STEM Ed: Improving access for the blind, etc.

Photo credit: National Science Foundation

STEM ed accessibility (start time: 2:03): It’s challenging enough learning science, technology, engineering and math when you can clearly see the physical models or images of neurons on a screen.  So, imagine the hurdles faced by students who are blind or otherwise visually impaired? In this week’s show, host Susan Moran interviews two chemists who are working on making STEM education  more accessible to people with visual and other impairments, and on making learning more interactive for everyone.  Dr. Hoby Wedler is an organic chemist, a sensory expert, and a product development consultant based in Petaluma, Calif. Blind since birth, he works with many companies in the food and beverage industries.  And he founded and directed a nonprofit organization that for several years led chemistry camps for blind or visually impaired students. Dr. Brett Fiedler is a physical chemist with the University of Colorado Boulder’s PhET Interactive Simulations project. The team has been researching and designing new multimodal features for interactive science simulations.

Host & Show Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Alexis Kenyon
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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STEM Research // Sex in the Sea

High school researchers in CU Boulder program observing photo-origami model. Photo credit: Stacey Forsyth

Today’s show offers two features:
High School STEM Stars (start time: 5:00): Developing polymers to reduce waste from biodiesel production. Using 3D printing to design ocean textures, such as fish gills and waves, that blind students can use in textbooks to better understand nature. These are the kind of vexing challenges of seasoned scientists. Well, a select group of high school students here on the Front Range are also diving into this research, through the University of Colorado’s Photo-Origami Research Project. It’s part of the Research Experience and Mentoring (REM) program. Our guests–Lindsey Welch, a sophomore at Centaurus High; and Tyco Mera Evans, a senior at Northglenn High– will give poster presentations at the Emerging Researchers National Conference in STEM, in Washington, D.C.  this week. Joining them in the studio is Kathryn Penzkover, who directs high school programs through CU Science Discovery.

book cover-Sex (this)Sex & Evolution Beneath the Waves (start time: 14:45) Ever wonder about the sex lives of gender-bending fish, desperately virgin elephant seals, and other creatures of the sea? Marine ecologist Marah Hardt has made a career out of it. She speaks with host Susan Moran about her newly published book, Sex in the Sea: Our Intimate Connections with Sex-changing Fish, Romantic Lobsters, Kinky Squid, and Other Salty Erotica of the Deep. Dr. Hardt, who works with the nonprofit Future of Fish, illuminates how sex in the sea is at the heart of healthy and sustainable oceans. The oceans, along with their inhabitants, are under many threats, including overfishing and climate change. She will speak tonight about her book at the Boulder Book Store. For more information on ocean conservation issues, and to get involved here in land-locked Colorado, check out the nonprofit Colorado Ocean Coalition. And listen to previous related interviews, in our series “The Ocean Is Us.”

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Joel Parker
Additional contributors: Beth Bennett
Executive Producer: Joel Parker

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Colorado’s Science Fair Stars // Rosetta Comet Mission

Colorado’s Science Fair Stars (starts at 3:18)

Students celebrate their countries of origin at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Credit: Intel Brasil (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Students celebrate their countries of origin at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Credit: Intel Brasil (CC)

As the end of the school year approaches for high school students, it’s a good time to celebrate the achievements and passion of students in Colorado who have excelled in science, technology, math and engineering (STEM). Two of them — Hope Weinstein, a senior at Fairview High in Boulder, and Michael Brady, a senior at Cherry Creek High School in Greenwood Village — were finalists at a renowned global competition last week. It’s the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, which is a program of Society for Science & the Public.
Hope and Michael talk with co-host Susan Moran about their research and their message to other students.

Rosetta Comet Mission (starts at 15:16)

Artist’s impression of the Rosetta orbiter deploying the Philae lander to comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Credit: ESA–C. Carreau/ATG medialab
Artist’s impression of the Rosetta orbiter deploying the Philae lander to comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Credit: ESA–C. Carreau/ATG medialab

When he’s not busy volunteering with How On Earth, Joel Parker is an astronomer with the Southwest Research Institute — and that’s the hat he has on today as our in-studio guest. He joins us to talk about the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission, which will tag along with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as it swings nearer to the sun later this summer.

Joel is the Deputy Lead Investigator for ALICE, the ultraviolet spectrometer aboard the spacecraft. He’s also the featured presenter at Cafe Scientifique tomorrow night. So think of this conversation as a preview of what you might hear if you join him tomorrow at Brooklyn’s down in Denver. Joel will give a very informal talk starting at 6:30 pm, and will try to answer all your tough questions about comets, Rosetta, or anything else. CafeSci is free and open to the public.

Producer: Ted Burnham
Co-Hosts: Ted Burnham, Susan Moran
Engineer: Ted Burnham

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Engineering for Kids // Antarctica’s Ross Sea

On Tuesday, Nov. 26, How On Earth brings you two features:

Feature #1: (start time 5:53) STEM, as you may well know, stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Many math and science topics are introduced throughout most years of primary education, but technology and engineering — not so much. We live in a world surrounded by things imagined and designed and built by engineers, from roads and buildings to computers and appliances and even food, drugs and clothing. So it’s important to understand engineering if we want to understand these life necessities. An educator tackling this issue is  Dr. Christine Cunningham, vice president of research and educator resource development for a project called “Engineering is Elementary.” It was developed by the Museum of Science in Boston. Cunningham is featured in an article, written by former How On Earth contributor Breanna Draxler, called “E is for Engineering” in the December issue of Discover magazine. Cunningham talks with host Joel Parker about how teaching engineering to very young students can be done.

Adelie Penguins in the Ross Sea
Photo courtesy John Weller

Feature #2: (start time 14:45) Arguably the healthiest marine ecosystem on Earth is the Ross Sea in Antarctica. It’s so pristine largely because it is protected by a 500-mile-wide shield of floating sea ice, and, well, it’s not exactly easy to get to.  But in recent years the Ross Sea has come under threat, largely from New Zealand industrial fishing ships that are hunting as far south as they can for the Antarctic toothfish, which was rebranded as Chilean sea bass for U.S. and other consumers. John Weller is a nature photographer and conservationist living in Boulder. He has documented the beauty and fragility of the Ross Sea in his new book, The Last Ocean. Weller also co-founded a nonprofit, called The Last Ocean Project, that is dedicated to protecting the Ross Sea and other fragile marine ecosystems. Weller talks about the science and art of these environments with host Susan Moran. (You also can hear a previous interview with Weller on KGNU’s Morning Magazine.)

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Beth Bartel
Additional contributions: Brian Calvert, Jim Pullen

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