Out On A Mission

May 25, 2017 |

Ok, first things first: At Acera, we love science. Not just the capital S science, the big discoveries and concepts, but also the lower case science, the curious, messy, murky activity that is hard and takes time and tenacity and failure and problem solving and ingenuity… And yes, we see science — and engineering and math and technology and design — everywhere.

So, no wonder we’ve been excited this spring to engage people of all ages at the Cambridge Science Festival‘s Carnival & Robot Zoo, the Boston Science March for Kids, and at our school, where we hosted our own Innovator Symposium for the fifth time in April. Check out these photos and summaries, and enjoy the curiosity and creativity that are threading through it all!

Acera’s Spring Innovator Symposium

It’s a good night for science in society when at an Innovator Symposium, the distinction between activities for children and those for adults becomes irrelevant. At our spring symposium, that’s exactly what happened: Elementary students questioned Tufts University’s Will Collins, for example, about biopolymer engineering — and his group’s work on making a functional model of the human brain out of, yes, silk. Meanwhile, grown ups tried their hand at making a wooden fidget spinner in Acera’s woodshop or at connecting circuits as they made light-up wearables.

In doing so, 200+ visitors learned a little thing or two about a scientific concept or problem (How does electric current work? Why is it hard for robots to push and pull? How can you sort DNA by size?) and engaged with science both experientially and intellectually. From novel cancer immunotherapy drugs to programmable tattoos to a VR Doodler to a lionfish-catching robot, the wealth of subjects presented mirrored the wealth of interesting work that goes on in Greater Boston. It is a privilege to be able to break down the walls between science and society, between the start up incubators, labs & research giants and the rest of us who walk by these places every once in a while, in this way. A big thanks to all the scientists, researchers and innovators who joined us to share their work — we could not do it without you!

Cambridge Science Festival

If you think there is a limited number of ways to build a weight-bearing structure out of popsicle and chop sticks, rubber bands, tape, office clips and string, think again. People are so incredibly creative! At the Cambridge Science Festival, we presented this structural engineering challenge — including five industrial five-pound weights to test every creation — to the public, and were so very impressed with the many design solutions especially the kids came up with. As with other activities in previous years, we brought this challenge to the CSF in part to showcase that one doesn’t need expensive equipment or a degree in anything to explore science & engineering, and have fun learning.

Boston Science March for Kids

This one was a design challenge in itself! For the great community gathering in support of science, we needed an engaging science activity that could be done by potentially hundreds of kids, using materials that were affordable and easy to transport to an extremely crowded space. Also, we are big on meaning — at our school, we try to encourage students: don’t just design or make a thing, create something that has personal meaning or tells a story, or that is useful to you and others (or all three!) So, also given the larger political context, we wanted this engagement to be meaningful.

Some 400 hacked jelly rings, a few rounds of copper tape and hundreds of poster sheets later, we couldn’t have been prouder of what kids (and, again, grown ups) created with a simple prompt: They hacked a toy to light up their march posters, or first created their own march poster and then lit it up. Posters read “Science is fun!” or “Peace. Love. Science.” or “There is no planet B” and many other slogans students had come up with.  So much fun, and yes, a great event to be a part of.