SCI Blog

At the Science Center of Iowa, our goal is to be a quality community resource for informal science learning where children, families, school groups and individuals of all ages come to explore science and technology.

To continue the learning outside our building, we bring you the SCI blog! Our knowledgeable staff, along with special guests and local scientists, will give you a behind-the-scenes look at SCI activities, in-depth information about science events and STEM connections in the Des Moines area.

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  • Art informs Making process at every stage

    Making encompasses everything from color-changing chemistry experiments to woodcarving to comics, and at our June 30 #iamakerchat, we highlighted the “A” in STEAM. Artistry in Making is about more than eye-catching projects — it’s about creating a positive user experience through visual elements that are equally beautiful and functional.

    Educators, electronics enthusiasts, artists, gamers and more weighed in on the intersection of art and Making. Here are a few of our favorite tweets:

    First, we explored the myriad applications of art in Making.

    What does “STEAM” mean to you? -@SCIOWA

    STEAM = PC video games #iamakerchat -@Fatman22, Eric Menke

    So many interesting intersections of art/tech in making. Re-use of found/scrap materials into art, for example. #iamakerchat -@AAMers, American Alliance of Museums

    How do art and technology intersect in Making?

    Art comes up with the idea, technology makes it possible. So many things that were science fiction have become reality. #iamakerchat -@MichaelELandon

    Art informs the Making process at every stage.

    What role does art/artistic thinking play in your work as a Maker? #iamakerchat -@SCIOWA

    From experience – function is not enough. Taking time to look good is perceived as taking time to make it work right. #iamakerchat -@MichaelELandon

    When you’re starting a project, do you think about the technical functions before the aesthetic elements or simultaneously? #iamakerchat -@SCIOWA

    I start with the functionality and then tweak it to look the best that it can. Sometimes it means backtracking a bit! #iamakerchat -@MichaelELandon

    We learned that backtracking, problem-solving and laughter are important learning tools.

    Making is all about being curious and inquisitive! How do you communicate to students that it’s OK to #MakeMistakes? #iamakerchat

    As a teacher, I make and celebrate my mistakes with humor and humility and embrace students who show me they have different thinking -@tcgrn

    Next #iamakerchat: Join us on Tuesday, July 14, from 7:00-8:00 pm for a fun, fast-paced discussion pf the intersection of nature and Making. Tweet #iamakerchat to join the conversation!

  • Making in the Metro: ‘Lifetime Maker’ builds custom circuit boards

    The electronics of Arduino weren’t clicking for Michael Landon’s 13-year-old daughter. He could have handed her an instruction manual. He could have told her to “Google it.” But for Landon, a self-proclaimed “lifetime Maker,” learning is a hands-on, collaborative process.

    He built a small circuit board equipped with eight inputs, eight outputs and eight LED lights, and together, they learned to program it using Arduino. Landon captured the process, logging every mistake, triumph and A-ha! moment.

    “I make notes, so in the future when somebody asks me how I did this, I can say, ‘Well, I did this,’” he said.

    Each scribble added up to a programming book he’ll pair with the circuit board at Maker Faire Kansas City this weekend.

    Though he can’t create a custom circuit board and book for every Arduino-stumped Maker, Landon is ready to share his project and most importantly, the process behind it, as a first-time Faire exhibitor.

    “I made this circuit board and realized, ‘Hey, this could be something,’” Landon said.

    After years of admiring other Maker Faire exhibitors’ work, Landon is (almost) ready to show off his own innovative work. Sure, he wishes he had another week to prepare, but Maker Faire Kansas City marks a long-awaited culmination of his lifelong knack for tinkering — one that started in the ‘60s and ‘70s with his first set of LEGO bricks.

    LEGOs led to carpentry, electronics, circuitry and even tech writing. And three or four years ago, Landon discoveredMakemagazine. At last, he had a word for the innovative mindset that had weaved its way through every stage of his life.

    “That was about the first time I was able to put a term to what I’ve been doing all my life and say, ‘Yeah, I’m a Maker,’” Landon said.

    He now has a word for it, but his definition of the Maker mindset remains the same.

    “It’s just the idea that, ‘Hey, I’m not the only one who sees stuff that’s being thrown away,’ and thinks, ‘I can use that for something.’”