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2009 Student Workshops

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What a busy bee!

Honey bees are busy every minute of the day! They fly far away and visit flowers, then they come home and tell their sisters where all the good food is with a special behavior known as the "waggle dance". They also tell each other when it's time to wake up, when they need someone to clean their wings, and when they need help to unload all the sweet nectar that they found from flowers on their last trip outside the hive. At the end of long day, there are many chores left to do, like feeding their young sisters, cleaning up all the trash, air conditioning their home, and making all that delicious honey that we all love! Come see our friendly honey bees close up and we'll learn how bees 'talk' to each other and how hard they work to take care of their hive and their family. NOTE: Bee allergies, free flying bees, off campus. Safety precautions will be taken.

Mayan Marvels

Select your favorite avatar and join your friends to explore Cornell University SciCentr's Mayan Pyramid, a multi-user virtual world of wonders. Trek through a maze, solving the riddle of Mayan mathematics and discovering the rich culture of this ancient civilization along the way!

Predators on the Wing

Have you ever seen a hawk perched on a telephone pole or soaring high overhead? Instead of just seeing them off in the distance, come meet a couple face-to-face! We'll bring in some live hawks, falcons and owls that are hurt and can't make it on their own in the wild, and use them to talk about what makes birds of prey different from other birds, along with the cool adaptations these birds have that make them hunting machines!

Space Particles!

What do dry ice, rubbing alcohol and helium gas all have in common? Come to our workshop to find out for yourself! We will experiment with these materials and learn about how they can all be used to help us observe otherwise invisible particles. We will conduct an experiment that allows us to see tiny particles from distant galaxies that travel through space at nearly the speed of light. These particles bombard the Earth all the time and travel through your body every minute without you noticing! These particles are too small to see with the human eye but people can build special detectors to observe their behavior. Come see different types of detectors and build your own to collect evidence of these particles for yourself!

The Secret of Nim

Have you ever played a game that you knew you couldn't lose? Nim is a game that you play using piles of beans (or for us, candy) where two players take turns removing pieces of candy from one of the piles. The winner is the person that removes the last piece of candy. We will play Nim and other games and develop some winning strategies.

Chromatography and Liquid Crystal... what are those?

Come learn how to extract pigments from plants and vegetables in a fun, hands-on workshop using the technique of Thin Layer Chromatography (TLC). This cool technique is used for the separation of substances into their components. Biochemists find chromatography extremely valuable. It can be used to figure which ingredients are in a flavor or scent, to analyze different types of pollution and to find traces of drugs in urine. It is also used to separate blood proteins in a variety of animal species. In this workshop, you will learn how to extract pigments from plants and vegetables and run your own TLC experiment to see what you find in each plant pigment extraction. We'll also be learning about liquid crystals-what they are, how they're used in science, and where you see them everyday. You'll enjoy building, crushing, examining, and more in this real-life science workshop.

Holey Cow: The Ins & Outs of Milk!

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.

Genetic Freaks

Have you ever wondered why sisters and brothers don't look exactly alike? Everybody's mom and dad pass on half of their genes to each of their children but it is not always the same half. Also 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 freaks. Unlike real bugs, you'll want to eat these when we're done!

Minty-Fresh Cola Geysers: Understanding the Diet Coke and Mentos Phenomenon

Everyone has seen this carbonated curiosity-a few Mentos are dropped into a bottle of soda and seconds later a foamy shower erupts several feet high! But what is it about the combination of Diet Coke and Mentos that leads to this spectacular reaction? Is this the only combination that works? In this workshop, we will answer these questions by testing a variety of conditions to optimize this reaction (make a bigger geyser!) and understand the science behind this pop-culture phenomenon.

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.

The Secret Life of Plants

Plants provide people with so many amazing things from oxygen to food, fabrics to fuels, shelter to medicine and more. Discover just how plants do all this and more with fun activities that explore the 'Secret Life of Plants'. You will learn to make fibers, pigments, and biofuel from plants and take home a Three Sister's garden to grow your own food this summer.

The Incredible Edible Foam

Did you know about the science to making ice cream? Join us in the Food Science Pilot Plant to make your own ice cream! We'll see and taste how changes in ingredients such as fat and air (yes, air!) can change the look, texture, and flavor of the final product. Try variations of the traditional recipe for this popular foam (yes, ice cream is a foam!) and discover other mysteries of Food Science. NOTE: Dairy allergies. Please wear closed-toe shoes (no sandles).

Colder Than Ice

Can you hammer nails into wood with a banana? Impossible. Or is it? Come discover how weird things can happen when objects get REALLY, REALLY cold. To top it off, enjoy ice cream made right before your eyes without a freezer! NOTE: Wear closed toed shoes.

This IS Rocket Science!

The first rockets were used for fun at festivals and parties in China during the thirteenth century. Since then, rockets have been used for many purposes from tools of warfare to space travel. Come learn how rockets work and even build your own! If weather permits, we will launch our rockets outside; otherwise we will learn about how astronauts eat, sleep, and work in space. We will also launch a model rocket equipped with a video camera to see the flight from the rocket's perspective! NOTE: Outdoors, loud noises.


Diseases are everywhere, so why aren't we always sick? What can we do to stop disease in its tracks? Learn to make a mathematical model of an epidemic and try to stop it using basic public health tools. The government uses math to guide the prevention and treatment of diseases in humans, animals and plants. We'll examine the mathematical tools and models used to understand how diseases spread and how to fight them.

Plants by Design: Creating the Perfect Plant

What if you really like the leaves of one tree and the shape of another but you only had space to plant one tree? No problem! Combine the beautiful leaves and nice shape into the same tree by grafting them together! Grafting is a technique that has been used for centuries to propagate plant material and has been extensively used in fruit trees to combine the fruit qualities of one tree with another tree. It has also been used to make very interesting new ornamental plants. Come and learn the scientific principles behind this technique and create your own grafted specimen to take home with you!

Bird's Eye View

Have you ever wondered why birds sing or how they fly, and how we know the answers to these questions? We'll talk about the range of questions that have been studied in birds, from the effects of disease and pollution, to how birds interact with each other. We'll also discuss the techniques ornithologists use to figure out the answers. Weather permitting, we'll demonstrate some of these techniques-we'll catch a wild bird and take an up-close look at how birds are put together, and we'll do an experiment to see how birds are using song in their daily lives. Bring good shoes, old clothes, and see first-hand how amazing birds are!

A-Maze-ing Robots

Have you ever wondered how Roombas (robotic vacuum cleaners) know where to go and how to avoid your furniture? Come learn to program a Roomba robot yourself! You will get to write instructions to direct your robot to navigate though a maze. Have your robot find its way out and avoid unexpected obstacles on its own! NOTE: Participants cannot wear red.

Alchemy 101

Alchemists of the Middle Ages struggled to find the fabled Philosopher's Stone, a substance that could transform common materials into precious metals. In this workshop you will succeed where they failed, transforming sugar and salt into a beautiful silver mirror.

The Science of Soap!

Society of Women Engineers Community Outreach Committee presents "The Science of Soap!" We use soap every day, but how does it work? What ingredients are in it? What makes it smell so fragrant? Come learn about the chemistry behind soap (involving surface tension and alkali salts) and how other household cleaners work. In this workshop, you will have a chance to experiment with soap making and take home your own homemade soap!

Construction Workers of the Invisible World

What would you do if you were stuck outside in the snow without even a coat? Do you think you could stay warm if you had 20 friends with you by sticking close together? What if you had to live underwater, in ice, boiling water, or even soap? Do you think you could learn how? Bacteria have and they live in all of these places by building houses, called biofilms. We are going to discover how bacteria work closely with each other so they can build these cool homes that protect them.

Pigments, Polymers, Paint

Our world is covered in paint. Houses, cars, art-we even paint our fingernails! But, what is paint made of and why are there so many different types? Come learn the chemistry behind paint and the answers to questions like: What gives paint its color? How does it stick to surfaces? The answers will be explained as you use different substances to make your own colorful paint. You will even use your homemade paint to create some art you can take home! NOTE: Closed-toe shoes, dairy

Ocean Odyssey

Come get cozy with corals and other ocean creatures that call the reef home! Discover Cornell's very own miniature coral reef in this workshop that will let you see, hear, and touch coral inhabitants such as jellyfish, sea stars, sea urchins and more. We will also learn about the amazing diversity of these natural wonders and explore ways in which marine biologists monitor, study, and protect the world's coral reef ecosystems.

Fun With Fluids!

We've flown through the air in planes and swum in water. We've eaten honey and use toothpaste everyday. What's the common link - they all deal with fluids! 70% of our bodies are made of water, but what really is a fluid? What makes water different from honey? How do planes fly? Come and explore the fascinating world of fluids! In this workshop, we'll learn about fluids by playing with cannons, we'll show you how you can walk on water and even peek into the exciting realm of microfluidics!

Nature's Building Blocks

Famous physicist Richard Feynman said that were there some event in which all scientific knowledge were destroyed, the most informative sentence to be passed on would be, "All things are made of atoms." In this workshop, we take a closer look at nature's building blocks and how they have been put together to create everything from diamonds to silly putty to smart materials to the lightest, most durable plane ever. We'll work together to build models of the quirkier structures, compare these to real life materials, and find what this means for our future.

Mayor For A Day

Ever been annoyed at how far the ice-cream shop is from your home? As Mayor for a day, where would you put the store so that you could get to the ice-cream easily? Suppose you also needed to plow the roads in the winter, but the City can't shovel them all. How would you shovel the roads so that all the kids in town could get to the ice-cream shops? Answering one of these questions is easy, while the other is not. Come discover the answer with us and encounter two important questions in computer science while learning the principles underlying the application of computer science to real-world problems. We'll bring the ice cream!

Brain Games

What's in your head? Find out how your brain lets you eat, watch television and breathe all at once. Learn the parts of the brain like countries on a map - where are they, what do they do, what happens if they're gone? For all you brave souls: we will see real human brains, cut open animal brains, and color toy brains that you can take home. Be prepared to handle real sheep brains!

Balloon Powered Boats

How are vehicles powered? What makes them move? Join members of the Cornell University Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Team to build your very own balloon powered boat! You will be given materials to engineer your boat and then you will get to race it! We will then investigate the science behind the propulsion mechanism and learn how to make your boat move even faster.

Flower Power

Flowers are among the most variable parts of any organism! Ever wonder why some flowers are red and others yellow, some open and others tube-shaped? Come explore the incredible diversity of floral patterns, and learn what these differences mean for pollinators. We'll also construct flower presses and have a chance to preserve fresh flowers which you can then take home! NOTE: pollen allergies.

Insect Communication

Insects are the most successful and diverse group of organisms on Earth, with an estimated 2 to 30 million species in existence and 10 quintillion (10,000,000,000,000,000,000) individual insects alive at any one time! How do these amazing animals perceive the environment around them? We'll take a bug's-eye view of the world and learn how termites follow chemical trails, what crickets are saying when they chirp, why butterflies are so colorful, and much more!

Bare Bones About Skeletal Engineering

Have you ever broken your arm? What did the doctor do to fix it? Have you ever torn your meniscus or know someone with a hole in their knee? Does the doctor need a different treatment than the one for the broken bone? In this workshop, you'll learn the differences between bone and cartilage. You'll also learn the different ways they each can be damaged, and how they can be treated.

Make Your Own Perfume

People have used perfume and oils on their bodies for thousands of years. In this workshop, we will describe the steps used to extract and purify scents. You'll have a chance to make your own and then see some of the chemical engineering tools that companies use to make products such as these for millions of people.