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Science Buddies has added a new "activities" section to its award-winning science education website. The new science activities complement the existing library of science fair project ideas but bridge the gap between science "assignment" or "independent project" and doing science just for fun at home or in the classroom. These new activities appear just as summer break begins for many students, making the timing perfect for families looking to keep kids engaged with science all summer long.

New Science Activities at Science Buddies / hands-on science for the whole family

Science Buddies is excited to announce a brand new section of the website devoted to hands-on science activities. With a focus on short-term, family-friendly science and engineering experiments, these activities bring fresh new flavor and simplicity to Science Buddies and help families more easily make science a part of their time together at home.

In-depth Science Buddies Project Ideas for science fair projects and school assignments have been a key part of Science Buddies since the organization was founded in 2001. With a bit of ingenuity and reading between the lines, parents can adapt many of the more than 1,200 Science Buddies Project Ideas for home use, but the new dedicated science activities area makes it even easier to plan and lead a fun and engaging science experience at home.

The new activities help guide hands-on science exploration by providing simplified step-by-step procedures, key questions to think about or important observations to make, and information about what families can expect to see happen and why. In addition to a materials list, overview, and guided steps of the experiment, each activity includes explanatory information to help contextualize the activity and the science behind it, as well helpful links to relevant careers that help students make the connection between cool science and possible future career paths.

The science activities area is broken down into categories designed to help guide families in choosing a science activity to explore: All About Me; Build it Better; Crafting and DIY; Kitchen Creations; The Natural World; Outdoor Fun; Try It Out; and Whiz, Bang, Boom. As the section titles indicate, the new science activities area aims to help kids and families uncover and explore the science in everyday activities. Science really is everywhere, even in fun activities like throwing Frisbee at the park and making ice cream!

According to Sandra Slutz, Lead Staff Scientist at Science Buddies, "Most of the Science Buddies staff are parents. We understand the realities of balancing family time commitments, fun, and learning. So during the development of these activities, we continuously went back to three questions: Is it fun? Is it easy to do at home? Will kids learn something neat about science or engineering? I think we've succeeded in striking that balance across all 40 of these new activities. We hope our users will enjoy these activities as much as we have with our own children!"


Science Anytime

In the new Activities area, you will find great hands-on science ideas like these:

  • Theme Park Science with Jell-O® Loop-De-Loops: what do you get when you fill cups with Jell-O, put a marble in each one, and sling them around your head like a lasso using a homemade centripetal force generator cup? Answer: a cool look at centripetal force and Newton's Laws of Motion!
  • Make an Alka-Seltzer Powered Lava Lamp: can you simulate the behavior of a retro lava lamp using empty bottles, vegetable oil, food coloring, water, and Alka-Seltzer®? This no-power lamp won't give you any light, but it may produce lots of oohs and aahs as you watch the groovy movement of the bubbles and explore the chemical reaction that happens when Alka-Seltzer combines with water.
  • Build a Gumdrop Geodesic Dome: with gummy candies and toothpicks, you can build a simple geodesic dome that lets you explore how the dome is made out of a series of interconnected triangles—and how the dome shape can support a surprising amount of weight!
  • Make Your Own Marshmallows: with sugar, corn syrup, and gelatin, you can make homemade marshmallows. How you vary the ration of sugar to corn syrup will make a difference in the texture and taste of the marshmallows though, so be prepared to taste test!
  • How Much Mass Can An Aluminum Foil Boat Float?: that heavy boats made of steel float in water can seem mind boggling. Shaping boats from aluminum foil lets kids see how the size and shape of a boat relates to how much weight it can hold and still float on water.
  • Color-changing Cabbage Chemistry: what can you learn about acids, bases, and the pH scale from boiled cabbage juice? This project may be smelly, but when you add lemon juice or vinegar to cabbage juice, you will see the purple color of the cabbage juice change. As you experiment with combining different foods or solutions to cabbage juice, you will be exploring the pH of those foods—and seeing the pH register in front of you by the color the juice turns!



Support for development of the new Science Activities area at Science Buddies was made possible by Motorola Solutions Foundation.

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Symantec employees in multiple locations put a set of Science Buddies Project Ideas to a hands-on test. This team meeting may have felt like a day at school, but by working together to build and test simple motors and shake-it-up energy sources, Symantec volunteers helped Science Buddies make sure that a set of new student science and engineering projects were all set for students. As the volunteers discovered, working through an electronics science project, even one aimed at 4th-6th grade students, can be challenging—but fun!


Symantec volunteers test science kits
Symantec volunteers test science kits

At Science Buddies, we are fortunate to have the support of a range of corporate donors like Symantec, sponsors who join us in our dedication to helping K-12 students enjoy and excel in science—and helping their teachers and parents support and encourage science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning. Science Buddies offers more than 1,200 hands-on Project Ideas and thousands of pages of resources for teachers, parents, and students working on science fair, classroom, at-home, or independent science projects and activities.

With changing school curricula (and the adoption of Next-Generation Science Standards (NGSS)), more and more attention is being given to hands-on science and engineering projects, and members of the Science Buddies community turn to Science Buddies as a trusted source of quality procedures for hands-on learning.


Hands-on Support for Hands-on Science Education

Thanks to financial support from sponsors like Symantec, our site resources remain free to use for the more than 15 million students, teachers, and parents who visit Science Buddies each year for assistance locating a science project, following the steps of the scientific or engineering method, finding science activities to do at home, or integrating active science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning in the classroom.

Empowering students and exciting them about science requires the involvement of many, many people and organizations. Science Buddies is fortunate to have volunteers from sponsor companies who assist in our online Ask an Expert forums and who help support science literacy in their own communities by judging at local science fair judges.

When a group of employees at Symantec selected Science Buddies for a team-building day of volunteer service, Science Buddies was excited to have a group of extra hands to test a set of new electronics and electricity projects and kits.


Quality Science Project Ideas

Before Project Ideas at Science Buddies reach students, they go through multiple rounds of editing, peer review, and hands-on testing by our in-house team of scientists and editors. The Science Buddies team works hard to ensure that students are given solid background material, a complete materials list, and a well-explained step-by-step procedure that will lead students to measurable and clear results appropriate for the project's level of difficulty and complexity.

When possible, having projects tested by other adults or students, provides additional information about the projects and may help identify areas in need of clarification or areas where additional visual aids or resources would be beneficial. Having Symantec offer to have more than thirty employees work in groups and help test three different electronics project was a wonderful opportunity for the scientists at Science Buddies to gather additional data about the usability, repeatability, and clarity of these new projects.


Symantec Employees Choose Science Buddies for Day of Service

In December, Symantec employees gathered at offices in California, Florida, Oregon, and Singapore to pretend for the morning that they were students or parents presented with a science project to work through. All the materials were on hand, so the volunteers were asked to read through the background material and then follow the procedure provided, just as a student would.

Not all volunteers had technical backgrounds, which is perfect for project testing. The projects were all targeted for students in grades 5-8, and students choosing these projects would not necessarily approach the project with any prior electronics experience. Similarly, when a parent assists a student with elements of a science project, the parent may or may not have any expertise in the area of the science project. Having employees and adult volunteers sit down and work through the steps of an experimental procedure helps Science Buddies ensure that the project directions are clear, that all necessary steps are provided, and that the projects work as they are written.

"Giving people instructions is full of hidden pitfalls," acknowledges Sandra Slutz, Lead Scientist for Science Buddies. "Things that seem crystal clear and easy when you are doing them can be challenging to explain. Imagine telling someone who has never cooked before how to cook rice. They need so many specific directions. What does 'high' heat mean? What does a simmer look like? How long should it cook? The list goes on. When you write instructions, it is easy to overlook something that seems obvious to you. That is why we feel so incredibly lucky when we have multiple teams of people testing a project. Each team comes at it with a different set of experiences, so they can catch completely different oversights. In the end, we take their feedback and use it to make a much better set of instructions so that students can have a successful science project experience."

During their morning of volunteer testing, many of the Symantec volunteer teams successfully completed their projects, but a few ran out of time or encountered problems executing the procedure. While it can be frustrating for a volunteer (or a student or parent) to have a project "not work," knowing where problems occur helps Science Buddies strengthen the materials to provide an even better experience for the students who may ultimately select the project for a school fair or assignment.

"The Symantec teams tackled the projects we gave them wholeheartedly, and we're very grateful for all their feedback," says Slutz. "Some teams actually ran into a lot of trouble and didn't complete their project—but for us this wasn't a failure, it was successful testing. That feedback allowed us to go back and re-evaluate our instructions. It turned out that something simple we had overlooked in two of the projects (the width of the tape used to wrap a component) made a huge difference in how the project performed. Symantec's team testing helped us uncover that problem. Thanks to them, we've clarified our materials list—a change that will save students hours of frustration!"

Kristen Woods, Senior Director at Symantec Corporation, organized the volunteer event for her team. According to Woods, she suggested Science Buddies to her team instead of a more traditional volunteer activity because "the work supports one of Symantec's core philanthropy areas: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math education, and because the format of the work allowed us to conduct the event in multiple sites globally."

Ashley Savageau, Community Relations Program Manager at Symantec, agrees that the volunteer testing was a great opportunity for Symantec employees to get hands-on with one of the organizations the company supports.

"I was thrilled the team chose to develop an activity with Science Buddies," says Savageau. "They are a long time partner of Symantec's, so it helped cement that commitment by providing our employees' skills in addition to our corporate dollars. I also loved the fact this was able to happen across multiple geographies to help with virtual team building! The team reported that they really enjoyed doing something that supported the company's values and was different than the average volunteer event, and that they even learned something along the way!"

"Working with Symantec to help create a meaningful, STEM-related Day of Service for the volunteers was a great experience," says Amy Cowen, Online Community Manager and Volunteer Coordinator for Science Buddies. "We are grateful to have had financial support from Symantec for a number of years, but opportunities to have their employees help in hands-on ways are wonderful."

"The project testing Symantec provided was a learning experience for Science Buddies as well," adds Cowen. "We are excited to take what we learned about facilitating team testing in the workplace to create new volunteer opportunities for sponsor companies in the future."


Science Buddies Project Ideas in computer science are sponsored by Symantec Corporation.

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Take a sneak peak at an exciting pair of hands-on science and engineering activities that Science Buddies has planned for USASEF visitors and get inspired to make your own robots this week in celebration of National Robotics Week—or experiment with your own catapult project!

Bristlebots at USASEF in Science Buddies booth / hands-on robotics engineering


From National Robotics Week to This Month's USASEF Expo!

This week is National Robotics Week, a week dedicated to showcasing robotics engineering and "robo-technology." With the cartoon character Bleeker the rechargeable dog as mascot for the week and a set of free robotics trading cards that students can download and print, National Robotics Week is primed to engage and excite K-12 students about robotics.

Bleeker National Robotics Week Mascot
Above: Bleeker the rechargeable dog is the mascot for National Robotics Week.

Trying Toothbrush Robotics
To get started with toothbrush-head robots with your students at school or at home, see the following Science Buddies Project Ideas and posts:

The Science Buddies popular Robotics area continues to grow, and our scientists have been busy preparing a small army of toothbrush-based robots (AKA bristlebots) for hands-on fun at this month's USA Science and Engineering Festival (USASEF) Expo in Washington D.C. More than 3000 hands-on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) demonstrations will be on display at the USASEF Expo, April 26 and 27, 2014. Attendance to the Expo is free, but you can pre-register to be entered to win prizes. For full details, Expo map and program guides, and more, see http://www.usasciencefestival.org/.

Look for Science Buddies in Hall C, the Earth Sciences Pavilion, Booth 3722. Mark your map—or your app!


Robotics for Everyone!

As a stepping-stone project in student robotics, bristlebot robots let students start out with something super basic—a toothbrush head, a single coin cell battery, and a vibrating motor—and expand the project to integrate additional electronics learning, including more sophisticated breadboard circuitry, light sensors, solar cells, photoresistors, multiple motors, on-off switches, and more.

At USASEF, visitors to the Science Buddies booth will get a chance to explore and race light-following robots through a fun maze that our scientists have built. Pairs of USASEF participants will race their bots against each other using small flashlights to try and guide their bots to the finish line first.

If you will be at USASEF next month, make sure you plan to stop by and give one of the light-following bristlebots a try. You can also make your own bristlebots at home using the procedure at Science Buddies in the Build a Light-Tracking Robot Critter project. (See sidebar for additional information.)


Ping Pong Balls Away!

USASEF attendees who stop by the Science Buddies Booth will also be able to test their launch skills by trying out the ping pong catapult. Getting the ball to the target takes a combination of physics and engineering. Students will explore concepts of trajectory, launch angle, and pullback strength as they test their aim and then record the outcome of each shot (their data) on a composite data map that tracks the hit statistics for all Expo attendees as a histogram. With three target zones ahead, can you set up the catapult to launch the ball in the middle zone to score accuracy points?

The ping pong catapult kit (available in the Science Buddies Store) can be used with the following fun hands-on Science Buddies science projects:




Science Buddies is a proud partner of the USA Science and Engineering Festival (USASEF).
2014USASEF-logo.jpg


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Science fair projects let students learn, use, and demonstrate important science and reasoning steps, and the benefits of hands-on and active exploration compared to more passive modes of learning or rote memorization are well-documented. So why do so many parents scowl at the science fair project assignment? What makes the science project a stressor for many families rather than an anticipated and positive learning experience? Is it simply a matter of perspective or an incomplete understanding of what a science fair project is and should be? There are many steps teachers can take to help transform the science fair project experience, but what does it take, at home, to transform the science project assignment from something parents dread into something parents celebrate as a critical and invaluable step in their student's learning?


Turning Turmoil into Terrific / Science Fair Project Display Board for parents

Better Understanding the Science Fair Project: Helpful Resources for Parents

The following resources and articles may help parents reconceptualize the importance, value, and process of a student's science fair project assignment:

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Social Media Lashes Out at the "Science Fair Project"

Have you seen it? The GoldieBlox Super Bowl ad, yes. The LEGO® Movie, yes. The tongue-in-cheek project display board bemoaning the science fair project process and citing a more than 75% dissatisfaction rate among students and parents, as measured by the number of students who cry and the number of parents who yell during the process? Probably.

You may have seen the project display board crop up on your favorite social media site. You may have been surprised to see it pop into your stream from distant corners of the country or globe, from parents and grandparents alike. You may have been surprised to see it crop up in the stream of a parent or friend who you know has a very engineering- or science- or technology- or math-oriented kid, a parent you know spends countless hours encouraging, lauding, and supporting her student's hands-on science and engineering projects—and proudly sharing those same projects with her friends and followers.

It happened to me. I first saw the "science project turmoil" project display board shared by the parent I would least expect to spare it a second glance, much less share it. The next morning, I saw the photo shared by someone else in a completely different part of the country, someone who doesn't even have school-age children. As friends of those friends weighed in with a comment or a thumbs-up on the post, notifications kept popping up (accompanied by a 'beep' on my system) letting me know how much "support" the photo was getting from other people who saw the photo and agreed enough to click 'Like,' or leave a comment, or share the photo on their own stream. I didn't see anyone rebutting the image or standing up on behalf of the virtues and values of hands-on science education—at least not in those two shares of the photo. Even from teachers, I saw "likes."

Puzzled by the near-instant wave of people latching onto the image and issue, I went to the source—the original photo posted in March 2011.

It is both fascinating and frightening to read through the comments on the original photo. There are, thankfully, some people who weighed in noting the positive nature of hands-on or active science education. There is, in fact, a comment by the board creator where it seems that, in part, her complaint is really aimed at the way science fair is presented in elementary school—at the fact that the "competition" aspect of science fair may overshadow the point of hands-on science and turn the science fair into something else, something that invites and encourages far too much parent involvement. Her comment (#48) is there, but as the turmoil board picked up steam anew last week, it appears that by and large, people saw the "turmoil board" and were compelled to join the wave of "why do a science project" comments, a tidal wave of anti-science education sentiment that took on new life with each new like.


Why Do a Science Project?

What gave the "turmoil board" steam when it resurfaced? What prompted people from all corners to share, reshare, like, and comment? If many of those people are people who actually support, encourage, and even enjoy hands-on science and engineering activities with their kids, you have to dig deeper to see what's really at issue here.

Take the science (or engineering) out of it, and the "project" stands alone, with the assumed "assigned" or "fair" being the silent partner in crime, the elephant in the room. The board creator even suggests that without a competitive fair, science projects could be approached differently for elementary school children, done more as family projects and explorations. In other words, it is specifically the school science fair project that is being projected as the cause of family turmoil.

The board, with its googly eyes overlooking the hand-drawn results diagram, goes on to explain why.

The photo got under my skin, maybe because it was shared (and liked) by people that I didn't expect to share (and like) it. It was shared and liked by people who I know value science education, people who I know are proactive and publicly involved in the education systems in their areas.

So why the widespread jump on the anti-science fair project bandwagon? What buttons did the "turmoil board" press?


Kids Doing Science

At Science Buddies, I am one of the non-scientists. I am exactly the kind of parent that might seem to fall into the "science projects cause family turmoil" camp simply because "science fair" isn't my forte—science fair puts me well out of my comfort zone.

Before Science Buddies, maybe I would have been drinking the science-causes-turmoil Kool-Aid. It is hard to know how I might have approached a science fair assignment before Science Buddies. I can't go backwards and manipulate the variables or set up a control to see how my family would have weathered science fair season without the benefit of knowing about the project ideas and resources available at Science Buddies.

Thankfully, there is Science Buddies.

As a parent of elementary and middle school children, I have, over the last few years, done and witnessed a wide range of science and engineering projects with my kids, ones that have been completed for science fairs and ones that we have done together as family activities.

My lack of engineering and electronics experience didn't stop us from tackling toothbrush robots, light-following Bristlebots, a crystal radio, pencil dimmer switches, play dough electronics, and more. That doesn't mean I didn't wonder with each project if I knew enough to guide the activity or help troubleshoot problems that might come up with the independent (science fair) projects. But, all in all, science fair projects in my house have gone smoothly and been positive experiences all around.

So, where was the turmoil?

There was much more angst with the "build a mission" project, a California History assignment in the 4th grade and a clay roof that took hours with a hair dryer to try and harden. There was plenty of angst any time an assignment to "dress up as your historical subject" came home. (We didn't happen to have Ben Franklin-suitable attire on hand.) Making a half dozen artifacts to go along with a history research project certainly took as much time as the science fair project. Indeed, there have been flurries and scurries with a wide range of creative and "craft"-oriented exercises and assignments.

So what's the problem with the science fair? And, more importantly, what does it take to turn a standard science fair assignment into a positive, successful learning experience for students and a positive parenting experience for the grown-ups?


Helping Students (and Parents) Enjoy the Science Fair Project

As I watched the fervor over science fair mount, triggered by a marker-drawn project display board, I wanted to pass out Science Buddies stickers to every person who clicked "like" or "share" or wrote a comment commiserating with the horrors of science fair.

I wanted to grab some markers and make my own Project Display Board of all the things I know that Science Buddies offers that can help remedy the problem, all the tools and guidance that can transform the science project into something students and parents look forward to as a fun way to get really hands-on with a cool science question.

If only all of those parents knew about Science Buddies, I kept thinking. Of course, I work for Science Buddies. So I have an inside view. I know that more than fifteen million other people, including students, teachers, and parents also know about Science Buddies and count the non-profit and its free, online resources as a trusted source. I know they visit the site each year when science fair rolls around.

I can only assume that the "turmoil board" creator may not know about Science Buddies and may not know about the Topic Selection Wizard.

We need Science Buddies stickers. We need a badge kids can sew on to a troop uniform. We need to go viral in the same way that the "turmoil board" went viral.


Science Buddies and the Student Science Fair Project

Science Buddies has a whole set of keys that can help transform the science fair "turmoil" into a successful experience for students and parents. In part, parents have to get beyond their own fear of science and their own assumptions about science fair. You don't have to be a science expert to help an elementary student do a school science project. But you do have to have the right idea about what a science project is, what it can be, and how to approach it to maximize the learning experience—and enjoyment—for your student. You also have the right to expect that a science fair project isn't simply a homework assignment, something sent home with a due date several weeks in the future and not integrated at all in the day-to-day classroom.

For science fair projects to be successful, teachers have to ensure that projects are integrated into the classroom learning and monitored with clear schedules and check-ins that help students stay on track and also teach students how to break a big project down into doable parts. Science fair projects should not be done the night before they are due. Ever.

There are a number of ways in which teachers can (and should) help smooth the science fair project experience. But in responding to the "turmoil board," the following reminders for parents and students can make a big difference in how the process goes at home:

  1. Plan ahead. This is a big stumbling block for many students and parents. Waiting until two days before the project is due to select a project or buy supplies is a guaranteed recipe for disaster (and family stress). Plus, waiting too late in the process limits what kind of project your student can do. The project your student might be most excited by might take weeks to complete. That doesn't necessarily mean it is a more difficult project, but projects in certain areas of science may take more time—plant biology projects, for example, or setting up and testing a microbial fuel cell for an environmental science project.
    Note: proper scheduling of the project and assessing a student's progress throughout the project window is a teacher's responsibility and can really help alleviate science project stress, procrastination, and confusion. When properly scheduled and managed with in-class due dates and timelines, parents should not suddenly learn from a panicked student that the science fair project is "due tomorrow" and has not been started. (See the Science Fair Scheduler Worksheet in the Teacher Resources area.) Parents can help students set up calendars and put time to work on various parts of the project on a schedule to help reinforce the time management and planning skills students are learning and using.
  2. Pick a great project idea. A half-baked project idea should not be the cause of science fair angst. At Science Buddies, there are more than 1,200 scientist-authored project ideas in more than 30 areas of science. Most of these project ideas offer background information to help kickstart a student's research and a full experimental procedure that has been tested and reviewed by a team of scientists.
  3. Hook into student interests. A student who does a project that fits in with an existing area of interest is far more likely to enjoy the science project process than a student who picks a project because it fits a parent's area of expertise or somehow fits what a parent thinks a science project "should be." This doesn't mean that your student needs to know if she is interested in biotechnology or aerodynamics. If she knows that, great. But if she doesn't, what are her hobbies? What does she like to do in her spare time? Are there issues she cares about?

    Finding a science project related to an interest may immediately set the stage for a more exciting and engaging science fair project. Not sure where to look? The Topic Selection Wizard at Science Buddies helps match students to projects they may really enjoy—even in areas of science they might not have initially considered. Respond to a few simple statements that help the Wizard better understand your interests, and the Wizard will show you a set of projects that you might like. From video gaming to sports to robotics and zoology, there are great student projects in every area of science.

  4. Think beyond the box about what qualifies as a science fair project. Your student is not limited to doing the same project everyone else does, the same project an afterschool program demonstrated, or the same project you remember from your own science class. There are an infinite number of possible questions your student might ask and around which a science project may be built. Students are not limited to exploding volcanoes or seeing whether plants grow better with this liquid or that one. Here are a few examples of great science projects that might not sound like what you expect:

    Those are just a few of the many, many projects that students might choose, projects that sound like a whole lot of fun!

  5. Pick a project that fits with the student's grade level/experience. Not every science fair project will results in a Nobel Prize-worthy conclusion or data set. School science projects are not supposed to be equivalent to what adult scientists are doing in the field or in research labs. Instead, a student's science project gives the student the chance to enact the scientific or engineering method and answer a science question. What is learned or observed by the student may be something small, but the student will have learned by doing, by putting the question to the test and gathering and analyzing data. Picking a project that is too hard is certain to cause problems, and choosing a project that is too simplistic for your student will not challenge her to really dig in and get involved in the process and project.
  6. Understand the role of the parent and the role of the student in the science project process. Your student's science project should not be your own project. Depending on your student's grade and age, you may need to be more or less involved in helping your student facilitate the experiment. But if an appropriate project is selected, your student should be able to work through the steps on her own. Your student needs to come up with the hypothesis (her words, not yours). Your student needs to decide what the project display board looks like and how the information gets presented. Your role may be that of driver (to the library) or buyer (materials, glue, and a project display board). Or maybe your role is to help your student talk out loud about what is happening in the project so that she is better able to understand and articulate what she observes, what problems she encounters, what questions she has, how her variables are related, or what else she may need to do in developing her procedure or analyzing her data. (For more information, see How to Help Your Science Student.)
  7. Review the basic steps of the scientific method or engineering design process yourself. Your student should be learning and reviewing these steps in class, but refreshing your memory about what is involved will help you feel more confident about the step-wise approach that most projects follow. Bookmark the Science Buddies Project Guide. It is your friend.
  8. Remember that being "right" is not the goal. A science project may not turn out the way your student expects. A hypothesis may not turn out to be supported by the experiment. It may seem like exactly the opposite of what your student thought was going to happen happened. This doesn't mean the project failed. If your student worked through the appropriate steps and learned something by doing the experiment, then the project may, in fact, have been a success. Teachers look to see that students have used and understood the scientific steps, understand what they were testing and why, and understand what the data showed—even if it is different than what the hypothesis predicted. Do not think your student has failed if the project takes an unexpected turn!
  9. Go to the science fair. Make an effort to go to the science fair to see your student's project on display, one project display board among all the others, and to celebrate the hard work and learning that went on as part of the project. Everyone who completes a science fair project deserves recognition for participation!


Here's to Science Fair Project Success in Your House!

Share Science Buddies with your student's parents, with your friends, colleagues, and family. Science Buddies can make a difference in how students and families perceive the science fair project.

While your students finish preparing their science fair projects for this year, I may work on a few project display boards of my own. As the "turmoil board" shows, you can certainly make a statement and communicate information about a project or a process using a project display board! That students learn to share their project results in this way is a great exercise at the end of the science project process!

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Help Support Science Buddies


Donate to support Science Buddies mission / hands-on science, technology, engineering, and math education for more than fifteen million users a year

Read the Science Buddies 2013 Annual Update.

For more information about donations, see the Donations FAQ.

Follow Science Buddies at Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Google+.

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Science Buddies 2013 Annual Update


Dear Friends and Supporters of Science Buddies,

I founded Science Buddies in 2001 with the primary objective of leveling the playing field, enabling every student to succeed with a hands-on science project. With science literacy for all young people as a goal, we take a highly personalized approach, making sure we have engaging content in a wide range of science, technology, engineering, and math disciplines, supporting students at all stages of their projects, and reaching out to as many students and teachers as possible. The free tools and resources we offer reflect the latest research on how to best engage students in science, and are completely unique. No other organization—commercial or nonprofit—provides what Science Buddies does.

Over the past year, we served over 15.4 million unique students, teachers, and parents with our Project Ideas, classroom materials, career guides, and Ask An Expert Forum. The fact that this number is equivalent to 25% of the K-12 population demonstrates the extraordinary breadth of our impact, as well as the critical need for our resources.

Giving to Science Buddies Helps Support K-12 Science Education for Teachers, Students, and Parents, all year long

Impact of Your Contribution



$25 pays for 192 student and teacher visitors to our website.

$50 purchases supplies to test a new Project Idea.
$100 runs our Web servers for one day (which is visited by as many as 110,000 people a day).
$200 lets us serve 1,500 student, teacher, and parent visitors.
$500 helps us provide regional outreach to 100 teachers in districts that need it most.
$5,000 authors an engaging, one-hour science activity that will be used by thousands of students in the classroom or in after-school programs.
Donate Now -

As we reflect back on 2013, we are proud to tell you that our lean and mean staff of under 20 people (including my full-time pro-bono role) has worked harder than ever to provide unparalleled educational content and new services, all while striving to find new ways to bring in revenue that allows us to provide everything we do at absolutely no cost to our users. With more than 83% of every dollar going directly to our programs, rather than to overhead, we put young people and their parents and teachers first, providing an excellent bang for the buck to our donors.

I'm pleased to share with you the following highlights of our 2013 accomplishments:

  • Enhanced User Experience We used the latest technology to improve the way users interact with our website. A new advanced search function lets students search the website more easily, while a new filter on our Project Ideas allows them to quickly find a project that meets their ability, available time, and budget (a feature that is particularly critical to low-income students).
  • Improved Understanding of Our Audience
    Our new teacher registration requirement is helping us refine our understanding of teacher needs.
  • Developed Engaging New Content for Students, Teachers, and Parents

      Robotics for Students: Our newly launched Robotics Interest Area enabled K-12 students to explore robotics engineering and design without expensive equipment and/or programming expertise. Our users have responded positively to this new material, with 300,000 downloads of Robotics Project Ideas and other related resources over the past year.
      Activities for Parents: We also continued to serve parents through our content partnership with Scientific American's Bring Science Home initiative. This weekly series provides an exciting array of activities that encourage families to explore hands-on science together using common household materials.
      Posters for Teachers: Through a sponsorship with Elmer's, we provided a beautiful, full-color classroom poster with a visual overview of the six steps of the scientific method to 7,000 U.S. educators.
  • Participated in White House Discussions about Science Education Following this year's State of the Union address, Science Buddies was invited to take part in a special session at the White House with officials from the Office of Digital Strategy to discuss the future of science education and how to inspire the workforce of the future. As the only K-12 nonprofit in attendance among a group of powerful science and media organizations, we helped advocate for the importance of hands-on science exploration as a critical tool for inspiring more U.S. students to pursue science education and careers.
  • Leveraged Iron Man 3 to Fuel Student Inquiry
    With this year's release of the latest installment in the popular Iron Man movie series, we curated a special series of Hands-On Projects for Iron Man Fans to spark science and engineering excitement by connecting the movie (and comic) to the real-world principles of physics, engineering, technology, robotics, chemistry, and biotechnology. We partnered with Verizon FiOS to drive more than 600,000 viewers to an exclusive trailer before the film came out as a way to highlight the movie as a great starting point for learning that builds on students' intrinsic interests, and earned $0.01 for each viewer in the process.
  • Strengthened Our Project Kit Offering
    Based on last season's results, we improved our offerings of Project Kits. Our investment in this earned revenue stream is truly beginning to pay off, with profits from kits helping to support our other activities.
  • Confirmed Powerful Student Learning
    Science Buddies regularly surveys key audiences for feedback. This year's results affirmed that our materials are truly making a difference: 66% of students who completed the I Did This Project! survey on our site felt that they learned more or much more than in a typical science class, 91% of teachers agreed or strongly agreed that students using Science Buddies learned something new about science, and 71% of the students surveyed at ISEF (International Science and Engineering Fair) rated our materials as very good or excellent.

We hope you, too, are excited by these accomplishments and the direct impact they are making on the lives of millions of students.


Help Science Buddies inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers!

I hope you will strongly consider making a contribution to Science Buddies so that all our young people can become literate in science and engineering. Your gift will help us make inquiry-based science exciting, fun, and accessible for over 15 million students next year, whether you designate your donation to general program support or to a specific program or project. Below is a list of our upcoming activities for 2014 and details about how you can make a contribution to Science Buddies.

Thank you for your valued friendship and support for Science Buddies.

Best regards,

Ken Hess
Founder & President


Giving to Science Buddies Helps Support Hands-on Science Education and Exploration by K-12 students in all areas of science, including electronics and robotics

How to Make a Contribution to Science Buddies



Gifts of any amount are deeply appreciated. Your contribution will help Science Buddies serve over 15 million students, teachers, and parents in the coming year. Thank You!

Gifts Made by Personal Check

Make your check payable to "Science Buddies" and send it to: Science Buddies, PO Box 5038, Carmel, CA 93921.

Gifts Made by Credit Card / Gifts Made Online

The simplest way to contribute by credit card is to visit Science Buddies' website and click on the How to Donate link, which appears at the bottom of each page under Get Involved. You will be transferred to our secure site where you can donate online using your PayPal account or a credit card (PayPal account not required).

Gifts of Stock

Please contact Jayme Burke at Science Buddies (see below) for details on how to make a stock transfer.

Recognition

All gifts of $1,000 or more will be acknowledged on Science Buddies' website; please indicate how you wish your name (or names) to appear. If you prefer to remain anonymous, please let us know.

Donate Now - Giving to Science Buddies Helps Support K-12 Science Education for Teachers, Students, and Parents, all year long

Financial Information and 2014 Activities


Where Your Donation Goes

In addition to our core programs, key activities planned for 2014 include:

  • Establishing new Academic Outreach Partnerships with university researchers to translate cutting-edge research from top labs to students' desks.

  • Launching a new, streamlined mobile version of our website that will allow students to access Project Ideas and even walk through our Topic Selection Wizard intelligent recommender from their smart phones.

  • Developing and rolling out a new Raspberry Pi Build-Your-Own Computer Kit, including step-by-step videos to help students with no programming experience to dive right in.


Typical Staff Activities

Maintaining, protecting, and improving our 15,000-page website that serves up to 110,000 students a day requires a staff of skilled scientists, writers, editors, designers, and software engineers. Typical activities include:

  • Preparing new content for publication to the website.

  • Protecting our website (unfortunately, popular websites like ours are targets for cyber attacks).

  • Recruiting, screening, training, and monitoring volunteers who work with children in our Ask an Expert Forum.

  • Answering questions and providing technical assistance to students, teachers, and parents who use our site or our science Project Kits.

Science Buddies Tax ID Number and 501(c)(3) Status
Science Buddies is a 501(c)(3) public charity (nonprofit organization) authorized to receive charitable contributions; our tax ID number is 94-3216541. Your gift is fully tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.


Questions? Please contact Jayme Burke, Vice President of Development, Science Buddies, jayme@sciencebuddies.org; 650.440.0721.

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Teachers weighed in recently to let Science Buddies know about science events and projects at their schools and how Science Buddies fits into the science education puzzle in their classrooms.


Ashley Baughman, Bio-Rad Essay Contest Winner

The Value of Hands-on Science Learning; The Value of Science Buddies

In a recent survey, teachers gave Science Buddies outstanding marks for its array of free resources that support teachers, students, and parents in areas of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. In classrooms around the world, Science Buddies is making a difference in how science is approached, taught, learned, and enjoyed. More than fifteen million people use the Science Buddies site each year, and thanks to valuable feedback from our core community of teachers, Science Buddies is hard at work developing exciting new resources.

Above: Ashley Baughman, a young naturalist and winner of the Ron Mardigan scholarship, awarded by Bio-Rad Laboratories. See in her own words how hands-on science has made a difference in her life.

With more than fifteen million visitors each year, Science Buddies has been making a difference in the science project and science fair experience of K-12 students, teachers, and parents for more than a decade. The non-profit science education company knows, however, that to best serve its core community, its resources, programs, and site offerings must remain aligned with the changing needs of the K-12 classroom.

To ensure that the offerings remain robust and in step with current classroom strategies, approaches to science pedagogy, curriculum standards, and ongoing science research and development, the organization evaluates and updates existing materials on an ongoing basis. This process of internal self-assessment and realignment of existing materials happens even as new resources are under development by a team of in-house scientists and, at times, experts and collaborators at sponsor companies and partner labs and universities.

Keeping the Science Buddies library of more than 1,200 Project Ideas fresh and exciting to engage students in hands-on science and give them the opportunity to explore both classic and cutting edge areas of science is important. But ensuring that Science Buddies resources align with ways in which teachers are approaching hands-on science in their classrooms, at school science events, and in guiding student participation in science competition is critical to fulfilling Science Buddies' mission.


Asking for Teacher Feedback

Science Buddies wants to make sure its resources meet and exceed the needs of teachers and their students. One way to make sure this is happening, and to maintain a holistic view of the way Science Buddies fits into the picture of science education at the school by school level, is to talk to teachers and find out what they are doing at their schools in terms of hands-on science and how Science Buddies and the resources and tools at www.sciencebuddies.org contribute to their (and their students') success with science.

With support from the Medtronic Foundation, Science Buddies recently invited K-12 teachers in the Science Buddies community to grade Science Buddies by responding to a survey about ways in which teachers and students are using Science Buddies, the kinds of science events that happen at their schools, and the features they find most exciting from a list of enhancements being considered by Science Buddies.

By and large, Science Buddies received a gold star from the teachers who responded to the survey.


The Value of Hands-on Science

The results of the survey support the importance of hands-on science, with the majority of respondents reporting that they do hands-on science of some form with their students. More than 50% of the respondents teach at a school that holds a science fair or public exhibition of science projects, and almost 23% have a "family science night" at school. Almost 62% of the respondents note that they do hands-on science experiments in class, and even in schools where there is no public showing of science projects, 24% report that their students engage in independent science projects (without a fair). Less than 4% of the teachers who responded report that they do no hands-on science with their students.

For the teachers who report assigning science projects and doing hands-on science exploration in the classroom with their students, the value of hands-on, immersive activities as part of science education is abundantly clear. Teachers strongly correlate hands-on science with increased interest in science and increased learning. Asked about the after-effects of doing an independent science project, teachers overwhelmingly replied that they agree or strongly agree that students are inspired to further explore science (78%); learned something new about science from the experience (91%); learned more about independent, dependent, and control variables (85%); learned more about the scientific method or the engineering design process (89%); and were generally more interested in science because of the science project experience (81%).

This feedback about the value of doing science projects aligns with Science Buddies dedication to the hands-on process and the importance of active learning, an approach to science education that gains added support with Next-Generation Science Standards (NGSS).


Science Buddies: Part of the Solution

Teacher responses to the survey questions were resoundingly positive about the impact Science Buddies is making in the science education process and in the hands-on science learning experience for K-12 students. Among teachers who require science projects for a science fair, more than 75% of respondents suggest Science Buddies to their students as a place to search for a quality science project idea. When asked about the overall quality of Science Buddies' resources, more than 83% of respondents ranked Science Buddies as "excellent" or "very good."

For teachers who use Science Buddies with their students and in their classrooms, Science Buddies is clearly more than making the grade, but there is always room for improvement. Using the information teachers provided about their schools and the features they would like to see at Science Buddies in the future, Science Buddies is already working on new additions and programs that will bring added value to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.



Science Buddies Project Ideas in Human Biology and Health and Zoology are sponsored by the Medtronic Foundation.



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As administrators and school boards around the country consider the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), Science Buddies is helping teachers begin ramping up, now, for some of the ways in which traditional classroom science projects and assignments may change.

Scientific method and engineering design charts

Side-by-side Comparison

Science Buddies teacher resources and blog posts help teachers prepare to incorporate the engineering design process more widely in their classes.

Rhode Island, Kansas, Maryland, Vermont, and California are among the small handful of states that have already adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), a set of standards for teaching science that were finalized last April. As states continue to evaluate the standards, and as adopting states begin to put together roadmaps for implementation, teachers around the U.S. will find themselves hearing more about the engineering design process.

The following Science Buddies posts are designed to help teachers think about the new cohabitation of scientific method and engineering design processes both conceptually and through concrete, side-by-side, comparison of the methods and what it means to have a student complete a project following one approach versus the other:

How will you approach the incorporation of engineering design in your classroom? Do you already teach the engineering method? Email us at blog@sciencebuddies.org and let us know.



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The Next Generation Science Standards encourage a multi-dimensional view of science education, one that highlights the importance of students learning to use the engineering design process—as well as the scientific method.

Egg Drop Project / Teacher Dropping Egg from Height

Science and Engineering Methods Side by Side in Next Generation Science Standards

A classic physics activity challenges students to discover how to keep an egg from breaking when dropped from a certain height. Using the scientific method, a student may initially hypothesize that the egg will break! Subsequent variations of the hypothesis might posit that x material will provide better shock absorption than y material. An experimental procedure is then established to test.

Using the engineering design process, students accept that the egg will break unless a solution is devised to protect it. Students then move on to brainstorming, prototyping, testing, and refining a solution created specifically to meet the need—and protect the egg. (Image: Wikipedia.)

The much-discussed Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), finalized last spring, signal broad-spectrum change in K-12 science curriculum. Among the foundational tenets of the NGSS is an integrated, circular model of learning that involves a continuous flow between three "dimensions": practices (scientific and engineering methods), cross-cutting concepts (e.g., cause and effect; energy and matter; stability and change), and disciplinary core ideas. According to the NGSS framework, every standard will sit within the three dimensions, offering a new, integrated, and experiential approach to science education, an approach in which learning and application of science builds upon and extends previous learning and experience as students progress through grade levels.

Central to the NGSS is new attention to the importance of familiarizing students with the engineering design process—and giving them opportunities in which to use the engineering design process (or engineering "method") as a way to apply science, technology, engineering, and math to challenges or problems. The NSTA summarizes the NGSS this way: "The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) establish learning expectations for students that integrate three important dimensions—science and engineering practices, disciplinary core ideas, and crosscutting concepts—effectively builds science concepts from kindergarten through 12th grade, and integrates important concepts of engineering."

The engineering design process is, of course, not new. Within certain fields, principles of the engineering design process are critical to everyday exploration, research, and invention, and countless examples of innovation and discovery throughout history have roots in the engineering design process. What is new, however, is a national educational approach that calls for making room for a design process that helps blueprint innovation alongside the traditional scientific method that seeks an answer to a science question based on testing. Cohabitation of these methods will have broad impact for many classrooms and science fairs that have not, to date, integrated, encouraged, or allowed student engineering design projects. (See the gray box at the bottom of this post for links to helpful Science Buddies Teacher Resources!)


Similar but Different

While both involve a series of somewhat systematic steps, the scientific method and the engineering design process use different sets of steps. The methods resemble one another in that they offer steps which help guide and order exploration or inquiry, but as many students and teachers have discovered, a student's engineering design project cannot always be easily squished into the steps of the scientific method either during the procedure or for the purposes of judging. It is and has been done, yes. Not all science fairs, for example, make specific allowances for engineering design projects, which has left students creatively adapting their engineering project steps and data to fit the scientific method model. With the advent of the NGSS and new validation of the importance of teaching engineering design as a critical "practice" for all students, regardless of whether or not they will pursue fields in science and engineering, ramping up for broader integration of engineering design will be important.

In explaining the "practices" dimension, authors of the NGSS specifically highlight the importance of both methods—and their differences. "Although engineering design is similar to scientific inquiry, there are significant differences. For example, scientific inquiry involves the formulation of a question that can be answered through investigation, while engineering design involves the formulation of a problem that can be solved through design."

By learning to use the separate scientific and engineering "practices," students will be better able to approach a broad range of real-world challenges. In many cases, brainstorming solutions to an engineering challenge requires creative thinking and both the ability and the confidence to think outside a prescribed set of parameters—the proverbial "box." A solution often lies in the pursuit of a new approach that answers a need in a completely new way, or maybe answers in a way that is only slightly different but enough different to have an important or measurable effect. Solving some science problems requires the ability to think independently, to synthesize core principles, and then to find a way to apply (or account for) those principles. Solving many of today's—and tomorrow's—problems will require an engineering mindset, and it is this reality that underlies the weight given to engineering methods in the NGSS.

Unfortunately, in some science education classrooms and settings, creative and innovative thinking has been kept to the periphery, often by necessity. The relationship between curriculum requirements and testing has not always left room for hands-on learning or for learning where different answers and different solutions can be encouraged. Instead, in order to prepare students to fill in the correct circles on standardized tests, there are often rote exercises and labs that students work through, exercises that may pass as active learning. By fulfilling a series of prescribed steps, students see an outcome, but deviating from the steps is not always encouraged, and troubleshooting when something goes wrong is not always required. Approached in this way, hands-on science runs the risk of becoming narrow, linear, and prescribed.

What about all the accidents that led to scientific discovery and breakthrough? What about the fact that changing a single variable might dramatically alter the results of an experiment? What about the questions that arise from the basic test, the "what if" that comes rushing to the surface for an engaged student who wants to take an experiment to the next level?

With the NGSS and the emphasis on multiple dimensions of learning, students may find more latitude for thinking creatively and learning how to apply creativity to science and engineering problems. But there will be many new questions for administrators and teachers. How will science fair requirements change for engineering design projects? How should engineering design projects be graded? What do students conducting an engineering design project turn in?


Scientific method and engineering design charts

Science Buddies Resources for Science Education
The "Comparing the Engineering Design Process and the Scientific Method" resource is one of many tools at Science Buddies designed to support teachers as they include both science and engineering projects in their curriculum and planning.

Employing the Engineering Method

While engineering design shifts focus to innovation, improvement, and problem solving, the method helps guide students in a series of successive steps that include research, brainstorming, prototyping, testing, data analysis, and documentation. The difference is that there is often iterative looping at points in the method as students prototype, test, and then go back and make changes to the design, prototype again, and retest.

In the engineering design process, troubleshooting is not an action that happens when a procedure is not performing as expected; troubleshooting, instead, is a process of determining in what ways a design is not meeting the specified requirements and brainstorming and evaluating ways to modify the design to better address the need and as a result of testing and evaluation of a previous design. Students working on engineering design projects may begin not with a question but with a problem and are asked to simultaneously think creatively and analytically as they search for and test possible solutions.


The Egg Drop: A Classic Exercise

A classic physics assignment requires students to design a solution that will allow an egg to be dropped from a certain height without breaking. The parameters, including the acceptable materials and the height of the drop, waffle from teacher to teacher, but the general concept of the challenge is the same—you have to protect your egg. Your goal is to protect the egg from breaking when dropped from a given height. The problem involves the fact that an egg will break upon impact when dropped from a given height to a hard surface. Understanding and addressing the problem involves synthesizing knowledge about the physics of gravity, free fall, velocity, and acceleration. Add in materials science factors of elasticity, stress, and shock absorption, and you have the makings of a great interdisciplinary and hands-on exploration.

What happens when you drop an egg from a second floor landing?

Can you do anything about it?

What principles of physics come into play?

Is there a way to change the egg's outcome?

What real-world scenarios present similar challenges?

It takes engineering know-how and an understanding of the laws of physics to prototype a solution. But devising an innovative approach to protecting an egg from the combined effects of gravity and impact with a hard landing surface also requires the ability to think creatively. There is no single workable solution to protecting the egg. Instead, many approaches may work. What approach will work best? And why? These are the kinds of questions students ask and think through when selecting a design to prototype.

In asking these questions and designing a solution, students employ the engineering design process. The standard steps of the scientific method provide an ill-fitting rubric for this kind of investigation. The engineering method, on the other hand, offers a map students can follow as they work through the process. What materials will work? What are the benefits of different materials? Does the solution need to fall within a certain price point? How much protection is "too much"? Even when conducted as a short (10-15 minute) in-class challenge with limited materials by individuals or collaborative teams, the engineering method helps students focus the design process as they move from problem to solution. Although in some competitions, testing the prototype is not allowed until the end where it is, truly, a make or break demonstration!

And what happens if the egg breaks? The information and data from the testing can be funneled back into the process for subsequent revisions to the design, prototyping, and re-testing.


From Protecting Eggs to Solving Problems Today and Tomorrow

The challenge as teachers and schools begin adopting and implementing NGSS will be to encourage students to think conceptually about a wide range of problems encountered in the real world, from the need to package fruits in a way that reduces bruising during transport to new designs for more full-featured and comfortable prosthetic limbs; new designs for artificial organs, and other life-saving medical devices; innovations in battery technology to efficiently store green but cyclic energy like solar and wind power; and designing inexpensive and effective carbon sequestration techniques. With the right framework at hand, and familiarity with following steps for both science and engineering projects, what today's students will discover, solve, prove, and create tomorrow is unlimited.

Resources and Tools for Science Fair Coordinators, Judges, and Teachers

In support of the inclusion of engineering design projects in science fair competitions, Science Buddies Teacher and Science Fair Resources include tools and materials to help students incorporate both the scientific and engineering methods in their classrooms.

See the following resources:


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Thanks to support from Cisco Systems, Inc., Science Buddies' library of free science Project Ideas now has filters to help students, teachers, and parents find projects that best fit their needs.


With more than 1,200 Project Ideas in more than 30 areas of science, Science Buddies has suggestions for hands-on science exploration to meet the needs and interests of K-12 students around the world. Thanks to ongoing Project Idea development from our in-house team of scientists, and in coordination with partners at sponsor companies and researchers at universities and labs, the number of Project Ideas continues to rise as we write and produce projects, activities, and resources to support K-12 science experimentation and education in both traditional and cutting-edge areas of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Science Buddies Project Ideas Library

Science Buddies Projects Ideas are labeled in terms of difficulty, and students using the Topic Selection Wizard to help locate projects are presented first with recommendations for Project Ideas that best match their responses to the Wizard's survey and to the questions regarding their assignment: timeline, general area of science, and grade level.


The Topic Selection Wizard is an invaluable tool for helping match students to projects they may really enjoy, but some people prefer to browse the whole library of available Project Ideas. In the past, students, teachers, and parents who browsed the library could tailor their view by the level of difficulty, but otherwise they needed to sift through all Project Ideas in a chosen area of science—and viewing multiple areas of science at a time was not possible.


Thanks to support from Cisco Systems, Inc., Science Buddies has implemented a new set of filters that bring greater ease and specificity to finding a science project.


Science Buddies Project Library Filters / ScreenshotFinding a Great Science Project for You

Using the new filter options, you can customize your view of Project Ideas by turning filters on and off. The list of filter categories is shown at right. When you expand a category (by clicking the +), you can choose from available options.


If you are looking for a project that requires easy-to-find materials, you can select a filter to only show those projects, weeding out projects, for example, that require specialty items or hard-to-find materials. If you prefer to find a project for which a Science Buddies Kit is available, just click the appropriate filter, and you can browse kit-specific projects. Want to view those that use easy-to-find materials or projects that have kits? Not a problem. You can turn on or off as many filters as you wish to customize your view!


If you need to limit the cost of your science fair materials, you can specify a price range using the filters. You can also turn on and off certain areas of science to increase or decrease the number of results shown. The new filters also allow enhanced filtering by difficulty and filtering based on the time required to complete the project.


(Note: after turning a filter on or off, the results page will quickly reload. You can then turn on or off another option. To uncheck all of the options and start again, click the "Clear All Filters" button at the bottom of the menu.)


The screenshots below illustrate how to use the filters:

Science Buddies Project Library Filters / Sample
Science Buddies Project Library Filters / Sample 2

The screenshot below shows multiple filters selected to customize the view of Project Ideas within two interest areas: robotics and electricity and electronics.

Science Buddies Project Library Filters Example


We hope the new filter options will make it even easier for students, teachers, and parents to browse the Project Ideas library and locate hands-on STEM projects that best fit their needs and interests.

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Lexington, Kentucky student does an "outstanding" job helping respond to student science questions in Science Buddies' free Ask an Expert forums. The volunteer program gives top students a chance to contribute to science education by helping as part of a team of volunteer Experts. This year's winner balanced helping others with her own Intel International Science and Engineering Fair-caliber science project.



Valerie Sarge / Outstanding Mentor Award Recipient / 2012-2013 Science Buddies Ask an Expert forums

Valerie Sarge of Lexington, KY, received this year's Craig Sander Outstanding Mentor award for her help in the Ask an Expert forums. A top science student, Valerie is pictured above at the 2013 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) where she presented her research on a family of potential materials for organic solar cells.

Ask an Expert: A Community of Volunteers Helping with K-12 Science Questions

Ask an Expert is a free online forum that enables students and families to get assistance with science projects. Our team of volunteer "Experts" is comprised of adults from science and engineering fields and top high school students. These Experts work together to help troubleshoot experimental procedures, guide students who are having difficulty finding or narrowing a topic, and assist with questions about data and results. At any step of the scientific method or engineering design process, students can post a question at Ask an Expert and receive quality help from our team of adult professionals and student mentors.

We will begin scheduling and recruiting volunteers for the 2013-2014 season of Ask an Expert in August. If you are interested in being a part of our volunteer team, please contact volunteer@sciencebuddies.org. You can view additional information about Ask an Expert and Science Buddies' other volunteer opportunities at sciencebuddies.org/volunteer.

Each year, a team of professional and student volunteers help answer student and parent science questions in the Science Buddies Ask an Expert forums. The free bulletin board helps students (and parents) get guidance at any point in their science projects, whether they need assistance selecting or refining a topic, run into a problem during the experiment and need expert troubleshooting, or need help understanding what they observe or the data they have gathered. As a team, the volunteer Experts make a big difference in science projects for students around the world. The top science students who answer student questions each week in the forums are an important part of this team!

Science Buddies annually selects and awards the Craig Sander Outstanding Mentor Award, a cash scholarship that recognizes a student mentor for top-notch participation in the Ask an Expert volunteer program. This year, the award was presented to Valerie Sarge, an incoming senior at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Lexington, KY.


Helping Students Succeed with (and Enjoy) Their Science Projects

In her second year helping in the Ask an Expert forums, Valerie, whose favorite book is If On a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino and whose favorite scientist is Lise Meitner (part of the team that discovered nuclear fission), helped field questions in both the Physical Sciences and Math and Computer Science forums and emerged as a standout student mentor.

"Being a student Expert requires a combination of expertise, commitment, enthusiasm for science, and ability to make difficult or new concepts accessible to students in written form," explains Amy Cowen, Online Community Manager and Volunteer Coordinator at Science Buddies.

"In reviewing this year's student mentors for the award, Valerie's responses repeatedly stood out. She did an excellent job handling a diverse range of topics in the forums. Her replies to students were helpful, articulate, and supportive," notes Cowen. "In an online forum, especially one where students may be stumped or frustrated with their experiments--and may not have in-person support available at home or school--having Experts who provide assistance and troubleshooting while keeping in mind that there is a person at the other end is really important."

"At Science Buddies, we want to help students have positive science learning experiences. A friendly and knowledgeable Expert in the forums can make a big difference," adds Cowen. "Throughout the year, Valerie crafted replies to student questions that demonstrate both science acumen and excellent written communication skills. She's got a great style and wonderful tone for an Expert, especially impressive to see in a student mentor."

Valerie pinpoints the challenge of helping without helping too much as part of the challenge of successfully working in the forums. Experts don't simply "give" students answers. The goal of hands-on science is for students to learn through doing, and it is important for students to do their own research, legwork, experimental trials, and data analysis. "The most rewarding aspect, and also the most challenging, was guiding students to finding the answers to their questions, and not simply giving them answers," says Valerie.

Experts see all kinds of questions from students, and, as Valerie knows, there is an art to guiding and troubleshooting with a student in a way that helps and encourages the student and yet leaves room for the student to learn in the process—room for an aha moment. "It was incredibly fulfilling to see students understand concepts, but also difficult to make sure that the students understood them," says Valerie.


An Interest in Community—And Science Literacy

With community service playing an important role when high school students apply to colleges, students like Valerie often volunteer in many capacities in their communities. In addition to volunteering with science buddies, Valerie tutors in several subjects and helps in a local research lab. "I enjoy community service and take every chance that I can to help out," says Valerie.

The Science Buddies volunteer program offers a convenient, online opportunity that ties in with her interest in science. "I love science, and I think that helping others will help further scientific advancement," says Valerie. "Science Buddies helps the scientists of the future grow to understand and love science."

When asked if she would recommend the program to other top science students, Valerie replies: "I would. It is an experience that is not only highly fulfilling, but also has helped me learn more about science through answering questions. Explaining concepts to someone is the best way of understanding them better."


A Top Science Student

Last month, as a junior, Valerie presented her research from this year at the Intel International Science and Engineer Fair (Intel ISEF). "My ISEF project involved the production of a new material that can be used to produce a family of potential materials for organic solar cells, which are more cost- and time-efficient than silicon solar cells," she explains. "This research could lead to the ability to produce cheap, versatile, and efficient solar cells."

At Intel ISEF, Valerie won a 2nd place Grand Award in Materials and Transportation. She also won a special award from the European Organization for Nuclear Research, an all-expense paid trip to visit CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, and the Mawhiba award from a Saudi Arabian scientific society.

Juggling the rigors of advanced research with the realities of high school, being a teenager, and extracurricular activities, including volunteering, sounds like a challenge. But Valerie, like many other top science students, takes the balancing act in stride. "The research lab simply became part of my daily routine," notes Valerie. "I found ways to make time to finish everything, from doing homework in the gaps between classes to cutting down on time spent in other extracurricular activities."

Valerie says she has been lucky to have had ongoing support for hands-on science as a student in Kentucky. "I have been fortunate enough to have many chances to participate in science fairs and [do] hands-on science," says Valerie. "There are many people who helped me get to where I am. My family, teachers, and research mentors have always encouraged me to pursue my interests in science."

Though she has an interest in mathematics as well, Valerie highlights chemistry and computer science as her areas of primary focus. "Both are intriguing in their challenges and are applicable to many real-world problems. Even more importantly, both are very enjoyable."

With a year of high school left, Valerie plans to continue her research, moving to the next step with the compound she has engineered and aiming for a repeat trip to Intel ISEF.



Congratulations to this year's Craig Sander Outstanding Mentor Award recipient!

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A swarm of "scientists" ran the streets of Chicago in celebration of science and science education, thanks to Astellas Pharma US, Inc.

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Bystanders in the Chicago area a few weeks ago may have caught an unusual site—a swarm of scientists out of their labs and spilling through Grant Park in downtown Chicago. If you spotted a bunch of swift-footed scientists in lab coats running through the streets, you might have thought something was up, something of epic scientific proportion. You would have been right. Local awareness of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education was on the rise that day in the windy city thanks to the 2013 Bio 5K Run/Walk and Astellas.

The run, sponsored by Astellas, was part of the 2013 International BIO Conference. In support of their commitment to increasing community interest in science literacy and science education, Astellas, whose headquarters for the Americas are located in Illinois, asked Bio 5K participants to take a visible stand for science by dressing up as scientists for the run.

Astellas handed out lab coats and, in honor of the zany spirit of the event, awarded prizes for the craziest science-themed costumes. Lab coats may have hampered race speeds a bit, but in a manner reminiscent of San Francisco's costume-laden annual Bay to Breakers 12K, this year's Bio 5K combined the spirit of a run with celebration—celebration of science and science education.

Playing along, hundreds of participants—scientists and non-scientists—donned lab coats, wigs, glasses, and other goofy scientist accouterment, along with their race bibs, and ran or walked the course in the name of science education. For a mid-race boost, runners sipped replenishing energy drinks from test tubes. From the looks of it, everyone involved had a great time, and the Bio 5K's focus on science was a win!


Helping Science Buddies Support Science Education

Astellas brought the science-themed race to a close by donating proceeds from the run's registration to Science Buddies. Science Buddies thanks Astellas for supporting the non-profit's mission of increasing science literacy.

Thanks to donations from companies and individuals, Science Buddies provides free scientist-authored science, technology, engineering, and math Project Ideas, resources, and support for more than fifteen millions students, teachers, and parents each year.


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Iron Man 3 Movie and Science Connections

The Suit in Iron Man 3

No spoilers here, but there has been plenty of talk about the suit in the Iron Man 3 movie. In fact, word has it that there are a plethora of suits that have been designed between the last movie and this installment. With so many iterations in between, it will be exciting to see how the suit has evolved and what features it sports now.

If you were the designer, what kind of suit would you build? Which reactor would you use? What color armor and why? Right now, you have your chance to be an Iron Man engineer and build your own suit on the Verizon FiOS Iron Man site. Show off your robotics, tech, engineering, and super hero savvy as you craft your own custom Iron Man suit for a chance to win prizes from Verizon FiOS.

Thank You and Verizon FiOS for Helping Support Science Buddies

Thank you to everyone who clicked through to view special Verizon FiOS and Marvel Iron Man 3 video footage earlier this week on behalf of Science Buddies. Thanks to the resounding support from members of the community who trust, use, and rely on Science Buddies for their projects, classroom, and family science activities, we collected a phenomenal number of views in 24 hours—all in the name of K-12 science literacy!

Through their View to Give program, Verizon FiOS contributed $10,000 to Science Buddies to help us better support the more than fifteen million students, teachers, and students who visit Science Buddies each year.


Making Science Connections

Marvel's Iron Man 3 launches in theaters today, May 3. With the new release, fans will find out what's next for Tony Stark and Iron Man. As the Iron Man story (and the suit) evolves, there will be plenty of new angles for making science connections and exploring the kinds of real-world science and engineering that shows up in the movie.

Whether talking about science before you head to the movies helps get you and your students in the mood for Iron Man action or whether you are looking for ways to continue the thrill of the big screen tech, engineering, and physics that help define the Iron Man saga, the following resources, project ideas, and articles may help:


Engineering Design Process

Iron Man Robotics
Iron Man Physics
  • Build a Gauss Rifle!: a ball bearing won't put a dent in Iron Man's armor, but setting a Gauss rifle in motion lets you investigate magnetic acceleration stages and initial velocity.

  • Rainbow Fire: there are plenty of pyrotechnics in Iron Man 2, and the defeated drones self-destruct with a bang. Explore your own explosive displays by investigating what happens when different chemical compounds are burned.

  • Particles in the Mist: See Radioactive Particles Decay with Your Own Cloud Chamber!": Stark had to craft his own particle accelerator to create his palladium replacement element, but to see atomic particles flying all around you, all you need to do is build your own cloud chamber.

  • Build Your Own Radon Detector: when your suit involves a radioactive core, keeping tabs on radiation levels is critical. You may not be wearing your own radioactive elements, but with a simple ionization chamber, you can detect low levels of radiation around you.

Iron Man Propulsion
  • Rocketology: Baking Soda + Vinegar = Lift Off!: Iron Man's first makeshift propulsion system crash-landed him in a desert. Baking soda and vinegar might not serve you any better, but combined in a compressed space, they offer high-flying chemical reaction propulsion. Rig one of these film canisters to an action figure and see where it lands!

  • Three, Two, One...Blast Off! Learn to Design an Ion Engine.: whether you need to leave the atmosphere or not, fuel and propulsion know-how is a must.

  • Solid Motor Rocket Propulsion: explore rocket science to better understand the logistics of Iron Man's feet repulsors and arm-mounted stabilizers.

  • Rocket Aerodynamics: Iron Man's flight system went through a serious overhaul after his crash landing. Explore the impact of design modifications on rocket-powered flight performance.

Iron Man Energy
Iron Man Magnets and Electro-magnetism
Iron Man Computer Science
  • Encryption *: Ivan Vanko quickly bypasses computer security systems during an early meeting with Hammer. Write your own JavaScript program to explore simple encryption strategies.

  • Artificial Intelligence: Teaching the Computer to Play Tic-Tac-Toe: Tony's house and lab are monitored and assisted by a computer AI named Jarvis. Teaching your computer to play a simple game and learn might be the first step in programming your own AI assistant!

  • Program to Check a Sudoku Solution: several task-oriented robots help Stark in his home-based lab in the first movie. Experiment with writing a program that automates the validation and analysis of a set of data or user input.

Iron Man Materials
Iron Man Speed




Note: Iron Man 3 is rated PG-13. Parents can learn more about suggested viewing at Common Sense Media.


Need to catch up or refresh your Iron Man memory? See Iron Man and Iron Man 2.



Thank you to Verizon FiOS for selecting Science Buddies as a recipient of their View to Give program.

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Your View Supports Science Buddies

Today only! Your view of exclusive Iron Man 3 video footage helps support Science Buddies, thanks to Verizon FiOS' View to Give program. Verizon FiOS will donate $0.01 to Science Buddies for every view of the video footage on Monday, April 29 only. Help support science education and Science Buddies by taking watching the short video footage.


Engage Students in Science By Making Iron Man Connections


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Today only! Your view of exclusive Iron Man 3 video footage helps support Science Buddies. Verizon FiOS will donate $0.01 to Science Buddies for every view of the video footage on Monday, April 29 only. verizon.com/ironman3.

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Please follow Science Buddies at Facebook to catch our Iron Man posts and updates throughout the day today.


Kickstart Student Science with Iron Man




Thank you to Verizon FiOS for selecting Science Buddies as a recipient of their View to Give program.

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Science Buddies is gearing up to for special Iron Man 3 video footage on Monday from Verizon FiOS. As part of Verizon's View to Give program, Verizon will donate $0.01 to Science Buddies for every view of the video footage on Monday, April 29 only. Your view will help support Science Buddies! Please plan on catching the video Monday and sharing the link on Monday with your friends and family. The video will be available at verizon.com/ironman3.

ironman video views help support Science Buddies


Please follow Science Buddies at Facebook to catch our Iron Man posts and updates throughout the day on Monday.


Looking for Iron Man Science Inspiration?

See our "Iron Man: Behind the Science" resource for connections students can explore between the big screen character and hands-on,real-world science.

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Symantec commits continued funding to Science Buddies, allowing further expansion of the Science Buddies computer science area to help enable and inspire student computer science projects.

In honor of International Corporate Philanthropy Day (ICPD), Symantec Corporation today announced more than $1 Million in funding in support of STEM and literacy education. The official announcement details Symantec's support of Science Buddies, Teach for America, NPower, Room to Read, and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS).

Symantec has been a sponsor of Science Buddies since 2007 and has provided core program support and enabled ongoing development of the Computer Science interest area at Science Buddies. Through the years, Symantec and Science Buddies have partnered to celebrate and encourage K-12 computer science exploration both through the creation of new Project Ideas and through visible recognition of students conducting science experiments presenting their projects at science fairs both on the community and national level. In 2009, the companies judged and issued "Clever Scientist Awards" at area science fairs. In 2010, they awarded the "Symantec Science Buddies Special Award in Computer Science" at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF). One of the young computer scientists singled out for a special award was Brittany Wenger, then a middle school student and aspiring computer scientist. Wenger went on to win the 2012 Google Science Fair with her computer science project.

Thanks to this year's pledge from Symantec, Science Buddies plans to prototype a new science kit to further facilitate student computer science exploration. Last year, Science Buddies introduced its first round of convenient, all-in-one-box science project kits and launched the Science Buddies Store. Continued support from Symantec allows potential expansion of the computer science area at Science Buddies to include a hands-on computer science project kit for use with a Science Buddies Project Idea or with other science and engineering activities.

"Symantec has been a terrific partner to Science Buddies," said Ken Hess, Science Buddies Founder & President. "Their generous support has enabled us to give hundreds of thousands of K-12 students the inspiration, tools, and guidance they need to engage in hands-on science and engineering. With the latest grant from Symantec, we will be developing our first-ever computer science kit to introduce the next generation to the power and fun of computer programming. We are thrilled to continue working with Symantec and salute their strong commitment to STEM education."

Learn more about today's announcement on the Symantec blog.

Symantec logo

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Science and STEM education are routine catch phases at the White House in policy, Presidential speeches, and science-centered events for K-12 students. Science Buddies recently participated in a special session with White House officials to discuss the future of STEM education and the importance of hands-on science exploration. As a trusted source for K-12 science education information and resources, Science Buddies, along with other popular science media publications, may play an important role in furthering White House STEM education initiatives.


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Pictured above: Ben Finio (right), Staff Scientist at Science Buddies, with Bobak Ferdowsi, NASA flight director.


Part of the STEM Solution

Science Buddies was honored to be a part of a recent, private STEM debriefing session at the White House. With more than 10 million students in North America students participating in science fairs each year, and a rising number of students taking part in science-related after-school enrichment or engaging in science exploration at home with their families, Science Buddies plays an important role in supporting hands-on science education.

"Being in the room right alongside the Discovery Channel, National Geographic, Popular Science, and Scientific American really highlighted the White House's confidence in Science Buddies' ability to help them accomplish their goals of improving STEM education nationwide," said Finio, who represented Science Buddies at the briefing.


Student Science at the White House

Following the President's fourth State of the Union address, the White House sponsored the first State of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (SoSTEM) event. Approximately 100 middle and high school students from the Washington D.C. area were invited to the White House to ask questions of a panel of STEM innovators and leaders.

SoSTEM continues the White House's public support of STEM. The White House held official White House Science Fairs in 2010 and 2012, providing opportunities for student scientists to show their science investigations to the President and staff. More than 100 students from over 45 states participated in last year's White House Science Fair.

Science and the State of the Union

In last week's State of the Union address, President Obama again put the importance of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education in the national limelight. Many issues of policy and platform occupied the President's agenda, but STEM definitely had a seat, both in the speech and in the audience. Three of the guests invited to sit with the First Lady have deep STEM connections. The First Lady's science cadre included Jack Andraka (winner of the 2012 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair and Science Buddies advocate), Peter Hudson (co-founder and CEO of iTriage, an app that helps people locate nearby healthcare providers), and Bobak Ferdowsi (popularly known as "NASA's Mohawk guy" and flight director for the Curiosity rover landing on Mars).


Influencing Science Education

Following the State of the Union address and the first State of STEM event for students in the Washington D.C. area, the White House invited a small group of science and media organizations to a briefing organized by the Office of Digital Strategy (ODS). Science Buddies joined representatives from Discovery Communications, Scientific American, Popular Science, National Geographic, and Grist.org in a private briefing and Q&A session that included issues related to STEM, sustainable energy, climate change, and technology innovation.

The organizations gathered represent considerable reach in distributing science content, both online and offline. Though the only K-12 non-profit in attendance, Science Buddies serves a yearly population of students, teachers, and parents of more than 15 million, a powerful statistic when it comes to advocating for hands-on STEM exploration and helping students make connections between what they may be learning at school, what they may be hearing in the news, and what they can put to the test in the classroom, in their kitchens, or in the garage. In fact, Science Buddies had more page views on its website in January 2013 than Scientific American and Popular Science combined and almost half as many as National Geographic, according to Quantcast.


Middle or High School?

In this year's State of the Union speech, the President specifically underscored the important role high schools play in preparing students for careers and called for a redesign of high school education with a greater emphasis on STEM education. For Ben Finio, Science Buddies staff scientist attending the briefing on behalf of Science Buddies, the President's statements raised an important question. Is high school too late?

"There is a lot of research that shows that kids, especially females and underrepresented minorities, tend to lose interest in STEM around middle school," pointed out Finio in a conversation with Kumar Garg, Senior Advisor in the Office of Science & Technology Policy. "If you lose those students, it doesn't really matter what you do in high school. They are already gone." Garg agreed noting that research data shows that a decline in STEM interest for some demographics begins as early as 4th grade.

For policy makers and STEM educators, this data highlights a critical and alarming trend for STEM. According to Garg, the President's comments were high-school specific, but the White House is looking at STEM education more broadly and views high school as part of an overall STEM education pipeline.

With its broad range of K-12 science materials, Science Buddies tries to deflect this process of decline in student interest by engaging students at an early age with projects that intersect with a wide range of areas of student interest and related to more than 30 areas of scientific inquiry.


Making Room for Making

Science Buddies views a focus on hands-on science inquiry and active exploration of STEM questions as key to improving and furthering STEM education. Comments from the White House support the value of increased hands-on STEM education, but making room for hands-on science and engineering within existing curriculum and the emphasis on standards and testing remains a challenge for teachers. "It is one thing to say we need to bring more STEM into high school, but the logistics of doing it seem much more complicated," said Finio during his discussion with Garg. Garg concurred, noting that "if science is about doing science, not just learning a set of facts," the challenge is to figure out how to better utilize the institutions that are available to enable kids and schools to do important hands-on work and to give students access to real-world experience.

A one-size-fits-all solution is not the answer. Finding the solution, however, will take the combined efforts of the White House, corporations and foundations that can help fund and sponsor increased STEM efforts, and integration with organizations like Science Buddies and science publications that are influential in supporting science education and connecting with teachers and the students who are the scientists of tomorrow.

For Finio, the briefing was both reassuring and informative. Being a part of the invited group of science organizations was also a reminder to Finio of the importance of the work he is doing as a scientist at Science Buddies. "Taking part in the White House briefing really spotlighted the magnitude of Science Buddies' potential to assist in improving STEM education and helping meet national goals," says Finio.

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Community Support for Science


A grant from the Cisco Foundation put Science Buddies on the ground floor of Bayside STEM Academy's annual science fair. Science Buddies partnered with the middle school throughout their science fair season, culminating in Science Buddies staff visiting the school to judge the school's science and engineering exhibition.

Science Fair Project Display Boards at Bayside STEM Academy annual science fair
STEM has become an acronym of national importance, but the local school science fair is a testament to the fact that the need for science education exists in every community, in every school, and for every student. Thanks to organizations like Cisco, the STEM efforts at local schools like Bayside STEM Academy are being recognized and supported.


Thanks to support from Cisco Systems, Inc., Science Buddies provided support and a team of volunteer judges for Bayside STEM Academy's science fair. "Science Buddies proved a valuable resource in the success of our school's science/STEM fair," says James Brunner, a teacher at Bayside STEM Academy.

STEM has become a national acronym, but the local school science fair is a reminder that the need for science education exists in every community, in every school, and for every student. Thanks to community businesses and organizations like Cisco, the STEM efforts at schools like Bayside STEM Academy are being recognized and supported.

With its massive library of Project Ideas and extensive Project Guide that helps students at all levels with the steps of a science project, Science Buddies serves more than fifteen million people a year. This number, and the nonprofit's popularity with teachers, students, and parents, continues to grow as more and more emphasis is placed on science, technology, engineering, and math education in K-12 classrooms and at home.

Thanks to ongoing outreach projects and its many support-oriented resources, including the Ask an Expert forums, Science Buddies is in constant contact with members of the Science Buddies community at various stages of their projects, science fair planning, and classroom science integration. Visibility into both student science project successes and stumbling blocks helps Science Buddies continually refine, update, and expand science education offerings and programs as the organization responds to increasing demand for more hands-on science opportunities, activities, and resources.

Although myriad science learning opportunities may exist for K-12 students, both in class, at home, and after school, the school "science fair" remains a cornerstone of hands-on science education for many grade school students. Both at home and as part of in-class computer time, Science Buddies is a prime destination for students during science fair season. Whether students need help finding a project, determining their variables, setting up a project display board, or navigating other steps of the scientific method or engineering design process, Science Buddies strives to help students complete successful science projects and have positive science experiences.


Field Work

Each year during science fair season, Science Buddies staff members visit local fairs, an important step in staying in touch with how real students, real teachers, and real schools are responding to the national STEM challenge. This year, staff members had the opportunity to be in the field as they volunteered, as a group, to judge the annual science fair at Bayside STEM Academy, a public middle school in San Mateo, CA. The school's curriculum focuses on the intersection between science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and an approach they call "design thinking," a methodology they believe breeds innovators and creative problem solvers.

As its name underscores, Bayside STEM Academy is a science-focused school. The importance of STEM and creative thinking and problem solving is central to the school's belief system, pedagogy, and core offerings. Not surprisingly, the whole school participates during science fair season. Every Bayside student—6th, 7th, and 8th grade—completes a science project. The top forty projects from each grade are then exhibited at the school's science fair.

This year, a grant from Cisco Systems, Inc. enabled Science Buddies to team with Bayside STEM Academy to further support the school's science fair efforts and to attend the fair and judge the student exhibits.


Science Fair Season

A school's science fair often spans a few days. Students set up their projects, and judges review all entries and determine the winners. Then the doors are opened, and the community is invited to come and see the collective exhibition of student science and engineering exploration and acumen. The public viewing may be a period of hours or days, but during this time, the student body, parents, and the community at large have the opportunity to be inspired and excited by the work of local students and teachers.


Science Buddies staff helped judge the Bayside STEM Academy science fair
Pictured above, Michelle Maranowski, staff scientist at Science Buddies, takes a closer look at a student science project on display at the Bayside STEM Academy science fair during project judging.

"Science Buddies proved a valuable resource in the success of our school's science/STEM fair," says James Brunner, a teacher at Bayside STEM Academy.

The actual fair may seem to be over in a blink, but students, teachers, and administrators often spend many months planning and preparing for the fair. The students at Bayside STEM Academy worked on their projects from mid-August through the first week of December. Throughout the fall semester, teachers and students at Bayside STEM Academy used Science Buddies resources to support the science fair process. Of the science projects on display at the Bayside science fair, approximately half were based on or inspired by Science Buddies project ideas.

In addition to their students' use of the Topic Selection Wizard, Project Directory, and Project Guide, the school used the Science Fair Schedule Worksheet to help plan and schedule the fair. According to James Brunner, a teacher at Bayside STEM, this year's science fair was so successful that they plan to hold a fair again next year and will use Science Buddies resources again both for student projects and for fair organization and planning. "We all [the teachers at Bayside] felt that Science Buddies was a big help to our students," says Brunner.


STEM in Action

"James Brunner and the teachers at Bayside STEM are a proven example of successful science fair organization and implementation," says Claire Hubbard, Science Buddies Product Design Engineer. "The teachers used Science Buddies resources to plan and conduct their science fair, in addition to using Science Buddies Project Ideas to inspire their students."

Hubbard worked as closely with Bayside STEM Academy during their science fair season and coordinated the team of Science Buddies volunteers who visited the science fair to judge the student projects. Hubbard has interviewed and observed numerous teachers and students regarding STEM education and the use of Science Buddies resources. The Bayside STEM Academy science fair gave her a chance to witness the impact of hands-on science and the resources and Project Ideas at Science Buddies on a larger scale—a school rather than a class or an individual finding and doing a science project.


Reinforcing the Value of Science Exploration

In the past, Bayside STEM Academy's science fair has been judged by parents and teachers. Having Science Buddies visit the fair was a welcome change, says Brunner. "It was very refreshing and unique to have Science Buddies' staff members involved with the judging this year."

"A huge thank you to Cisco for making our partnership with Bayside STEM Academy possible," says Hubbard. "It was a wonderful and unique opportunity to see our resources in action, first-hand."

For other Science Buddies staff members, being part of Bayside STEM Academy's science fair was equally rewarding. "It was a great opportunity to be at ground level of the work we are doing at Science Buddies," said Sabine Duke, Chief Controller for Science Buddies. Sandra Slutz, Lead Staff Scientist at Science Buddies concurs. "Attending Bayside's science and engineering fair was a true pleasure. Yes, seeing Science Buddies projects, which there were many of, as well as some creative original projects, in action is always heart-warming, but the real satisfaction came in seeing that the students had done what we always aim for Science Buddies users to do: they'd taken the project and invested their own time, energy, and intellect."

Slutz, who has judged numerous local, regional, and international science fairs notes that the showing at Bayside STEM Academy was inspiring and a positive reminder of the importance of hands-on science in the classroom. "It was clear that the Bayside teachers had motivated and supported their students, enabling them to not just "do a project" but, more importantly, to springboard from the Science Buddies resources to research, digest the background information, and understand their experiment and the scientific principles behind it," says Slutz. "From the projects displayed, you could see that both students and teachers had invested genuine effort, and they deserve a huge round of applause for their achievements."


Cisco Foundation is a Copernicus sponsor of Science Buddies.

Photographs used in this story were taken by Sabine Dukes, Science Buddies.

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Staff Picks: Science Buddies Kits


The Science Buddies staff shares their wish lists from the Science Buddies store. See what science and engineering kits they would most like to open up and give a hands-on try!


Each year, I poll the Science Buddies staff about something related to science, engineering, or technology that might be on their wish lists. The team at Science Buddies that supports our more than 15,000 pages of free, scientist-authored, K-12 science and engineering Project Ideas and resources is small, but the collective answers each year underscore what an interesting and diverse group we are!

This year, with the advent of the Science Buddies Store offering new convenience and ease of access to the right materials to use with one of our science or engineering Project Ideas, I asked the staff which kit they would most like to explore, individually or as a science exploration with their families. With over 50 kits available, their selections highlight only a few of our science project kits! Here are some of the ones our staff chose:

Kit Image
Kenneth Hess, Founder and President:
'Build Your Own Crystal Radio'

"I built one as a kid and would like to do it again, this time actually understanding why it works. Also, it would be very cool to use a multimeter to calculate how much power it receives."
 
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Beth Rabuczewski, Director of eCommerce:
'Grasping with Straws: Make a Robot Hand'

"With just a few simple items, you can build a very good facsimile of the human hand. I confess to having a number of partially built soda straw hands around my house!"
 
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Hugo Paz, Chief Software Architect:
'The Strength of an Electromagnet'

"I remember doing something like this with my classmates when I was a kid. Back then I didn't understand the physics behind it, but I thought it was really cool that you can make magnets with electricity."
 
 
Kit Image
Sandra Slutz, Lead Staff Scientist:
'Rainbow Fire'

"I adore fireworks, and the materials in this kit allow you to have your own mini colored-fire show. I can imagine using it on our next camping trip! Really young children, like mine, will grasp that different chemicals cause different flame colors, while older children and adults can grasp sequentially more complex explanations of the physics involved."
 
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Teisha Rowland, Staff Scientist:
"Solar-Powered Water Desalination"

"It gets people thinking about how to solve a serious, real-world problem—getting clean water to people around the globe. It's interesting (and useful!) to explore how to make the desalination process more efficient by using completely free, renewable energy from the sun."
 
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Courtney Corda, Vice President:
'Build a Gauss Rifle!'

"It is the hands-on engineering project most likely to be successful in drawing my son away from his current bad habit: Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 (which I regret buying for him). It might also draw him away from Minecraft (a video game that cuts down on his use of COD MW3 but still pales in comparison to the experience of building something, anything in real life)."
 
 
Kit Image
Claire Hubbard, Product Design Engineer
'Burning Calories'

"I'm an athlete, and I've always wondered how calories are stored in food, transferred to the body, and then burned through exercise. This kit would help to introduce me to some of the science behind working out and proper athletic nutrition!"
 
Kit Image
Jayme Burke, Vice President of Development:
'Ultimate Bridge Builder's Kit'

"I live in the Bay Area, and I cross bridges all the time, but I really have no idea about how bridges are engineered. (Also Bridge Over the River Kwai is one of my favorite movies.)"
 
Kit Image
Sherry Smith, Grants Manager:
'How Does Soil Affect the pH of Water?'

"It contains all the materials I need for the #1 project recommended when I took the Topic Selection Wizard survey. I like the idea of traveling to three different soil sites, making notes about plants, and analyzing the soil samples."
 
Kit Image
Sabine Dukes, Controller:
'Make Your Own Soap'

"It is a science project I could use to make holiday gifts! I would love to take it further and experiment with different oils and fragrances. I could add some lavender from my yard to make it special. (Maybe I also like it because it reminds me of Fight Club.)"
 
Kit Image
Kaarin Graham, Project Manager:
'Electrolyte Challenge'

"I drink sports drinks during my tennis matches, and I would like to determine if sports drinks really work or if there are better alternatives that I should try."
 
Kit Image
Yvette Leung, Email Support:
'Potions and Lotions: Lessons in Cosmetic Chemistry'

"I always read the ingredient labels on all of the products that I buy, and this project would be a fun way to experiment and to create new and innovative products of my own. Who knows, I might even discover a secret formula for an amazing new cosmetic product!
 
 
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Ben Finio, Staff Scientist:
'Robot Picasso'

"While I already have a LEGO® Mindstorms® kit, I've never used a VEX kit—and you can never have too many robot kits! Plus, I could always disassemble my Picasso robot and use the kit to build something completely new. As a kid I always preferred toys like LEGO and K'Nex that could be reconfigured into entirely new things when I got bored, so robot kits are a great fit for me."
 Sabine De Brabandere, Staff Scientist:
'Robot Picasso'

"I have been intrigued by robotics but never took the time to explore it. This project would definitively pull me and my family in. I love how consecutive projects naturally lead you into the world of robotics. Once there—your imagination is the limit! Fun for years to come!"



Which one stands out for you? Browse the science project kits in the Science Buddies Store, and let us know which kit you would most want to have—and why!

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Science Buddies Gets a New Look


Science Buddies welcomed students back to school with a bright new site design aimed at making the site's award-winning science and engineering resources even easier to use.

When students, teachers, and parents returned to Science Buddies last month as they began talking about classroom science and engineering projects and this year's school science fair, they were greeted by a completely redesigned Science Buddies. Just in time for "back to school," Science Buddies released its new site design, a move dedicated to meeting the needs and expectations of its key users. The fresh new look gives Science Buddies an updated feel, but, more importantly, the redesign and restructuring of the award-winning K-12 science education site make Science Buddies even easier to use.


A Vast Science Education Resource

Science Buddies offers more than 1,000 scientist-authored Project Ideas in over 30 fields of science and engineering and extensive Project Guides to assist with steps of science and engineering projects. As both Science Buddies' online resources and website traffic has grown, site visits topping more than 12.3 million in 2011 and projected to set a new record of approximately 15 million by the end of this year, Science Buddies recognized the need to reassess the architecture, user interface, and visual appearance of the site.


An Improved User Interface Eases Student Use

Return visitors to Science Buddies will immediately note changes in the visual appearance of the site's buttons, icons, and navigation system. Just as quickly, students, teachers, and parents visiting Project Ideas and other key resources will discover that the information has been broken down into multiple pages for easier viewing. In the past, entire "Project Ideas" were displayed on a single page. Given the amount of background information provided and the complexity of many Experimental Procedures, Project Ideas could easily appear overwhelming, a reality which might dissuade students from trying projects they might really enjoy. The new design divides Project Ideas into more manageable sections. The "key information" about a Project Idea, including the objective, the estimated timeline, and the difficulty, are now shown on the "Summary" tab of a Project Idea. Students interested in delving deeper into the project can find the other elements of the Project Idea on sub-tabs, including Background, Materials, Procedures, and Make It Your Own (suggestions for variations).

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The screenshot above shows the top portion of the "Summary" screen for a Project Idea. Key information is shown on the first screen, and sub-tabs allow students to quickly navigate to other areas of the Project Idea. Project Ideas for which Project Kits are available are clearly marked on the Summary tab. (Project Kits make it easy for students and parents to buy materials for a science or engineering project with confidence.)


Robust New Architecture

Behind the scenes, the redesign of the site is coupled with a move to a new, in-house content management system that offers greater flexibility and control of the large repository of Science Buddies resources. Though transparent to users, the new content management system affords Science Buddies increased flexibility in managing the site's more than fifteen thousand pages of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) resources, enabling easier updates and quality assurance. The content management system also puts Science Buddies in position to proactively deliver resources to users based on the devices they are using when they visit Science Buddies. The new design, which involved a restructuring of the site's categories and tab-based navigation systems, works hand in hand with the content management system to create a flexible design that renders appropriately on a wide range of systems and devices.


Science Buddies Anytime, Anywhere

Science Buddies serves a large number of students who are browsing science and engineering Project Ideas, consulting the Project Guide, or taking the Topic Selection Wizard survey from a classroom or school computer lab, or on a home computer, but a growing number of site visitors are using mobile and tablet devices. The number of mobile users at Science Buddies has grown significantly in recent months, more than doubling in the last year. "Today's students are accessing online resources from their phones and tablets, not only computers, so we need to be able to provide them with an accessible mobile resource," says Claire Hubbard, Science Buddies Product Design Engineer. "As we designed the website, we kept the need for a future mobile design in mind."

The new Science Buddies site works on all devices, and tablet users (which accounts for about a third of the site's mobile traffic) will find browsing Science Buddies similar to using a traditional computer. The recent redesign, however, marks only a first step in addressing the smart phone community and optimizing site delivery and the user interface for handheld devices like the iPhone or iPod Touch. In coming months, the product and web development team at Science Buddies plan to introduce "a mobile-specific version of the site that will make the delivery of Science Buddies resources even more efficient and convenient," says Hubbard, noting that this version will limit scrolling and zooming in and out on pages during mobile visits.

"In talking with teachers, they made it clear that recognizability is of key importance for students," adds Hubbard, who has spent time talking with teachers and observing students using Science Buddies over the last two years in preparation for improving the site's user interface for student users. "If a student visits the Science Buddies website in school on the computer, she expects to see that same resource when browsing her tablet at home," continues Hubbard. "It is important that the students know where the information is and how to find it."


Looking Ahead

With the new site design and architecture in place, the product and web development team is working on the mobile version of the Science Buddies website. "Translating the Science Buddies user experience across different devices is something our users expect," says Hubbard. Once the design of the mobile-specific site is finalized, the new content management system will make it easy to pull the appropriate site components and information into place, creating a seamless experience for users—however they choose to browse.



Support for the creation of a more mobile-friendly version of the Science Buddies website was provided, in part, by the Motorola Mobility Foundation.


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Exceptional Science Buddies Volunteer Expert from Bio-Rad Laboratories assists hundreds of students with science projects. Her dedication to helping students exemplifies the volunteer spirit—and makes a difference in how students view and experience science.


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Congratulations to Donna Hardy of Bio-Rad Laboratories!

Donna Hardy (pictured above) has been named Science Buddies Volunteer of the Year in recognition, especially, for her service in the Ask an Expert forums.


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(Image: Bigstock)

The Science Buddies Ask an Expert forums offer personalized help to K-12 students, teachers, and parents with questions about science fair projects. From fielding questions about formulating hypotheses to helping with the identification of variables to troubleshooting an experimental procedure, our volunteer Experts help make science projects less frustrating and more rewarding. With each student we help at Ask an Expert, we foster enthusiasm for science and increase science literacy. If you are interested in learning more about volunteering with Science Buddies, visit sciencebuddies.org/volunteer.

The new school year is underway, which means students and teachers are already talking about science fairs and science projects, proposing science questions that might be asked, and putting steps of the scientific and engineering methods into action. Millions of students, teachers, and parents visit Science Buddies each year, and we are proud to continue to offer free science resources, including more than 1,000 scientist-authored Project Ideas, designed to make hands-on science exploration a positive experience at all levels.

Science Buddies works closely with its corporate sponsors to encourage and facilitate volunteerism, and our volunteer program makes it easy for employees to contribute in meaningful ways. Each year, volunteers join us in our mission to encourage, increase, and support science literacy. Many of these volunteers, professionals in a diverse range of scientific fields, join our My Science Buddies community and assist with tasks that help us maintain the high quality students, teachers, and parents expect from our resources. Other volunteers help in our Ask an Expert forums, assisting with science questions throughout the year. Others join our cause by volunteering as science fair judges in their local communities, spreading the word about Science Buddies, testing science Project Ideas with their colleagues or families, or assisting with the development of new resources. We are thankful for the time all of our volunteers give to Science Buddies.


An Outstanding Volunteer

Today, we are proud to recognize Donna Hardy of Bio-Rad Laboratories as our 2012 Volunteer of the Year. Donna has been volunteering as an Expert in the Ask an Expert forums since 2005. In that time, she has helped hundreds of students and parents with science project questions. Every year, we hear from students who have gone on to succeed with science projects at school or at a local fair. Many of these stories include mention of assistance they received from Donna in the forums.

Whether a student needs help choosing a project, is having trouble formulating a hypothesis, needs guidance in analyzing her data, or is looking for advice on presenting results, Donna offers thorough, supportive, and encouraging advice. Some students ask a question, receive an answer, and then move on to complete their projects. But many students return for ongoing support, and Donna works with them throughout the process, often doing additional research, helping them procure access to background materials, and working well beyond the typical weekly time commitment for volunteers in the Ask an Expert.

Students struggling with their science projects, or unsure how to get started, receive invaluable advice from Donna. At the same time, Donna has assisted numerous students with advanced science projects, mentoring the students through high-caliber explorations that have gone on to be presented at fairs like the Contra Costa Science & Engineering Fair (CCCSEF) and the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF).

"I could not have completed the project if it weren't for all the support I received from Ask an Expert and Donna, and the project would not have received the awards that it did," said Matthew, a student recently profiled at Science Buddies for his investigation of acne treatments. Similarly, Naima, a student in Canada, cites her long-term mentorship with Donna in the forums as critical to her project's success. "I do not live in a university town, and I did not have the opportunity to work in a laboratory or interact with professors," explains Naima. Through the Ask an Expert forums, Donna helped guide Naima through a sophisticated exploration of biofuel and renewable energy. "Although I was confined to my basement as my lab, Donna was incredible in helping me understand the background concepts behind my project, helping me develop the advanced chemistry procedure, helping me analyze odd results, suggesting improvements on my scientific report, and overall helping me complete the project within my location and budget constraints." Naima went on to present her work at the Canada Wide Science Fair.

When a second-grade student put Squanto's advice on using fish as a fertilizer to the test on his family farm, he and his family turned to Ask an Expert for help defining the procedure and then presenting the results. And when a high school student in Danville, CA was working on her advanced project, "The Effect of Deer Antler on the Proliferation of Endothelial Cells in vitro," she, too, got input from Donna and went on to present at the 2012 Intel ISEF. These are just a few of the many students Donna has assisted.

"Donna is an extraordinary volunteer in the Ask an Expert forums," says Amy Cowen, Science Buddies Online Community Manager and Volunteer Coordinator. "If I could clone a volunteer to help at Ask an Expert, I would clone Donna," she continues. "Donna always goes above and beyond the call of duty, providing complete, helpful, and encouraging responses to questions at both ends of the spectrum. When it comes to helping field student questions, Donna seems to have perfect pitch. In addition to Ask an Expert, I know Donna volunteers in her own community as a judge at local science fairs, and she has helped with various other volunteer projects at Science Buddies, including helping us evaluate our top student mentors and reviewing submissions for last year's chemistry contest. She's a wonderful example of our volunteer team, and I am very happy to see her contributions recognized."

Vice President Courtney Corda added, "Donna is, and always has been, an outstanding mentor. I feel very lucky that Donna has given Science Buddies and all the students we serve the gift of her time. I'm sure that having talented, caring volunteers like Donna is one of the factors that helped Science Buddies earn the SPORE prize from the journal Science and that helped Scientific American and NOVA choose Science Buddies for outreach partnerships. Donna is a great role model. We really can't thank her enough. We are honored to present her with our Volunteer of the Year award."





Science Buddies Project Ideas in Biotechnology Techniques are supported by Bio-Rad Laboratories and its Biotechnology Explorer Program.

Biotechnology Explorer

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Top science students join the Science Buddies team in year two of the Summer Science Fellows program. Bringing science expertise, enthusiasm, and fresh perspective, these recent graduates will assist Science Buddies in various tasks, including testing K-12 projects and resources.

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This year's Summer Fellows bring diverse areas of interest and expertise—and plenty of enthusiasm for science. As part of their summer work with Science Buddies, the group will create a series of project-based and techniques videos. Pictured above, Blake Marggraff with last year's flaming rubber chicken. Blake was co-winner of the 2011 Intel ISEF and one of Science Buddies' 2011 Summer Science Fellows.
After meeting with students at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) last month, Science Buddies recently selected and announced its group of 2012 Summer Science Fellows. Launched last year, the Science Buddies Summer Science Fellows program offers recent high school graduates a meaningful, paid summer internship doing science-related work during the transitional summer break before they begin their undergraduate studies. These Fellows each demonstrated their science acumen by presenting science projects at the Intel ISEF, a mark of achievement that Science Buddies' Founder Kenneth Hess views as a strong indicator of academic commitment and excellence, good time management skills, and a dedication to the scientific process.

The following students will be working with Science Buddies as 2012 Science Fellows:

  • Ashley Bianco is a graduate of River Springs Charter School and will attend Emory University in the fall. Her Intel ISEF Plant Sciences project was "Novel Genes and Mutations in Arabidopsis Thaliana." Ashley was also a semifinalist in this year's Intel Science and Talent Search (ISTS) and has been named the 2012 David Schwartz Summer Science Fellow, an honorary title established this year in memory of the Bio-Rad Laboratories co-founder.

  • Sophie Kim is a graduate of Palos Verdes Peninsula High School and will attend Stanford in the fall. Her Intel ISEF Computer Science project was "Mathematical Modeling of Cancer Cell Proliferation After Radiotherapy."

  • Rose Leopold is a graduate of Pacific Collegiate School and will attend Northeastern in the fall. Her Intel ISEF Earth & Planetary Science project was "Morphological Disparity During the Ammonoid Recovery after the Permian Mass Extinction."

  • Manita Singh is a graduate of Canyon Crest and will attend MIT in the fall. Her Intel ISEF Materials & Bioengineering Project was "Effects of Polycaprolactone and UV Treated Poly (Methyl Methacrylate) Electrospun Fibers on Osteogenic Differentiation of Dental Pulp Stem Cells."

  • Damon Kawamoto, a 2011 Intel ISEF competitor, is returning for a second summer as a Science Buddies Fellow. She attends Brown University. Her Intel ISEF project was "Population Modeling of the Sacramento Salmon: Combining Compositional Data with Traditional Abundance Estimates."

  • Danielle Nguyen, a 2011 Intel ISEF competitor, is also returning for a second summer as a Science Fellow. She attends McGill University. Her Intel ISEF Behavioral & Social Sciences project was "Sonification: A Novel Approach to Data Representation, Differentiation of Multiple Streams of Data."


Science Fellows to Participate in Hands-On Science Projects

As Fellows, these young scientists and innovators will assist Science Buddies in a variety of roles, including testing Project Ideas and Science Buddies kits. Real-world testing by young people for young people complements the vetting of resources and materials by Science Buddies' in-house scientists. The Fellows will also work on the production of student-centered videos both supporting specific Project Ideas and demonstrating individual and high-interest science techniques for Science Buddies' YouTube channel.

Science Buddies looks forward to a productive and fun-filled summer with these new Science Fellows. The 2011 Summer Fellows paved the way last summer and set a high bar for the contributions Fellows can make during a few short summer months. Science Buddies feels confident this year's Fellows will demonstrate a similarly high caliber of work—with or without the flaming rubber chicken that debuted in videos created by last year's Fellows!


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Head's Up!


Ahhh.... the allure of the marshmallow shooter... I know it captivated my young Maker Faire attendees last spring... I know adult family members who send marshmallow launcher kits, right along with RC helicopters, model rockets, circuit kits, and solar-powered electronics projects. As this video from President Obama's tour of winning Google Science Fair projects shows, there's something innate to the seemingly timeless fascination with what happens when you combine air pressure, marshmallows, and a series of tubing.


For a look back at our quasi-retrospective on Maker Faire (and our questions about the "germs" that might live in an old-fashioned, blow-style, marshmallow shooter), see: Blow: From Marshmallows to Microbes.

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Staff Wish List


Last year, I asked the Science Buddies staff what science, engineering, or technology tools were on their wish lists. The compilation of responses turned out to be an interesting roundup of most-wanted gadgets, a list that reflects the wide-range of personal interests that make up the small group of us at Science Buddies.

Despite the size of our site and the depth of our resources, there are only a handful of us. We are a small and busy team. We keep our "plates" full (agar and non-agar ones), and we work hard to keep up with the demands of the ten million students, parents, and teachers who use our resources each year.

As we prepare to celebrate Science Buddies' tenth birthday, I give you this little glimpse of the real people who make it all happen. This year, I again asked, "What's on your wish list." And, again, the range of answers surprised me! I hope you'll enjoy our shared wish list.



  • Ken, Founder and President, wants the Orion SkyLine Deluxe Green Laser Pointer. (We think he already has this, so it must be to add to his collection!)

    Why? "The beam of a green laser can be seen in the dark sky (red cannot), making it outstanding for pointing out astronomical objects to friends and family. Plus, it's really cool!" (But, be careful! To enjoy a laser pointer safely, check our Laser Safety Guide.)



  • Courtney, Vice President, wants a Roomba.

    Why? "It's easier than getting the kids to vacuum, and it looks like we could jury-rig it to do something funny, too!" She also wants a Day 6 Plotwatcher Time Lapse Video CameraWhy? "I've always loved seeing plant growth sped up on nature shows on TV."



  • Marisa, Director of Development, wants the iPhone Lens Dial from Photojojo.

    Why? "It's a compact photo-enhancing tool that sits on top of the iPhone's existing camera optic. It has a wheel attachment that spins, which allows you to take high-quality fisheye, wide angle, or telephoto pictures. It also has dual tripod mounts—one for portrait and one for landscape."



  • Sandra, Lead Staff Scientist, wants a Summer Shower 5.

    Why? "This year friends and family did a good job convincing me, the quintessential city-girl, that camping is fun. But I still need my daily shower! (Of course, I could just make my own!)"




  • Hugo, Chief Software Architect, wants LEGO® Mindstorms® NXT.

    Why? "Do I really need to say why? Programmable robots you can build yourself. I wish I were a kid again!" Hugo also wants a Kindle Fire. Why? "It's an affordable Android tablet. Read books, watch movies, play games, surf the web... what else do you need in the palm of your hand? I'd be walking around the house like a Star Trek guy with his tablet in hand!"



  • Claire, Product Design Engineer, wants a SodaStream Pure Black Sparkling Water & Soda Maker.
    Why? " I love flavored and carbonated water, but it can be so expensive! This machine allows you to add carbonation to regular tap water or juices. I would use it all the time!"


  • Debbie, Web Editor, wants a Rubik's Cube.

    Why? "I am determined to master the Rubik's cube! I was inspired by the "You CAN do the Rubik's cube" team at the recent Discovery Days Science Festival in San Francisco." You can download the guide and check out several Science Buddies Rubik's cube-based Project Ideas!



  • Michelle, Staff Scientist, wants a gift card to her local hardware store.
    Why? "The hardware store is a place where I can pick up anything and everything I need to build all kinds of experimental set-ups. Pumps, paint, hammers, lumber, rocks, cardboard, utility knives..... Visiting the hardware store is almost like a treasure hunt!"


  • Amy, Online Community Manager, wants a Squeezebox Touch.

    Why? "I love my original Squeezebox for playing Pandora music so much that I'd like one in another room. (The Music Genome Project is a pretty cool thing, too!)




  • Sherry, Grants Manager, wants Bushnell Deluxe Binocular Harness.

    Why? "To avoid bird-watching neck strain from holding heavy binoculars. I will reach for this harness when responding to rare bird alerts and waiting for birds to emerge."


  • Teisha, Staff Scientist, wants the Wingscapes WSCA04 Timelapse Outdoor PlantCam.

    Why? "Plants move in amazing ways, but because they move on such a different time scale than we do, it's often hard for us to notice. By taking a time-lapse video of a plant's movements over several hours, days, or even weeks, it's a lot easier for us to see how plants grow and respond to their environment. I'd use a time-lapse 'PlantCam' to watch the plants in my backyard, organic garden grow tasty vegetables!"



    • Yvette, Support Staff, wants the Solio Classic Universal Hybrid Charger

      Why? "I'm constantly on the go, and this would be the perfect gift to help me charge my phone, MP3 players, and other electronic devices while being eco-friendly!"

    (Editorial Note: Links to Amazon.com for some of the above products are provided for additional information. Science Buddies does not sell these items directly.)

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Introducing Project Idea "Kits"


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Many of the Project Ideas in the Science Buddies library enable science exploration with common materials, ones you might find around the house. Some projects, however, require an assortment of materials, not all of which can be obtained in a single stop at a local store. Plus, for a single science project, you may only need a small amount of a product, not a full roll or bottle. While we offer links to online sources for many specialty items, we are excited to announce the availability of "kits" for some of our popular Project Ideas.

When you order a Science Buddies kit through the AquaPhoenix Education website, you'll receive everything you need to perform the experiment—except perishables (like orange juice).

The items included in each kit are detailed on the AquaPhoenix Education website, and when you open the kit box, you'll find items carefully labeled for easy identification. We hope you find that this new approach to ordering supplies for a science project makes the process easy and convenient so you can spend more time on the science—and less on the shopping.


Kits are currently available for the following Project Ideas:


Note: 10% of the kit purchase price goes to support Science Buddies.

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Science Buddies Webinar


Professional Development Webinar for Teachers
Join us for a free webinar on September 14
Space is limited!
Reserve your webinar seat now!

Science Buddies is offering a free online webinar on September 14, 2011, from 3:30-4:30 p.m. PDT (6:30-7:30 p.m. EDT). We will provide a comprehensive, guided tour of the Science Buddies website and will highlight ways in which you can use Science Buddies resources and Project Ideas with your students. We will also introduce a new set of video and computer game design resources, developed with support from the AMD Foundation, for classroom instruction and student exploration at home.

All attendees who answer a brief survey at the end of the webinar will be entered into a drawing to win one of three external hard-drives (Mac or PC) donated by Western Digital.

The video and computer games guided portion of the webinar is sponsored by AMD Changing the Game, an initiative of the AMD Foundation, which is designed to spark students' interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning by creating video games. We would also like to acknowledge Citrix Sytems, Inc. for providing the GoToWebinar software.

Title:   Professional Development Webinar for Teachers
Date:   Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Time:   3:30 - 4:30 p.m. PDT

System Requirements:


  •    PC-based attendees:   Windows® 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server

  •    Macintosh®-based attendees:   Mac OS® X 10.5 or newer


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After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.

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Science Buddies is getting a burst of summer energy from a group of top science students

This summer, Science Buddies welcomed its first set of Summer Science Fellows, a group of six entering college freshmen, all of whom competed at the Intel ISEF during their senior year in high school. These six students have been working on projects at Science Buddies in various areas of the organization, ranging from market research and analysis to the testing of Project Ideas in the Science Buddies directory. As a group, they are also working on a collaborative challenge project. The fellows have attended Science Buddies' monthly company meetings as well as special fellows-only meetings and seminars designed to cover skills they will use during their college years and beyond.

If successful, Science Buddies hopes to continue the Summer Science Fellows program in future years, cultivating a growing group of young scientists who spend time with Science Buddies during the transitional summer before college and become a part of Science Buddies' extended family.


Meet the Fellows

The participants in this year's Summer Science Fellows program are an eclectic group of students with diverse interests and wide-ranging areas of science expertise, a good bit of humor, and, in some cases, big appetites! We at Science Buddies have had a wonderful time getting to know these students in recent weeks and wanted to give you a chance to "meet" this inspiring group of science students!






Summer fellows 2011 - Blake Marggraff    

Blake Marggraff

  • Hometown: Lafayette, CA
  • College: Washington University, St. Louis, MO
  • ISEF Project: "Treatment of Simulated Cancer Cells with Compton Scattering-Produced Secondary Radiation"
  • Favorite Scientist: Marie Curie. "Nothing in life is to be feared—it is only to be understood."
  • Most Important Scientific Discovery/Principle: Ionizing radiation
  • What's on His Ipod: Lots of podcasts: Radiolab, This American Life, Science Friday, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, The Moth, and many more...
  • Hobbies: Scouting, hiking, camping, Tae Kwon Do, Wikipedia

Summer fellows 2011 - Damon Kawamoto

Damon Kawamoto

  • Hometown: Santa Cruz, CA
  • College: Brown University
  • Planned College Major: Computer Science
  • ISEF Project: "Abundance Estimate of the Sacramento Chinook Salmon through the use of Genetic Data"
  • Favorite Scientist: Mendeleev
  • Most Important Scientific Discovery/Principle:
  • What's on Her Ipod: Pandora—pop, pop-country
  • Go-To Quote: "The greater our knowledge increases the more our ignorance unfolds."—John F. Kennedy
  • Hobbies: Tennis, cooking, robotics

  • On working with Science Buddies: "I think that the most exciting thing about working at Science Buddies is that I'm part of a group of people who are making science accessible and exciting to students and families everywhere. I've always loved creating mini experiments and would spend my weekends building structures and testing hypotheses. I am excited that because of the work that Science Buddies is doing, more students will grow to love science."

Summer fellows 2011 - Danielle Nguyen

Danielle Nguyen

  • Hometown: Santa Cruz, CA
  • College: McGill University
  • Planned College Major: Biochemistry or microbiology/immunology
    ISEF Project: "Abundance Estimate of the Sacramento Chinook Salmon through the use of
    Genetic Data"
  • Favorite Scientist: "Ben Franklin, but not only because he was an ingenious scientist, but because his ingenuity spanned across multiple disciplines. Very impressive!"
  • Most Important Scientific Discovery/Principle: Harnessing electricity (go Ben!)
  • What's on Her Ipod: Some dance music, pop electronica, and movie soundtracks (Inception&mdash';got to love that movie!)
  • Go-To Quote: These are words to motivate me to do otherwise: "It is remarkable, that persons who speculate the most boldly often conform with the most perfect quietude to the external regulations of society"—Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Hobbies: Flute

  • On working with Science Buddies: "I'm working on kit prototypes right now with the purpose of helping develop ways to increase the accessibility of science to curious young scientists. Knowing the direct applications of my work keeps me excited about the project that I'm doing!"

Summer fellows 2011 - Kyra Grantz

Kyra Grantz

  • Hometown: La Selva Beach, CA
  • College: University of Chicago
  • Planned College Major: Currently undecided; considering Chemistry, Classical Languages (with a focus in Latin), Film Studies, Political Sciences, and Mathematics.
  • ISEF Project: "The Effects of Ocean Temperature on Aerosol Particle Absorption"
  • Favorite Scientist: Bill Nye the Science Guy! (I actually don't really have a favorite scientist, but I absolutely loved the Bill Nye videos as a kid.)
  • What's on Her Ipod: Pretty much everything, but always the Rolling Stones, the Shins and movies scores (Morricone, Herrmann, Bernstein)
  • Go-To Quote: "The world is wide, and I would not waste my life in friction when it could be turned into momentum."—Frances Willard
  • Hobbies: Basketball, swimming, theater production, volunteering at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, watching classic movies

  • On working with Science Buddies: It's definitely hard to pinpoint the one thing I find most exciting when working for Science Buddies in and of itself is so inspiring. If I had to choose, I would say I am most excited about working with my fellow interns on our group assignments.

Summer fellows 2011 - Madeline Sides

Madeline Sides

  • Hometown: Davis, CA
  • College: Stanford University
  • Planned College Major: Bioengineering
  • ISEF Project:
  • Favorite Scientist: Rachel Carson
  • What's on Her Ipod: Classic rock
  • Go-To Quote: "Friendship with oneself is important, because without it one cannot be a true friend to anyone else in the world."—Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Hobbies: Skiing, art, travelling, outdoor activities

  • On working with Science Buddies: "I am excited to be back with Science Buddies. It's a cool organization with nice people and an important mission/product. I look forward to building on my experiences from last summer and exploring other areas of the organization. I also hope to learn more about the workings of businesses and nonprofit organizations."

Summer fellows 2011 - Matthew Feddersen

Matthew Feddersen

  • Hometown: Lafayette, CA
  • College: University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign, IL
  • Planned College Major:
  • ISEF Project: "Treatment of Simulated Cancer Cells with Compton Scattering-Produced Secondary Radiation"
  • Favorite Scientist: Nikolai Tesla
  • Most Important Scientific Discovery/Principle: Transistor
  • What's on His Ipod: Classical, hip hop, soundtracks
  • Hobbies: Karate, frisbee, piano, drums, robotics


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Annual Science Buddies Award Recognizes Superior Community Service From a Top Science Student

Science Buddies is proud to announce Nithin Tumma, an 11th grader at Port Huron Northern High School in Port Huron, MI, as this year's winner of the Craig Sander Outstanding Mentor Award. The award is given in recognition of the quality of Nithin's contribution and commitment to the Ask an Expert Forums for the 2010-2011 season. Nithin will receive a $300 scholarship.

In addition to the time spent volunteering with Science Buddies, Nithin completed his own advanced science project this year. He won a first place award at the 2011 Michigan Science Fair and went on to participate at the 2011 Intel ISEF where he won both the Best of Cellular and Molecular Biology Category Award and a First Place Award for his project: "Identifying Novel Mechanisms of Cytochrome-P450 2E1 Regulation." There is a known correlation between having Type 2 diabetes and the increased likelihood of developing cancer. Nithin's investigation in rats of the ways in which insulin or metformin (two drugs commonly used to treat Type 2 diabetes) alters Cyp2E1, a liver enzyme that helps eliminate carcinogens, may help shed new light on the relationship between Type 2 diabetes and cancer formation.

Honorable mentions in our review of high school mentors at Ask an Expert this year go to Shyamprasad Radhakrishna, a 12th grader at Amador Valley High, Pleasanton, CA, and Yurimar Jaen, a 10th grader at Mast Academy, Miami, FL. Both students will receive an iTunes gift card in recognition of their strong performance as AAE mentors.

A Community of Science Experts Helping with K-12 Science Questions

Ask an Expert is an online forum that enables students and families to get assistance with science projects. Our team of volunteer "Experts" is comprised of adults from science and engineering fields and top high school students. These "Experts" work together to help troubleshoot experimental procedures, direct students who are having trouble finding or narrowing a topic, assist with questions about data and results, and offer guidance for students with questions about presenting a project at a science fair. At any step of the scientific method or engineering design process, students can post a question at Ask an Expert and receive quality help. With each answer an Expert provides, she may help a student move from viewing a project as "simply an assignment" to seeing it as something exciting and fun. For volunteers, Ask an Expert offers a way to make a difference in the effort to increase K-12 science literacy.


Giving Back Starts Early

High school mentors like Nithin receive community service credit for volunteering at Ask an Expert, a measure of social awareness that has become more and more important in college applications. Beyond the official community service credit, mentors who work with the program over the course of a school year find it a rewarding way to help the science community. They get to share what they know, interact with professional scientists and engineers, and be a part of a worth nonprofit organization. The program challenges these high-achieving students to articulate science concepts and suggestions to K-12 students in ways that are easy to understand, supportive, and encouraging, and mentors often do additional research in various areas of science in order to best respond to questions.

The Outstanding Mentor Award was established in honor of advisory board member Craig Sander to show our appreciation for exemplary AAE mentors.


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Volunteer of the Decade


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Ken Hess, engineer, author, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and "Volunteer of the Decade."
Science Buddies will soon be turning ten, and in recognition of countless volunteer hours donated to building, refining, and envisioning the nonprofit's award-winning, free resources, the Science Buddies' staff recognized Ken Hess, founder and president, as "Volunteer of the Decade" at a company meeting today.


Since he launched Science Buddies in 2001, Ken has worked to facilitate the creation of top-notch resources, tools, and project ideas designed to support students, teachers, and their families in all aspects of doing a science or engineering project.

For more information about Ken and his move from successful entrepreneur to author, educator, and philanthropist, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_Hess.

Please join us in congratulating and thanking Ken on close to a decade of volunteerism. Millions of students, teachers, and families have benefited from the services Science Buddies offers. And behind those services, at every step, has been the guiding hand and inspiration of Ken.

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AAAS / Science logo
The Science Prize for Online Resources in Education (SPORE) is awarded by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and Science.


When you hear the word "spore," what comes to mind? Single-celled, self-replicating organisms? The whacky creatures in a popular video game? Something that grows and adapts? Something that spreads? Depending on the context, a "spore" might fit any of those descriptions. And with the encouragement of Science Buddies Project Ideas and resources, students can experiment with spores--or with slime molds or the use of water as a renewable energy source or patterns of bird migration or ocean acidification or chloroplast sequencing. They can even pinpoint the center of the Milky Way!


As founder and president Kenneth Hess notes, "every year, ten million K-12 students in North America must complete a science project." The hardest part of the process for many of those students is selecting a project. At Science Buddies, students can choose from over a 1000 projects in over 30 areas of science. From genomics to ocean and environmental sciences, students can access exciting free Project Ideas on the Science Buddies website, many of which enable them to follow in the footsteps of today's cutting-edge researchers, exploring new and developing science techniques, procedures, and questions.


For the last ten years, Science Buddies has been seeding interest in, and excitement for, science and furthering science literacy both in classroom settings and at home. This process of providing tools to support science literacy and to encourage students to explore areas of science they might not have considered has been part of Science Buddies' approach since its inception, and Science Buddies' offerings have continued to grow and evolve. Student by student, teacher by teacher, parent by parent, and researcher by researcher, the Science Buddies community has spread.


Today, Science awarded Science Buddies a Science Prize for Online Resources in Education, an award created to recognize "the best online materials in science education." "We want to recognize innovators in science education," says Bruce Alberts, editor-in-chief of Science.


"We're extremely honored to be recognized by such a prestigious publication that represents the entire scientific community," says Hess. "It provides tremendous validation for our efforts to advance science education and literacy."


And with recognition, science literacy spreads and spreads again and again and again. It's a replication process worth celebrating.

Science Buddies is honored to be named a SPORE recipient.

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Earth Day: Staff Picks!


As I wrote my blog essay in celebration of Earth Day, I found myself in unexpectedly bug-laden territory, without a compost bin, wind turbine, or reusable food container in sight. But Earth Day is about all of those things. It's about taking a moment to recognize what's around us, to take stock of where we are, and to consider ways in which we can make changes, big and small, that can make an impact on the environment. It's about conservation and awareness. Do you turn off the water while you brush your teeth?

I asked members of the Science Buddies team to pick their favorite Project Idea for Earth Day from the Science Buddies Project Ideas Directory. Here's what they chose:










    MarisaMarisa: The Big Dig

    Test how biodegradable different materials are, from paper products to different kinds of bags and other everyday items.








    PeggyPeggy: Swimming in Acid: Understanding Ocean Acidification
    Many scientists are concerned that the increased absorption of carbon dioxide is causing them to become more acidic. What impact does that have on the marine life? In this ocean science fair project, you will demonstrate ocean acidification and investigate the effect on the shells of marine life.
















    DebbieDebbie: Growing a Soil Menagerie
    Make a mini biosphere (Winogradsky Column) to test the response of soil microorganisms to environmental changes in a closed system.







    SandraSandra: "Earth Day is about stopping to take the time to appreciate the outdoors and making sure that we humans are living in a way that allows future generations to do the same. Does that mean we're going to abandon our cars and turn off our electricity? Realistically speaking, I can't imagine doing that! Finding ways to solve environmental problems while maintaining our lifestyles seems more realistic. Here are two Project Ideas that I think allow us to start evaluating and tackling some of those environmental problems:"

  • Do Your Storm Drains Keep the Ocean Trash Free?
    Test models of local grated storm drain inlets to determine if they are designed in a manner that keeps plastic litter from entering your community's stormwater drainage system. If not, design a new model!

  • Water to Fuel to Water: The Fuel Cycle of the Future
    Follow in the footsteps of MIT researchers as you examine water's usefulness as a renewable energy source by observing how efficient a cobalt-based catalyst can be at helping to form molecular oxygen.


(Thank you to our partners and sponsors whose support helps up continue to produce environmentally-aware science and engineering projects and materials for K-12 students, teachers, and families.)


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Middle school teachers, grades 6-8, interested in investigating ocean sciences or climate change are invited to apply for the 2011 Earthwatch Educator Program sponsored by Earthwatch and Northrop Grumman. The program provides a fellowship for an innovative hands-on expedition, an inspiring experience that teachers can then share with classrooms.

Last year, Erin Moore, a teacher in Illinois, was selected to participate in Northrop Grumman Foundation's Weightless Flights of Discovery Program. As Erin reported on the Science Buddies' blog, the experience of the Zero-G flight was exhilarating and life-changing, from start to finish.

The following Earthwatch expeditions are planned for 2011:

  • Coastal Ecology of the Bahamas

    6/27 - 7/8, 2011

    Be a part of a team supervised by Dr Kathleen Sullivan-Sealey as you explore the Bahamian archipelago, a unique ecosystem in the northeast Caribbean Sea.

  • Climate Change at the Arctic's Edge
    6/19 - 6/29, 2011
    Exploring the carbon-rich peatlands in the Arctic tundra will bring issues related to global warming rushing to the surface. Teams working with Dr. Peter Kershaw will monitor ecosystem changes in response to global warming and investigate changes in the permafrost—and the risks related to the release of greenhouse gases if the permafrost thaws.


Middle School teachers (grades 6-8) from Northrop Grumman communities are eligible to apply for the program (except for educators who participated in the 2009 or 2010 Weightless Flights of Discovery program or the 2009 or 2010 Space Academy for Educators). The deadline for application is February 4, 2011.

For more information, or to fill out an application, visit the Northrop Grumman Earthwatch information page.

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Teacher Webinar is Today!


Just a reminder, our free Professional Development Webinar for teachers is today, Wednesday, September 22 at:


  • 4 p.m. Pacific

  • 5 p.m. Mountain

  • 6 p.m. Central

  • 7 p.m. Eastern


If you are already signed up, please follow the directions you received in email to log into the Webinar at the time listed above.


If you are not registered yet and would like to join us, it's not too late! Please register now: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/389772962


To find out more about today's virtual tour of the Science Buddies website, see our previous blog entry.

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Thanks to a grant from the Motorola Foundation's Innovation Generation program, Science Buddies will be developing online resources related to summer science camps. Many camps throughout the country focus on the sciences and offer opportunities for students to explore science in fun and innovative ways.

"We are excited about the opportunity to add the 'Summer Science' resource to our website and to encourage students to engage in hands-on science projects ...even when school is out," said Ken Hess, Science Buddies CEO.

Read the full press release.

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In recent months, the news has been riddled with stories about professional scientists behaving poorly. In November 2009, a hacker pirated and circulated hundreds of email messages that spawned what has become known as "Climategate,", a scandal which allegedly involves the systematic and deliberate misrepresentation of statistical data regarding global warming. On the heels of Climategate, the British medical journal Lancet this month retracted a scientific paper because of fraudulent data regarding a link between immunizations and autism, and the American publication Science recently placed a paper under suspicion until it receives additional data. In other news, claims regarding the rapid melting of Himalayan glaciers have been exposed as "speculative."

These examples from the scientific world are disheartening. They point to a certain level of ethical demise where results that "fit" expected or desired findings are more important than the scientific quest for truth. In each case, faulty findings and misrepresentation of data have had significant impact upon popular thinking and even upon economic planning and spending.

For teachers and students, these examples can be confusing. If the goal of experimentation and research is to test hypotheses, to explain things, to uncover what happens under certain circumstances, and to answer questions that can lead to new knowledge and further discovery, then why lie about what the data shows?


Why Falsify?

Scientists are human. It is natural to want to be right. It can be hard to discover in subsequent trials that early findings were not as conclusive as initially believed. It can be hard to have to "qualify" data or suggest that something that seemed breakthrough early on maybe wasn't. It can hard to admit that something didn't turn out as expected.

The pressure to publish research and findings can contribute to these problems. In the rush to put out new materials, "it can be tempting to take short cuts, to rush data that isn't fully analyzed out the door, or, worst of all, to fabricate data," says Sandra Slutz, Science Buddies lead staff scientist.

Students face similar time constraints and pressure, and sometimes students think the only way to get a good grade on a science project is for the project to show exactly what they set out to show. It is important for teachers, students, parents, and those involved in science fairs to create an environment where solid research and testing, where adherence to the scientific method, and where a spirit of enthusiastic investigation is encouraged — even if a project, in the end, doesn't turn out as expected.

What students stand to learn from a science project that is conducted properly from start to finish far outweighs the importance of the data fitting the student's original hypothesis or supporting a known scientific principle.

An Honest Fair

For teachers, parents, and students, stories of scientific fraud, deception, and misrepresentation in the science community are warning signs and offer concrete examples for talking constructively about the value of science fair projects, about "why" we conduct scientific experiments and "why" schools hold science fairs.

A science fair project is supposed to be a learning experience, and teachers and parents need to work together to ensure that the experience is a positive one. Unfortunately, whether you are a middle school student or a professional scientist, experiments don't always turn out the way that you want! That doesn't, however, mean that you should alter your results, ignore something important that happened, or pretend that things turned out differently than they did. Ultimately, you may not prove your hypothesis. But that doesn't mean that your science fair project had no merit!


If at First You Don't Succeed

It happens. Experiments do not always turn out the way you expect or want. Sometimes, it is because something avoidable went wrong. You can learn from that and try again or alter your procedures in the future. Sometimes, it is hard to tell "what" went wrong. Sometimes, the data simply doesn't match up to expectations.

On the bright side, you can learn a lot from what goes wrong with a science project. Scientific discovery, in fact, is often a one-step-forward-two-steps-back process. If you love the area of science you've chosen for your project, spending time troubleshooting what may have happened and finding either a new approach or a revised method for working with the topic can turn into a viable project for your next science fair.

Donna Hardy, an Ask an Expert volunteer from Bio-Rad, recently reassured a student and parent that had run into problems with a cabbage cloning experiment, "With science projects, the important thing is the science and the experiment, not necessarily the results. Your son followed the protocol, set up the experiment, and obtained some results. Not necessarily the results he was expecting, but there were results."

Be open, too, to what "what went wrong" suggests. You might find that unexpected results can lead your research or project in an entirely new direction.

As Amber Hess, a Science Buddies volunteer and Expert in the Ask an Expert forums notes: "My best project came about from a mistake I made in a different project. That's also how the microwave oven was invented!"

Indeed, observations that led to the development of the microwave oven started with an unexpected mess—a chocolate bar that melted in the pocket of Percy Spencer, an American engineer working with magnetrons for Raytheon. The melted chocolate bar demonstrated a side-effect of the magnetrons: their heating properties. Spencer went on to experiment with popcorn and then eggs. It wasn't where he started, but it led to a discovery that changed the face of the modern kitchen!

Just imagine if Spencer hadn't realized the potential in re-directing his research based on the melted chocolate bar!

As Sandra notes, "Every scientist, from famous Nobel prize winners to laboratory technicians in their first job, have had an experiment fail. Actually they've had a lot of experiments fail. And that's okay! It is simply part of the process. What differentiates the good scientists from the rest is what they do next. The truly horrible ones make up results, the bad ones simply give up and move to a new question, and the good scientists figure out why the project failed, implement a solution, and try again... and again... and again until it works."

Stay tuned for a checklist of ways to get your science project started off on the right foot to give yourself the best chance for success. Check back, also, for more suggestions from our staff scientists and experts regarding what to do... when a project doesn't work and how to troubleshoot what may have gone wrong.

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Volunteer with Science Buddies!


School is back in session, and that means science projects are underway. Already in my house there has been excitement over the various states of water. And as the information trickles home and what has been learned is demonstrated and relayed and put to use and tested again and again, I can't count how many times I have found a cup of water left in the freezer as an experiment. Similarly, several days in a row, a cup of water was left bedside to see if bubbles formed on the surface overnight. When there were no bubbles, I heard, "My experiment didn't work, but that's okay." Add to that a newfound awareness of solid shapes, the parts of trees, and a wealth of knowledge about hedgehogs, and it's been a very full first month of kindergarten.

With science projects and science fairs already taking shape in classrooms, Science Buddies is in the process of scheduling volunteers to answer questions in our Ask an Expert forums.

The Science Buddies Ask an Expert forums offer personalized help to K-12 students (and their parents) with questions about science fair projects. From fielding questions about formulating hypotheses to helping with the identification of variables to troubleshooting an experimental procedure, our team of Experts helps make science projects less frustrating and more rewarding. With each student we help at Ask an Expert, we hope we are fostering enthusiasm for science and increasing science literacy.

Volunteers at Ask an Expert include both Experts working in scientific fields, teachers, and advanced high school science students interested in performing community service by helping other students with their science fair questions and projects.

To find out more about volunteering with Science Buddies, please visit: www.sciencebuddies.org/volunteer. If you are a teacher and would like information you can distribute to your students, please let us know.

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Join Science Buddies on August 30 for "Using Science Buddies for Success," a free one-hour webinar designed to introduce teachers to Science Buddies' resources and tools.

As the 2009-2010 school year gets ready to kick into gear, now is the perfect time to learn more about how Science Buddies can be integrated in your classroom. Science Buddies is dedicated to creating engaging project ideas and resources that can help increase science enthusiasm, interest, and literacy in all grades. The webinar, sponsored by Northrop Grumman and Motorola, will walk you through our resources and offer suggestions for incorporating Science Buddies' materials in your classroom.


Webinar 'Door' Prizes!

At the end of the webinar, we will award door prizes. The first 25 attendees to sign in and attend the whole webinar will receive a free Scientific Method poster. Also, random names will be drawn from among ALL attendees: 10 attendees will receive a Maxtor Personal Storage Basics 300 gigabyte external hard drive and 1 attendee will receive a $100 grant of his or her choice of science supplies or equipment!


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Science Buddies on Air


In her appearance on The View from the Bay, Science Buddies Vice President, Courtney Corda, talks about the value of making science an everyday subject and topic of family discussion. Courtney encourages parents to approach science first and foremost by linking science and underlying scientific principles to an area of interest for their students and to engage students with hands-on activities and scientific projects.

Courtney reminds viewers that fostering a love of science is important. Supporting a love of reading or instilling and modeling healthy eating habits are vital concerns for parents, says Courtney. So, too, is science education.

Watch the video clip for practical tips on bringing science into the home and see Courtney, her son, and another mother-daughter team put cabbage to work as a pH indicator.


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Tomorrow, June 16, Courtney Corda, Vice President of Science Buddies, will be a guest on ABC 7 / KGO-TV's "View from the Bay." As part of a special segment on Science Buddies, "View from the Bay" will air footage of Courtney and her son Matthew and mother-and-daughter team Haleh and Jenny Hughes.performing the Science Buddies' "Cabbage Chemistry" experiment.

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Science Buddies continues to team up with science and tech companies to recognize and support innovative science and what can be created, observed, tested, and discovered with ordinary materials put to creative use in the name of science.

After viewing entries yesterday, Science Buddies' Sandra Slutz is at the California State Science Fair today with Northrop Grumman's Wen Phan to select winners of the Science Buddies Clever Scientist Awards from the over 1000 participants representing over 300 California schools.

Thanks to generous support from Symantec, all winners of the Clever Scientist Award at CSSF will receive a copy of Norton Internet Security.

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Recognizing Clever Scientists


This year, Seagate and Science Buddies teamed up to sponsor and award the Seagate-Science Buddies Clever Scientist Award at various science fairs. At each fair, the "Clever Scientist" award honored the two most innovative science fair projects which used low-cost experimental techniques to answer challenging scientific or engineering questions.

"Doing more with less is one of the classic measures of creativity," says Science Buddies founder and CEO Ken Hess.

The following projects were recently selected for the Clever Scientist Award at the Santa Cruz County Science Fair, the Colorado Science and Engineering Fair, and the Minnesota State Science and Engineering Fair:


  • Colored Light vs. Fog
    Daniel Nugent
    Summary: Daniel created a controlled fog generator which allowed him to study light absorption, specifically which color of light penetrates fog the best (e.g., fog lights for automobiles) but is, at the same time, tolerable for human eyesight.
  • Decomposing Energy
    Max Keller
    Summary: Max's green project explored the use of home compost to generate heat energy. Max designed a system that featured aeration from a home fan, ventilation with PVC pipe, controlled moisture content, and an embedded water reservoir to measure heat change over time.
  • Pop Goes the Hairstrand
    Kathryn Wied
    Summary: Kathryn systematically tested groups of hair with varying types of shampoos to determine if shampoo helps increase the strength of hair.
  • Parabolic Solar Desalination for the Developing World
    Kelci Garcia
    Summary: Tackling the shortage of drinking water in some developing coastal areas, Kelci developed a prototype of an 'E.T. (Energy Transfer) Dish' - "a parabolic mirror and steam generator with a heat exchanger." The E.T. Dish facilitates the condensation of steam and the production of fresh water.
  • Earthquake Experiments
    Zachary Ajax Zinn
    Summary: The project involved the homemade earthquake shake tables which allowed observation and evaluation of the ways in which both horizontal and vertical shake affects buildings which have different structural components.

  • Can Kites Go Low?
    Evan LR Karow
    Summary: Evan built a wind tunnel, modeled after expensive high tech tunnels, out of cardboard, a fan, a rheostat, and a voltage meter. With the tunnel, and the ability to control the speed of the fan, Evan quantitatively compared 8 different kite designs to see which type of kite was capable of achieving lift with the least amount of wind.


Winners received a Maxtor One Touch III, 200 GB drive from Seagate and the opportunity to publish their project on Science Buddies website.

"By rewarding the authors and publishing these original, low-cost projects, we give other students across the country something that they can build and improve upon," says Hess.

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It's not too late to enter the 2nd LEGO Builders of Tomorrow contest, sponsored by GeekDad. The deadline for submitting a photo of your family working together to build something from LEGO is April 30. The winning family will be featured on the box of the 2010 LEGO Builders of Tomorrow set.

The contest honors the timeless tradition of LEGO construction and the ways in which families come together to put principles of design, engineering, robotics, and physics to use with bricks of all sizes.

The ubiquitous nature of LEGO makes them perfect tools for introducing and demonstrating principles of science. Turn some downtime at home into an opportunity for scientific exploration with one of these Science Buddies science fair project ideas:

Let us know what you build, what questions come up, and how it goes. Your young builder could, indeed, be the builder or scientist of tomorrow!

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What will you explore for your science project this year? What is your favorite classroom science activity? Email us a short (one to three sentences) summary of your science project or teaching tip. You might end up featured in an upcoming Science Buddies newsletter!


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