Careers In Curiosity: To Infinity and Beyond!

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Jason Heaton, Assistant Director of Astronomy

What was your childhood dream job? Ballerina? Fire Fighter? Marine Biologist? Everyone is different, but it is certainly a rarity to be so inspired by something that you make it your life’s work. Jason Heaton, the Museum’s Assistant Director of Astronomy, visited the Boonshoft Museum as a little boy and fell in love with the possibilities that the night sky provided.

For this month’s Careers In Curiosity post, our guest blogger and Planetarium expert extraordinaire, Jason, will talk a little bit about running a Planetarium, teaching children and adults about our Solar System, and much more. Check out his blog below:

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In 2003 I had the chance to meet Neil Armstrong

Hello, Nice To Meet You

My name is Jason Heaton and I am the Assistant Director of Astronomy at the Dayton Society of Natural History. The Astronomy department at the Boonshoft houses an observatory, a planetarium, and astronomy related exhibits.

How I Started in Astronomy

My career in astronomy began at the Boonshoft when I was a child. My parents enrolled me in the Boonshoft summer programs for many years. I

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The NASA sponsored Exoplanets exhibit, produced by the Boonshoft Astronomy Department

loved archaeology, paleontology, and the activities at SunWatch, but the planetarium was by far my favorite. An energetic and hilarious planetarium director named Art Goss inspired me and fueled my love for the night sky.

In school, science classes were my favorite. I went to college at the University of Dayton, enrolling in Aerospace Engineering. I began working in the planetarium as a part time job while I was in school.  During that time, I fell in love with astronomical visualization…making

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A planetarium audience rides an Ice Slide set on Jupiter’s moon, Europa.

the stars come to life in the planetarium. I graduated U.D. with a degree in Computer Animation. I have been working for the Museum ever since, for more than twenty years now.

The Best Part of Working in the Astronomy Department

We do many different things in our department. We build astronomy exhibits such as the Exoplanet exhibit which recently opened. We house the Apollo Observatory, a large telescope open for free to the public on clear Friday nights. We have many different types of events that happen in the planetarium, people have proposed marriage, live bands have played, and astronauts have lectured. We have created planetarium shows and astronomical visualizations that have been shown around the world.  However, my favorite thing about working in the astronomy department is presenting the live shows about the night sky in the Dome.

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Speaking of magic, the planetarium is also one of the main stages for Harry Potter Camp, where I play Professor Starbuck, the Hogwarts summer school astronomy teacher.

Someone once said that as people we all have one thing in common…we all look up at the stars at some point in our lives and wonder. The planetarium is a unique place. When I was a child, it was magical.  People come to our planetarium to learn about the sky and experience that same feeling of wonder and magic.

As a presenter, I have witnessed the same feeling of magic in the eyes of children coming to the star shows. They will often come back after the show and ask a million questions, it becomes obvious that they will leave the museum loving the stars the same way I have.

Future Generations

You never know who is going to come into the planetarium and become a future astronaut or astronomer. The first person on Mars may be someone who is in school right now. The astronomers who find the first Earth-like planet; the mission specialist onboard a future space station; the scientists that will help us get back to the Moon; all of these people have one thing in common: someone, or something, inspired them and their love of the night sky, perhaps in a planetarium like ours.

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Science @ Home: Pop, Fizz, Expand–Kitchen Science With a Kick!

When you’re a kid it seems like everything messy is fascinating. The bigger the mess, the better the time. The same could probably be true for adults if they weren’t partially responsible for helping clean up. Well, at the Boonshoft Museum we are all about making a mess in a safe environment, especially if we can learn something from it!

This month’s Science @ Home experiment turns your kitchen into a chemistry lab by mixing some delicious confections! We’ve all heard the “explosive” urban legend about drinking a pop while guzzling Pop Rocks. While that is not entirely true (no, your tummy won’t explode!), the combination does produce a lot of gas. Try this classic experiment to see for yourself!

Pop, Fizz, Expand – Pop Rocks and Soda

You Will Need:

  • A Few Packs of Pop Rocks
  • Balloons
  • 12-16 oz bottle of pop (if you want to expand on the experiment, try a variety)
  • A Notebook and Pen to Record Your Observations

Experiment:

1) Open the first bottle of pop and pop rocks. Pour out a little soda to make room for the fizz.

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2) Empty the entire contents of the pop rocks pouch into the bottle of pop.

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3) Immediately place the balloon over the opening of the pop bottle.

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4) Observe what is happening to the pop and the balloon.

5) Optional: Repeat the experiment with different types of pop.

What’s Happening?

Infamous for the popping sensation in your mouth, Pop Rocks contain pressurized carbon dioxide gas. Once the saliva from your mouth wears town the candy shell the carbon dioxide is released from it’s shell, creating a popping sound. The same is true for pop, a carbonated drink that gets it’s bubbles from pressurized carbon dioxide. The mixture of the pressurized carbon dioxide in the candy and combined with the pressurized carbon dioxide gas from the pop creates so much gas, it needs to leave the bottle so it fills the balloon.

Take it further:

Try using different flavors of pop rocks and different kinds of pop. Are there different reactions? Does the balloon fill up faster, slower, or the same?

To see more experiments watch our full segment on Living Dayton below:

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Make sure you don’t miss a Science @ Home experiment by signing up for the Boonshoft Museum’s E-Newsletters and be sure to follow us on Pinterest.

Girl Power Includes Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math!

Most of us have heard the riddle about the doctor and his son:

A young boy and his father ended up in a car accident. Both were injured and rushed to the hospital. They were wheeled into separate operating rooms, as two different doctors were prepped to work on their respective patients. One doctor went to help the father, but the other doctor stared at the boy and exclaimed, “I can’t operate on him! This is my child!” How can that be?

The answer: The doctor is his mother.

The real question: Why is this considered a riddle? Is it because our initial thought is to assume that the doctor is a man?

This simple riddle points to a complicated problem regarding women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields. According to the United States Department of Commerce women fill close to half of all jobs in the U.S. economy, but they hold less than 25% of STEM jobs—even as more college educated women enter the workforce. Even with inspirational women in history like Jane Goodall, Marie Curie, and Sally Ride, women are still under-represented in science and technology.

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“Girls bring a different dynamic into the STEM field. Whether it is programming a robot to dance or curing the world of disease, females bring their own flair, enthusiasm, passion, and creativity to the field of STEM.” – Courtney Hromada, Assistant Coordinator of STEM Programming at the Boonshoft Museum

Some Need-to-Know Stats

  • Individuals in STEM fields are paid 26% higher wages than non-STEM workers and are less likely to experience joblessness.
  • Girls who are interested in STEM have significantly higher confidence in their academic abilities and higher academic goals.
  • Only 13% of girls say a STEM career would be their first choice.
  • 57% of girls believe they’d have to work harder than a man to be taken seriously in a STEM job
  • 82% of girls feel they’re smart enough to have careers in STEM fields.
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“My father has a PhD. in Engineering and my mom was an artist. I was exposed to both worlds at a young age, which inspired me. For me it was always science, I knew that is what I wanted to do. However, I think we need to be more supportive of girls who are interested in STEM. It can be applied to anything!” – Dawn Kirchner, Director of Education at the Boonshoft Museum.

Our goal? We aim to change that 82% to 100% by giving girls the tools and opportunities they need to have the confidence to tackle science, technology, engineering, and math without feeling intimidated. Not only does the Boonshoft Museum offer an array of educational STEM opportunities, from exhibitions and summer camps to special events, we are also encouraging girls to sign up for our girls-only FIRST LEGO League team. FIRST LEGO League is a great opportunity for girls to make new friends, compete, and problem solve in an encouraging environment.

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“Girls are so important in the STEM fields. For too long, women had difficulty advancing in their careers due to gender discrimination and stereotypes. As time progresses, I am thrilled to see an influx in female scientists- especially those who begin their paths at the Boonshoft Museum. Women have a unique perspective and experience in these typically male-dominated careers.” – Blaire Bartish, Manager of School and Public Programming.

If you’re child’s interests go beyond engineering, encourage them to visit some of these great resources to explore or spark a new STEM interest:

Girls Who Code
NASA Science4Girls and Their Families
NOAA Student Opportunities
Women@Energy
Women@Nasa
National Girls Collaborative Project
STEMBox

Parents: If you want to read more about the importance of women in STEM, visit www.whitehouse.gov for some of the leading statistics, resources, reports, and facts.

Careers In Curiosity: Saving the World — One Animal (and Habitat) at a Time!

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Melissa, the Museum’s Coordinator of Animal Training and Programming for the Discovery Zoo, offers children a chance to get hands on with our Education animals during Free Night.

This week, we are continuing our exploration of curious careers! When you think about a typical Museum you may think of priceless art hanging on the walls, huge dinosaur skeletons, and display cases with artifacts that are thousands of years old. The difference between most Museums and the Boonshoft Museum is that we are also an accredited Zoo, with over 100 live animals – from mischievous Meerkats to Egyptian fruit bats.

Having so many animals to care for requires a lot of time and effort, so we have a Live Animals Department that keeps our animals happy and healthy! Each of our Live Animals staff members have different educational backgrounds, from Natural Resources to Zoology and Biological Sciences—but they all have one thing in common, they love animals!

Melissa Proffitt, the Coordinator of Animal Training and Programming for our Discovery Zoo, took a minute to blog about her awesome experiences with our Live Animals, the importance of conservation, and fills us in on how she ended up working with some of the cutest critters in the world! Read her guest blog below!

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Makers Are Getting Things Moving! Join In On All The Fun!

From problem solvers and upcyclers, to DIY robotics newbies—the “Maker Movement” is something everyone can get excited about. To be a “maker” is to be a visionary, a builder, an engineer, a creative, and much, much more. Makers across the country are getting things done in amazing ways—like Brittnay Wegner, who took home the Google Science Fair’s grand prize for developing computer programming technology that accesses tissue samples for breast cancer with 99% accuracy. Brittnay was 17 at the time she developed her invention. The organization, Girls Who Code, has myriad of testimonials from young girls, who, through training in computer skills, have built, modeled, coded their way to create wonderful things:

On graduation night at Google, I was approached with my first ever job offer. Today, at 15, I have two web design jobs to help make ends meet at home. I am teaching my dad to code. He’s now working to become an IT professional to replace his substitute custodian job. My sisters are next on the list.

Moms and dads are using “lifehacks” to kick-start their cleaning, home, and personal projects, teens are upcycling furniture for their dorm rooms and creating apps, and children are engineering robots and programming using their own open source hardware (like the very popular Raspberry Pi).

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FIRST LEGO League Teams create and program LEGO robots.

Even the White House has taken notice of how important makers are to the economy and the world! During the White House’s Week of Making, the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery Springfield will be hosting public programming themed around “making”—and don’t forget, the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery Springfield has a designated Maker Space that is filled with creative ways to complete projects. MakerMovement While diving into “maker” activities may seem intimidating, one of the best way to encourage your children to tinker and create is to complete a project with them—and because we at the Museum are huge Astronomy fans (I mean, we only have the coolest Planetarium in the region!) we recommend this DIY Constellation Light Box featured in Make Magazine. Not only do you get to paint, light, and measure, the end result is a beautiful night light for your little one’s bedroom!

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Credit: Makezine.com

To complete the DIY Constellation Light Box Project click here. To learn more about the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery Springfield click here. To learn more about the White House’s Week of Making click here.

Careers In Curiosity: Caring for 1.7 Million Pieces Of History

This week we are exploring careers at the Museum and because we are a Natural History Museum, Science and Technology Center, Children’s Museum, and Accredited Zoo—we certainly have a lot of curious careers to discover! Sarah Aisenbrey is a member of our Collections Department and will be filling us in on her amazing experience and duties at the Museum (hint: she gets to work with things that are thousands of years old! Read her guest blog by clicking the “read more” link!

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