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Austin Children's Museum

[coordinator: Ms. Pam Cook; portions underwritten by the Texas Materials Insitute]

Our partnership with the Austin Children's Museum aims at exposing children to science at an early age and making science accessible to the general public. To this end, our efforts have been focused on two activities: monthly science demonstrations at the museum and hands-on experimentation for children who attend the “Weird Science” summer camps.

Our pilot science demonstration at the museum was entitled “Big Ideas about Little Things” and was held on January 29, 2005. This demonstration introduces concepts of length scales and size differentiation to our young visitors. The hands-on experimentation and demonstrations were a great hit with both the children and the parents! Children and parents peered through an optical microscope to examine the gorgeous details of a butterfly’s wings and the hairy legs of a cricket. In addition to the hands-on experiments, our visitors also had a chance to watch “Powers of Ten”, a short movie that explores the relative size of matter by Charles and Ray Eames.

Three other themed science demonstrations took place following our pilot: “What’s the Matter?” in February 2005 explored the states of matter – it introduced our young visitors to liquid crystals and crosslinked silicones; “Magic Makeovers: Chemical Changes We can See and Feel” took place in March 2005; and “Energy Alternatives for the Environment” in April 2005.

In the summer of 2005, we sponsored several polymer-related demonstrations and experiments for children who were participants of the “Weird Science” summer camp at the Austin Children’s Museum. On June 24, 2005, approximately 40 camp attendees, ages 6-10, showed up in the Chemical Engineering Department to make nylon and silicone coin replica. Additionally, the young visitors got to tour our unit-operations laboratory, where they were able to climb up a pilot-scale distillation tower! The “Weird Science” camp was offered twice more during the summer, on July 14, 2005 and August 11, 2005.

Our science demonstrations have since become monthly events. We are at the Austin Children's Museum every second Sunday of the month. Click here to check out our latest schedule. Additionally, we will be helping out with the upcoming Nanoscience and Nanotechnology exhibit slated to be showcased at the museum during Spring 2007.