Yale Science Saturdays Make Science Fun for "Kids of All Ages"

Yale University announces the return of Science Saturdays, a special series that brings the excitement of research and the passion of scientists to “kids of all ages” in New Haven. The series begins on April 5 and will continue on Saturdays through April 26.

Ainissa G. Ramir

The talks and demonstrations are aimed at youngsters in middle school and above, and are free and open to all interested members of the public, regardless of their age. The programs run from 10:30 a.m. to noon in Davies Auditorium of Becton Center, 15 Prospect Street.

Ainissa G. Ramirez, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Yale, imagined the popular series in 2004 while writing a grant proposal to the National Science Foundation (NSF). One contingency of the grant was to share the research with the general public. While Ramirez initially envisioned “a few talks that might draw an audience of about 50,” the public response to the Science Saturday series was overwhelming from the beginning.

To date 20 researchers that have engaged students and other interested individuals with their projects and personal perspectives. Ramirez says, “Success of the series can be attributed to the Science Saturdays 3Ds — Demonstrations, Donuts and Dynamic lectures.”

“Science Saturdays focuses on topics that are fun, challenging and relevant to issues of every day living,” says Ramirez. “It brings out the ‘face’ and ‘personality’ of scientists and their science – shattering stereotypes and creating a sense of ‘I understand that’ in the participants.”

“Science is fun,” Ramirez declares “Understanding how things work and inventing and creating new possibilities are basic benefits of being a scientist. This program aims to show that and highlight a few of the areas that are making news now.”

The Spring 2008 program includes:

April 5, 10:30 a.m. – Noon: “Wheeled Machines that Balance: The Segway Personal Transporter and the Segway Robotic Mobility Platform” with Professor John Morrell.

April 12: “Using Magnets to Look at Molecules” with chemist Kurt Zilm.

Michelle Addington

April 19: “If the Walls Could Think: Smart Materials in Buildings” with architect and engineer Michelle Addington.

Smart planes. Intelligent houses. Shape memory fabrics. Micro-machines.
Color-changing paint. Professor Addington will discuss how the scope of “smart materials” has changed since 1992, when they first emerged commercially in snow skis. Defined as “engineered materials that respond intelligently to their environment,” smart materials have become the answer for the 21rst century’s technological needs. NASA is counting on them to lead the first major change in aeronautic technology since the development of supersonic flight, and the US Defense Department sees smart materials as the technology behind the soldier of the future, equipped with everything from smart tourniquets to chameleon-like clothing. At the other end of the spectrum, toys as basic as Play-Doh and equipment as common as ink jet printers and automobile air bag controls have already incorporated examples of these materials. Demonstrations will feature some of these materials.

Paul Turner

April 26: “Viruses: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly” with evolutionary biologist Paul Turner.

Viruses are the tiniest organisms on the planet, but also the most numerous. They are literally everywhere — in the air you breathe, in the water you drink, and in the food you eat. Viruses are feared for their ability to cause deadly — downright ugly — epidemics. However, viruses are not all bad. In fact, some viruses are good for you, and many are vital for our planet to maintain a healthy ecosystem. Professor Turner will describe the fascinating sub-microscopic world of viruses, and our efforts and failures to combat virus diseases.

Ramirez, a much honored materials scientist, has nurtured and expanded this program which has engaged teachers, parents, children and even professors who have asked to be part of this program. Yale honored Ramirez and the Science Saturdays program with the Elm-Ivy Award, and the Office of the Provost at Yale is supporting the expansion of Science Saturdays so that future series may include scientists from other institutions.

“It is exciting and tremendously rewarding to see the response this program has received from Yale and New Haven,” said Ramirez. “Having the programs re-broadcast on our local CTV was a first step in expanding the program. While we are looking for ways to branch out and reach more people, we now have DVD’s available for teachers and institutions, and the programs are streamed on our website.”

The program is supported in part by the National Science Foundation, the Yale Faculty of Engineering, the National Society of Black Engineers, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Yale Scientific Magazine, Tau Beta Pi, and Scienceworks. More information is available by contacting Ainissa Ramirez.

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Media Contact

Janet Rettig Emanuel: janet.emanuel@yale.edu, 203-432-2157