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Student Workshops

2012 Student Workshops

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1. A Billion Year Journey through Mountains, Seas, and Glaciers

The landscape of New York State has not always looked like it does today – the surface of the Earth is constantly changing. Come recreate the Himalaya-style mountains that covered your hometown million of years ago, search for (and take home!) fossils of creatures that lived in the ancient seas in your backyard, and discover how glaciers formed the hills and valleys that you walk and ride through every day.

Note: Students should expect to get a little dirty.

2. 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.

3. 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!

4. 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.

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 can take pictures of your crystals and take them home.

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

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. 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!

9. 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.

10. Epidemic

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.

11. 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!

12. 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.

13. How Plants are Doctors, Chefs, and Ninjas

Ever wonder why there are so many plants in nature despite all of the things that eat them? One reason is that plants fight back against marauding microbes, insects, and other animals using chemical and physical defenses. In this workshop, you will learn about how plants defend themselves using taste, compounds that kill germs, castle building, and ninja-like deceptive arts. We will also see how humans can use these defensive products to our benefit.

14. 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!

15. 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!

16. Making Perfume and Lip Balm for the World (and you!)

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.

17. Marine Biology: Our Ocean Shores

The ocean comes to Cornell! Come meet live starfish, lobsters, sea urchins, scallops or other ocean creatures. See preserved fish collected from oceans all over the world and learn how they've adapted themselves in weird and wacky ways! We’ll also find out about the impacts of climate change on marine animals and the habitats where they live.

18. 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.

19. 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!

20. 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 problem! Combine the beautiful flowers and nice shape into the same tree by grafting them together! Evidence of modern grafting is all around you: the fruit trees in orchards, the tomatoes at the grocery store, and even on the roses you may see blooming in the springtime! Grafting is a fascinating way to learn more about the science of plants, and you can create your own unique flowering plant to take home with you!

Note: pollen allergies (we will be working with live plants!)

21. Racing Reactions

Do you have what it takes to control a chemical reaction? In this workshop, you will learn how to perform a reaction that changes colors right before your eyes. We will explore the many ways you can make the reaction happen faster and slower, and also how to make glow sticks glow brighter and darker.

22. Red Rover, Red Planet: Escape from Mars

Red rover, red rover, send us all back over ... to Earth. You are trapped on Mars and presented with an engineering challenge to re-build an escape module. However, your re-building materials come from areas all over the planet! To gather more resources for your module, you must navigate a rover through Martian terrain, which may be more difficult than you expect. Are you up for the challenge? Come to this workshop and learn all about the engineering behind space exploration.

23. 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; otherwise we will learn about how we use rockets to explore space and the universe.

Note: Outdoors, loud noises.

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. The Secret to Winning Games

Want to be a game grandmaster? Using techniques from math, we will learn how to be unbeatable in a wide variety of games, including Tic Tac Toe and Chocolate Chomp. When we’re done, you can go home and impress your friends and family with your new found skills.

27. Supersocieties: The Secret Lives of Social Insects

Humans aren’t the only animals who live in societies, care for their families, and talk to each other – not to mention fight with each other! In your own backyard you will find insects doing the very same things. Come meet our friendly honeybees and tiny but fascinating ants, and journey into the weird and wonderful world of social insects. We’ll discover what bees and ants do all day and why, how they communicate with each other and interact with their hive-mates, and, of course, why bees make honey.

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

28. Water Quality 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!

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