March 20, 2009

Gearing Up For The Maker Faire 2009!

It's official! GalaxyGoo is taking The Cell Project to the Maker Faire again! We got our acceptance notice today.

So, now the planning and preparations begin! We had so much fun last year!

Would like to get involved? If so, please contact me at galaxygoo -at- gmail -dot- com, with "GalaxyGoo Cell Project" in the subject line. We're getting ready to move to a new web hosting company, so please use our gmail account until we're all settled into the new server.

Some of the things we need help with:

  • Volunteers to help set up and take down the booth
  • Volunteers to help staff the booth and help with the activity. We were very busy last year, and had a hard time keeping up with all the visitors to our booth.
  • photography during the event
  • Have you done the activity yourself? Take pictures of your cells and share your photos with us on flickr.
  • Donations are always welcome
  • Give the Cell Project to a teacher or a whole classroom!
  • Got an idea? Tell us about it!

July 07, 2008


GalaxyGoo got a big mention in Edutopia online, as part of an article on the Maker Faire.

If you're not familiar with Edutopia, it's published by the George Lucas Educational Foundation.

May 02, 2008

Bay Area Backroads at Maker Faire

Today, at the Maker Faire, I was interviewed for Bay Area Backroads. I'm not quite sure how people get used to having cameras pointing at them, as it certainly unsettled me.

It was actually kind of cool. I didn't see that they had a camera, at first. They asked me what we were setting up for...and I was just myself, talking about the Cell Project. Then they wired me up with a mic, and started shooting. I have to say that they were a little more reserved once the camera started running, and I think this made me a little more reserved as well.

I'm learning that when it comes to filming, I do much better when I don't know the camera's running. All I can say is, well....I hope they edit it well, and that GalaxyGoo at least gets a mention in the show (which should air in the Fall).

April 28, 2008

Bay Area Maker Faire Education Day: Friday, May 2nd

The Maker Faire is fast approaching. In fact, it's this weekend!

This year, they're trying out something new. They've invited the Makers to start a day early, and to participate in a special day just for students and educators. Admission is free for Education Day!

That's right, if you're a teacher, and you'd like to come to a special open house just for educators, go sign up right now!

I'll be conducting a special workshop for teachers, on making cell models. If you're going to be there, please contact me so that I can be sure to have enough clay on had for you to do the workshop. Did I mention that teachers get in for free?!

The open house for teachers is scheduled for 4-6pm. Earlier in the day, I'll be doing some demonstrations for students, who will be there on field trips from school.

April 09, 2008

You can help local schools!

It's that time of year again, when schools across the country hold their annual benefit auctions. These can be a lot of fun, and auction committees are always looking for great items to add to their catalogs.

Do your friends at work have kids? Ask them if you can make a donation to their school's auction!

Here are some donation ideas:

  • Gift certificates for dinner at your favorite local restaurant

  • Do you work somewhere cool? Offer a tour! Be sure to check with your boss on this one.

  • Got season tickets? Donate tickets for a game or performance.

  • Go to an art store, and put together an arts and crafts supply basket

  • Gift certificates to any store!

  • Are you a musician? Offer to play at a party.

  • Are you a designer? Offer 2-3 hours of design consulting. Be strict on what you offer here, or you could find yourself giving more than you originally intended. While you've donated your services, the person with the winning bid is still your client.

  • Check if your company makes matching gifts when employees make donations, and double your donation

  • ...

There are so many more things to give. Different schools run different auctions. Some like to focus on gift certificates, some on tangible goods, most combine both.

February 25, 2008

GalaxyGoo goes to The Maker Faire

That's right, GalaxyGoo's Cell Project was accepted to the Maker Faire! WooHooo! We just got official notice.

See me at Maker Faire!

November 20, 2007

The GalaxyGoo Flash-a-thon

The GalaxyGoo Flash-a-thon is coming! Starting Dec 10th!

We've got a bunch of really talented folks contributing their projects, with source code!

+ Branden Hall
+ Edwin Heijmen
+ Kristin Henry
+ Mike Johnson
+ Seb Lee-Delisle
+ Stacey Mulcahy
+ Keith Peters
+ Ben Stucki
+ and some great surprise guests!

This online event supports the educational projects at GalaxyGoo. Continue reading for more information...

Continue reading "The GalaxyGoo Flash-a-thon" »

July 30, 2007

About the Blue Marble


While it looks a lot like the photo taken by Apollo astronauts, you may be surprised to know that this popular image of Earth is not actually a snapshot. Robert Simmon, who worked on this for NASA's Earth Observatory, was kind enough to answer a few quick questions about this image from the Blue Marble project.

KH: What's different from the picture that the astronauts did take?

RS: Instead of being a snapshot, this picture is a composite: one month of images taken from a satellite were combined together into a single map.

KH: How did you create that image?

RS: I used a 3D program (Electric Image) to render out separate "layers" (surface, clouds, fake atmosphere, and a fake specular highlight (the shiny spot)). I then combined the separate layers in Photoshop, which gave me individual control over opacity, brightness, contrast, color, and saturation. Source imagery and the high-resolution final results are here:

KH: How much science goes on before you do your part?

RS: Lots! The raw data--collected as individual pixels from 440 miles above the Earth--need to be processed to account for everything from the curvature of the Earth to influence of the atmosphere and optical properties of the instrument. These are then stored in a data archive as thousands of individual images, called scenes. Literally hundreds of NASA workers are involved in this part of the process, which is automated and goes on continuously, day and night (about a terabyte a day of data are processed for a single instrument). A colleague of mine, Reto Stckli, then processed one season's worth of these scenes to remove clouds, snow, and other things blocking the satellite's view of the surface, and built a single composite image of the surface. He also made an image of the clouds from two days of data. We've subsequently developed a series of even more detailed maps for each month of 2004:

KH: Why are clouds hard to get right?

RS: The hardest part (for me) of creating the image was getting the cloud to look realistic. The color and brightness of a real cloud is due to a combination of its thickness and the angle of the surface to the sun. Unfortunately our cloud map is only a two-dimensional approximation of the cloud's opacity. It took many hours of experimenting with brightness curves and layer transfer modes in Photoshop to get clouds that looked right, and I'm still not happy with the final result.

KH: Why didn't you get credit for it?

RS: I work (through a contracting company) for NASA--part of the federal government, so the image is in the public domain.

KH: What does it mean that the image is in the public domain?

RS: Anyone can use it however they like, with the exception of using an image form NASA to imply that NASA endorses your product or service.

KH: What other images have you worked on?

RS: The most widely-seen is probably an image of the Earth's city lights at night. I also create images on a daily basis for the NASA Earth Observatory.


For more information on the Blue Marble, visit the History of Blue Marble: BlueMarble_2002 and BlueMarble_history.

June 26, 2007

What is Flash?

Flash! What is it?!

An vector illustration and animation tool?
A video format?
A programming paradigm?
AS3 + movie clips?
Endless font frustrations?
A tool for developing specialized Flex components?

I'm heading out for the Gordon Research Conference on Visualization in Science and Education this week. While there, I will undoubtedly be talking about Flash a lot...about what I do with it. About interaction, and dynamic animation, ...

A lot of people have an idea of what Flash is, and what it can do. Do they have the complete picture? What would you say, if someone asked you what Flash is?

June 13, 2007

GalaxyGoo Flash-a-thon?

GalaxyGoo has participated in the Blogathon twice now. It's been a lot of fun and we posted some great experimental Flash projects.

It's time for us to spin off on our own, with a less hectic schedule and more community participation. I'm thinking that we should spread the posts out over a few weeks and encourage the community to post links to their adaptations. Perhaps we should arrange some nice prizes.

We need a name! Current candidates are "GalaxyGoo-a-thon" and "Flash-a-thon". Obviously, we need more ideas.

June 06, 2007

Where I'm stuck, with importing Mathematica FLV into Flash

Below is a short description of how I might import a video file into Flash. I wrote it to explain to the folks at Wolfram what I want to do with flv or swf files generated by Mathematica . I'm hoping that someone may have some insights on how to resolve the problem I'm having when working with the files generated by Mathematica in Flash. Please note that this is not a tutorial. If it was, I'd be a lot more careful about defining my terms and not leaving out any steps or details.

Continue reading "Where I'm stuck, with importing Mathematica FLV into Flash" »

June 04, 2007

Adobe needs a Science and Education Evangelist!

The scientific and education communities use Adobe products extensively. Does Adobe have an evangelist that serves their needs? If not, why?

I'd like to see Adobe doing more to meet the needs of scientists and educators. I'd like to see Adobe at the next AAAS national meeting, as exhibitors--a big booth with demonstrations of the current releases of Photoshop, Flash, and the rest. Introduce them to AS3 in'd be surprised how often I meet scientists/programmers who have no idea that Flash has a scripting language, let alone one with the capabilities of AS3!

Why do I want Adobe to do this? Because it will make my life a lot easier! Adobe now owns most of the software that I use in my work. The more scientists and educators know about Flash, the sooner I can get to the project brainstorming and development aspects of my work. We will all start to build even more compelling and useful learning tools.

March 16, 2007

Photos from Family Science Days

Some photos of our booth, from the professional photographer who covered the whole conference. The kids were really into it. I think some of the parents wished there was enough room for them to play, too.

GalaxyGoo at AAAS Family Science Days ( photo1 | photo2 | photo3 )

We've also started a Cell Project Flickr group, and we're hoping to see a whole bunch of cell models showing up.

February 15, 2007

Comments turned off on some posts

I've turned off comments on some, but not all, of our posts as part of the long defensive battle against blog-comment spammers/vandals. Sometimes it sure seems like we're trapped in a siege-war.

While all comments are moderated, it's still a constant chore to deal with all the spam attacks. The last couple weeks have been particularly bad.

I'm tempted to add captcha, but I'm not sure if the accessibility issues have been worked out yet.

Stage Show Schedule at Family Science Days

The Stage Show Schedule is posted for the Family Science Days, and the Mythbusters are first up on Saturday! I think I have a view of the stage from the GalaxyGoo booth, and I'm looking forward to their show. It would be cool if they'd stop by our booth, and pose for a photo with me. Even better, wearing GalaxyGoo T-shirts :-)

GalaxyGoo's booth is sponsored by Adobe. Also, thanks to the generosity of Friends of Ed, we have some great books to give away. Peter was kind enough to send some copies of New Masters of Flash 3 and LEGO Mindstorms NXT: The Mayan Adventure.

Stage Show Schedule

AAAS Family Science Days
San Francisco Hilton
11:00 AM — 5:00 PM

Saturday, 17 February
11:00 AM "The Mythbusters: Jamie Savage and Adam Hyneman" — The Science Channel
Noon "BioBug: Field to Fuel" — University of Idaho
12:45 PM "Iron Science" — The Exploratorium
1:30 PM "Fun with Science and Astronomy" — The Zula Patrol and KQED Kids!
2:15 PM AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books: Awards ceremony
3:15 PM "Waves in Nature: Lasers to Tsunamis and Beyond" — Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
4:00 PM "The Outreach Roadshow" — Women@SCS Outreach Roadshow, Carnegie Mellon University

Sunday, 18 February
11:00 AM "Name that Mammal!" — Platypus Media
11:45 AM "The Science Hour of Power" — Sikes Science
12:30 PM "Global Warming Discovery" — ClimateChangeEducation.Org
1:15 PM "The Science of Yo-Yos" — Yomega Corp.
2:00 PM "BioBug: Field to Fuel" — The University of Idaho
2:45 PM "Cloud Nine" — How The Weatherworks™
3:30 PM "Robotics: The Next 10 Years" — The Robotics Society of America and San Francisco State University
4:15 PM "Kinetic City" — AAAS

February 05, 2007

Reflecting on IM2.3 at Apple

I'm still recovering from the Image and Meaning workshop I attended last week. Gotta say that our hosts at Apple took wonderful care of us. It's very heartening to know that a big company like Apple, is taking an active role in supporting this work. But then, with a visionary leader like Felice Frankel, it's only natural that Image and Meaning is attracting such support.

The Image and Meaning phenomenon is unlike anything I've ever experienced. My brain will continue percolating this intense, and extremely positive collaborative experience for quite some time. I think it's safe to say that all of the participants are passionate about visually communicating scientific information, and that we are equally concerned with the accuracy of that communication.

The workshop was remarkably interdisciplinary. What does that mean? In my workshop group, we had physicists, artists, biologists, computer scientists, and more. Many of us fell into multiple disciplines, as individuals. To me, "interdisciplinary" also means that I rarely got the "I have a PhD" dropped on me, when someone wanted me to take their words as more heavily weighted than anyone else's (including my own). We were all participants, and were not segregated into groups of "speakers" and "listeners".

It doesn't seem possible that it all took place in under two full days, and I can't wait to do it again! I'm all fired up and eager to take on new challenges.

January 29, 2007

GalaxyGoo at AAAS Family Science Days

GalaxyGoo will be at the AAAS - Annual Meeting Family Science Days! Feb 17-18. Exhibit Hall at the AAAS Annual Meeting, San Francisco Hilton.

We'll be demonstrating some of the off-screen activities from our Cell Project. My favorite is building Cell models out of clay, and looking at the cross-sections. So bring your family along and play! Admission is free!

I hope our booth has a view of the stage, because there are a number of presentations I want to see, espcially by the Mythbusters and Iron Science (from the Exploratorium).

GalaxyGoo's participation in this exciting event was made possible by the efforts of Simon Conlin and the support of Adobe. Thank you!

January 02, 2007

Image and Meaning Workshop

Next month, I head down to Cupertino for a great workshop: Image and Meaning, A collaborative exploration to discover new visual expressions in science and technology.

If you saw me typing this, you might get the impression that I'm very calm about's just that I'm thrilled, beyond excitement and into calm, about getting accepted to the workshop. In case you're curious, for my application, I submitted my bird flu project.

December 19, 2006

Budgeting for Animators, Illustrators, and Video Experts

We're working on a budget for an upcoming with funding that will allow us to hire outside talent for the first time, and where we'll be working with scientists from different fields.

We need to get an idea of the current commercial ranges, and are surveying firms and independent contractors on how they currently budget for the following positions:

  • Head animator/illustrator who will work with me to develop the overall style of the visuals, and help manage production.

  • Illustrators/animators with a solid understanding of animation, user interaction, and Flash.

  • A photographer/videographer who understands challenging lighting situations and can work with glass and liquids.

  • Copy editor (science/technical).

If you'd like to help us out, please use our on-line form to contact us. At this time, we're just looking for budget information. It will be some time before we start looking at portfolios.

December 05, 2006

Air Parcels and Cloud Formation

Last week, I went back to school. Well, just for the day. I’ve been collaborating with a scientist at SFSU on a project for meteorology students, and my participation in the project is just gearing up, now. Dr Garcia packed more than five weeks of material into one lecture for me. He’s a remarkable teacher. My head is still swimming with air parcels, evaporation rates, and condensation rates. Good stuff.

One thing I noticed during the lecture, was how Dr Garcia used the chalkboard. Often, he’d draw a simple diagram, and then draw and redraw details as he explained a concept. He was setting the stage, and then moving the actors around.

In this project, there is a combination of “thought experiments” as well as models of physical science. This could be one of the most tricky things to communicate. The thought experiments are conceptual models that allow us to take a sample of our universe, pretend it’s in an isolated “test tube”, and apply the same physics as one does in a chemistry lab. I may need to add an introduction to the project that helps with this.

October 13, 2006

Recycle Your Cell Phones!

GalaxyGoo is a Recycle My Cell Phone partner. We'll have boxes for collecting old cell phones at our Noe Valley Harvest Festival booth, on Saturday, October 21st.

September 27, 2006

FLY Pentop Computer

I'd love to get my hands on one of these things: Fly Pen Educational Toy | FLY™ Pentop Computer

The computer is in the pen, which writes on special paper as if it was a regular pen. The user interface is much like hand-writing notes with a normal pen on paper. If it really works, then it could be revolutionary. Especially in math education. I'm curious to know how sensitive the recognition is for text, and if it's any better than using a stylus on a screen.

It's unclear how much the special paper really costs. I had a hard time finding an actual number of pages included in any of their "paper" products. And then there's the whole environmental impact issue. How long does the paper last? Is it archivable? Is it recyclable or reusable? Can you erase it?

The website is cool but a bit overproduced, in my opinion. It relies too much on large flash files and voice (without text). It's like to see more straightforward information. There's a lot of waiting for content to load.

March 10, 2006

Does academic boredom lead to drop-outs?

A study commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation finds that most dropouts leave school due to boredom and lack of encouragement. It seems so strange to me that all schools don't challenge and support their students, but an awful lot of highschools fail to give their students either.

One way to provide challenge and support is through project-based learning. But my understanding is that project-based curriculum is dificult to get funding for (not to mention dificult to integrate into a curriculum that "teaches to the test").

So, as a result of this study, will we start seeing better academic programs? Will there be funding for project-based programs that engage the student in an integrated academic setting in all schools?

November 23, 2005

New version of The Cell

We've just uploaded a new version of The Cell: A Learning Tool.

This version includes a feature that lets the user build a cell from a selection of organelles, and checks if the correct organelles have been placed in the cytoplasm.

We've also included questions in the quiz that are more cognitive based.

We still need to add better logic to the quiz, so that the same question isn't repeated and the quiz responds to the user's learning needs.

November 14, 2005

What Makes a Great Conference

It's been so busy around here, that many "news" items just haven't made it to the blog.

This summer, I attended the best conference I've ever been to: the Gordon Research Conference on Visualization in Science and Education. There were several factors that made it such a great conference. First of all, the attendees were all encouraged to participate by presenting posters, so that most attendees were either giving a talk or giving a poster. Also, the speakers were not singled out, or isolated from the rest of the attendees.

The conference was focused on a single track of sessions, and there were more opportunities for talking with the other attendees than at other conferences I've been to. Also, limiting attendees to 125 reduced the chances of getting "lost in the crowd". During the five days of the conference, we ate all of our meals together and there were many opportunities in the day to socialize. We visited several pubs.

For me, attending one of the two-day workshops before the conference began was a great way to get to know people. We broke up into small working groups. I learned a great deal about assessing the effectiveness of learning applications, and got to know some amazing people at the workshop. You could even say that I had a paradigm shift, as a result of the workshop. I'll be writing more about this, as I continue my studies and explorations.

There was also the mini-grant competition. During the course of the conference, we were encouraged to form interdisciplinary teams, design a pilot project, and write a grant application to fund the project. Each team was expected to include a subject expert, a learning expert, and a media expert. The application was due at the end of the conference.

I am pleased to announce that I am part of a team that won funding for a pilot project, through the conference, and the project will include the development of a learning tool built with Flash. The grants were funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

November 11, 2005

Class Based version of CML Reader

Eric Mulvihill contributed a class based update of Edwin's CML reader a while back. It's now available for download on the GalaxyGoo Working Forums - CML reader

June 21, 2005

How to Prepare a Poster

Well, I was searching around for some tips on preparing a poster presentation. I'm finishing up my poster for the conference, and I'm always looking for ways to improve my presentations :-)

Here are some of my own tips for preparing and presenting a poster:

  1. Keep the presentation well organized and uncluttered.
  2. Use plenty of white space
  3. Use effective graphics as much as possible
  4. Use large font for all text. Should be clearly readable from a few feet away.
  5. Use very large font for heading (Title and Author)-should be readable from many feet away
  6. Stand to side of your poster, so that you're not blocking it.
  7. Be prepared to answer questions, but don't interrupt when someone is reading your poster.

Some good resources on preparing a poster presentation:

June 17, 2005

Math Forum's Virtual Tool Fest

Today, I participated in a Feature Event at the Math Forum @ Drexel: Virtual Tool Fest '05. It was a very interesting experience, and I got some great feedback about the All About Ratios and Sine Curve Visualization learning tools from the perspective of teachers in a classroom setting. One point is very clear to me, that we need to develop more thorough documentation on our projects. Activities like this are fantastic, and I want to do them much more often. If we can get sponsorship, I'd like to start hosting breeze sessions.

The transcript of the session is pretty interesting, I think. However, at one point I got distracted and thought Cynthia was asking me about "shockwave flash" instead of "shockwave" and "flash". So, my answer in the transcript is incorrect. Here's an interesting thread on on the confusing naming habits.

June 05, 2005

elearnspace blog

Just discovered this blog, though it's been around for a long time: elearnspace

The post on blended learning is what got my attention. With the cell project, we've been working toward a blended learning toolkit.