joe Hanson, and Tim Blais (A Capella Science); Science News presenters Trace Dominguez and Amy Shira Teitel, and Science Genius developer and educator Chris Emdin.  Take some time to learn more about these people, you’ll likely learn something about science as you do.

Both of these videos are part of the Google Making & Science initiative, which includes a YouTube channel of the same name, and the Science Journal app.  The app looks to be a combination lab notebook and sensor(s), which may facilitate future entries into the Google Science Fair.  Love that Google synergy, though I hope there will be more coming than what was released when the initiative debuted last month.

The Science Rap Academy Wants You To Read Those Cleaning Labels

The Science Rap Academy of the Nueva School, guided by West Coast science rap impresario Tom McFadden, released its latest single on Wednesday (as it has done each Wednesday in June).  Improving on a Justin Bieber ditty (“What Do You Mean?”), “What Do You Clean?” wants listeners to take a closer look at those labels.

The latest session of the Science Rap Academy ends next Wednesday, but any and all releases are available on the YouTube.

National Maker Faire Returns To Washington

Tomorrow and Sunday, June 17 and 18, is when the second National Maker Faire takes place at the University of the District of Columbia.  It is the biggest event of the National Week of Making, which started today.  Tickets are required, but they are free.

The Maker Faire will have demonstrations and presentations from makers and people supporting and studying making.  The schedule is packed, even moreso than last year.  There are also workshop opportunities, which may require a small additional fee.  Attendees can also see some  of the cutting edge research facilities at the University.

The Week of Making provides the Obama Administration the opportunity to announce several government and private sector commitments that has some connection to providing maker spaces or otherwise supporting technology education.  The White House has a full list of these commitments available online (and a more detailed fact sheet), but here are a few that drew my interest:

  • Over 1400 K-12 schools have committed to having a maker space available for their students.
  • A trend of having libraries serve as maker spaces, encouraged by programs like the Education Department’s Future Ready initiative, and the efforts of many public and private organizations to utilize recreation centers, libraries and similar spaces to support making.
  • Agencies making an effort to help makers navigate their funding (NSF, NIST) or regulatory (FDA) procedures.
  • The continued efforts of longstanding making organizations like Maker Media, to spread the word.  The tour headed by Adam Savage could be very interesting, especially if it manages to reach beyond the making audience that already follows the former MythBusters host and his projects.

Most can’t make it to Washington for the weekend Maker Faire.  There are also a number of events taking place across the country (and not limited to the official Week of Making).  Feel free to check the calendar for something happening near you.


Science Rap Academy Reminds Me I’m Old

Another Wednesday in June brings another video from the latest session of Science Rap Academy.  The latest effort reworks “Stressed Out” from twenty øne piløts to focus on “This Drought.”

This reminds me I’m old because if I hadn’t watched the episode of Lip Sync Battle where Zoe Saldana performed the song, I’d have no clue how well these kids captured the original while making their own work.  Great job!

Science Rap Academy Starts Its Summer Session

Tom McFadden, possibly the doyen of West Coast science rap (which is *not* beefing with East Coast science rap), will be releasing videos of his Science Rap Academy all through June.  The videos, which are written, produced and performed by Tom’s students at the Nueva School, will be released each Wednesday.

The first one released this month is called “They Grow“, and is reworked from the Drake song “Headlines.”

The second entry this month is “DNA” and is based in on the Logic song “Fade Away.”

And because I just watched the Tony Awards, I’ll be bold enough to challenge Tom to use the Hamilton cast album as future inspiration (if he hasn’t already).  Maybe The Schuyler Sisters and neurotransmitters?

Scratch That Coding Itch With Some Superheroes

The latest episode of the new Powerpuff Girls series premiered earlier today (Thursday).  Titled “Viral Spiral,” the plot revolves around villains seeking to destroy the Internet.  The Girls fight them, with Bubbles leading the charge thanks to her coding skills.

While the episode doesn’t get into the mechanics of coding, the show is working with the MIT Media Lab to promote it through the use of the Scratch programming language.  The Make It Fly project encourages kids to make their own versions of an animation sequence.  But kids are not limited to animation with Scratch, and should be able to construct other kinds of programs.

It’s not the first time that Cartoon Network has used one of its programs to promote coding, that was We Bare Bears.  But The Powerpuff Girls is a program with more history, and some of the people that watched the first iteration of the program just might have kids just the right age to take advantage of this initiative.

And it’s possible that Bubbles’ coding skills may come up in future episodes.

New Sponsor For Major Science Fair Announced

On Thursday the Society for Science and the Public (SSP) announced a replacement for the sponsor for its Science Talent Search, which has been sponsored by Intel since 1998.  Regeneron Pharmaceuticals reached an agreement for a 10-year, $100 million sponsorship commitment that will start with the competition cycle that begins in 2017. This is a large annual increase from Intel’s support, which was $6 million per year.  Besides increasing the prize money, the sponsorship support will include outreach to young researchers that have been underrepresented in science fairs.

Regeneron is the third company to sponsor the 75 year old competition, after Westinghouse and Intel.  The company is led by two alumni of the Science Talent Search, the Founder/Chief Executive Officer and the Chief Scientific Officer, and has supported many local science fairs in the past.

The progression of sponsorship from a company that focused on mechanical and electrical products (Westinghouse) to a computer company (Intel) to a biotechnology company (Regeneron) may reflect the changing focus of top science fair projects, but I disagree with Neil deGrasse Tyson that it’s such a surprise that Intel is looking elsewhere.  (It’s worth noting that Intel remains a sponsor of SSP’s international science fair competition – at least through 2019).  Intel has focused more on maker fairs and competitions that are more closely linked to the kinds of products the company produces.  It’s tough to argue that the company is no longer interested in supporting new scientists and engineers when it sponsored a million-dollar competition and associated television show.

I think the bigger challenge relates to the welcome news that part of Regeneron’s support will be outreach to those young people that aren’t participating in science fairs.  Science writer Carl Zimmer described this problem well in recounting his experience with his daughter’s science fair project and how it really could only get done because of his contacts with scientists.  In other words, if you don’t have access to professional scientists, you are at a serious disadvantage.  Which significantly reduces the impact programs like science fairs can have in finding the next generations of scientists and engineers.  Meaning that the increased annual investment in Science Talent Search probably doesn’t go as far as it could.