From: "Hakkinen, Pertti (NIH/NLM) [E]" <hakkinenp**At_Symbol_Here**MAIL.NLM.NIH.GOV>
Subject: [DCHAS-L] FYI, "Reimagining the Chemistry Set for the 21st Century."
Date: Wed, 7 May 2014 23:00:01 +0000
Reply-To: DCHAS-L <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU>
Message-ID: 1B0D948C892F7C4FA8746EA53E4A24E81DE8F3BC**At_Symbol_Here**

FYI, I saw this today from the (U.S.) White House Office of Science and Technology Policy:

Reimagining the Chemistry Set for the 21st Century.

Excerpt (full text is available via the link above):

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has championed the use of prize competitions to source new ideas from citizen solvers and spur innovation on issues such as STEM education and beyond. In order to find new ways to engage young people in STEM-related activities, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation recently partnered with the Society for Science & the Public on the SPARK (Science Play and Research Kit) Competition, a national prize competition to solicit ideas that reimagine the chemistry set for the 21st century.

We had the chance to speak with Janet Coffey, Program Officer at the Moore Foundation, recently about the Spark Competition. Here is a transcript of the conversation:

What inspired you and Society for Science & the Public to run this competition?

The ?chemistry set? is really a metaphor for playful, self-guided discovery, like that offered to an earlier generation by the classic chemistry set. Decades ago, these kits facilitated children?s curiosity and exploration, dared them to ask and pursue their own questions, and captured their imaginations through the joy of science. Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel and our foundation, attributes his pursuit of a career in science and technology to his childhood chemistry set. He?s not alone. Scientists and science enthusiasts over a certain age often credit their childhood use of chemistry sets as the initial ?spark? that helped fuel lifelong engagement with science.

Now, the exciting chemicals in classic chemistry sets are illegal. And many of the other open-ended ways that children from past generations learned to explore the world are harder to come by.

In this competition, we wanted to address this gap. We were looking for new ideas to get children ?hooked? on science, so we wanted ideas that took advantage of children?s propensity to play and ask questions, allowed them to tinker, puzzle, and revel in the messiness of exploration and discovery ? not unlike what the classic chemistry set once did, and not unlike what real scientists do.

Running a competition allowed us to cast a wide net, to reach individuals and communities who may not be on our radar screen, and to source novel ideas.

What ideas rose to the top?

We received some fantastic entries! For example:

An inexpensive hand-held, programmable chemistry set inspired by a music box that makes fully accessible ?microfluidics?, a technology that relies on microchips containing miniature pipes, valves, and pumps to carry out a wide variety of chemistry or biology experiments;
A bioelectricity toy that extends the more typical electric circuits to include use of the body?s electrical currents to turn on bulbs and fans, opening up the world of neuroscience to kids and adults alike;
A toy with embedded sensors that captures data from the physical world to make streams of information all around us more visible and can extend to online communities who are using data to consider real-world problems like building more sustainable communities; and
A ?maker? kit that uses crafts as the vehicle for engaging children, particularly girls and youth from underrepresented communities, with electric circuits and Arduino programming.


Bert Hakkinen

Pertti (Bert) J. Hakkinen, Ph.D.
Acting Head, Office of Clinical Toxicology
Specialized Information Services
National Library of Medicine
National Institutes of Health
United States Department of Health and Human Services

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