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2011 Student Workshops

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Have you noticed that your local weather forecast is often wrong? In this workshop you will learn about chaos, a mathematical theory that gives one explanation for why so many things in the real world are very difficult to predict. We will explore what appears to be the complete randomness of the everyday world. You will discover that what may appear to be random can actually be something completely different: chaos!

Genetic Freaks

Have you ever wondered why sisters and brothers don't look exactly alike? 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!

Magnetic Messaging

Hard drives save the text messages in your phone, the photos on your Facebook account, and the music in you iTunes library. How does your iPod transform the notes of a song into bits of metal? The answer involves tiny nanomagnets, numerical codes, and incredibly precise engineering. Come learn about the secrets of hard drives. You might even get to send your friends a secret message encoded in magnets!

Lights, Color, and Sparkle

Have you ever looked up on the 4th of July and wondered how they make those fireworks so many different colors? In this workshop we will make our very own sparklers, exploring what makes some elements green and others red!


Did you know that some of your favorite foods, like Jell-O, marshmallows, and gummy bears are made from gelatin? What exactly is gelatin? Come and learn the science behind making foods containing gelatin with the Food Science Department in this delicious session! Samples of marshmallows and gummy bears will be provided!

Making a Liquid Rainbow

Did you ever wonder why oil separates from water? In this workshop we will explore the densities of liquids and learn how to make and read your own hydrometer, which we will then use to construct our own liquid rainbows for you to take home!


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.

Strawberry DNA

Life on Earth would not be possible without plants, yet most people know very little about them. Learn about secret life of while extracting DNA from strawberries (and making smoothies). Find out how scientists hope to use plant DNA to solve environmental challenges like clean drinking water, food shortages and climate change.

The Secret of Winning Games

Want to be a game grandmaster? We will learn how to be unbeatable in a wide variety of brainy puzzles, including Tic-Tac-Toe and Chocolate Chomp. When we're done, you will have a new way to impress your friends and families with your newfound skills!


Networks are everywhere: Your brain is a network of specialized cells firing electrical messages to one another. Facebook is a network of you and your friends. The internet is a network of computers connected by cables and wireless signals. Networks have many fascinating properties. Not the least of which is you are six handshakes away from everyone else in the world!

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.

The Chemistry of Secret Message

What makes a lemon sour and soap slippery? Can people really turn water into wine? How can people write and reveal secret messages with household chemicals? The mysteries of acids and bases are found both in and out of the chemistry lab, and in this workshop we will explore these mysteries and more as we uncover the science behind acids and bases!

Some Like it Hot

Ever wonder why a cold pack gets icy within a few seconds? Ever thought about why a flame is hot? Discover the answers as your experiment with liquid nitrogen, explore chemical reactions, and even make your own hot pack. Come explore the world of thermochemistry, and learn the secret to why some like it hot.

Secret Spies

Wkh vhfuhw sdvvzrug lv fkrfrodwh. Learn how to break this code, pass notes in class, and share secrets with your friends. We'll also discuss how to convince people you know a secret (without sharing it) and how to beat your friends at chess (even if you don't know the rules)!

Sound of Music

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 in order to communicate in their everyday lives. What exactly is sound, and how is it produced by humans and other animals? You might even get to hear a toadfish sing!

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 then see some of the tools that companies use to make these products for millions of people.

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 their environment? We'll take a bird's-eye view of the world and learn how termites follow chemical trails, what crickets are saying when they chirp, why flowers are so colorful, and much more!

Environmental Pollutants

Ever wonder how pollutants such as oil, fertilizer, and other chemicals, spread throughout our lakes, rivers and oceans? Did you wonder how the 2010 BP oil spill, which happened off the coast of Louisiana, ended up polluting the beaches of Mississippi and Florida? In this workshop you will learn how pollutants move and spread in bodies of water through hands on activities and one awesome fluorescent dye experiment!

Physics of Bubbles

Even simple soap bubbles have rich physical properties with far-reaching applications to anything from water bugs to the atomic nucleus. In this workshop, we will explore the interesting physics of soap bubbles through fun demonstrations and hands-on experiments. We'll see how bubbles can teach us about surface tension, pressure, optics and more. Come and play with bubbles and see how all kinds of fun science can be found in some of the most common places!

Super Vision

If Superman was a doctor, would he be able to use his x-ray vision to see cancer, or notice a heart defect? How many more lives could he have saved? With medical imaging, you can be a "super"-doctor! In this workshop, you will use ultrasound to identify hidden objects, see your blood pumping inside your body, and even measure your heart-rate from the images!

Living Soil

Have you ever thought about taking a closer look at dirt? We can see many plants and animals that live in soil, but it’s also full of organisms that we can only see with a microscope! Let’s get our hands dirty and investigate what kinds of bacteria live in soil and how to tell them apart. Join us and learn how microbiologists study the living soil.


Your brain lets you walk, talk, chew gum, breathe, think about what you want for lunch more andall at the same time! 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. We will see real human and animal brains and meet the animals whose brains we study.

Note: Animal allergens (rodents and birds).

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 cars which pass over it? How can a cruise ship stay afloat with all of its passengers? Come build your own amazing bridges and ships and discover how such engineering marvels work as we test your own designs.

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 can take home pictures of your crystals to show friends and family.

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) In this workshop, you will have a chance to experiment with soap making and take home your own homemade soap!

Direct Your Own Cartoon

Do you love WALL-E? Avatar? Toy Story? Ever wondered how how you can make your own animated film, complete with computer generated characters and scenes? We'll teach you how to use popular, free programs to make your own computer generated films and how to upload them to Youtube so that you can share them with your friends and the rest of the world!

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. Bring good shoes, old clothes, and see first-hand how amazing birds are!

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 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!

Plants by Design

What if you really like the flowers of one tree and the shape of another but you only had space to plant one tree? No worries - combine the beautiful flowers 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. Come and learn the science behind this technique and create your own unique flowering plant to take home with you!

Note: pollen allergies.

Busy Lives of Bees

What do honey bees do all day? They fly far from home and visit flowers, and then come back and tell their sisters where all the good food is with a special behavior called 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 on their trips outside the hive. At the end of a long day, there are many chores left to do, like feeding their young sisters, cleaning up all the trash, air conditioning their home, and, of course, making honey. Come see our friendly honey bees close up and we'll discover how they "talk" to each other and work to take care of their hive and their family.

Note: Bee allergies, free flying bees, off campus. Safety precautions will be taken.

Peanut Power

How do people get energy from food, and how do we know which foods give us the most energy? You will see first hand how we can release the chemical energy stored in food - by lighting nuts on fire! By building a device called a calorimeter, you will learn how scientists measure food Calories, and compare the Calories of different kinds of nuts.

Note: nut allergies

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.