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26 June 2015

Seeing Through Alien Eyes

What would it be like to see through alien eyes? Or to only see a limited amount of color? The activity, “Seeing Through Alien Eyes” from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and Family ASTRO, lets you do just that. It’s also a great introduction to telescope color filters.

20150605_144328The activity has participants look at several “scenes” made out in differently colored felt. The participants are wearing visors that have been made to filter only red, blue, or green light. What do they see? What does the world look like through each color? Can they agree on which tree is really green, or which sun really yellow?

We recently did this activity with the summer campers at the Leu Civic Center. They had a blast trying to figure out the world through their alien visors, first in groups of all the same color, the in groups with visors of each color. They even decided to repurpose their visors for their planetary settlement in a later activity!

We now have a kit to go along with activity, so you don’t have to make the visors and felt scenes from scratch! Check out this kit in our inventory. It comes with 21 visors, 3 felt scenes, and the instructions for the activity. We hope you enjoy seeing the world through alien eyes as much as we did.

Guest post by Nicole Gugliucci

18 June 2015

New Toolkit: Our Magnetic Sun

It’s time to wrap up the third of our three introductory posts to our Night Sky Network toolkits.

MagSunBannerSmThis time, we have an introduction to Our Magnetic Sun. This kit explores the magnetic fields of the Sun with, well, magnets! Magnets strategically placed onto a banner of the Sun in one case, free floating magnets in other case, and a simulated “solar storm” with magnets on it as well. Some of these activities might be good for a general introduction to magnetism, especially the box with four compasses placed around it to map the magnetic field of a small object. But these do specifically tie into the Sun and how magnetic fields produce solar storms and affect us here on Earth, including with beautiful aurorae.

UV2There are also a few ways to observe the Sun safely. Information cards included in the kit describe safe solar viewing methods, and several pair of solar viewing glasses are included. Don’t forget, NEVER look at the Sun without proper protection! You can detect sunlight in other ways, specifically in the ultraviolet. You don’t need a special instrument for that, since there exist color-changing beads that react to ultraviolet light, but not most indoor lighting. This is great for teaching about ultraviolet light and the importance of proper sun protection while outside. The kit comes with a few beads, but we have many more in the Resource Center.

Check out the Our Magnetic Sun kit today in our Resource Center, or browse the activities and videos on the Night Sky Network webpage.

Guest post by Nicole Gugliucci. Images by Night Sky Network.

17 June 2015

Meet the Itty Bitty Radio Telescope!

20150616_185344My background is in radio astronomy, and I spent much of my graduate school career helping to build a radio telescope that is doing research in South Africa. It turns out that you can build a really simple radio telescope as well, just using parts that others have trashed or from an electronics store. (Okay, maybe you should check Amazon if Radio Shack didn’t stay open near you.)

So, I’ve built an Itty Bitty Radio Telescope (IBRT) for the STEM Resource Center, and it is now available for loan and use! The “Itty Bitty” comes out of educational and outreach efforts from various organizations, and they all have good instructions on how you can make your own. I pulled this particular dish from the dumpster area in my apartment complex, but you can often get one for free by searching Freecycle or Craigslist. Or, just ask a friend if they have a satellite tv dish that is no longer in use.

This IBRT uses an old ChannelMaster as a way of seeing how strong of a signal is being detected. It has a dial readout but also gives off a sound that increases in frequency as the signal gets stronger. The ChannelMaster we use is no longer made, but I wanted to pick a system I was familiar with, even though almost any satellite meter will do. Also, it meant I could get a few cheaply from eBay.

So what can this Itty Bitty see? As far as astronomical objects go, it can pretty much only see the Sun. It is a very small antenna, so it needs a very bright radio object. And our Sun does gives off a lot of radio emission. It’s a pretty cool demonstration for a cloudy day, but it will work anytime that the Sun is out, as you can see in the short video below.


16 June 2015

New Toolkit: Explore the Solar System

We’re entering a new toolkit into our database, the “Explore the Solar System” Toolkit from the Night Sky Network. With this kit, you can teach your students or any outreach group about the size, scale, and properties of the many worlds orbiting our Sun.

20150616_182809Like all Night Sky Network (NSN) outreach toolkits, this comes with a full manual of activities, including sample scripts to use when interacting with your audience, and links to other resources where you can learn more about the Solar System. One of the most amazing aspects of our Solar System are the sheer sizes and distances involved. That’s why there’s a model of the planets and other worlds scaled to size and a HUGE poster with a scale Sun to compare to. You can also explore the orbits of the planets and predict which planets would be visible from Earth at night.

You can browse the activities and see some of the instructional videos on the NSN website or come to the Resource Center to check out the kit for yourself.

Watch on YouTube as we open the kit for the Learning Space segment of the CosmoQuest Hangoutathon in April 2015. Note, this was made before the model Solar System pictures above was complete!

One of my favorite activities from the kit requires very little materials. Watch how to make a Pocket Solar System using just receipt paper!

Guest post by Nicole Gugliucci

09 June 2015

Summer Hours!

STEM-Logo-smSummer time is here and with it a lot of STEM Programming! We are involved with the Upward Bound summer program, outreach opportunities at many different sites in the area, and our own Odyssey Summer Camp program. Plenty of activity, but that means we are constantly running one way or another. If you’re stopping by, be sure to call ahead to make sure we are here to help you. Coming by between 9am and 3pm is still your best bet, but we might be across campus or instructing then.

You can reach us at (618) 650 – 3065 or to confirm that we’re around. Also, be sure to keep in mind the construction complications, just to keep things extra interesting!

03 June 2015

Getting Around the Summer Construction

If you’ve been to our Resource Center lately, you might have noticed there is a lot of construction going on that has closed off several doors and pathways to the Vadalabene Center. We are still open, however, and happy to serve your teaching needs! If you need to come to us for consultation, material pick-up, or material return, we advise you to park on the other side of the Vadalabene Center from where you usually do. Specifically, you want to park in Lot F. There are several meters in that parking lot that accept quarters. From there, you will enter the Fitness Center’s main doors, turn left and walk all the way straight down the hall, past the Reception Desk, past Equipment Issue, past the Women’s Locker Room until you reach the STEM Resource Center on your left. We will be able to wheel cartfuls of material up and down that hallway to your car as required.

See the SIUE parking lot maps here to use during summer construction. We thank you for your patience!


28 April 2015

Get Your Hands on Space Rocks

We’ve received several outreach kits from the Night Sky Network to aid in astronomy education and outreach. These kits are great because they come with field-tested activities, most of the materials you need, especially hard to find ones, instructions, handouts, and even potential scripts for each activity. These kits are made with astronomy clubs in mind so that they can do outreach during the day or inside on a cloudy night, but these work well for classrooms as well.

1366-smOur first full kit is the Space Rocks Toolkit, which comes in a handy carry box and with its own vinyl banner. The banner has a great image of the Moon on one side and a view of the Earth on the other. The banner becomes part of the activities itself, as it shows the locations of various meteorite impacts, or places where space rocks have crashed into Earth, across North America. That banner of Earth is also useful for a scale model of some other space rocks, as the kit contains an image of the Moon, scaled to the size it would be compared to the banner Earth, and several model asteroids that have been fashioned out of clay.

If impressing your students with the sheer size of objects in space isn’t enough, they can hold a real rock from space in their hands. The activity “Meteorite or Meteor Wrong?” is one of my favorites and very portable. You are given a set of several rocks, some of which are meteorites that came to Earth from space and some that are native rocks of Earth. Don’t worry if you can’t identify them on site. The booklet included with the kit walks you through the activity and has a little “answer key” at the end.

I’d encourage you to browse the activities in the toolkit in the Night Sky Network website. Many of the activities have explainer videos on how to use them, so you can see what you’re getting. Or, come to the STEM Resource Center to see the kit for yourself, sort through the Solar System cards, try out asteroid finding activity, or see if you can tell a meteorite from an Earth rock.

Guest post by Nicole Gugliucci

22 April 2015

Sign-Up Now!

Odyssey Science Camp

The 2015 camp session will take place between July 20 and July 31, 2015

Odyssey Science Camps are designed to provide children an opportunity to experience the excitement of science firsthand.  Campers are divided by age and experience into seven different focus groups whose activities range from introducing scientific principles, building math skills, simple “crime scene” investigations, exploring disaster preparedness, constructing a Lego® robot, and astronomy activities including telescope building and model rocket engineering. Click the button below to download a detailed list of camp offerings and a registration form. If you have any questions contact the STEM Resource Center (618) 650-3065 or at

Camps are offered for students entering 2nd grade (currently in 1st grade) through 9th grade. All grade levels indicated in the registration packets are entering grade levels.

Camp Offerings & Registration


The 2015 camp session will take place between July 20 and July 31, 2015

STEAM will be offering Mid-Day Arts options! Afternoon Sessions will be between 3:30-5:30 PM. Add this course thru STEM Odyssey Science Camp for a cost of $75 or register for this session only at the cost of $115! To register follow the link below.

ArtLab Registration

30 March 2015

Arts & Issues at SIUE Presents: Robert Glennon “America’s Water Crisis and What To Do About It?”

Robert Glennon, internationally renowned water resource expert and best-selling author of “Unquenchable,” will appear Thursday night to discuss “America’s Water Crisis and What To Do About It?”

When: Thursday, April 02, 2015

Time: 7:30-8:30pm

Location: Morris University Center MUC Madison + Pre-Function. (MC 1044/1050)

For more information click here.

26 March 2015

SERC This Weekend!

researchchallengeThe STEM Center is abuzz getting ready for the Science and Engineering Research Challenge. If you want to volunteer or just come by to see all the amazing projects, you can find all the information on the event page.

The Research Challenge is an amazing opportunity for students grades 5-12 to show off their projects. They come with a poster and answer questions for judges and visitors about their work. This year there is an impressive spread of topics and experimental designs so we encourage everyone to come see for themselves!