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Education Highlights Spring 2018

Students Throughout Indiana Discover the Science of the Environment


CEES would drive 500 miles

And we would drive 500 more . . . 

Just to be the Mobile STEM Lab that drove 1409.2 miles

To share with you our science lore.

(Profoundest apologies to the Scottish duo, The Proclaimers, for the I'm Gonna Be parody.)


This past spring, CEES's Discovering the Science of the Environment (DSE) mobile STEM lab was in high demand around the state.  The DSE team traveled 1409.2 miles, visiting 13 schools and delivering 30 programs to 1010 eager participants. 

The DSE program hit the ground running as students returned from winter vacation in mid-January, bringing a mix of new and old offerings to schools in central Indiana and beyond.  Stonegate Elementary (Zionsville) and Marlin Elementary (Bloomington) were the first schools visited, experiencing the Watersheds program (a DSE classic) and Energy of Storms program (one of our new offerings), respectively.


                                      The Tornado-in-a-Box demonstration from Energy of Storms.


Watersheds.  The DSE Watersheds program is a masterpiece of science and sustainability.  The watershed table, an over-sized aluminum pan (recyclable material!), holds faux sediment made from shredded recycled (!) plastic.  A water pump, hoses, small wooden buildings, plastic trees, and small stones complete the kit. Many activities are possible with the watershed table: river formation (either with or without a pre-made channel for the river), delta formation, channel movement, meandering, bank under-cutting, sandbar deposition - all can be modeled with the watershed table.  A favored activity for elementary students is to design a town along the banks of a river: students need to consider how to place the buildings relative to the river, as well as how the river bank might be strengthened to better withstand the erosive force of the water.  Fourth graders at Stonegate Elementary did just that. Sediment was artistically sculpted into elegant embankments and sinuous streams as the students constructed the settings around their towns ("settings" and "towns" plural because the students performed multiple iterations, testing various designs). Buildings were meticulously placed at varying distances from the river, trees and rocks incorporated to strengthen the banks.  Finally, the water was turned on and the force of the mighty river unleashed.  Exclamations of excitement (and dismay) ensued as the students viewed the true power and (destructive) capabilities of moving water. 


   A young engineer's drone design is tested for spin and lift in the Dorothy 3000 tornado simulator during the 2017 IUPUI Regatta.  As with many of the Center's DSE programs, activities from Energy of Storms are enjoyed by the general public at outreach events.  


Energy of Storms. A new program for DSE, Energy of Storms introduces students to the atmospheric factors involved in severe weather phenomena.  At Marlin Elementary, 5thand 6thgrade students marveled at how a simple change in pressure caused a hard-boiled egg resting on the mouth of a glass bottle to be sucked inside.  Students then employed Bernoulli’s Principle, putting high and low pressure differences to work to fill up an extra-large plastic bag with minimal effort.  A whirlwind demonstration of a dry ice tornado followed.  For the grand finale, students imagined a future time when, with advanced energy-storage capability (i.e. really good batteries) drones could be sent in to high-energy systems, like tornadoes and hurricanes, to harvest energy.  An all-class engineering project ensued in which the students designed prototype drones and tested the ability of their drones to generate both lift and spin in the "mock tornado" environment of the Dorothy 3000.


Students employ a Bernoulli Bag to investigate air pressure.


The exciting start to the spring semester never lost momentum as the DSE Mobile STEM Lab visited class after class throughout the state, teaching programs ranging from Aquatic Biodiversity to Renewable Energy.  Fishers, Mitchell, Terre Haute, Rosedale, and Montezuma were just a handful of the schools where the DSE team set up shop to help Indiana students discover the science of the environment.


                                                      CEES's Science! Sprinter.


Support for the Discovering the Science of the Environment program, including the creation of a new mobile STEM lab (which finished its inaugural year in May), comes from a generous grant made by the Duke Energy Foundation.



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