NYC students make STEM learning cool

Mayim Bialik's smarts aren't just for show on "The Big Bang Theory": the actress is also a neuroscientist who is working with STEM Hollywood.
Mayim Bialik’s smarts aren’t just for show on “The Big Bang Theory”: The actress is also a neuroscientist who is working with STEM Hollywood.

A number of New York City high school students have been busy getting a jump on the Silicon Valley scene this summer, attending workshops and competitions geared toward developing skills in science, technology, engineering and math, known as STEM.

Zombies on your iPad

If your kids aren’t old enough to design mobile apps or “MacGuyver” a Morse code transmitter, you can download a new series of science videos and lessons designed by Texas Instruments with the National Academy of Sciences’ Science & Entertainment Exchange Program.

The videos and lessons, available at Stemhollywood.com, cover topics like zombies, superheroes and space. They feature Mayim Bialik, neuroscientist and actress from “The Big Bang Theory.” Bialik is joined by several leading scientists and mathematicians, including Dr. Steve Schlozman, a Harvard medical professor and zombie expert.

STEM Hollywood’s videos and lessons can be downloaded to tablets, PCs and Macs, as well as Texas Instruments’ TI-Nspire CX graphing calculator (pictured above).

Studying zombies is a great way to learn about how the human brain functions and to think about the way that contagious diseases spread in terms of math, according to Schlozman. But don’t worry about an actual zombie apocalypse happening.

“It won’t,” Schlozman said, “I want to be absolutely clear about that.”

‘Burn Notice’ Science Challenge

Three rising sophomores attending Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School placed second in the first “Burn Notice” Science Challenge, a national competition inspired by USA network’s successful spy series.

According to Drew Tomback and twin brothers James and Hugh Savoldelli, friends and classmates are “kinda jealous.” The boys won $5,000 for their device: a set of garage door openers that they converted into Morse code transmitters and receivers. They designed a tool that “Burn Notice” characters could create using an everyday household item and that could be deployed quickly, they said.

“This allows spies to talk to each other through Morse code by using ordinary household products,” said Tomback. ”Obviously a portion of [the money] may be used towards college,” said Tomback, “and another will go to fund our future science projects.”

The competition was the brainchild of Matt Nix, creator and executive producer of “Burn Notice,” said Toby Graff, the senior vice president of public affairs at USA Network. The challenges were designed to be exciting and creative but also safe, she said. And the boys assured us that safety was the name of the game. “You can’t get your hand blown off doing this,” the boys said. See more of the challenge in their video:

BNSC DrewTomback&JamesSavoldelli&Hugh&Savoldelli from USA Network on Vimeo.

Samsung Mobile App Academy

Nomi Kaplan worked with 30 New York City high school students in a two-day workshop where they learned how to design and pitch ideas for mobile apps last week. Students learned how to create design briefs for apps that could improve the education system or streamline medical care.

“We have them work on projects exactly as we would in the real world,” said Kaplan, who works as a creative project manager in mobile app development. In addition to receiving their own own Samsung Galaxy Note tablets, attendees now have two weeks to pitch their own apps and win up to $20,000 in academic scholarships, Kaplan said.

Kaplan said the workshops were designed to generate an interest in careers in technology. ”There’s a lot of room to play and a lot of room to be very innovative,” she said.

Cool toy alert: LittleBits Exploration Kits

These kits give curious boys and girls all the tools they need to build their own flashlights, alarms, glow-in-the-dark iPhone cases and more. The kits come with simple color-coded electronic “bits” that fit together with other pieces to become objects that light up, rotate, pulse and perform other functions — no wiring required.

“Our mission is to make the world of electronics fun and accessible to everyone by breaking modern-day technology down to its most fundamental parts,” says LittleBits founder Ayah Bdeir, an MIT Media Lab alumna and TED senior fellow. New kits launch Sept. 14 at Littlebits.cc. — Meredith Engel


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