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

Jun
2

Meet the Makers: Dan Kreipke

Meet the Makers: Dan Kreipke

I moved from St. Louis to Des Moines in 2009 to study environmental science and policy and music at Drake University. Since graduating in 2013, I have worked in various laboratory settings and continue writing and performing music.

Thanks to my academic background in science, sustainability and music, I’m excited for this summer’s Make@SCI themes, especially Reuse, Reduce, UPCYCLE and Noise Garden. The Make Movement’s emphasis on reusables resonated with my passion for sustainability.

I hope to help visitors develop the Maker mindset—using ordinary objects to make extraordinary things. You’re not just a consumer but an ever-adapting DIY producer. Your creativity is the only limiting factor in what you’re capable of “Making.” And the more time you spend Making, the more you’ll be able to apply what you’ve learned to your next creations, as well as everyday life. Being a Maker means using whatever skills you have to help solve nearly any problem in a hands-on, learn-as-you-go way!

Category: Make@SCI

Jun
2

Meet the Makers: Ellie Willhoit

Meet the Makers: Ellie Willhoit

My name is Ellie Willhoit. I studied anthropology and environmental studies at Iowa State University. I found out about the Maker Education Initiative through volunteering for the Central Iowa STEM Hub, and it sparked my interest because I love to learn. I think one of the best ways to learn is through Making!

I love all things outdoors. I enjoy kayaking, biking and running and am super excited about some of the nature- and conservation-based weekly themes, like Reduce, Reuse, UPCYCLE and Natural Wonders. I also enjoy crafting and have experimented with knitting, sewing and stitching. Recently, I built a raised garden bed for growing vegetables. I also enjoy tying flies for fly-fishing, knitting scarves and making stuffed animals for my nephews. I’m looking forward to exploring the world of circuitry and electronics. 

I hope to inspire Science Center of Iowa visitors to explore STEM through Making, and approach unfamiliar topics with an open mind. If you’re not sure how something works, let’s take it apart and put it back together. If you’ve never built a fort before, let’s explore how to make it sturdy. Come find me in the Makers Studio!

Category: Make@SCI

Jun
2

Meet the Makers: Laura Funk

Meet the Makers: Laura Funk

Hi! My name is Laura. I’m currently a student at Iowa State University working on a master’s degree in communication, and I have a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry. My goal when I graduate is to be a science communicator and help make science exciting and accessible for everyone.

I was a Maker long before I knew what Making is! As a child, I had tons of model horses I liked to play with, but my parents didn’t want to spend a lot of money to buy accessories for them. My mom taught me how to sew so I could make blankets and saddles, and my dad helped me design and build a toy barn and fences. I soon discovered that I liked the things I made myself better than store-bought toys. I was proud that I was able to create things with my own two hands, and I loved getting to personalize everything exactly how I wanted it.

Since then I’ve made all sorts of things. One thing I get really excited about is upcycling—turning something old or unwanted into something new, useful and awesome! A few quick seams can turn a ripped pair of jeans into a cool, new purse. With a few new shelves and some scrap carpet, you can turn an old bookshelf into the ultimate cat fortress. Everything has potential.

When you visit SCI this summer, I hope you discover the same enthusiasm for Making. It really is a mindset. When you start to believe in you own capacity for creativity and follow your imagination, you’ll develop the skills you need along the way. I hope everyone who experiences Making this summer gets a chance to try something new and maybe even discover a new passion!

Category: Make@SCI

Jun
1

STEM in DSM: Des Moines Charity Hack pairs local nonprofits with tech professionals

STEM in DSM: Des Moines Charity Hack pairs local nonprofits with tech professionals

High-tech speed dating: That’s how the Des Moines Charity Hack begins.

The annual Des Moines Charity Hack pairs local nonprofits with groups of six to nine tech professionals. In just three days, each team of developers, managers, designers, business analysts and quality control specialists completes a project for little to no cost to the organization.

But before developers enter a line of code, before designers sketch a single concept, the tech professionals have to select one nonprofit organization’s project idea.

After briefly getting acquainted with each nonprofit organization and its proposed project, it’s time to choose. “I’ll take this project,” each professional says until all nine nonprofits have a dynamic team with diverse skills and interests.

Nine nonprofits receive much-needed tech updates

From boosting SEO firepower to upgrading a website to a responsive design, the Des Moines Charity Hack gives each nonprofit a little technical TLC.

Children & Families of Iowa (CFI), one of the nine selected organizations, turned to its tech wish list for project inspiration. Given the wide variety of programs and services offered at CFI, the nonprofit proposed a quick, optional website questionnaire that directs users to the appropriate pages based on their responses.

CFI Communications Supervisor Kelly Amenson said the survey produced at the Charity Hack has already saved the organization time and resources.

“Visitors to our website leave engaged and informed by using the user-friendly questionnaire,” Amenson said.

Animal Lifeline of Iowa (ALI), a shelter in Carlisle, was another one of the nine nonprofits selected for the event. Thanks to the Des Moines Charity Hack, the organization traded an overwhelming, outdated animal database for a new, user-friendly system.

Outreach and Event Coordinator Hannah Banes said the upgraded database has already supported ALI’s mission to find safe, loving homes for animals.

“It was truly humbling that so many people came to help a few nonprofits,” Banes said. “It was really nice to see all those developers come together and truly put their heart and soul into it for 48 hours. We really had a good time, and we look forward to applying for new projects in the future.”

Teams complete a variety of projects catered to organization’s needs

Charity Hack co-founder and co-organizer Kim Wall said the event is dedicated to supporting nonprofits’ technical resources, a key element in sustaining organization growth. 

“Typically, the money that goes to nonprofits supports their core mission and values,” Wall said. “Developing technology often gets pushed to the side, but it’s often those limited technology resources that create a hindrance for the organization.”

During this year’s Charity Hack in February, nine teams completed $100,000 in tech services.

The selected organizations pay little to nothing for their projects. And in addition to technical upgrades and support, nonprofits gain lasting connections with the Des Moines tech community.

“We’d like to host more participants next year and maintain connections with nonprofit organizations throughout the year,” Wall said. “Our vision is to connect local nonprofits with the Des Moines tech community all year and provide different kinds of support.”

Category: STEM in DSM

May
28

SCI Volunteer Spotlight: Get to know Jim Covey

SCI Volunteer Spotlight: Get to know Jim Covey

Paper rockets fill a cardboard box, each one distinct in its design. Some lack a nose cone, the pointed tip that guides a rocket through the air. Some have multiple fins. Some have no fins.

Whatever its design quirks, each rocket is an invitation for SCI volunteer Jim Covey to say, “Let’s do a science experiment!”

As Covey demonstrates his time-tested rocket design — one he spent two years perfecting — he encourages participants to question, hypothesize and most importantly, experiment.

While there’s a “Wow!” factor in building a high-flying rocket, Covey’s goal isn’t to build a dream machine every try.

“It’s not necessarily the best rocket every time,” Covey said. “It’s about the process of teaching participants along the way.”

Covey’s career as an SCI volunteer and resident rocket expert started in 2005. He quickly found a home at the rocket table, honing his building technique over the next two years.

Along the way, Covey has built lasting relationships with participants of all ages, interests and skill levels. Whether he’s engaging university astrophysics students, families or elementary school groups, Covey targets the conversation with the “why” in mind.

“Which rocket will fly farther?” he’ll ask, inspiring participants to test their inventions and own the experience. And though he’s already honed his own design, Covey returns to When Things Get Moving every Tuesday with his box of rockets and a curious attitude.

“The joy of the participants as they watch a rocket fly… That’s a reward for me,” Covey said. “Those are the things that keep me coming back.”