Student Workshops

2013 Student Workshops

1. Alchemy 101

Alchemy 101

Alchemists in the Middles Ages obsessed about how to turn simple stones into precious metals such as silver and gold. In this workshop we will do our own alchemy by turning sugar and salt into silver mirrors you can take home. We will also explore other elements and colorful reactions that fascinated alchemists.

2. Brains!

Your brain lets you walk, talk, chew gum, breath, think about what you want for lunch and more—all at the same time! We use our brains every single second of every single day but scientists are only just beginning to understand how that lumpy chunk of gray matter between your ears works. Learn about how scientists study the brain (hint: they study the brains of animals!) and about the different parts of the brain - where are they, what do they do, what happens if they're gone. For all you brave souls: we will see real human and animal brains and meet the animals whose brains we study.

Note: Animal allergens.

3. Bug Battles

Every day a war spanning millions of years is raging between insects and the plants they eat. In this arms race, plants produce a wide range of chemical and physical defenses, and insects counterattack by detoxification and evading the traps laid by plants. As soon as one side develops a new tactic, the pressure is on for the other side to counter it. Even when plants and insects are allies (such as insect pollination), both sides may try to take advantage of their partner by taking more than they give, while stepping in to punish any allies who attempt to do the same. Come meet some friendly, live insects and learn how to recognize their fascinating struggle with the plants they eat.

4. Changing the World with Traffic Engineering

Are you tired of endlessly waiting in traffic jams or angry with carcinogenic tail pipe exhaust? Here is your chance to use all kinds of tools (traffic signals, bus- only lanes, etc.) to manage the traffic yourself and see how you can change the world!

5. Colorful Crystal Explosives

What do rubies, ice, and potato starch have in common? They are all crystals! Using a special type of light microscope, we’ll view various crystals and the brilliant colors they produce. Specimens include everyday salts, potato starch, and organic explosives, like TNT! You will be able to take pictures of your crystals to show friends and family.

6. Command Your Own Robot

How would you like to have your own robot that could do your chores at home or drive you to school? Come and see how what was once science fiction is becoming part of our daily lives. During this workshop you will even get to program a real robot and watch it compete against your friends!

7. Crazy Cascadilla Creek

Crazy Cascadilla Creek

What crazy creatures live in Cascadilla Creek? Explore the stream to catch and meet the fish and invertebrates that call Cascadilla home. We'll have the D-nets, dip nets, seines, viewing boxes, sieves - you bring your rubber boots and sense of adventure.

Note: Off campus, outdoors, wear old shoes, you will get wet, and bring rubber waders/boots if you have them.

8. CSI Special Frog Unit

Everybody loves treefrogs, but did you know that amphibians around the world are mysteriously going extinct? Take a trip to the tropics to learn how scientists study amphibians in the field and in the lab. We will search for frogs in their habitats, screen them for disease, and extract their DNA to investigate the prime suspects in the amphibian global extinction crisis.

9. Direct Your Own Animated Motion Picture

Do you love WALL-E? Avatar? Toy Story? Do you like to play video games? If you’ve wondered how you can make your own animated film, complete with computer generated characters and scenes, or what it takes to write your own video game, this is the workshop for you! We’ll teach you how to use Scratch, a popular, free program, to make your own computer generated films or video games and how to upload them to the Scratch website so you can share them with your friends and the rest of the world!

10. Doctor, Doctor!

X-ray, Chemotherapy, Lasik Surgery, ... Amazing progress has been made in Medicine over the last century. Yet, around the world, millions of people never experience these incredible cures. Ever wonder how people can get the care they deserve? In this workshop, you will develop solutions to Global Health problems. Use your camera phone to provide life-saving diagnoses. Check vitals and blood flow with ultrasound. Turn your bike pump into a medical device. Come learn how your ideas can help mend the world.

11. Edges of Glory

Mathematics show up everywhere in our lives. In this workshop, we will be unraveling the mystery of how mathematics can help us carry out tasks in the “best” possible way. For example, if you are given a piece of delicious, chocolate cake to share with your friend, what will be the best way to divide it? How do you split a chore fairly with your sibling? How can you figure out the quickest way to go home from school? You will learn how these problems can be approached and solved using math, and if you think math only involves numbers, you’ll find that colors, pictures, and "edges" are glorious mathematical tools too!

12. Genetic Freaks

Genetic Freaks

Have you ever wondered why sisters and brothers don't look exactly alike? Everyone's mom and dad pass on half of their genes to each of their children but it is not always the same half. Sometimes "recessive", or sneaky, genes can give you a look you would never guess, like having red hair when both your parents have brown hair! We'll use mom and dad "bugs" to show how genes are passed from parents to kids and how different combinations occur. Using our bugs' genes, you'll build your own baby genetic freak. Unlike real bugs, you'll want to eat these when we're done!

13. H2O Detectives

Come be a water sleuth with us! If you are curious why some rivers get muddy and contaminated while others stay clean, or want to learn how humans can affect flooding, this is the place. We will figure out how water and pollutants move across the landscape by building our own watershed models!

14. Holey Cow

Holey Cow

How can cows turn hay into milk? They have rumens! Come explore a cow's stomach and experience aspects of life as a dairy cow. From farm to table, what affects the milk you drink, and what exactly is in your milk? Discuss real life farm practices and how they may, or may not, affect your health and nutrition.

Note: Dairy products, hay, fur, latex involved. Students should wear clothes they don't mind getting dirty.

15. Reverse Your Taste Buds!

How can we taste so many different things? How does our tongue work to allow us to taste sweet, salty, and sour foods? Why can’t every food taste sweet like sugar? Well, now it can! With this miraculous natural fruit, it will turn your taste buds upside down. Discover the science behind taste and the biological signaling events that make it all possible.

16. Juice From Juice: Berry Solar Cells

Did you know you could make electricity from something as ordinary as a berry? We can convert the energy from the sun into a form that can be used to power your computer or car with a solar cell. Come learn how to design, build, and try out your own berry-powered solar cell!

17. Learning to Talk, Walk, and Adapt

We were all babies once: essentially helpless, unable to talk and walk, and highly dependent on those who care for us. So, how did we transform from the tiny infant into the walking and talking person that we are today? In the Baby Lab, we’ll look at some of the technology scientists use to study how infants learn from their experiences. We’ll also “learn to walk” by wearing vision-distortion goggles and adapting our movements to fit what we see. Finally, we’ll use EEG technology to map our brain patterns and learn how the electrical signals in our brain react when we update our knowledge through new experiences.

18. Life Under Ithaca's Ancient Sea

Did you know that 300 million years ago, Ithaca was a tropical sea? We can find this out by looking at Ithaca’s rocks! In this workshop, you’ll learn how different types of rocks from around Ithaca were formed and learn about some of the creatures that used to live in Ithaca’s sea. You’ll also do some detective work with your own group of fossils to figure out where in the sea your ancient critters lived!

19. Making Perfume and Lip Balm

Dive into the world of Chemical Engineering. We will describe the steps used to extract and purify scents to make perfume as well as investigate how lip balm keeps your lips so moist. You'll have a chance to make your own perfume and lip balm and see some of the tools that companies use to make these products for millions of people.

20. Marine Biology: Our Ocean Shores

What might a typical day look like for a biologist who studies marine vertebrates? Find out through some hands-on fun! Marine vertebrates include everything from sharks, to fish, to marine mammals, and there are tons of things about these creatures that a biologist can study. We’ll learn how to do a shark necropsy; how fish eat, breath, and sense; and how a marine mammalogist identifies individual humpback whales.

Note: You will be doing a dissection, so wear clothes that can get dirty!

21. Materials in the House

Plastic is everywhere in your household. In this workshop you will learn about plastics by making Nylon and Silly Putty and (even more fun) by shattering CDs and straws to see how and why these materials break.

22. The Physics of Bubbles

Everyone knows bubbles are fun, but did you know that there's also a lot of really interesting physics in bubbles? In this workshop, we will investigate the science of bubbles with a variety of hands-on experiments. Some of the questions we will try to answer are: What gives soap bubbles their colors? What gives bubbles their shape? Why do you get an explosion of bubbles when you mix Mentos and Diet Coke? Come and play with bubbles and see how all kinds of fun science can be found in some of the most common places!

23. Racing Reactions

Chemical reactions occur around and in us everyday and are responsible for many of the items we enjoy. Put on your engineering caps and come learn how to perform your own chemical reactions that will change color right before your eyes. We will explore how we can control this reaction, making it go faster and slower, by learning the tricks engineers use to get the results they want.

24. Saltwater Taffy Science

Did you know that confectioners rely on science to perfect candies like fudge, lollipops, and taffy? How do ingredients like cornstarch and glycerin help make foods chewy and sticky? Come and learn the science behind confections with the Food Science Department and make your own saltwater taffy in this delicious session!

25. The Science of Sound

Did you know that fish can sing, or that elephants can hear with their feet? Sound is very important for animal communication. Humans use vocal chords to produce speech and make instruments to produce music. Similarly, animals such as insects, fish, birds, and mammals use a variety of body parts to make sound to communicate in their everyday lives. What exactly is sound? How well does sound travel through air, wood, plastic, or water? What does sound look like? We’ll explore the properties of sound in a variety of ways, including visualizing sound waves and learning about how animals use sound to communicate.

26. Skillful Skeletons

Why do animals look the way they do? How can scientists tell if dinosaurs hunted by sight, sound, or smell? Come along and learn how you can figure all of those things out (and more!) from simply looking at an animal’s bones.

27. Up, Up, and Away!

Ever see a hot air balloon in the sky and wonder how such a massive object can defy gravity? Did you know that hot air balloons were flying in the sky and setting altitude records long before the Wright Brothers built the first successful airplane? Come learn about the science and engineering involved in flying a hot air balloon and even build your own!

28. Watch it Grow

Have you ever wanted to see first-hand how a baby animal grows and develops in the womb? Have you ever wondered how certain drugs like coffee and alcohol really affect growth and development? In this workshop, you’ll grow your own live chicken embryo in a special laboratory system and administer chemicals to observe how the chick develops.

29. Wicked Water Power

What do beavers and engineers have in common? How can a river light up a whole town? Come find out how dams work, see hydropower in action, and learn what it’s like to be the engineer who makes it happen! In this workshop, you and your team members will take on the challenge of designing your own dam for a specific lake or river in New York State and also get to experiment with a mini hydropower turbine.

For safety and comfort in all the workshops, please wear closed-toed shoes and comfortable clothing you don’t mind getting dirty.

Previous Years’ Workshops