Expanding Your Horizons is a series of conferences for girls with workshops in science, technology, engineering and math (also known as STEM). EYH’s goal is to encourage girls to pursue STEM careers. Scientists and other educators lead fun hands-on experiments and learning exercises on topics like marine biology, scientific illustration, space and entomology. Last year’s session on insects (entomology is the study of insects) was one of our favorites!
Expanding Your Horizons runs conferences throughout the year, all over the U.S. Check out their schedule to find one near you and sign up.
A professor at Arizona State University is studying the silk that spiders spin to build their webs. Scientists have discovered that spiders can spin six different kinds of silk. Each kind of silk has different properties. Some kinds of silk are very stretchy, while other kinds are sticky. The most amazing thing is that spider silk is very strong — as strong as steel, in fact.
So why don’t we farm spiders and use their silk to build useful things? Professor Jeff Yarger has the answer:
The reason is that spiders don’t produce silk in large quantities.
“You can put lots of silkworms in a small area and genetically modify them to go from the larval state to a moth in 20-30 days. Spiders take longer. But let’s get to the crux of it—spiders don’t like each other. They eat each other,” he explains.
The scientists came up with an idea to make spider silk without using actual spiders. They altered silkworms to enable them to make spider silk. But there was another problem — the silk spun by silkworms was not as strong as real spider silk. Their next challenge is to use a powerful scanner called a Magnetic Resonance Image machine to look more closely at the altered silkworms in hopes of perfecting artificial spider silk.
A nine-year old girl asked a NASA tour guide about the age of moon rocks. Her family taught her that the universe is only 6,000 years old, which scientists believe is nowhere close to the truth. Who’s right here, and why? And was this little girl right to question the scientists?
Scientist PZ Meyers of the University of Minnesota provides an excellent kid-friendly explanation not only of the radiometric dating process that’s used to determine the age of very old things like moon rocks, but also of how and when it’s appropriate to question what we know about the natural world. (In short: it’s important for a scientist to be critical-minded, but it’s important to ask questions and pay attention to answers that provide more information instead of reinforcing ideas that we already have.)
From Gawker comes a cool story about a group of kids in England who did original research on the behavior of bees. The kids set up an experiment with colored lights to see if bees are able to remember the location of food.
Their research was so good it was published in a scientific journal called Biology Letters. Super cool!
We’re always excited to hear about other Kid Scientists out there sharing their interest in science and education.
Kaylie McFerrin from Wichita Falls, TX is one of the entrants in the Google for Doodle contest. The winner’s doodle will appear on Google’s home page. Kaylie wants to become a scientist so she can find a cure for her sister’s kidney cancer. There are lots of great careers for aspiring scientists that involve research, chemistry, and medicine. If you could do or be anything, what would it be?
Here’s some news that got all of us at Kid Scientist excited:
“President Barack Obama said Monday he would convene a national science fair next year to honor young inventors with the same gusto that college and professional athletes celebrate their victories at the White House.
‘You know, if you win the NCAA championship, you come to the White House,’ said Obama, a sports fan as much as a science nerd. ‘Well, if you’re a young person and you produce the best experiment or design, the best hardware or software, you ought to be recognized for that achievement, too. Scientists and engineers ought to stand side by side with athletes and entertainers as role models.’
He said they would show young students how ‘cool science can be.’”