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As most people realize, learning does not end at school. In addition to hosting hundreds of lectures, workshops, symposia, and conferences each year for the scientific community, the STCs are devoted to lifelong learning by providing a wealth of educational programs for the general public. Many of these efforts present science in ways that are easily comprehended by students at all levels and by those people who are no longer in school.

The Liquid Crystal Wall at the Akron Art Museum's hands-on EXPLORE & DISCOVER XI exhibition, created with the help of the Center for Advanced Liquid Crystalline Optical Materials. As children touched the surface the wall changed colors before their eyes. During the months of the hands-on exhibition, the attendance at the museum was a record 29,953.

Collaborations with Museums and Planetariums

Science museums and planetariums provide STCs with tremendous opportunities for creating science literacy and awareness among the general public. They also are less formal settings where people are comfortable in learning about science and have been a popular way for the STCs to reach new audiences. Some examples include:
  • At the Museum of Long Island Natural Sciences, hands-on educational programs for schools sponsored by the Center for High Pressure Research let participants make diamonds and discover the relationship of earthquakes, volcanoes, and the Earth's magnetic field to what is happening thousands of miles beneath the surface. More than 10,000 primary school children visit this museum each year.
  • The Southern California Earthquake Center created one of the most popular exhibits for the two million people who visited the California Museum of Science and Industry in 1993. The exhibit includes a light box showing the wall of a trench across the San Andreas Fault and a timeline of past earthquakes spanning almost 2,000 years. A computer-driven part of the exhibit plots earthquakes through time on a world map and allows visitors to view the earthquake activity in smaller regions, such as California. Real- time information on earthquake activity is also displayed in this part of the exhibit.
  • The Center for Clouds, Chemistry, and Climate has helped to create an exhibit at the Stephen-Birch Aquarium-Museum of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego. The exhibit provides an interactive look at a wide range of subjects related to oceanography in several basic sciences. Both institutions have also formed a partnership to develop a teacher education program. More than half a million people visit the aquarium-museum each year.
  • The Center for Light Microscope Imaging and Biotechnology has worked with the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh on a multimedia exhibit entitled "Journey into the Cell." The show takes observers through the workings of a single live human cell.
  • The Center for Particle Astrophysics is developing a show on the origins of the universe. The show presents modern cosmology from a multicultural perspective, juxtaposing creation stories from a number of different cultures with the scientific explanation of the Big Bang theory. In an attempt to expand the outreach effort, the show will be sent to inner-city and rural audiences.
  • The Center for Astrophysical Research in Antarctica (CARA) is unique among the STC program in having a planetarium as a full partner. Since 1990, the Adler Planetarium has played a significant role in determining the direction of CARA's educational programs. The center works with other planetariums as well. For example, CARA has helped to launch the German opening of an IMAX film entitled "Antarctica" shown at the Deutsches Museum in Munich, Germany. Planetarium shows created by the center have drawn more than 200,000 attendees.
  • The Center for the Analysis and Prediction of Storms provided support to the Kirkpatrick Planetarium in Oklahoma City to develop a multimedia program on the connections between meteorology and astronomy. The program will first be intended for students in grades 3-6, but will be further adapted in the future for older students and the general public.
  • Staff at The Geometry Center have collaborated withe Science Museum of Minnesota to create an exhibit on triangle tilings and polyhedra. The museum exhibit includes a set of shapes for building physical models of polyhedra, and a Silicon Graphics workstation running center software. Using the software, visitors generate various animated, three-dimensional shapes. Approximately 750,000 people annually visit the museum, which is in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Disseminating Information to the Public

STC staff devote time and resources to making the public aware of STC efforts in research and education. This is achieved through newsletters, correspondence, online information, video presentations, visits, invited talks, public awareness programs, and other means. This audience includes representatives from businesses, professional organizations, and government who must deal with educational issues on an everyday basis.


Talks hosted by the STCs are another effective way of generating public interest in STC research and in science overall. Frequently, people become interested in a subject after initially hearing a presentation by a famous scientist on a topic of current interest. The Center for Particle Astrophysics (CfPA) sponsored two lectures that drew 2,000 attendees each-one of these lectures was given by eminent physicist Stephen Hawking. The CfPA Speaker's Bureau, begun in 1991, sends center scientists to talk at schools, public forums, science organizations, science fairs, and to industry. More than 50 such talks were given in the 1992-93 school year, 12 of which were to K-12 students. The center is also a resource for the media, with center research being featured in the PBS series "The Astronomers" and in numerous national and international publications.

The Center for Astrophysical Research in Antarctica sends center faculty and graduate students to various places to give talks. Eleven center personnel have given more than 65 talks since 1989. The biggest of these lectures have taken place at the Adler Planetarium, the Hayden Planetarium, and the National Air and Space Museum.


All of the STCs have newsletters or regular publications to keep people informed of STC activities in research, education, and other areas. These newsletters are distributed to universities, secondary schools, elementary schools, libraries, corporations, and government agencies and laboratories throughout the United States and abroad. The Center for Ultrafast Optical Science publishes a newsletter documenting education activities at all the STCs. This newsletter provides a comprehensive look at how the STCs bring their educational goals to life. For the first two years of its existence, the newsletter was published by the Center for Particle Astrophysics.

Online Information

With educators increasingly having access to the Internet, electronic bulletin boards have become another effective means of distributing STC information. Information systems are available at the Center for Research on Parallel Computation, the Center for Discrete Mathematics and Computer Science and the Center for Biological Timing. Internet users can look up information on activities within these centers and send in comments or questions through electronic mail. In addition, The Geometry Center maintains the "Geometry Forum," an electronic bulletin board on the Internet devoted to issues in all forms and levels of geometry. Other STCs have online information for technical reports, calendars of events, and other items.

Video Presentations

Video provides an expressive medium for disseminating information about STC activities and research findings to the public. Video presentations, for instance, are useful to educators at all levels for supplementing multimedia presentations and standard lectures. The Center for Biological Timing has nearly 50 tapes available for public use. These tapes document the center's lectures and seminars, including a complete set of lectures on its Summer Biological Timing course. Another STC has helped to capture the visual wonder of science on video with perhaps the ultimate in slow-motion photography. The Center for Ultrafast Optical Science has produced a 13-minute video called "Light in Flight," which actually shows the motion of photons travelling at the speed of light across and through various objects. Such ultraslow-motion imagery illustrates the potential of short-pulse lasers for medical diagnostic imaging and for probing ultrafast phenomena such as chemical reactions.

In another use of visual technology, videoconferencing has allowed some of the STCs to expand beyond their geographical limits in several educational initiatives. For example, the Center for Computer Graphics and Scientific Visualization has been using a video telecommunications (VTC) network to support participation in educational workshops and to teach a graduate-level advanced graphics seminar simultaneously at all its five sites (Cornell University, Brown University, the University of North Carolina, Caltech, and the University of Utah).

Public Awareness Programs

The STCs raise public awareness in many areas of science. For instance, the Southern California Earthquake Center has a set of initiatives that keep the southern California community updated with information on earthquakes. Center scientists have worked with the City and County of Los Angeles, the State of California, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to develop methods for using earthquake hazard data in public safety programs. The center also distributes earthquake bulletins to the public, works with PBS on documentaries containing earthquake-related material, and has prepared more than 50 one-minute educational radio spots for "LA Underground," a program on earthquake-based issues for KFWB-AM. The center was particularly active during the 6.6 Northridge earthquake crisis of January 17, 1994. The quake, declared to be one of the single largest natural disasters in U.S. history, prompted the educational staff to conduct special workshops for teachers and to provide scientific information to them as well as to the media and the public.The Southern California Earthquake Center helps keep the southern California community updated with information on earthquakes. Center scientists have helped to develop methods for using earthquake hazard data in public safety programs. The center also distributes bulletins to the public, works with PBS on documentaries containing earthquake-related material, and has prepared more than 50 one-minute educational radio spots for "LA Underground," a program on earthquake-based issues for KFWB-AM.

Other STCs raise public awareness by addressing cultural stereotypes in creative ways. The Geometry Center has developed the "Gallery of Mathematicians," which documents the lives of living mathematicians. The goal of the initiative is to make the public realize that there are people alive today doing important things in the field of mathematics. The "gallery" is distributed as a poster and a calendar.

With funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Center for Engineering Plants for Resistance Against Pathogens has contributed to a 4-H program called "What's in Food." The program focuses on developing greater public awareness, literacy, and understanding about what technologies and scientific research are used for food safety and quality. The program features hands-on experiments and addresses scientific concepts and issues such as risk management and toxicity.

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