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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  • Today is World UFO Day!

    Have you ever seen something in the sky that you haven’t been able to identify? Then you've seen a UFO - or an Unidentified Flying Object!

    There could be any number of explanations for the different UFOs that people have seen around the world - ranging from strange biological phenomena like swarms of bugs to astronomical phenomena like meteors, satellites or even extraterrestrial life.

    What are the odds that those UFOs are aliens? What are the odds that aliens even exist? Scientists called astrobiologists are trying to figure that out right now!  

    Are there microbes that live in the Martian soil? Or perhaps strange space-fish that swim in the liquid water below the icy surface of Jupiter’s moon, Europa? Are the UFOs that are witnessed around Earth being controlled by hyper-intelligent aliens from distant worlds? 

    While it might be hard to confirm whether aliens have visited Earth using UFOs, researchers at the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute look to the stars to find evidence of intelligent alien life that might be trying to communicate with other distant intelligent life forms.

    To aid their search, they can use the Drake Equation. According to the equation, pointing your sensors toward more habitable areas of the universe (areas with stars systems that can host planetary suitable for life systems) can help improve the odds of finding these distant intelligent life forms.

    You can learn more about the Drake Equation here: https://www.seti.org/drake-equation-index

    UFO Activities & Info

    Check out this hands on activity our friends at NISE Net put together where you can “draw an extreme environment beyond Earth, then invent a living thing that could thrive in it” - as well as some information about NASA’s initiatives to search for life beyond Earth: https://www.nisenet.org/catalog/exploring-universe-imagining-life

    Extremophiles, animals that live in extreme environments: https://www.nisenet.org/sites/default/files/catalog/uploads/ExSci_Space_ImaginingLife_cards_2up.pdf

    Imagining life Drawing Sheet: https://www.nisenet.org/sites/default/files/catalog/uploads/ExSci_Space_ImaginingLife_drawingsheet_2up.pdf

    Searching for Life Info Sheet: https://www.nisenet.org/sites/default/files/catalog/uploads/ExSci_Space_ImaginingLife_SearchingforLife.pdf

    TRAPPIST1 Info Sheet: https://www.nisenet.org/sites/default/files/catalog/uploads/ExSci_Space_info_sheet_TRAPPIST1.pdf

  • Make a Pinhole Camera to Celebrate National Camera Day

    Background: You will be building a model of a simple camera, and then you will take pictures of all the beauty that is nature! How creative can you get with your pictures?

    Materials needed:

    • Rectangular box (shoebox)
    • Scissors
    • Ruler
    • Translucent plastic (clear plastic bag will suffice)
    • Tape and/or stapler
    • Large black cloth


    1. On one of the short sides of the box, use a pen or pencil to make a small hole in the middle of the side. The hole should be a little smaller than the circumference of the pen/pencil.
    2. On the other short side, use a ruler to trace a rectangle that is about 1 inch from the edge of the side. Use scissors to cut out the rectangle.
    3. Place the side that you just cut out flat on a piece of cardboard. Trace along the outside of the box. Cut along where you just traced.
    4. With the cardboard you cut out, trace a rectangle about 1 inch from the edge of the sides. Use scissors to cut out the rectangle. Keep the outside piece, which will be your frame.
    5. Lay your cardboard frame on top of your clear plastic. Cut the plastic so it is the same size as the frame. Either tape or staple the plastic to the frame.
    6. Place your frame on the inside of the large opening of your box.
    7. Set your shoebox camera on a flat surface (or hold it steady). Aim the small hole end at a well-lit object. Cover the shoebox with a large black cloth. Pull the cloth black to uncover the pinhole. Drape the cloth from the other end over your head. Block out as much outside light as possible so you can see the well-lighted object projected through the pinhole onto the translucent screen inside your shoebox.
    8. What can you see? Try to take a picture of the image projected on the screen.
    9. Use your device to take pictures of the outdoors. Try and take the coolest picture possible!

    Extension thoughts: Why do you think is the most beautiful outdoor place you have ever been to? What made it beautiful?