Science Center of Iowa Blog

At the Science Center of Iowa, our goal is to be a quality community resource for informal science learning where children, families, school groups and individuals come to explore science and technology. To continue the learning outside our walls, we give you the SCI blog! Our knowledgeable staff, along with special guests and local scientists, will give you a behind-the-scenes look at SCI activities and in-depth information about science events.

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Meet SCI's Jr. Paleontologists

Meet SCI's Jr. Paleontologists

Were dinosaurs purple? Pink? Green? Or all of the above? What did Earth look like when Futalognkosaurus and Giganotosaurus reigned? We have just the experts to answer these questions!

Our 7- to 11-year-old “Jr. Paleontologists” were chosen because of their enthusiasm and expertise for all things dinosaur, and they are eager to answer your questions about the wow-worthy traveling exhibition, Ultimate Dinosaurs. Consult these Jr. Paleontologists at SCI’s $5 Family Night on December 12, where they’ll be ready to answer your questions and show off special Ultimate Dinosaurs activities!

Until then, let us introduce you to a few of these Jr. Paleontologists:

What made you want to be a Jr. Paleontologist at the Science Center of Iowa?

Sadie, 8: I’ve always wanted to work at the Science Center, and when I heard they were doing paleontology, I wanted to intern so I could learn more about dinosaurs.

Landan, 10: I’m really interested in the dinosaurs. I’ve liked them ever since I was in first grade, and I always wanted to learn more about them because they’re really interesting. 

Chloe, 8: I’ve always wondered about nature, so I wanted to learn more, so I went to the library, and I found this dinosaur book, which looked really interesting, and ever since, I’ve wanted to be a paleontologist.

Resean, 11: I learned that birds are technically a dinosaur! 

Cadence, 8: I wanted to become a Jr. Paleontologist because I’ve always wondered about the history of dinosaurs. I wanted to be a Jr. Paleontologist because it sounded like it would be very interesting.

Why do you like teaching others about dinosaurs?

Sadie: It makes me feel proud that I’m teaching the world about dinosaurs.

Landan: If dinosaurs ever came back, so they would have knowledge to know how to escape, so they wouldn’t get eaten.

Chloe: Then, they get to share what I’ve learned instead of trying to find all of the books and trying to go everywhere instead of just listening to people who know about it. 

Resean: For them to get interested.

Cadence: It’s really cool because you can help other people learn more.

What color do you think dinosaurs were when they lived on the Earth?

Sadie: I think that they were brown, green or other bright colors to show off to mates.

Landan: Well, maybe dinosaurs that didn’t need to hide could have bright colors, so they could attract females. Maybe if they had to hide, they could have colors that would match their habitat, so they could hide from predators or even help predators catch their prey.

Chloe: Different colors, actually. Nothing can be just one color!

Resean: All colors except for… never mind, all of them.

Cadence: I think they were mostly brown, blue and green.

What do you think the Earth was like when the dinosaurs were alive?

Sadie: I think it was kind of like the Earth right now but no buildings, no people, no man-made stuff. One big continent of dinosaurs. 

Landan: No humans, nothing we created. A lot of forests, deserts, water. In that time period, the Earth was all put together into one big continent.

Chloe: It must have looked different. 

Resean: All the continents were squished together.

Cadence: All the continents were stuck together, and when it got closer to the dinosaurs being extinct, all the continents were all apart in seven continents.


SCI Volunteer Spotlight: Get to Know John Mclaren

SCI Volunteer Spotlight: Get to Know John Mclaren

He’s always ready to tell a story about the Science Center of Iowa, but one is his favorite: My favorite toy, of course, is the Cosmic Jukebox. We’re the only science museum in America where a visitor can come in and take a look at the subjects in the Cosmic Jukebox and build an audiovisual program. Other science centers can go that far, but none of them can transfer that selection to a full-dome theater. When I take a group in the Star Theater, I always tell this story — it’s an exclusive at the Science Center of Iowa. It’s marvelous to know we have something so spectacular.

He had almost no science education, even through his college years: Everything I know about science I learned at the Science Center of Iowa.

He has one word to describe SCI’s new traveling exhibition, Ultimate Dinosaurs: It’s a ‘wow.’

He’s dedicated to recruiting SCI volunteers but focuses his attention on one metro community: I’ve been on a campaign for several years now to encourage more of our senior community to come down and spend time at the Science Center of Iowa. I’ve seen grandparents here with their grandchildren who are having even more fun than the children.

He has experimented with practically every gadget and gizmo at SCI — and even had a hand in building some of them: In those first three weeks before we opened in 2005, I got to put the toys together. I had no idea what was going to be at the Science Center of Iowa. A number of those toys are long-gone, but we have a superb facility for a city the size of Des Moines.


Interstellar in 70mm IMAX

Interstellar in 70mm IMAX

By: Timothy Alguire, IMAX Projectionist

"If there’s any film that’s ever really, really demanded a must-see trip to the theater in IMAX, it’s Interstellar." - Matthew McConaughey

Christopher Nolan is a fan of IMAX and of film in general. So much, in fact, that he prefers film over digital when filming his movies!

He doesn’t do it out of nostalgia but because film still provides the best quality image. When asked about the IMAX format he says, "The sharpness and the depth of the image, projected onto those enormous screens, is simply the best quality image that has ever been invented."

With IMAX film having a resolution that is almost 10 times greater than any other format, 70mm IMAX film is best way to see the Interstellar as the director intended. For comparison's sake, a traditional theater’s digital projection system is a 2K or 4K system – that’s 2 to 4 times the clarity of most HD TVs. IMAX film has a resolution of up to 18K.

Interstellar features more than an hour of footage filmed in the native 15perf/70mm IMAX film format, which means that, during these scenes, the image clarity is unmatched by any other format. These select scenes during key dramatic moments will fill the entire IMAX screen... further enveloping the audience. 

The image produced by IMAX film, which offers up to 40% more picture than other formats, fills the screen from top to bottom with unmatched brightness and clarity. The IMAX sound system utilizes low-end frequencies, allowing viewers to feel the film as well as hear it. SCI is the only location in Iowa that will be presenting Interstellar in true IMAX fashion; on 15/70mm IMAX film!

If you’ve been to SCI’s Blank IMAX Dome Theater recently, you know our screen in big. So big in fact that SCI’s Blank IMAX Dome Theater’s screen is the LARGEST SCREEN in the state of Iowa! This enormous screen along with the theater’s laser-aligned digital sound system creates the world’s most immersive experience for Interstellar that can only be experienced in IMAX at SCI.

If you want to see Interstellar the way Christopher Nolan wants you to see it, do yourself a favor and experience it in 70mm IMAX film at SCI’s Blank IMAX Dome Theater!

Interstellar: The IMAX Experience in 70mm Film opens at SCI on November 5. Tickets and showtimes at

Category: IMAX


Make Spooky Science Part of Your Halloween Party

Make Spooky Science Part of Your Halloween Party

Caramel apples? Check. Steaming cider? Check. The ultimate Halloween costume? Check.

But something is missing — science! Here are some ways you can add fizzing Jack-o-Lanterns, friendly STEM competition and apple architecture to your Halloween party.

Fizzing Jack-o-Lanterns — Whether your pumpkin features a devious grin or a warm smile, take your Jack-o-Lantern to a new level with the classic baking-soda-and-vinegar reaction. After you carve your masterpiece, add a dash of baking soda, a drop of food coloring, pour in the vinegar and watch your Halloween friend fizz!

LEGO STEM Challenge — Trade apple-bobbing for a new kind of competition, Halloween LEGO style! Give each team an array of LEGOs, and challenge them to build their favorite Halloween characters — ghosts, ghouls, monsters and more.

Apple Architecture — Grab a big bowl of apple bites and toothpicks, and challenge your guests to build a sweet fall structure! Reward your architects with the ingredients for caramel apple bites, and let them create customized treats.

Candy Corn Catapults — Gather a few simple ingredients for this Halloween physics challenge. Have your party guests team up to build catapults with Popsicle sticks, rubber bands, spoons and tape. Then, see who can launch candy corn the farthest!

Balloon Ghost — Grab a black permanent marker and draw a pair of circle eyes on a white balloon. Pour baking soda and vinegar in an empty water bottle, secure the balloon on the opening and watch as a spooky ghost appears!

Category: General SCI


Pajama Party Makes Science Fun for Girls

Pajama Party Makes Science Fun for Girls

Nearly 200 girls participated in a late-night adventure at SCI on September 20. Though there were no pillows and it wasn’t quite a sleepover, they did don their PJs for a chance to participate in SCI’s 2nd Annual Girls in Science Pajama Party.

The girls, ages 8 to 15, arrived at SCI eager for the chance to learn how science could be a part of their future. Another important goal for SCI was to give these girls a community to support and encourage their interest in science.

Many parents hoped that the event would help spark an interest in science for their daughters. One said, “I hope she has fun, makes connections, is encouraged by likeminded peers and is more excited about figuring things out and making a career of it!”

To get the creativity flowing, the night began with some dancing and getting-to-know-you games. Then, the party moved to the six-story IMAX theater for a screening of Island of Lemurs: Madagascar, which features Dr. Patricia Wright, an accomplished primatologist, anthropologist and conservationist… and a great female role model.

According to post-event surveys, though, the best part of the night was the workshops, when the girls got to test and experiment in small group challenges.

In the “Parachute Plunge” workshop, groups were challenged to design a parachute that would slow an object’s fall from SCI’s second floor. The girls were encouraged to test their hypotheses and experiment with different designs. Then, they went to the test site and let their parachutes fly!

In the “Stop-Motion Dinos” workshop, groups used plastic dinosaur models and environmental props to create a short stop-motion animation film. Once each group developed a plot and storyline, they used an iPad app to direct and photograph their story.

Finally, the Pajama Party concluded with the chance to wish upon a star… a star that they viewed through high-powered telescopes! It was the first experience with a telescope for many of the girls, and many were surprised at the detail of celestial objects like the moon and Mars.

At the end of the night, 89 percent of the girls who completed a survey said they either had “Fun” or “So Much Fun!,” 32 percent said they “Learned a Lot” and 59 percent said they were “More Excited” about science as a result of the Pajama Party.

Thanks to the support of Presenting Sponsor DuPont Pioneer, the Girls in Science Pajama Party was made available to girls for a cost of just $5 per person.Learn more about SCI’s Girls in Science Initiative at

Category: General SCI