Real-Life STEM

CodeBreak COVID-19?

Can supercomputers and scientists crack the code?

Hidden in white coats in labs across the world are some of the “unknown front line” workers, otherwise known as researchers and scientists, who hold the keys to fighting the novel coronavirus. More than 25 United States-based supercomputers are now available for free to scientists searching for a vaccine or treatment against the virus. A simple phone call made five weeks ago by IBM, set a groundbreaking worldwide movement in motion with the research industry, academia and government uniting to combat the COVID-19 crisis through these sophisticated super computers.

Within a few short days of IBM’s call to the White House, the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium was created. “IBM is co-leading the effort with the U.S. Department of Energy, which operates the National Laboratories of the United States. Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Hewlett Packard Enterprise have joined, as well as NASA, the National Science Foundation, Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center and six National Labs—Lawrence Livermore, Lawrence Berkeley, Argonne, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge and Sandia, and others. And then there are academic institutions, including MIT; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; the University of Texas, Austin; and the University of California, San Diego,” said Scientific American.

With the quick spread of this highly contagious disease, researchers are against the clock to find a cure. By using the supercomputers to run countless scientific calculations, researchers and scientists are able to drastically cut the time to discover new molecules that could ultimately lead to a vaccine. Right now, scientists from all over the world are trying to understand the entire life-cycle of the virus and then use computer modeling to see how it can disrupt its progression. Because the virus has been infecting humans for months now, there are an abundance of samples for computer modeling and analysis.

The science world has more tools at its disposal during this pandemic than ever before. With data, supercomputers and artificial intelligence, scientists are looking to create an era of accelerated discovery that has never been seen before in this era of human history. This joint effort shows us now, more than ever, how much we need each other and that by working together, we can truly change the world.

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At-Home STEM: Escape Rooms

I got locked in an Escape Room with my kids…and we all lived to tell about it!

Escape rooms are all the rage right now, and I participated in one a couple of years ago with my mom and my siblings (and a man and his son that we didn’t know). Doing escape rooms with family members has its pros and cons, but for the most part we worked well together and escaped the room (although I’m pretty sure we needed a few extra minutes, which the owners kindly gave us).While normally I would do anything and everything to avoid getting locked up with my pubescent boys (who are under 11 months apart in age), this was actually an incredible experience for all of us. Escape rooms are a fantastic way to teach STEM concepts and critical thinking skills under the guise of a game. I was able to watch my boys work together, problem solve, and deal with “failure” by trying new tactics.

I ordered this one on Amazon, and it was definitely a good beginner game for us. Once I knew they enjoyed it, I proceeded to order another couple online that I could print from home. We haven’t done those yet, but we plan to do them this weekend.

We started out by opening the box and investigating the contents. There was a sheet with instructions, a large “note card”, a wheel that included dials and symbols, and several sealed envelopes. As instructed, we read the first note card with the instructions and the back story. And don’t worry: clues and even the solutions are provided online if you get stuck.

The first card basically had instructions on how to use the enclosed wheel to “solve” each puzzle and move on to the next envelope.

Just like a “destination” escape room, we had to use every piece of the game we had access to in order to search for clues. So we might find clues on the outside of the last envelope that we needed to solve the second puzzle.

We actually had to look up a clue one time because my boys were getting frustrated. The way the clues are provided is nice because you have to click to uncover it. That way you don’t accidentally see a clue or solution you don’t want to.

 

And because I know you’re dying to know whether or not we made it out…

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COVID-19 and the Environment this Earth Day

One of our associates Chris and his daughter participate in in the 50 trees for Earth Day 50

Today, on the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day we are reflecting on how the world has changed since learning of COVID-19. As a majority of people around the world shelter in place with a common goal of containing the virus and reducing the death toll, there have been some unexpected changes in nature – one being a decrease in emissions.

In places like New York, levels of pollution have reduced by nearly 50 percent because of measures put in place to control the spread of the virus. Since Europe has been under extreme lockdown, experts say carbon dioxide emissions have dropped by as much as 20 percent, and the hole in the ozone layer is repairing.

While emissions are decreasing, it’s because nobody is traveling, going to work, eating out or buying things to protect people from a global pandemic that is claiming people’s lives – but it’s also devastating the economy. This isn’t a long-term, or viable, environmental solution.

Throughout this pandemic, we have learned about vulnerabilities in our economic and social systems. We’ve seen large and small businesses struggling and families stretched to their brink.  While some of these changes might be temporary, the most important thing we can do is to learn valuable lessons that will help us in the future, and hopefully find a silver lining.

One of these things is how we approach the way we look at our environment. We’re now seeing how a zero sum game – pitting the economy against the environment – plays out in real time, and it’s not pretty.

So how do we take a step back and look for that crucial silver lining? How do we learn from this crisis on Earth Day and move forward with the lessons we’ve learned? More importantly, how does CEEF help play a role?

First, the silver-lining: as we have witnessed, ecological systems are able to bounce back when given a chance, so looking at things with a more pragmatic approach is key. Second, pitting outcomes against each other always ends in disaster – like we’re seeing now. So how do we create more harmony between both?

That starts with the generations of kids that are working their way through our elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools as we speak. They have the ability, through science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to create the next wave of technology we’ll use to not only help our environment, but keep our economy running.

This is why it is so crucial to champion our youth – to get them excited about subjects and companies that are helping to pave the way towards a brighter future with amazing innovations! And they’re all around us.

But perhaps more importantly, maybe we can use this time to reflect on the fact that when we bond together in times of crisis to solve problems creatively, we have a better shot at changing the world – and ourselves. If we can reflect on these changes together, while applying all of our creativity, we will truly transform our planet without so much human suffering.

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Salt Art Chemistry

(Posted by Anne Seneca, CEEF Director of Marketing)

My middle kid Claire, is always looking for fun new ways to utilize her art cart. This well-loved cart is filled to the brim with markers, crayons, colored pencils, paint, clay, shrinky dinks, scissors, chalk, craft punches, yarn…you name it. If you can craft it, we’ve done it.

Since being on lockdown, we’re always looking for new ways to get our crafting wiggles out – and learn at the same time! So today we introduced a new art medium to the ever overflowing art cart: salt.

The technique of “Salt Art” has been around for a long time, and it’s a super fun way to utilize materials you already have around the house. It’s also a colorful way to introduce your at-home artists to the chemistry involved with this project, while capitalizing the “A” in “STEAM”! We popped over to A Dab of Glue Will Do for inspiration.

For this STEAM project, you’ll need the following materials:

Materials

  • Mixed media paper like cardstock (we used stiff foam board)
  • Pencil
  • Glue
  • Table salt
  • Watercolor paints
  • Paint brush
  • Cup with water

Start by sketching out your project shapes. Claire chose to do a STEAM themed board!

Salt Art

When you’re drawing is ready, pipe over your pencil marks with glue. Claire used a flat tipped bottle for the larger drawings and a smaller tip for going over finer lines.

salt art

Once your board is glued up, shake salt all over the glue. Make sure you shake, shake, shake to cover it all! No shiny spots should show.

Let the glue and salt sit for at least 30 seconds before you shake off the excess salt to reveal your new crystallized artwork.

Now you can start “painting”! Dip your paintbrush in a little bit of color and a splash of water. Gently dot along the glue lines and watch the watercolor instantly get absorbed by the salt. Cool!

Why does this happen?

The salt absorbs the water. Salt is hygroscopic, which means it can absorb both liquid water and water vapor in the air. There are many other hygroscopic substances around, including wood, clay, and wool. And have you ever found one of those “silica gel packets” in food or a shoe box? That substance is also hygroscopic and is placed there to absorb moisture so your products don’t get ruined.

See the example below:

Enjoy this fun STEAM activity at home today!

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Keep Students STEM Challenged

Posted by Paige Barnes (Director of Education, CEEF)

How do you keep your kids entertained and engaged over the summer with educational activities? This may be an easy task for some, but most of us get at least a little bit stressed about the idea of having our children around for an extra 8-9 hours each day during summer. But there’s good news! You can reinforce their school lessons and have fun this summer with these STEM activities!

There are so many ways to teach STEM beyond the classroom, and summer offers the freedom to do all of them! Kids love to learn when they don’t know they’re learning, so keep things light and fun during the summer, and they’ll never know what hit ’em.

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STEM Partnership with Sugar Land Skeeters

CEEF is proud to announce our Official STEM Partnership with The Sugar Land Skeeters!

If you missed the first game of the season, there’s still time to join the fun on Friday, June 27 and Saturday, June 28. CEEF and Energy Day staff will be on hand demonstrating the STEM of baseball in a fun and engaging way. You can also answer STEM and baseball related trivia for a chance to win a $25 gift card.

Grab all your people, and come out to cheer on the 2018 ALPB Champion Skeeters and enjoy a night out at the ballpark with friends and family! You can learn how to keep score; find out why a curve ball “curves”; learn what statistics are kept in baseball and why they’re so important to the game; and more baseball-related STEM. See how far and how fast you can throw a wiffle ball and why it may not go as far as you think.

See our Facebook page for more details about the event.

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Eighth Annual Energy Day Festival Is A Huge Success

HOUSTON – October 20, 2018 – Families, students, educators, and local industry leaders gathered at Sam Houston Park in downtown Houston this past Saturday for Houston’s Eighth Annual Energy Day Festival, hosted by the Consumer Energy Education Foundation (CEEF), along with its partner Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA).

The free event – which is now the largest energy-focused festival in the nation — centers on celebrating the importance of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and their innovative impact on the energy industry. Energy Day Festival featured more than 60 interactive exhibits and demonstrations, from several of Houston’s leading companies – including Caterpillar, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, Direct Energy, Golden Pass, Noble Energy, Phillips 66, TechnipFMC, Telemundo and TransCanada. Each exhibitor was on hand to greet, educate, and entertain what Houston Police Department estimated to be more than 25,000 people who attended despite the rainy weather. From robots demonstrations by FIRSTRobotics and Microsoft to LEGO engineering and rocket-making, this year’s exhibitors showcased cutting-edge technology in an accessible format to students as a way to excite the next generation about career opportunities in the energy industry.

“Houston has long been known as the ‘energy capital of the world,’ and the Energy Day Festival has quickly become a fixture in championing local and national STEM efforts related to energy, showcasing some of the fascinating career opportunities that await the next generation,” CEEF Founder and Energy Day organizer David Holt said. “Creativity and innovation is key to maintaining energy leadership in oil, natural gas, wind, solar, and energy conservation; and it’s events such as this that encourage and inspire students to challenge themselves, expand their minds, and pursue opportunities to further their potential as future industry leaders.”

Each year as part of the Energy Day Academic Program (EDAP), CEEF and CEA partner with local and regional STEM-focused competitions in technology, computing, robotics, and inventions, and the winning teams and students are awarded onstage at an awards ceremony at Energy Day in the fall. These programs provide students with opportunities to learn about robotics, STEM and engineering concepts, problem-solving, teamwork, and technical applications. Competitions include the SeaPerch Challenge, MATE ROV competition, the All Earth Ecobot Challenge, The Science Engineering Fair of Houston, The Houston Affiliate NCWIT Aspiration in Computing Award, the CSTEM Challenge, the Young Inventors’ Showcase, the Energy Day Art, Essay, & Media Contest, and the John Kingsley Kerver Educator Award. 2019 will see several more competitions added to EDAP: National Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB), International Sustainable World Energy Engineering Environment Project (ISWEEEP), and the Conrad Challenge.

During the awards ceremony at 2018 Energy Day Houston, partners and sponsors awarded over $24,000 to 184 students and teachers in 11 categories.

Since EDAP began in 2011, CEEF and CEA have awarded nearly $130,000 to more than 800 K-12 students and teachers at the Energy Day Festival.

For more on this year’s festival – including photos and videos – please click here. The next Houston-based Energy Day is scheduled for Saturday, October 19, 2019.

For more information on the festival, visit the Energy Day Houston website.

Contact:

Colleen McCauley
P: 713-377-3332

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What’s Your STEM Story?

Everyone has a story. I have a story. I tell my story often because I don’t want the same thing to happen to other people. However, my story gets old, so we want to hear your stories.

We have a problem that needs a solution: not enough students stay on a STEM path in school, and therefore we have a workforce development issue in STEM industries.

We think one way to combat this issue is to shatter the stereotypes of who works in these industries. So how do we do that? We can tell your stories. Who are you? What kind of things do you like? What did your journey to get where you are look like?

Your stories give students (especially girls and minorities) an example of what their lives could look like. They can see their future selves in you. We want to provide educators, parents, and students with real stories and content that is relevant and will inspire students to continue on a STEM path (and ultimately want to come work for you).

Another way to break down these stereotypes is to show students what current and future STEM jobs really look like. We want to open their minds to discover that working in a STEM field doesn’t mean they’ll be stuck in a lab or at a computer all day. So what does your company do? How does your organization apply STEM concepts that students are learning to what the company does on a daily basis. And how does your company affect the rest of the world? Why do you exist, and what would our lives be like without the things you do?

Other things that are helpful:

  • Any videos of interviews or activities with employees
  • Any fun activities your organization does outside of an office setting
  • Anything your organization does that would seem outside of the box (something less traditional or non-stereotypical) that we could share with students to show them more about potential careers in this industry
  • Any cool experiments or STEM activities that relate to what your organization does

We’re also asking for students and educators to share their stories with us, and we’ll ultimately have a series on these, so check back for that.

If you’d like to contribute content like this to help us encourage the next generation of STEM leaders, please reach out to Paige Barnes.

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Colorado Energy Day is Just Around the Corner

Energy Day is Saturday, September 22 from 11 to 4 at East High School in Denver!!!

But wait, what the heck is Energy Day?

Well, this free family event started in 2011 in Houston to show students just what it meant to have a job in the energy industry. Instead of the book work that students typically think of, we wanted to showcase fun experiments, neat exhibits, and fun ways to look at science, engineering, technology, and math (STEM) subjects, much of which is shown through the lens of the latest tech. Since then, Energy Day has become one of the premiere energy-focused family festivals in the nation.

Energy Day offers free fun for the whole family. Featuring interactive lessons and activities that are particularly valuable for K-12 students, families, and educators. Additionally, the festival has music, food, contests, and opportunities to interact with industry experts.

Consumer Energy Education Foundation (CEEF) and Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) serve as the principal organizers of the Energy Day Festival.

If you’ve never been a part of Energy Day – check out last year’s event here:

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How To Be a Mentor

Webster defines a mentor as an experienced and trusted adviser. Did/do you have one? Most of us would answer yes. Think about the importance of that person in your life. Now think about how you could be that person to someone else.

Some may think they are not qualified to be a mentor, but trust me, you are. And you are needed! Mentors can be different things to different people; it’s about creating relationships, and we can all do that.

Texas Girls Collaborative Project has partnered with Nepris and others to create a site for people to come together for STEM volunteering purposes (think match.com for STEM). Check out Texas STEM Connections to see how easy it is to get involved and change a young person’s life!

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