Friday, March 6, 2009

American sciences/technology status poll

Has America lost its leading status in the sciences/technology?

Yes--2 [40%]
No--3 [60%]

The loss of superiority in the sciences and technology is not necessarily a bad thing. Since World War II, the United States had been the front runner. But in the 1980s things began to there are more players in science and technology partially driven by economics. Cheap labor and favorable educational plans are pluses. Now America doesn't dominate things of "space". Count them: China, Russia, India, Japan--all have active space programs. The world has changed. There are more players that have intellect and wealth and know how to play the economic game and deliver the goods. This is a good thing...a larger community of countries involved in science. Of course all of this has to have a balance and not let economics or military strategy become dominate forces. Cooperation among the leading countries is needed. No longer will one nation hold all the cards and no longer will the efficacy of a nation be measured by dominance in science and technology.

Maybe a circus would help...

"Physics circus emphasis more Hawking than Barnum"


Sommer Ingram

March 5th, 2009

The Lariat online

Baylor University

The circus has come to town for students in the Waco and LaVega school districts.

Baylor's Center for Astrophysics, Space Physics and Engineering Research, or CASPER, is putting on its annual physics circus for the city's youth in the Mayborn Museum Complex.

The circus has been running since Feb. 16 for local students, but will open to the public next week (March 9-13). There will be one performance each day at 12:30 p.m., and admission is $5. The circus will be performed entirely in Spanish on March 19 from 6 to 8 p.m. This performance is free to the public.

"The Circus has proven over the years to be of great interest to students, teachers and parents, even those outside the cohort group. Historically, we've had school systems call in from north of Dallas and south of Houston wanting to bring their students to Waco to see the circus," said Dr. Truell Hyde, vice provost for research and director of CASPER. "In general, we've got every seat full--two shows a day for over a month."

The Physics Circus was started in the 2000-2001 school year in an effort to address the lack of employees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, fields.

"The U.S. is no longer producing enough graduates in these areas to remain competitive globally much less fill the open STEM jobs that are now being vacated as people retire from these fields," Hyde said. "Since these areas are ones directly related to the economic health and overall security of the nation, this is a problem that must be solved. The Physics Circus is meant to encourage children in local school districts to go to college and consider majoring in a STEM field."

The circus is a theatrical performance designed to help students apply science concepts to real-life experience. This year's presentation is titled "How Big is the Universe?" and focuses on the characteristics and composition of the universe.

"The script for the show correlates 100 percent with what the students have been learning," said Dr. Cyndi Hernandez, educational outreach director for CASPER. "In hiring the actors for this show, I wanted to make sure they could relate to the children. I want them to see that a scientist can be hip and cool as well as intelligent."

Hernandez developed a two-week curriculum for teachers of students currently in the eighth and ninth grades, as well as a kit with science materials to use during classroom instruction. Before the lessons began, the students were given a pre-test on their attitudes about science and their content knowledge, and will be tested again at the end of the year.

"Each cycle, we start out with a cohort group who knows very little about these subjects," Hyde said. "Many of the children within the cohort group have never even considered a science-related job and have no idea of the impact such a job can have on them over the course of a lifetime."

The Physics Circus also features a Fun House where participants engage in hands-on demonstrations, a light show and a game show.

In the game show, students are randomly chosen from the audience to answer a series of questions in hopes of winning a prize.

"This kind of hands-on material is just what these kids need," Hernandez said. "They're loving it. I do this because I love to see the kids get excited about science. You could never emulate what we're doing in a regular classroom."

Hernandez intends to keep making improvements to the circus every year so that it will evolve as the students progress through school.

"I would love to develop a full year's worth of activities and curriculum," she said. "We want to get these kids all the way out of poverty. Their potential has been hidden for so long because they haven't had the opportunities or encouragement they needed."

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