Meet the Makers: miSci and Dudley Observatory

Among the great organizations that will be part of the inaugural Troy Mini Maker Faire on August 27  is miSci,  the Museum of Innovation and Science (formerly the Schenectady Museum). They are teaming up with Dudley Observatory, the Capital Region’s astronomy resource, which is located at miSci. Dr. Valerie Rapson, outreach astronomer at Dudley Observatory, answered a few questions about their plans:

What equipment will miSci and Dudley Observatory be bringing to the Troy Mini Maker Faire?

miSci will be bringing all sorts of fun toys that you can tinker with. We’ll have KEVA blocks that kids can build tall structures with, and bubble wands to create gigantic soap bubbles. Kids can also make and take home a mini hologram projector that can turn special videos on smart phones and tablets into holograms. Dudley Observatory will bring glasses and a telescope with a solar filter so guests can safely look at the sun.

Tell us about your own background and miSci’s involvement with science and with Making.

I have a Ph.D. in astrophysical sciences and technology, and have spent many years teaching children and adults about astronomy. I’ve taught classes, summer camps, and activities for people ages 3-103!

This will be your first experience with Maker Faire. What are you looking forward to? 

I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for people of all ages to learn about and play around with the latest technology. Hands on learning is the most productive and beneficial way to teach children and adults about science and technology. miSci and the Dudley Observatory are proud to provide this type of interactive learning for the capital region. We hope that the Troy Maker Faire will give people the opportunity to experiment with science and technology that they may not otherwise have had the opportunity to experience.

What kind of Maker and science activities can families find at miSci and Dudley Observatory?

miSci is a hands-on science center that celebrates the rich history of innovation in Tech Valley and believes in the great value of open-ended exploration as a driver of invention and innovation. With collections and archives from 100 years of GE history and great inventors such as Thomas Edison and Charles Steinmetz, and a 5-year partnership with the San Francisco Exploratorium’s ExNET program, miSci presents interactive exhibits that encourage scientific questioning, imagination and creativity among patrons of all ages.

Our current exhibit, Tinkering, fosters the concept that focused activity with the right materials in the right environment can lead to great new inventions, while also building self-confidence, critical thinking skills, and crucial attitudes that foster people’s interest in science, technology, engineering, and math. Tinkering teaches students and families that they too can create new inventions, that they can dream new things, then actually build them, can ask bold questions and answer them through focused exploration.

miSci also opened its own permanent Tinkering Garage to support a community of makers by providing tools and technology that assist in bringing ideas to life – such as computers, Makey Makey programs, 3-D printers, and more.

The miSci Education team leads informal science classes during break weeks and summer break to provide focused exploration of STEM subjects and how to bring ideas to life. miSci Educators also lead interpretation programs throughout the miSci galleries to encourage patrons’ questioning, exploring and making.

Dudley Observatory also hosts a night Sky adventure on the third Tuesday of every month where families can come learn about astronomy and learn how to use telescopes.

How does miSci help bring the Maker Movement to schools and the community?

miSci has a very robust outreach program that brings hands-on science and interactive science demonstrations to schools, libraries, community organizations and public events throughout the Capital Region and Southern Adirondacks. All programs present scientific theories in a fun and engaging way – helping to illustrate the basic principles of nanotechnology, physics, energy science, electricity and engineering through inquiry-based, hands-on learning. Programs are geared to a variety of learning styles and ages, and always include Q&A discussion, interactive demonstrations and hands-on activities.

If you would like to have your own Maker exhibit at this year’s Troy Mini Maker Faire, the Call for Makers is open until August 1. Just fill out the online application form and let us know what you’re like to do. It’s free!

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