Category: Speakers

A Virtual Visit with Leland D. Melvin

On May 21, 2011, almost 100 people participated in a mixed-reality, virtual visit with Astronaut Leland Melvin: about half in the Space Gallery at the Miami Science Museum and half via Second Life. We captured over an hour of Mr. Melvin’s fascinating and inspiring talk, but you can view highlights here:

Avatar Meets Superman

Astronaut Leland Melvin's avatar prepares to meet with students in Second Life.

Astronaut Leland Melvin's avatar prepares to meet with students in Second Life.

Leland D. Melvin, NASA Associate Administrator for Education, will meet and talk with museum-mentored high school students in a computer-generated, 3-D environment created by students on the Miami Science Museum’s virtual world island in Second Life. Using avatars that they have created, youth will interact with Mr. Melvin’s avatar, who will talk about his passion for science, lend insight into his career path, and answer students’ questions.

Young people interacting with such a powerful role model through this computer- simulated world is a revolutionary new way of making the presentation more engaging, deepening their science knowledge and making the students more comfortable asking questions of the speaker.  The presentation will be broadcast to students in the virtual world and projected in the Science Museum’s Theater so that the public can observe the virtual event and also participate through an avatar.

Leland D. Melvin joined NASA in 1989 as an aerospace engineer at the agency’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA. He joined the astronaut corps in 1998 and has served as a mission specialist on two space shuttle missions. In 2003, Melvin co-managed the former Educator Astronaut Program, which recruited teachers to become fully trained astronauts in an effort to connect space exploration with students across the country.

Mr. Melvin was named the associate administrator for education at NASA Headquarters in October 2010.  He is responsible for the development and implementation of NASA’s education programs. As a passionate advocate of science education, he has been developing strategies to improve NASA’s education offerings and to assist in establishing goals, processes and evaluation techniques to implement a sustainable and innovative Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program.  He is a two-time space shuttle astronaut and flew on missions STS-122 and STS-129 in 2008 and 2009, respectively.  Prior to joining NASA, Mr. Melvin played in the National Football League for the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys.

Date: May 21, 2011

Time: 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM EDT

Location: Miami Science Museum and SL: NASA Region

The Ice Man

Many of us dream of becoming explorers. Sometimes we may mistakenly think that there is nothing left to explore on Earth. Nothing could be further from the truth, as we learned today from Dr. Lonnie Thompson and Dr. Ellen Thompson, of the Byrd Polar Research Center at The Ohio State University. They continue to explore the world, including Antarctica and Greenland, in order to study the Earth’s climate. They both spoke to us in Second Life, and talked about where they’d been, and what they study. Lonnie Thompson even has the nickname “The Ice Man” because he is responsible for groundbreaking research in the area of climate change. He and Ellen have both observed, monitored, and studied ice cores and glaciers for evidence of how Earth’s climate has changed, and is changing. And not only are they a research team, they are a husband and wife team too! So we were lucky to talk to both of them in our Second Life NASA island – outside sitting on the snow next to an ice core drill!

 

After we sat in the snow with both Drs. Thompson, we each got to work on making a short movie of our time in Youth EXPO. We only have one more class to go, and looking back at all our photos, we learned so much about climate, met the most amazing scientists whose research is changing the way we think about the Earth, got to build model sediment cores, saw the Space Shuttle on the launch pad on a visit to Kennedy Space Center, and millions of other things. It’s a big challenge creating a short movie of so much!

 

Solar Flare

May 7, 2011

Today Second Life took us all the way to London to learn about how the Sun affects the Earth. We talked to Dr. Joanna Haigh, a scientist who studies how changes in the sun may affect Earth’s climate. The Sun even appeared in the auditorium during the talk!

The Sun takes part in Dr. Joanna Haigh’s talk in Second Life

The Sun takes part in Dr. Joanna Haigh’s talk in Second Life

Not only did we learn about the Sun today, we found a way to view it safely through a telescope on the Museum’s rooftop Weintraub Observatory. We could clearly see sunspots on the surface – these are “cool” regions of the Sun because they’re “only” 3000°C. (I guess that’s cool compared to the surrounding 6000°C temperatures!) Solar flares, which occur around sunspots, are solar storms that can actually disrupt communications here on Earth. It’s incredible that something 93 million miles away affects us!

Rooftop solar observations

After using the telescopes, we made our own camera out of a potato chip can (and got to eat the chips too). We cut the can into two sections, and put it back together with the lid in between – this would be the screen for the camera. We poked a tiny hole in the bottom of the can, and when we looked through it, everything was upside down and backwards! Can you figure out why?

Homemade Pinhole Cameras

Climatology Career Day

April 30, 2011

You always hear people say that we need to have our next generation be strong in science, technology, engineering, and math. We are the next generation, but it’s hard to know sometimes how we get there. What do you really do as a climatologist, an atmospheric scientist, or a meteorologist? And what should you study in school to get there? Today the Museum held a Climatology Career Day for students in the Museum’s Youth EXPO, Digital WAVE, and Upward Bound programs to answer these questions.

Dr. Clement makes a cloud in a jar

Dr. Clement makes a cloud in a jar

We’ve all learned about climate change, but now we get to hear more about how we can really be a part of it. We talked with a Robert Molleda, Warning Coordination Meteorologist from the National Weather Service; Maria Beotegui, Education Coordinator from Biscayne National Park; David Bernard, CBS4 Chief Meteorologist; Dr. Arturo Rodriguez, Professor of Chemistry and Meteorology from Miami Dade College; Erik Salna, Associate Director of the International Hurricane Research Center at Florida International University; Dr. Amy Clement, Professor of Meteorology and Oceanography from the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science; and Dr. Kevin Helmle, Research Scientist from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Not to mention Michael Garay, Senior Physics Engineer from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who was the keynote speaker for the event and spoke with us through Second Life.

Speakers L to R: David Bernard, Robert Molleda, Erik Salna, Dr. Arturo Rodriguez, Dr. Kevin Helmle, Maria Beotegui, Dr. Amy Clement

These people were all so different, but they all seemed to have something in common – when they were younger, some kind of spark inspired them to get into science, and they worked really hard to get where they wanted to go. All we need to do now is follow our own inspiration.