Featured

Go Green!

There are only so many hours in the day, but still, students in the second session of Digital WAVE this summer managed to build an entire 3D house in a virtual world in just 2 weeks. The goal was to show all the ways that we can use “green energy” in our houses, schools, and communities, with solar panels, wind turbines, energy-saving appliances, and lots more. During the program, they also went on a field trip to Oleta River State Park with the Museum’s Reclamation Project Director Fernando Bretos, put together electrical circuits powered by water, wind, and solar power, built and tested remotely operated vehicles, and even climbed into a real OceanGate submarine in the Museum. They also met with Mark Spalding, CEO of the Ocean Foundation, from within the virtual world. Mark (through his avatar) talked about the importance of blue carbon, which is the atmospheric carbon absorbed by coastal environments like mangroves and seagrass beds.  Students even met with a Museum employee who lives “off-the-grid” without electricity or running water – proving it can still be done! All of these experiences, along with their own research, helped students design our energy efficient virtual house. Enjoy our photo slideshow!

 

Students built solar-powered circuits and tested them in the sunlight outside the Museum… took measurements of trees at Oleta River State park to determine the carbon they absorb from the atmosphere… built and tested ROVs in a tank at the Museum’s Sea Lab…

 

…climbed into a real OceanGate submarine at the Museum…  and tons more! All of this resulted in an energy efficient, environmentally friendly virtual house with a green roof, solar panels, CFL light bulbs, energy efficient appliances, just to name a few.

 

 

One green energy source was a solar chimney, which provides power by heating air which then rises and powers the turbine. The bathroom has CFL bulbs, a ceiling fan for cooling without AC, and a water efficient toilet. And at the end of the program, students presented their projects, including this bird-friendly wind turbine, to their families and Museum staff. Jobs well done!

 

 

 

Restoring Mangroves on Virginia Key

Being in south Florida, we are literally surrounded by precious natural environments – the ocean, the coral reefs, mangroves, the Everglades, to name a few. That means we are in a position to negatively affect our surroundings if we don’t pay attention, but we are also in a position to make a positive difference if we are willing to try. Thanks to Fernando Bretos and the Museum’s Reclamation Project, which works to restore mangrove environments in south Florida, Digital WAVE students were able to contribute to the restoration effort. After learning about the Reclamation Project in the morning, students saw just how interconnected everything in the world really is. Everyone was assigned to be a plant or animal in a mangrove habitat (i.e. fish, seagrass, humans, mangroves, etc), and stood in a circle. One student started out with a ball of string, and that person threw it to another person who represented a plant or animal directly connected to them by the food chain. The second person threw it to the third, and so on, until we had a literally interconnected web, showing that if one thing is in trouble, we are all in trouble. With this inspiration in mind, Fernando took the students to a mangrove restoration site on Virginia Key. Students stepped into the ankle-deep muddy water (sometimes knee-deep when you least expected it), and planted mangrove seedlings, doing their part to help all of us.

Fly Over a Virtual South Florida

Imagine you are flying above Florida, looking down at the winding (and in some places straight) Kissimmee River, the enormous Lake Okeechobee, the patchwork quilt of farmlands, the watery green Everglades, and the urban sprawl of houses and roads. For those of us who are not superheroes with the ability to fly, the students participating in our Digital WAVE program can give you that opportunity. They have been learning about climate change and the water pathways throughout south Florida, and have created a 3D virtual south Florida to illustrate these crucial environmental issues. Take a photo tour of south Florida with us, and you will be amazed at the progress amd creativity of these young people. (Click on each image to see a larger picture.)

The beginning stages of our virtual Florida

The final product - our virtual Florida!

A close-up of the Everglades

A close-up of urban Miami

June 1st, 2012  in Featured, Student Work No Comments »

The Scholarship Jackpot!

We recently heard the fantastic news that some of our previous Digital Wave students had been finalists for some prestigious scholarships. Now we are so proud to report that we officially have 2 winners of the Dell Scholars Program, and 1 winner for the Gates Millennium Scholars Program! These are not your everyday scholarships. These are like hitting-the-jackpot type scholarships. The Dell scholarship includes: $20,000 towards college expenses, technology equipment, a private scholar networking community, and mentoring support throughout college. The Gates Millennium scholarship provides a full ride for all college expenses, opportunities to renew the scholarship if academic progress is maintained, leadership development programs, and even funding for graduate school in the areas of computer science, education, engineering, library science, mathematics, public health, and science. So who are the academic all-stars who earned the jackpot?

Gregory Hyppolite, winner of the Dell Scholars program, plans to attend the University of West Florida. At the Museum, he has participated in Digital Wave as well as the Upward Bound program since ninth grade. He is a member of the Museum’s Youth Advisory Board and holds a position as Explainer to help supplement his family’s income. At school, he is a member of the Leadership Team and has earned an internship position with the Superintendent of Miami-Dade County, Alberto M. Carvalho. Greg is a natural leader, ambitious, and as any other student will tell you, is always willing to lend assistance to anyone in need.

David Green, believe it or not, has earned both the Dell AND the Gates scholarships! David has also been a participant in the Museum’s Digital Wave and Upward Bound programs. Graduating as valedictorian this year, he plans to attend the University of Florida. He has been actively involved in his school’s robotics team, tutors other students, has helped develop the Overtown Cookbook, all while holding a steady part-time job. Quick, thoughtful, and encouraging to his peers, he believes that “education is my refuge in adversity.”

 

 

April 26th, 2012  in Featured, Uncategorized No Comments »

Science Fair Winner!

We do our best to keep in touch with all the awesome students who participate in our programs here at the Museum. Some particularly exceptional students, like Barbara Escobar, make that easy for us. Barbara, a student at North Miami Senior High School, previously participated in the Digital WAVE Summer Academy, where she studied the effects of climate change on South Florida’s coral reefs. During the program, Dr. Andrew Baker, Associate Professor of Marine Biology and Fisheries at the University of Miami, spoke to Digital WAVE participants about his research on corals and the impacts of the terrible Deepwater Horizon oil spill. After that talk, Barbara was inspired to start her own environmental science research. With help from Museum staff, Barbara got in touch with Dr. Baker and worked with graduate student mentors at the Coral Reef Conservation Research Laboratory. She concentrated on studying the use of dispersants, which are used to mitigate the effects of crude oil on corals. This past year, she entered her project in her school’s science fair and won first place. Congratulations Barbara!

March 22nd, 2012  in Featured, Student Work No Comments »

All About Mangroves

This year in Digital WAVE, students are learning all about climate change and how it is related to south Florida environments – specifically mangroves. During class time they are using the same technology and software that scientists, animators, and designers use to model complex systems or create graphics for movies. And students have been using this technology at a state-of-the-art design lab at Miami Dade College-North Campus in order to design their own mangrove trees, which will be part of a 3D virtual exhibit they are creating.

Even though students have the incredible opportunity to create mangroves in a 3D virtual environment, there is also nothing like seeing mangroves in the 3D real environment. So the Digital WAVE students embarked on a trip to Biscayne National Park to go canoeing among the real mangroves. They learned about mangroves’ importance as marine habitats and as a kind of protection for us against the full force of hurricanes. The experience in this fun “outdoor lab” has inspired even more creativity when the students returned to the fun indoor lab. Some students may have temporarily ended up out of the canoe and in the water – but that’s all part of the fun.

December 1st, 2011  in Events, Featured No Comments »

Discover NEEMO

Where on Earth could you really prepare for the challenges of space? As it turns out, it’s right in our back yard. NEEMO (NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations project) sends NASA employees to live in Aquarius – an underwater laboratory right off the Florida Keys, to prepare for space travel. Aquarius is located 3.5 miles off Key Largo, and 62 feet under the surface of the water, and NEEMO crewmembers live there for up to 3 weeks at a time. NEEMO missions include astronaut training and testing equipment required for exploring asteroids.

Now use your imagination. Think about trying to accomplish a task that would be pretty simple on land. Shoveling sand. Inserting a screw into machinery. Holding still. Picking up a rock. Breathing. Now imagine doing those tasks underwater (or in space). All these things that we take for granted in our every day lives become much more difficult in space, and trying it out underwater is great practice.

On Saturday October 22nd, 85 participants, including Digital WAVE students, attended an event that featured a live webcast with NEEMO crew, in which they learned about NEEMO missions first hand. Other participants included teachers who were attending a professional development training for APEX (After-School Program Exploring Science), and other high school students from the Upward Bound Math & Science program. During the Q&A with NEEMO crew, participants asked about the challenges of asteroid exploration, and how astronauts train for it. During the daylong event, students also participated in activities stationed throughout the Museum related to asteroid composition, gravity and buoyancy, and projectile motion. And of course, what day would be complete without being able to make and analyze your own impact craters?

October 27th, 2011  in Events, Featured 8 Comments »

Carbon Dioxide: The Missing Link

When a NASA scientist meets high school students, you may automatically think that it is always the NASA scientist that would be teaching the students. But at the Museum’s Digital WAVE: Warming Winds and Water program, the scientist taught the students, AND the students taught the scientist. At Digital WAVE’s first virtual speaker event of Fall 2011, Dr. Mike Gunson from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California met with Digital WAVE students in Miami to talk about climate change. The event took place in the virtual world of Second Life, and everyone communicated through his or her avatars. Dr. Gunson is an atmospheric scientist and works on the OCO (Orbiting Carbon Observatory) satellite that will map carbon dioxide from space and will “watch the Earth breathe.”

Dr. Gunson speaks to students around the Digital WAVE campfire.

Dr. Gunson talked about how carbon dioxide was “the missing link between soft drinks, forests, ocean acidity, wild fires, cement production, and volcanoes” and how records and observations from ice cores and satellites show how carbon dioxide levels have increased, and how humans have contributed to the problem.

Dr. Gunson explains The Keeling Curve, which shows direct observations of increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere since 1958.

Then… students had the opportunity to show Dr. Gunson what they had been working on in virtual worlds. Their avatars led Dr. Gunson’s avatar to where the students are building 3D objects as part of their projects to create virtual climate change exhibits. Getting feedback from a NASA scientist is pretty special. And getting his attention so much so that he asked for an invitation to come back to see their final projects – that’s saying something.

The beginnings of students' virtual exhibit projects on climate change. See the glaciers?

Virtual Climate Masterpieces

There are times when you’re impressed, and times when you’re really impressed. Seeing the completed student productions at the Digital Wave Family Event was one of those times you had to be really impressed. During the 2-week Digital Wave Summer Academy, high school students learned about climate change while also gaining 3D design skills. Students formed groups, and each group chose a topic – groups chose everything from deforestation and sea level rise to carbon emissions and acid rain. After doing some individual research on their group’s topic, students went to work creating their masterpieces in the virtual world of Second Life. Their challenge was to design and build 3D virtual exhibits and animations, with the goal being to create something that would help others learn about climate change. All the projects turned out to be amazing. Check out just a couple of them that students presented to their families and Museum staff at this event. (Each image has a description of that group’s topic below the image.) And just try not to be impressed by what these students learned and created.

Before (left): A healthy forest with a big glacier nearby, and a house sitting a safe distance from the water’s edge. After (right): After deforestation by humans has destroyed the forest, all the carbon which has been stored in the trees is released into the atmosphere, accelerating the atmosphere’s warming greenhouse effect, which melts ice, raises sea levels, and affects environments and habitats.

Visitors to this theatre may sit and enjoy a short video (also created by this student group) about the effects of climate change on the Earth’s polar regions. They would learn that the Antarctic Peninsula’s temperature has risen 5.4degrees since 1950; and that by the end of the century, sea levels could rise by 3 feet. Visitors could then start a simulation on the exhibit to the right – as the ice sheets melt, the sea level rises.

What’s the connection between human industries, natural environments, and acid rain? This simulation displays a factory, illustrating how industrial activities, and the burning of fossil fuels, increase greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere. This can then change the chemistry of the atmosphere, soils, forests, and oceans – acid rain and ocean acidification can in turn affect soils, vegetation, and ocean habitats.

August 23rd, 2011  in Events, Featured, Student Work No Comments »

A Virtual Visit with Leland D. Melvin

On May 21, 2011, almost 100 people participated in a mixed-reality, virtual visit with Astronaut Leland Melvin: about half in the Space Gallery at the Miami Science Museum and half via Second Life. We captured over an hour of Mr. Melvin’s fascinating and inspiring talk, but you can view highlights here:

June 6th, 2011  in Events, Featured No Comments »