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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  • Binary Code Bracelet for Best Friend Day

    Humans have used many different types of code to communicate with each other. What examples can you think of? Perhaps you listed hieroglyphics, the alphabet, Morse code, a cipher or even music. Maybe you thought of different types of computer language code such as C++, JavaScript, Python or Ruby.

    There's a simple code that uses two symbols, 1 and 0. This is known as Binary Code. Imagine sending messages, instructions and data using an alphabet with only two letters!

    Most modern computers use binary encoding for their instructions and data. We can also use binary code to send message to our friends. Since today is National Best Friend Day, you can make a bracelet for your best friend with an encoded word(s). We used the word "love." 

    Here's the translation:

    01101100  01101111  01110110    01100101

          l                     o                  v                  e

    Each letter of the alphabet can be made with a combination of eight bits represented by a 1 or a 0 (view the code for the full alphabet here). This is known as a "byte." To make our "L-O-V-E" bracelet, we will need three colors of embroidery thread, scissors and masking tape. Then:

    • Cut two pieces of each color thread that is about the length of your leg.
    • Line up all the thread pieces and fold them in half, creating loop.
    • Tie a simple knot in this loop and tape it to the surface you are working on.
    • You are going to wrap one color of thread around the other threads. The pattern you use here will represent the code. (We used purple embroidery thread to represent “0” and green embroidery thread to represent “1," putting a small amount of white thread in-between to make the separation a little clearer.

    We wrapped the thread around four times for each bit, which made our bracelet quite long - so now it's more of a necklace! By looking at the pattern, you can give your best friend a special code that says how much you love them.

  • What's Outside Your Window - Lewis & Clark's visit to Iowa

    On this day in 1804, Lewis and Clark started their expedition up the Missouri River near present-day St. Louis, Missouri.

    Although the expedition didn’t reach present-day Iowa until about three months later, we're commemorating today’s 216th anniversary of the famed Lewis and Clark Expedition by reaching out to our friends at the Lewis and Clark Interpretation Center in Sioux City to share what’s outside their window.

    Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were amateur biologists and zoologists wanting to learn about the plants and animals living within the territory of the Louisiana Purchase. They recorded their detailed observations in journals, which have been visualized as murals at the Lewis and Clark Interpretation Center. These murals give us an artistic representation of what Iowa may have looked like during their expedition more than 200 years ago.

    Scenes of soldiers setting up campsites as well as a scene from a successful two-day fishing trip show native Iowa flora (like the purple cone-flower and other prairie plants) and fauna (like fish, which may have included largemouth bass, channel catfish, crayfish and freshwater mussels). 

    One image is a soldier overlooking the river. Looking at present-day images of where the Big Sioux River flows into the Missouri River, it’s hard to imagine traveling this expedition without modern transportation, like cars or motorboats, or infrastructure, like bridges!

    The "Garden of Discovery" surrounding the Lewis and Clark Interpretation Center includes sculptures of different animal species encountered by the Lewis and Clark Expedition, including some that no longer call Iowa home, such as elk. 

    Although the center's building and exhibits are closed, the gardens remains free and open for exploring!

    Special thanks to our friends at the Sioux City Lewis and Clark Interpretation Center for sharing their pictures of what’s outside their window and helping us to all Go Beyond with SCI!