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.

Latest Posts


Frequently Asked Questions: Interstellar in IMAX

Frequently Asked Questions: Interstellar in IMAX

On November 5, a new film will be released in SCI's Blank IMAX Dome Theater... Interstellar!

In Christopher Nolan's latest film, a group of explorers make use of a newly discovered wormhole to surpass the limitations on human space travel and conquer the vast distances involved in an interstellar voyage.

The sci-fi film starring Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway is based on the theories of physicist Kip Thorne.

Interstellar will play at SCI in the Blank IMAX Dome Theater in IMAX 70mm film format. This format combines the brightest, clearest images at almost 10 times the resolution of standard theater projection formats with powerful, laser-aligned digital sound to create the world's most immersive movie experience.

Keep reading for answers to some frequently asked questions about Interstellar in IMAX, including:

  • Why should moviegoers see this film in IMAX?
  • What's unique about the IMAX camera?
  • What happens on screen during sequences shot with IMAX cameras?
  • Why should I see Interstellar in 15perf/70mm IMAX film instead of standard 35mm film?
  • Why does Christopher Nolan prefer film over digital?
  • Why is Interstellar being released two days early in IMAX 70mm film theaters domestically?

View showtimes and purchase advance tickets online at:



 Why should moviegoers see this film in IMAX?

Christopher Nolan designed Interstellar for IMAX and actually shot portions of the film with IMAX® cameras. Only in IMAX® theatres will these sequences expand vertically to fill the entire screen – providing moviegoers with even greater scope and breathtaking image quality for a truly immersive experience.

IMAX is the world’s most immersive cinematic experience. Everything from the movie itself to the theatre design, projection and sound has been customized and enhanced to make you feel like you are part of the movie.


What’s unique about the IMAX® camera?

The IMAX® 2D 15perf / 65mm film camera is the highest-resolution camera in the world.

When captured with the IMAX® camera, the image projected features almost 10x more resolution than conventional 35mm film – providing unparalleled scope and quality.

Exclusively in IMAX theatres, scenes shot with this camera will expand vertically to fill the entire IMAX screen with unprecedented crispness, clarity and color for a truly immersive experience.


What happens on screen during the sequences shot with IMAX cameras?  

The technical term for the proportional relationship between an image’s width and its height is called aspect ratio. Most films today are presented in an aspect ratio called CinemaScope (2.40:1). When a film is presented in CinemaScope, it is cropped and uses only part of the image the movie camera captures. This is the reason most ordinary screens are very wide but not particularly high – like looking at the world through a narrow slit.

IMAX provides filmmakers with the ability to use an expanded aspect ratio for the IMAX presentation of their film during production through filming with the extremely high-resolution IMAX® camera.

Exclusively in IMAX® theatres, sequences of Interstellar will be presented in an expanded IMAX aspect ratio and fill the entire IMAX screen – offering moviegoers more of the image than standard cinemas for a truly immersive experience.


Why should I see Interstellar in 15perf/70mm IMAX film instead of standard 35mm film?

The IMAX Experience featuring 15 perf/70 millimeter film projection combines the brightest, clearest images at almost 10 times the resolution of 35mm film, with powerful, laser-aligned digital sound and customized theatre geometry to create the world’s most immersive movie experience.


Why does Christopher Nolan prefer film over digital?

While each format has its fans among the ranks of leading directors, Christopher Nolan has been a longtime proponent of film – particularly the IMAX film format – as a storytelling medium. Since Interstellar was captured with IMAX film cameras, it is also Christopher Nolan’s preference that this film be projected and viewed in this format.

Filmmakers are among IMAX’s most important partners and advocates and we are committed to respecting and honoring their artistic vision.


Why is Interstellar being released two days early in IMAX 70mm film theatres domestically?

The decision to release Interstellar first in film theatres was made by the filmmaker and studio. It is Christopher Nolan’s preference that this film be projected in the format in which it was captured.


General IMAX Camera Facts:

  • IMAX® cameras are the highest-resolution cameras in the world.
  • IMAX 15 perf/65mm film provides almost 10x more resolution than 35mm film.
  • An IMAX frame has upwards of 18,000 pixels of horizontal resolution (compared to a home HDTV, which has 1,920 pixels).
  • IMAX® cameras are integral tools that enable visionary filmmakers to tell their amazing stories.
  • Many of today’s leading filmmakers use IMAX® 15 perf/65mm cameras for their feature films, including Christopher Nolan, J.J. Abrams, Brad Bird and Michael Bay.
  • Previous films that incorporated IMAX® cameras include: The Dark Knight, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, The Dark Knight Rises, Star Trek: Into Darkness and Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

Category: IMAX


Trial Membership: Offer ends September 30!

Trial Membership: Offer ends September 30!

From dinosaurs to sleigh bells… SCI's upcoming events calendar is packed with fun things to do!

Now is the perfect time to try an SCI membership... for just $30!

Learn more


Here's the deal: Purchase a trial membership (Family Membership is just $30), and receive all of the benefits of membership through the end of the year.

You will receive free or discounted admission for your whole family on these events and more:

  • October 10 - April 12: Ultimate Dinosaurs, SCI's latest traveling exhibition featuring 12 new and exotic dinosaurs
  • October 10: $5 Family Night AND Member Family Workshop
  • October 23: Solar Eclipse Event
  • October 25: Spooky Science
  • November 7: Mixology Night (21+)
  • November 7:Interstellar opens in IMAX
  • November 14: $5 Family Night AND Member Family Workshop
  • November 29: Spirit of the Season Kick-Off Party
  • November 29: The Polar Express opens in IMAX
  • December 5: Mixology Night (21+)
  • December 12: $5 Family Night AND Member Family Workshop
  • December 13 and 14: Breakfast with Santa
  • December 31: Noon Year's Eve

Don’t wait – this offer is only good through September 30. Visit to get your trial membership today!

For more information, contact SCI Membership Manager Megan Pline at or 515-4274-6868 ext. 327.

Category: General SCI


Balloon artist finds joy in the process of Making

Balloon artist finds joy in the process of Making

By Taylor Soule

For balloon artist Brian Becicka, art, science and math aren’t three distinct fields. They’re inextricably intertwined — and his geodesic balloon dome project at the Des Moines Mini Maker Faire proves it.

Becicka is eager to share the incorporation of art, science and math with Maker Faire attendees, who will have the chance to help build the dome that will reach five feet in height and 10 feet in diameter. The promise of a finished product isn’t the guiding force for Becicka, though.

“To me as a balloon artist, that’s part of the draw of the artistry. It is more interesting to see it being made than to see the final structure,” he said. “To see something is not as interesting as being involved in it. It means taking a bit of ownership in the project.”

Maker Faire attendees will contribute to the project by inflating balloons and connecting them to the dome.

Inclusivity is a key principle among the balloon-art community, and Becicka strives to include others from the idea phase all the way to production. And when every balloon is inflated and connected to the dome, he’s satisfied knowing an eclectic piece of art emerged from nothing, with the help of newfound friends. 

“It just comes with being an entertainer and a balloon artist. That’s what we do,” Becicka said. “We share part of ourselves, and it’s unique. It’s fascinating making something out of nothing.”


Category: Make@SCI


R2-D2 inventor relies on Maker community

Jason Cross' daughter smiles with the R2-D2 replica he'll exhibit at the first-ever Des Moines Mini Maker Faire.

Jason Cross' daughter smiles with the R2-D2 replica he'll exhibit at the first-ever Des Moines Mini Maker Faire.

By Taylor Soule

When Jason Cross received the first issue of “Make” magazine in 2005, he felt an instant connection to the content and mission. But years would pass before he turned that Making intrigue into… well, R2-D2.

Last year, Cross began building a full-scale replica of the beloved “Star Wars” robot.

“I hadn’t really fiddled with anything until I started last year, but I’ve been a Maker fan,” Cross said.

His journey from fan to Maker peaks at the inaugural Des Moines Mini Maker Faire on Monday, September 1, at the Science Center of Iowa, where Cross will exhibit R2-D2.

In the world of mass-produced everything, Cross cites a growing sense of DIY pride in the Making movement’s recent popularity.

“I think we seem to be moving toward this artisanal movement in a way where people are moving away from mass-produced,” Cross said. “It’s still there, but there seems to be more pride in people learning how to do things themselves.”

Thanks to how-to videos and online sharing, the Maker community has expanded from basements and garages to encompass a global network of innovators.

“Now, you can watch YouTube videos and communicate more readily,” Cross said. “You can communicate with a small group of people in your community or people around the world to figure out how to do things.”

When people hear about Cross’ R2-D2 contribution to the Making movement, they often react with surprise.

“Some are a little incredulous like, ‘Really?’” he said.

He’s quick to mention that Makers are a community. If Cross has questions or needs a part for R2-D2, he can count on a network of fellow Makers and “Star Wars” enthusiasts. Though they’re all building replicas of the same robot, Cross said Makers value inventor and project diversity. 

“They often ask, ‘Do you have a kit?’ or, ‘How are you doing it?’ and it goes back to, ‘There’s not really a kit, but there’s a group of people who make them,’” Cross said. “People who help each other to figure out how to do it their own way.”


Category: Make@SCI


Des Moines Mini Maker Faire showcases Iowans’ creativity

Des Moines Mini Maker Faire showcases Iowans’ creativity

It’s the Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth. It’s a family-friendly showcase of invention. It’s part science fair, part county fair, part something entirely new. It’s the inaugural Des Moines Mini Maker Faire!

What’s in store for you on Monday, September 1, at the Science Center of Iowa? A whole lot of showing and telling, courtesy of inventors and makers from across the state!

As you wander the exhibitor booths, tinker in the LEGO area, witness the zinging lights of a Star Theater laser show and experiment in STEM workshops, we encourage you to wonder, “Why?”

The Faire will feature a wide variety of Iowans dedicated to advancing the state’s rich STEM culture. 



  • HiFi Speakers: Experience the highest quality sound!
  • R2-D2: Yeah, you read that right — the beloved “Star Wars” character will make an appearance at the Des Moines Mini Maker Faire. The robot boasts high-tech engineering, with RC control and Arduino automation.
  • FRC Team 4646 ASAP: This Des Moines-based robotics team unites 15 high school students and seven mentors to design and build a robot to compete in the FIRST Robotics Competition.
  • Iowa LEGO Users Group: The Iowa LUG will present interactive LEGO activities for Maker Faire attendees, including LEGO Marble Mazes and LEGO/Duplo construction.
  • Balloon Geodesic Dome: This exhibit needs your help! Attendees will inflate and attach 165 balloons throughout the day to build a geodesic dome reaching five feet in height and 10 feet in diameter.
  • CoderDojo: In today’s tech-savvy world, coding is an ever-expanding industry. CoderDojo will present information about its coding education programs.
  • Forward Learning Experience: Industrial engineering encompasses a wide variety of exciting, cutting-edge work. Industrial design graduate students will teach attendees about the growing fields of CNC programming, computer-aided drafting, 3D scanning, 3D printing and more!  
  • Jewels Academy-Young Emerging Scientists: Fashion and 3D design unite in this exhibit. The Jewels Academy will teach girls how to design in 3D (and create custom tote bags for their tech projects).  
  • Drop Spinning: This exhibit has only two requirements: fingers and fiber (and creativity, of course). A drop-spinning expert will demonstrate how to twist fibers, plastic and more into yarn or cord.
  • Dream: Space telescopes aren’t the only way to capture atmospheric art. This exhibit uses simple materials like spray paint to create vivid representations of the universe.
  • Safety Cane: This fiber-optic cane is visible from over a mile away, improving user safety.
  • Beer Crazy: Iowa has an ever-growing DIY industry, and Beer Crazy will showcase its contributions at the Des Moines Mini Maker Faire.
  • Electric Vehicle Conversions: These three electric cars don’t emit any fumes, benefiting the environment.
  • The Canine Cabana: Invented by 14-year-old Marc Trepanier, this patent-pending pet shelter can be assembled in a snap — no tools, nails, nuts or bolts needed!
  • DICE FTC: Techies, don’t miss this exhibitor! The DICE FTC team will exhibit computers, a competition-ready robot and a 3D printer.
  • Sports Car Club of America (Des Moines Valley Region): Experience the scientific side of racing with this outdoor exhibitor. The DMVR SCCA will present DIY racing projects and a photo gallery of the racecar-building process!
  • Portrait Studio: Watch as an artist draws you, and try your hand at drawing someone else’s portrait.
  • Traveling TARDIS: Calling all Whovians! Step inside a hand-crafted replica of the “Dr. Who” trademark police phone box.
  • Iowa Brewers Union: Always wanted to brew your own beer but weren’t sure where to start? Visit the Iowa Brewers Union exhibitor booth for tips and information on the brewing process.
  • Elevate Iowa: An Iowa campaign to promote careers and educational pathways in advanced manufacturing. Representatives from Vermeer will join with a small virtual reality welding simulator, American Welding Society comic books and careers in welding booklets. Learn more at
  • Iowa State University Virtual Reality Program: The cutting-edge program will bring a 16-foot trailer packed with high-tech gear, including a 3D printer, augmented reality activities, Oculus Rift goggles and a virtual reality module.


  • Britches & Hose Ukulele Club: Britches & Hose Ukulele Club is about more than breezy island tunes. The group, which performs exclusively with voice and ukuleles, will perform a set that spans pop to folk to arena rock.
  • Scientists in Comics: This acrylic artist specializes in comic book characters.

Workshops (free with admission):

  • Area 515 will lead MaKey MaKey workshops, where attendees can turn almost anything — bananas, Play-Doh, high-fives and more — into a piano key!
  • The Des Moines Art Center will help attendees transform trash into treasure in this innovative workshop.
  • At the "Roach Motel: Make-a-Zine" make-and-take booth, Faire attendees will gain inspiration from a variety of zines on display. Zines from the Roach Motel Zine Distro will be pre-printed and provided free of charge to attendees to bind and take. Roach Motel owner and Craft Leftovers writer Kristin Roach will provide hands-on instructions for all three zine-binding techniques: stapler saddle stitched, waxed floss saddle stitched and single-page slit fold.
  • Create a slim, versatile case for your iPad or other tablet device using bookbinding materials and rare-Earth magnets. The end result is a book-like case that protects your tablet when closed but provides a wide range of holding/viewing positions.
  • Blow your own glass ornaments under the guidance of artist Rachel Sims! She will teach Faire attendees how to create unique glass art with a torch.

Food and Beverage Area:

Taste the food-truck flair of Des Moines staple "Melts without Borders" and sip on Iowa craft beer at the Maker Faire Food and Beverage Area. As you enjoy Iowa flavors and brews, tap your feet to local bands.


The Des Moines Mini Maker Faire is free with general admission and free for SCI Members. Buy your ticket today!

Category: Make@SCI