Tag Archives: Stem

Maker Hall At The Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Celebration – 17 January 2015

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

The posted email below from Mary Eileen Wood of Ying-TRSEF and OCC (and CNY’s most active STEM educator!) is an announcement both for interested CNYO members and anyone else who might have a club, organization, or garage full of kid-friendly equipment who might want to set up a booth to participate in the Maker Hall festivities. This will be my 3rd such event (Ryan Goodson and I having run CNYO booths at the two events (announced HERE and HERE) in 2014) and I can tell you that these Maker Faires are THE place to be for anyone interested in (and interested in promoting) STEM education.


If anyone has interest in hanging out at the CNYO (and NASA Solar System Ambassador) booth, please let me know at admin@cnyo.org. If you’ve an organization that wants to participate, please contact Mary Eileen Wood using the contact info at the bottom of the email:

For the first time, the MLK Committee is incorporating a Maker Hall into the Dr. King Celebration, giving the STEM community the Fowler High School gymnasium. TACNY members can once again delight a diverse array of families from our community with science and technology!

Wonder what a Maker Hall is? It’s basically a Mini Maker Faire – lots of stations with fascinating hands-on activities for all ages that engage families in exploring great Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fun.

The adventures already include the IEEE station with flashing circuits, the NASA Solar Ambassador’s space rocks, OCC’s “virtual engineering” center, the U.S. Army team’s hands-on gear set up, DIY spaghetti engineering, Rotary’s basketball math … and whatever YOU would like to bring!

* Register ASAP to volunteer for the Maker Hall – we are preparing for 500 attendees!

* Our Hall’s volunteer shift is 10a-3p, so you will be provided with a free lunch!

* This link gives you the flyer (PDF) for recruiting more volunteers.

* This link is the invitation (PDF) to attend the Dr. King Community Celebration. Send it to everyone you can, so we have LOTS of people at this great STEM party!

* Questions? Call Mary Eileen Wood at 315-468-1025 or email trsef@verizon.net.

* Plan to dress comfortably and have a GREAT time!

NYS Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Incentive Program – Call For Applicants!

Greetings, fellow astrophiles!

This announcement just in from Howie Hollander, president emeritus of TACNY. For those en route to a SUNY or CUNY school this fall, you’ve 6 weeks (until August 15th) to get your applications in order! The short snippet of the website is provided below, including an image from the email announcement.

More details about the Incentive Program can be found at www.hesc.ny.gov/STEM.

Does your nonprofit work with or know of recent high school graduates attending SUNY or CUNY this fall? 

Let them know about the STEM Incentive Program. There are still scholarships available for this fall. Applications are due by August 15th, 2014.

For more information and the application, visit www.hesc.ny.gov/STEM.


TACNY Junior Cafe Scientifique: “Engineer Your Life: Redux”

Saturday – June 21, 9:30-11:00am

Milton J Rubenstein Museum of Science & Technology – Syracuse, NY

View Larger Map

Join us for our last talk of the season as TACNY President Emeritus Howard R. (Howie) Hollander will introduce and explore tips for preparing inside and outside of school for careers in STEM fields.

People interested in learning more about careers in STEM fields are invited to attend the free Junior Cafe presentation on Saturday, June 21, from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science and Technology (MOST) in Syracuse’s Armory Square. Walk-ins are welcome, but we ask that people RSVP by emailing jrcafe@tacny.org by June 18, 2014.


2014june10_howie_tysonHowie Hollander (shown at right with some guy from last year) retired following 37 years in the aerospace and defense industry as a systems and software engineer/manager and program manager. He is currently enjoying an “encore career” as a program manager at SUNY-ESF. Howie earned a BE in electrical engineering from New York University, and an MS in engineering management (computer and information systems major) from Northeastern University. Howie’s CNY community activities include: President Emeritus, TACNY; Trustee, Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science and Technology; Vice President, Central NY Jazz Arts Foundation; and member of the LeMoyne College Information Systems Program Advisory Board, CNY STEM Hub, and Partners in Education and Business’ Technology Sector. Additionally, he serves on the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Information Technology and Web Sciences Industry Advisory Board. He is a graduate of Leadership Greater Syracuse and the FOCUS Citizens Academy. Howie enjoys skiing, and is an instructor of skiers with disabilities. He is married and has two adult children.

TACNY Junior Cafe Scientifique

TACNY Junior Cafe Scientifique, a program for middle-school students founded in 2005, features discussions about topics in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in an informal atmosphere and seeks to encourage students to consider careers in these areas. Students must be accompanied by an adult and can explore the MOST at no cost after the event.

Technology Alliance of Central New York

Founded in 1903 as the Technology Club of Syracuse, the nonprofit Technology Alliance of Central New York’s mission is to facilitate community awareness, appreciation, and education of technology; and to collaborate with like-minded organizations across Central New York.

For more information about TACNY, visit www.tacny.org.

Total Lunar Eclipse, Mars Just Past Opposition And A Very Early Observing Event At Baltimore Woods on April 15th

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

The next few weeks are busy ones for CNYO and amateur astronomers in general.

April 10th (just this morning)STEM Career Day At National Grid (image below)
April 15th (from midnight to 3:30ish)Total Lunar Eclipse & Mars Just Past Opposition
April 12th and 13thCNYO and New Moon Telescopes (NMT) At NEAF
April 19thMOST Climate Day (And CNYO Lecture)
April 24th – Seasonal Observing At Beaver Lake Nature Center


A piece of Mars, some meteors, several magnets, terrestrial rocks with larger meanings, four things we didn’t know “when I was their age,” and additional makings of a set of STEM astro demos.

But back to the eclipse and opposition. It is my opinion that lunar eclipses don’t get the respect they deserve. Yes, solar eclipses are much more exciting and it has been well-documented that people have previously responded very strongly (and not always pleasantly) to solar eclipses. The sudden darkening of the sky and noticeable temperature drop can cause all shades of responses (no pun intended) in people. That said, all we really get (besides a view of the solar corona) is an example of what happens when you put a black disc in front of the Sun. Lunar eclipses, on the other hand, tell us a bit about how the Earth itself interacts with the Sun by how this interaction alters our view of the Moon.

Both solar and lunar eclipses tell us something about the Sun/Earth/Moon relationship. Specifically, we learn that the Sun/Earth orbital plane (the oval made as the Earth goes around the Sun each year) and the Earth/Moon orbital plane (our local oval) are not the same – the Earth/Moon plane is tilted slightly off the Sun/Earth plane by 5.2 degrees (small, but just enough). That is, the Moon spends some time above and some times below the Sun/Earth orbital plane, while sitting right in the plane only two times each orbit (where the two planes intersect). How do we know this? Simple. If the Earth/Moon plane were exactly in the Sun/Earth plane, there would be a total solar eclipse and total lunar eclipse every month because there would be a time each month (New Moon) when the Sun, Moon, and Earth made a straight line (Sun-Moon-Earth = solar eclipse) and a time each month (Full Moon) when the Sun, Earth, and Moon made a straight line (Sun-Earth-Moon = lunar eclipse). As the two planes are slightly off, the New Moon is simply “off the radar” of most people because it can’t be seen during the daytime. The Full Moon, on the other hand, is brilliantly bright most of the time because it only infrequently enters the Earth’s shadow.

The image below shows this very nicely (and it’s always better to find and cite a good image than to have to roll your own). Give it a look for 30 seconds to make sure each of the four cases make sense to you.


The Sun/Earth and Earth/Moon orbital planes. Note the top and bottom orientations that are perfect for eclipses (and the left and right that are not). Image taken from www2.astro.psu.edu (from Chaisson & McMillan Publishing). Click for a larger view.

Total solar and lunar eclipses, then, occur on special, but periodic and predictable, occasions when the Moon finds itself exactly in the Sun/Earth plane. When it’s just ever-so-slightly off this plane AND still between the Sun and Earth (or still falls into the Earth’s shadow in the Sun-Earth-Moon arrangement), we get partial eclipses. Just that simple.


What to expect on April 15th (the government’s cashing in on its short wavelength tax!). Image from this article at io9.com.

Perhaps the most striking difference between a solar and lunar eclipse is that a solar eclipse obstructs the disc of the Sun, leaving only a view of its wispy exterior (corona), while a lunar eclipse alters the color of the Moon while still allowing us to see it in its entirety. Those watching the lunar eclipse will see the Moon go from its usual bright grey to orange, then a dark red before reversing the color order. The reason for this dark red coloring is the same reason why our sky is blue – the scattering of light in our atmosphere. Recalling our handy scattering relationship – that scattering (I) is proportional to 1 / wavelength4, we see that shorter wavelengths scatter more than longer wavelengths (because the wavelengths are in the bottom of the proportion, so larger numbers decrease the value of “I”). The image below was taken from one of the great non-wikipedia physics sites (well worth several afternoons to explore), hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu.


The scattering relationship. See hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/…/blusky.html for much, much more.

We see that shorter wavelength light gets “bounced around” more, while longer wavelength light passes for longer distances unimpeded by interactions with molecules and larger particles (like soot after big volcanic eruptions) in our atmosphere. Light going straight from the Sun hits our atmosphere and gets increasingly scattered as wavelength gets shorter – blue scatters more than red, so we see the blue strongly when we look up during the day. With the blue light strongly scattered, those people on the edges of where the Sun’s light falls – those just starting or ending their days – see more red light because that wavelength wasn’t as strongly scattered – effectively those at sunrise and sunset get the filtered-out leftovers of the light that those at high noon see as blue. The “lit” side of the world experiences a range of different colors depending on where they are during the day, but all are being illuminated by waves of light from the Sun that left at the same exact time (plus or minus a nanosecond or two).

Because it’s a busy week and the author is feeling lazy, he refers you to the top image of the three-panel image below, showing how the scattering of sunlight in our atmosphere occurs sooner after entry (on average) for blue, a bit later (on average) for green, then a bit later (on average) for yellow, then out to red, some of which is and isn’t scattered (on average).


The scattering of light by Earth’s atmosphere (shorter wavelengths scatter sooner). The other two images are placed into context by your reading about extrasolar planetary atmosphere studies. See www.universetoday.com/…-in-blue-light/ for that info.

And so, we know that blue is scattered strongly and red is not. This red light then races to the edges of our illuminated globe and the red light not scattered directly down to Earth or scattered in the opposite direction (out into space right above you) races past Earth at various altered (scattered) angles. During the most complete part of the lunar eclipse, the red color you see is, in fact, the red light that is passing through the edges of our atmosphere at those places experiencing sunrise and sunset (the sunlight performing a “grazing blow” of our atmosphere). As you might guess, if Earth were to lose its atmosphere (but don’t give any of your industrious friends any ideas), our lunar eclipses would appear quite different. Instead of a dark red Moon, we’d simply see a black disc where no stars shone (like placing a quarter at arms length and obscuring anything behind it).

This lunar eclipse just happens to coincide with another special event in our Solar System that just passed on April 8th – Mars at Opposition. Earth-centric oppositions occur when the Sun and a planet (from Mars out to Neptune, then dwarf planets, comets and asteroids also fit the description) are on opposite sides of the sky to one another (this cannot happen for Venus and Mercury to an observer standing on Earth – this also means that Earth is never “at opposition” for Mars). This necessarily means that, when this occurs, the Earth and that other object are as close as they will get for that Earth year. Because our orbits are not circular around the Sun, our distances at opposition do vary. The slightly outdated image below shows this difference of opposition distances for Mars from 1995 to 2001. August of 2003 was our closest approach (34 million miles) to Mars in roughly 60,000 years, making for some impressive views through even medium-sized scopes.


Mars distances at four oppositions. Image taken from the Hubble Space Telescope website. Click for a larger view.

What does this opposition mean for us? For those attending Baltimore Woods for Bob Piekiel’s special Lunar Eclipse observing session on the (really early) morning of April 15th (that is, we’ll be set up from 11:00 p.m. on the 14th and hanging out until it’s over), this means that Mars will be just a few days past its closest approach to Earth, making for especially good views through the scopes in attendance. Add Jupiter and Saturn over the course of the lunar eclipse, and we’ve a small feast of planetary observation for the evening. We hope you can join us!

Shopping For The Holidays? Consider A Trip To The MOST Gift Shop!

Greetings fellow astrophiles (and fellow holiday shoppers)!

From the unsolicited-why-didn’t-I-think-of-that-place-sooner kudos department:

I am in that 30-to-40 range where many of my friends have kids in that 5-to-10 range. Spending my days in the hard sciences and very aware of the issues surrounding S.T.E.M. education in the U.S., I make it a point (when not specifically sent a request) to buy presents that fool those children into learning about the world around them (although I find they are generally much hipper to fun science gifts than that). One might imagine this to be a considerable task given the preponderance of molded plastic figurines at most of the local toy stores. I am pleased to report that the situation is far less dire in Syracuse than one might imagine, due in very large part to the good people at The MOST.


The MOST Gift Shop, including 4.5 billion years of toys.

If you’ve been to The MOST for TACNY Jr. Cafe lectures, the old NASA-funded Space Science Series of years past (we hardly knew ye!), IMAX movies, any of the space science exhibits downstairs, or just to hang out near the olfactory display, you’ve invariably passed through the MOST Gift Shop on your way out. If you haven’t yet, make sure to stop and take a look around in the near future!

2013dec11_most_gift_shop_binosScience books specifically geared for kindergarten through middle school, minerals of all kinds, science tools and instructional toys galore, one really neat soda (or pop, whatever) bottle science demo set (viewable HERE), construction kits of all kinds, stuffed birds (and their associated bird calls), space mission models, and a wide assortment of other science demos, how-to guides, your requisite combo binos/magnifying-glass/compass/mirror/leaf-destroyer (you bet I have one!) techie knick-knacks, and much more. The damage I did to my shopping list will not only put a bunch of developing minds into overdrive, but it also supports The MOST (which I call a significant win-win).

And if that weren’t all enough, I even managed to buy a small piece of the Berlin Wall (and there are pieces left at a ridiculously low price for you history buffs).

Long-short, if you’re still looking for gift ideas and want to keep someone’s brain grinding away during winter break, do consider a stop at The MOST.