NOAA Education Grants Install Science on a Sphere in Four Science Centers

NOAA's Office of Education, represented by Carrie McDougall, will showcase our efforts in innovative science education at the annual conference of the Association of Science-Technology Centers next week in Richmond, Virginia. On the heels of Education's awarding NOAA Environmental Literacy Grants to four Association members, Carrie will discuss new visualization technologies in science museums and centers. The Association represents over 400 hands-on science museums around the world. NOAA grants will cover installation of our Science on a SphereTM system and the development of related programming. Grants were awarded to the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, California; the Bishop Museum in Honolulu; the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore; and the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul.

Science on a Sphere makes a classroom visit.

Science on a Sphere brings the world into the classroom.

Photo by Will von Dauster

Six feet in diameter and about five feet off the ground, the 200-pound, 68-inch fiberglass sphere has been captivating audiences since December 2002. Four 3,000-lumen projectors and four personal computers synchronize and blend animated images from global environmental data sets. Images include the Earth's topography, bathymetry, weather events, weather prediction models, and past and future climate change. Viewers can watch 500 years of changing climate or travel back to the time when the Earth's continents were one large land mass. They can see the sun erupting in spectacular solar storms. "Science on a Sphere is limited only by our imagination," said its creator Sandy MacDonald, director of NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory Global Systems Divsion in Boulder, Colorado.

Science on a Sphere owes its start to a beach ball. Sandy reported thinking about the concept several years before its development. Using a beach ball, he did some experiments on the deck of his home. His aim was to develop a "spectacular tool" to explain NOAA science to a variety of audiences. Sandy's brainchild is a highly creative, exciting way to present NOAA global science and operations to the public. In June, NOAA inaugurated a Science on a Sphere initiative at Nauticus, the National Maritime Center, in Norfolk. Between June and September, Nauticus educators led almost 9,000 students in formal education programs interpreting data sets from the Sphere. More than 50,000 others observed Science on a Sphere and participated in informal demonstrations. With a focus on hurricanes, Whirling Weather, a new educational demonstration, has since been developed for school groups. Sandy and his team -- Bill Bendel, Michael Biere, Phyllis Gunn, Dave Himes, Rhonda Lange and Will von Dauster - came up with a great tool for communicating the importance of NOAA's mission to many different audiences.

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