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2010 Student Workshops

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Breaking the Incan Code

What if you had no way of writing down numbers? How would you keep track of math? The Incan people had no written language, but had a method of recording numbers in knotted strings called quipus. Come and investigate how to read these ancient records and then learn to make one yourself!

A Bird's-Eye View

Have you ever wondered why birds sing or how they fly? We'll talk about the many things ornithologists (scientists who study birds) have learned about birds, and how they figure out the answers to questions like these. You might even get to be an ornithologist for a day! Weather permitting, we'll catch a wild bird and take an up-close look at how birds are put together. 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!

Muscle Mania!

Did you know you have over 600 muscles in your body? Muscles control everything from balance to pumping blood to helping you play sports. Many of your muscles can be controlled, while others - like your heart - work without you telling them what to do. In this workshop, you will learn how muscles, ligaments, and tendons work, and how they help us keep our balance. You may also get to see your muscle working inside your body!

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 or when they need someone to clean their wings. At the end of a long day, there are many chores left to do, like feeding their young sisters, and making all that delicious honey 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.

Houston, We've Had a Problem

Have you ever wanted to experience a spacewalk? Come help simulate the assembly of a new space station. You'll learn about spacecraft engineering and the problems that face NASA engineers. After your team has finished the space assembly, you'll learn about a project to design a new way to connect spacecraft. To demonstrate this new technology, we'll cause an object to "levitate" using really cool physics!

A-Maze-ing Robots

Have you ever wondered how robots perform complicated tasks like exploring and navigating their environment? It all starts with simple commands, which are the building blocks of more complex computer programs. Come learn how to program a virtual robot to find its way out of a maze on its own!

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. 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 you'll get to build your own baby genetic freak! Unlike real bugs, you'll want to eat these when we're done!

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 of Winning Games

Can you be sure you'll never lose in a Tic-Tac-Toe game? Even playing against the Tic-Tac-Toe grandmaster? What about chess? Is there a strategy that never loses? Come and find out how to become a games master without even knowing the rules. Learn also how can we teach computers to beat humans at games. We do all that while playing some fun games (some of which involve chocolate)!

Candles, Colors and Chemistry

Chemistry is a beautiful subject. Many chemical reactions and physical processes produce aesthetically pleasing outcomes. First, we will make a candle, but this will not be any regular candle. Using the different characteristics of various metals, we will make candles that burn different colors. As a second example of beauty in chemistry, we will produce a solution which will change from yellow to blue and back to yellow again (an oscillating reaction).

Predators on the Wing

Have you ever seen a raptor perched on a telephone pole or soaring high overhead? You will have the chance to meet several live raptors face-to-face, including hawks, falcons, and owls. We will discover what makes birds of prey different from other birds and the special traits that make them hunting machines! NOTE: Feather allergies.

Green Planet and DNA Science

Plants make their own food using water, sunlight, and air. But how do they do it? We invite you to join us in this workshop to learn more about the secret life of plants.

This IS Rocket Science!

Rockets have been used for many purposes from tools of warfare to space travel to launching satellites for communication and navigation. 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. NOTE: Outdoors, loud noises.

Secrets of Scent

Did you know that there are 10 quintillion (10,000,000,000,000,000,000) individual insects alive on the Earth at any moment? Insects are the most successful and diverse group of organisms on Earth, with an estimated 2 to 30 million species in existence. How do these amazing animals perceive their environment? Many insects can pick up scents that humans don't even notice, allowing them to communicate with each other and the plants around them. Come decode the secret language of scent, with hands-on activities involving some of our favorite insects.

Holey Cow

Turning hay to milk? How do cows do it? Easy, they have rumens!!! Come and gain a hands on (and hands in!) introduction to ruminant nutrition and explore the life of 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.

Puzzling Perspectives

Wow your friends and amaze your family as your turn yourself into Einstein or shrink cities to tiny sizes. Come join us as we investigate how the human eye sees objects. With the aid of image processing techniques, you will change photos to fool your eyes and trick your mind.

Magnet Earth

Why do we call it the North Pole, anyway? In this workshop, we discover the invisible forces of magnetism and electromagnetism, and learn why our planet is a giant magnet. We'll talk about earth's magnetosphere and some of its consequences. You'll test magnetic influence on various objects and use magnets to build compasses and electromagnetic motors.


Diseases are everywhere, so why aren't we always sick? What can we do to stop disease in its tracks? 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.

Fancy Flowers and Rockin' Roots

Talk about multitasking! Some plants can reproduce in two different ways at the same time: above-ground with flowers and below-ground with roots. Join us to see why flowers vary in color and shape, and some roots are edible (carrots) while others are not. Note: pollen allergies.

Balloon Powered Boats

How are underwater vehicles powered? What makes them move? Come build and race your very own balloon powered boat with the Cornell University Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Team! We will investigate propulsion and learn how to make your boat even faster!

Protecting America's Livestock

Ever pass by a dairy farm and be amazed by how many cows there are? Well, what happens when one gets sick? How do we find that lone sick animal and how do we prevent all of the others from getting sick too? Learn how the U.S. Department of Agriculture does it and what they're currently doing to help protect our nation's precious livestock.

The Science of Soap!

We use soap every day, but how does it get things clean? What ingredients are in it? What makes it smell so fragrant? Learn about the chemistry behind soap as you experiment with soap making. You will even take home your own homemade soap!

Alchemy 101

Alchemists in the Middle 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 alchemists marveled at.

Plants by Design

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 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 science behind this technique and create your own unique plant to take home with you!

Chemistry Beyond the Equations

Can you turn water into wine, pennies into silver, or light something on fire without burning it? Hollywood has been using some of these very same tricks for their movie special effects for ages. Come see some seemingly impossible feats, perform some of your own and learn how it all works with the help of chemistry!

Electric Experiments

Have you ever turned on your hair dryer and noticed that your bathroom light seemed to dim? Or have you ever turned on your vacuum cleaner and had all the power in your living room go out? Learn why these things happen by investigating electricity. Build your own electronic quiz board and design your own electric circuit. Also, meet a licensed electrician and ask her your own questions about electricity and how it works!

DNA Necklaces

DNA is the amazing material inside every cell of your body that makes you unique from every other person in the world. What does your DNA look like? In this workshop, you will actually be able to look at your own DNA by simply gently scooping some of your cells from the inside of your cheek! Then, just for fun, you will create jewelry from your DNA to learn more about how DNA works.

Fiber Science

Have you ever had stains on your clothes that will not go away? Have you ever noticed some shirts absorb sweat while others stay dry? Come learn about the science that makes some fabrics more repellant than others. Try some of our experiments with various fabrics to see how finishes affect them.

Quite Shocking

Imagine living in the modern world without batteries... no cell phones, no iPods! We use batteries to get electrical power every day - but how do they work? How do batteries convert chemicals into useful energy? Using pickles in an electrical circuit, we'll answer these questions and more! Then, we'll see how shocking batteries are by splitting water molecules.

Don't Rock the Boat!

The world's longest bridge is 1 1/4 miles long and the largest cruise ship has a total of 16 passenger decks. How do these massive bridges not fall into the water from the weight of the hundreds of cars which pass over it every hour? How can a cruise ship stay afloat with all of its passengers running around its decks at all hours of the day? Come build your own amazing bridges and ships and discover how such engineering marvels work as we test your own designs.

Flower Power

From apple blossoms to strawberry blooms to orchids, flowers thrive through pollination. However, with all of the different sizes and shapes of flowers, how are they all pollinated? Come explore the process of pollinating the flowers of different trees in Cornell's very own Orchards. Wear good shoes. NOTE: Bee Allergies.

Hidden Rainbows

Did you know that there are colors hidden in the white light that comes from ordinary light bulbs, the sun, or computer screens? In this workshop you will build your own spectrometer, a tool that scientists use to separate white light into colors, which you can take home with you! We'll explore how neon signs work, see how astronomers use spectrometers to study starlight, and more.

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!


Welcome to a small world! Have you ever heard of a pipe which is smaller than a hair strand? Or a laboratory that is 1 inch in size? In this workshop, you will make your own small lab-on-a-chip and learn why they are so important.

The Incredible Edible Foam

Did you know that the amount of fat and even air in your ice cream can significantly change its look, texture and flavor? Did you know that ice cream is actually foam? Join us in the Food Science Pilot Plant to make your own ice cream, explore how different ingredients can change the flavor of ice cream and discover other mysteries of food science! Close toed shoes required, no sandals. NOTE: Dairy Allergies.