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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  • Meet the Makers: Laura Funk

    Hi! My name is Laura. I’m currently a student at Iowa State University working on a master’s degree in communication, and I have a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry. My goal when I graduate is to be a science communicator and help make science exciting and accessible for everyone.

    I was a Maker long before I knew what Making is! As a child, I had tons of model horses I liked to play with, but my parents didn’t want to spend a lot of money to buy accessories for them. My mom taught me how to sew so I could make blankets and saddles, and my dad helped me design and build a toy barn and fences. I soon discovered that I liked the things I made myself better than store-bought toys. I was proud that I was able to create things with my own two hands, and I loved getting to personalize everything exactly how I wanted it.

    Since then I’ve made all sorts of things. One thing I get really excited about is upcycling—turning something old or unwanted into something new, useful and awesome! A few quick seams can turn a ripped pair of jeans into a cool, new purse. With a few new shelves and some scrap carpet, you can turn an old bookshelf into the ultimate cat fortress. Everything has potential.

    When you visit SCI this summer, I hope you discover the same enthusiasm for Making. It really is a mindset. When you start to believe in you own capacity for creativity and follow your imagination, you’ll develop the skills you need along the way. I hope everyone who experiences Making this summer gets a chance to try something new and maybe even discover a new passion!

  • STEM in DSM: Des Moines Charity Hack pairs local nonprofits with tech professionals

    High-tech speed dating: That’s how the Des Moines Charity Hack begins.

    The annual Des Moines Charity Hack pairs local nonprofits with groups of six to nine tech professionals. In just three days, each team of developers, managers, designers, business analysts and quality control specialists completes a project for little to no cost to the organization.

    But before developers enter a line of code, before designers sketch a single concept, the tech professionals have to select one nonprofit organization’s project idea.

    After briefly getting acquainted with each nonprofit organization and its proposed project, it’s time to choose. “I’ll take this project,” each professional says until all nine nonprofits have a dynamic team with diverse skills and interests.

    Nine nonprofits receive much-needed tech updates

    From boosting SEO firepower to upgrading a website to a responsive design, the Des Moines Charity Hack gives each nonprofit a little technical TLC.

    Children & Families of Iowa (CFI), one of the nine selected organizations, turned to its tech wish list for project inspiration. Given the wide variety of programs and services offered at CFI, the nonprofit proposed a quick, optional website questionnaire that directs users to the appropriate pages based on their responses.

    CFI Communications Supervisor Kelly Amenson said the survey produced at the Charity Hack has already saved the organization time and resources.

    “Visitors to our website leave engaged and informed by using the user-friendly questionnaire,” Amenson said.

    Animal Lifeline of Iowa (ALI), a shelter in Carlisle, was another one of the nine nonprofits selected for the event. Thanks to the Des Moines Charity Hack, the organization traded an overwhelming, outdated animal database for a new, user-friendly system.

    Outreach and Event Coordinator Hannah Banes said the upgraded database has already supported ALI’s mission to find safe, loving homes for animals.

    “It was truly humbling that so many people came to help a few nonprofits,” Banes said. “It was really nice to see all those developers come together and truly put their heart and soul into it for 48 hours. We really had a good time, and we look forward to applying for new projects in the future.”

    Teams complete a variety of projects catered to organization’s needs

    Charity Hack co-founder and co-organizer Kim Wall said the event is dedicated to supporting nonprofits’ technical resources, a key element in sustaining organization growth. 

    “Typically, the money that goes to nonprofits supports their core mission and values,” Wall said. “Developing technology often gets pushed to the side, but it’s often those limited technology resources that create a hindrance for the organization.”

    During this year’s Charity Hack in February, nine teams completed $100,000 in tech services.

    The selected organizations pay little to nothing for their projects. And in addition to technical upgrades and support, nonprofits gain lasting connections with the Des Moines tech community.

    “We’d like to host more participants next year and maintain connections with nonprofit organizations throughout the year,” Wall said. “Our vision is to connect local nonprofits with the Des Moines tech community all year and provide different kinds of support.”