The last creature I would ever think to fingerprint would be an E. coli microbe. First, it doesn’t have fingers. And second, it’s gross. But then again, I’m not biological sciences professor Chris Kitts, who has pioneered the Cal Poly Library of Pyroprints (CPLOP) and spends much of his time helping biological sciences students fingerprint the gross, fingerless little bacteria.
In the fall I was lucky to travel to UCLA to talk about… well, basically about what I’ve learned so far from working at this library. The talk is called Libraries Can Be Loud, which I meant literally and metaphorically. I illustrated the story of what I’ve learned through the tale of a particularly adventurous Cal Poly Science Cafe. It involved a bunch of stuff I still don’t understand — how arduinos and code can work together with the internet to make an interactive game that involves tin cans, helium balloons, live scoring and a lot of fun throwing tennis balls down our iconic concrete staircase. You can read more about that day elsewhere.
The found objects included scraps of paper, foam hair curlers and plastic dinosaurs. The task? To build an ideal city using these disparate objects. With minimal instruction to encourage creative thinking, 140 people began building. They stood around tables in the second floor cafe area, working together to make cities unlike the ones we know, limited only by their imagination and plastic dinosaurs.
What do nanotechnology, bionics, Japanese bookbinding and coffee cupping have in common? They’ve all been featured topics at Cal Poly Science Cafe, an informal speaker series founded at Kennedy Library in 2008 that explores compelling topics with an expert (or two). We’ve expanded the series to include areas outside of science, as a reflection of all that is taught at Cal Poly.
In my garage at home I carefully drilled small holes into a plastic bin that had once held guitar magazines. The worms had arrived at our doorstep earlier that day and I needed to make a home for them to live in until our final Cal Poly Science Cafe event of the 2011-2012 academic year on May 24, 2012.
That was about a week away and I was nervous about keeping the worms happy. I’m not sure why since they’re not that fussy and I’ve successfully kept dogs, cats, fish and plants alive. Nevertheless, I did some worried consulting with Hunter Francis, the Director of the CAFES Center for Sustainability, who assured me the worms would be just fine.
Indeed, they were and looking industrious during Hunter’s portion of Transformed! Closing the Loop with Worms, when he assembled a worm box while explaining the benefits of vermicomposting. Miguel, a Cal Poly student, was the lucky Science Cafe guest who won the worm box at the end of our get together. Miguel was excited to take the vermi-house home, where the worms now live on under his care and food scraps. I asked him to send us an occasional update via Facebook, to let us know the worms are well.
Beyond the small scale, Ralph Crevoshay, President of VermiVision, explained the history of vermicomposting (thanks Charles Darwin) and how it can be successfully used in large scale agricultural endeavors. They’re installing a system right here at Cal Poly, which is available to those affiliated with the university to use as a means to study different phenomenon that happen as part of vermicomposting. Learn more in the video below or by visiting our event page.
We hope to see you this fall for a new year of Science Cafes! Find out when they’re happening by joining us on Facebook.
Recap — green won with 19 and gold came in at 17! Then it was a free-for-all as we threw dozens of remaining tennis balls down the grand staircase for fun. Good times, good, good times. You can read all about it here or on Boing Boing.
Cal Poly Science Cafe welcomed Michael J. Newman and Scott Hutchinson in February, and together we totally transformed our seventy-two concrete steps into a giant live game board. We used 1,200 feet of wire, 48 Internet-connected tin cans decorated with green and gold balloons and, of course, tennis balls. The really awesome thing — beyond throwing balls down a staircase, in a library — was that the cans were connected to a live scoring site which players could view on their mobile devices or on displays throughout the library.
Here’s an interview with Scott and Michael about their inspiration and philosophy in making things for fun, along with some tech details:
We also have an awesome montage of the event.
To see the photo album of our fun go to Kennedy Library Flickr, where this photo is from.
You can read more about it and get source files on Michael’s site, Pomp.