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Below The Surface

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Seasons of Change

Believer, skeptic or bystander, few would deny that "climate change" is a hot topic. From extreme weather patterns to the recent flooding of Lake Champlain the effects of global warming and climate change in general is hard to ignore. On January 21, ECHO will explore the impacts of climate change with the opening of the new exhibit Seasons of Change.

Members of ECHO will enjoy exclusive benefits including early admission and continental breakfast between 9 and 10 a.m., 20% off shop sales throughout the day, and the ability to bring guests (equal to your current membership) free-of-charge to enjoy all that ECHO has to offer. Throughout the day educators will encourage visitors to get wild about weather through demonstrations and hands-on encounters such as: The incredible journey of a raindrop, learn how to build your own weather station, discover why we have seasons, and observe a cloud formation right at ECHO! At 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., special guest Amy Seidl, UVM Professor and author of Finding Higher Ground and Early Spring, will present a program entitled When Lilacs Bloom. We've all noticed the weather changing - from earlier springs to record-setting storms - but how are these changes affecting the landscape around us? Dr. Seidl will help us see how flowering lilacs, migratory songbirds, autumn colors, and other seasonal events are signals from a warming world.

If you aren’t currently a member, join ECHO today to take advantage of this very special program. As an added bonus, if you join before January 31st, ECHO will match your gift by giving an equal membership to a low-income neighbor through our You Give, We Give program.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

That's Brilliant! ECHO After Dark

You would have thought with an event showcasing inventions as we did on December 8 with That's Brilliant! at ECHO, you'd see nothing but white shirts with pen protectors and glasses. Instead we had floors full of animated people who looked like you and I who were actively engaged in conversation with our guests by demonstrating or letting you try really cool inventions that could be used to help ski or sled down the mountain, assist children with disabilities play video games, or create a new way to hang earrings. Our surveys showed that our guests were overwhelmingly pleased with this latest ECHO After Dark event where we showcased some of the many Vermont inventions that people have dreamed up. Folks didn’t want to stop chatting with the inventors! The theme tied in well with the end of the year where many people are either interested in what has happened in the inventions world over the past year or they were in the mood for shopping for unique gifts from brilliant inventors. Over 160 people enjoying Vermont cheeses and crackers, drinking beer or wine or crossing their fingers hoping to win raffle prizes from many of the inventors.

Vermonters as inventors is nothing new. For instance, did you know that the first American Patent was filed by a Vermonter? In July 31, 1790 Samuel Hopkins of Pittsford was issued a patent for an improvement “in the making of Pot ash and Pearl ash by a new Apparatus and Process.” The patent was signed by President George Washington, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and Attorney General Edmund Randolph. For our educational piece we listed ten of the top Vermont inventions (like this one) and asked folks to list, in graffiti-style with chalk, which invention they could not live without. Answers ranged from their computer to electricity, providing an interesting participatory project.

If you are interested in the tabling inventors and their email addresses, here they are. Scroll to the bottom of the page for information about two of our next ECHO After Dark events.

InventVermont: A non-profit organization with the mission to promote innovation, invention and creativity through educational programs and by providing a mechanism for sharing information among its members and associates.

Vermont Manufacturing Extension Center: A non-profit organization match making inventors with manufacturers, with a proven system that increases innovation speed 6X and decreases innovation risk 30 - 80%.

Hampton Direct: A consumer products company with a proven track record of getting your idea to market and launching the industry's most successful "As Seen On TV" products.

Vermont FabLab: The UVM FabLab facility brings together high-power computer aided design (CAD) tools and the means (hands-on access) by which to realize physical implementations.

Microprocessor Designs, Inc: A design and development company that has provided the hardware, firmware and software for a wide variety of clients and innovative projects such as the Segway Human Transporter, the iWalk BiOM Prosthetic Foot, and a prosthetic finger tip sensor node for DARPA.

I-Mark Tools: You don’t have to be an engineer to be an inventor, come see Kathy Dever’s innovative and patented self-marking tape measure, “Simply measure, push and mark”.

Make it Science: An "electrifying" experience with musical and acoustic science teaching aides, a must see for educators looking for ways to teach difficult science concepts through hands-on activities.

Geometric Bike: Would you like to run 30 MPH with no impact? If so, check out Steve Norman’s geometric bike. It’s so smooth; it’s like a StairMaster that goes…

QuantaSpec, LLC: Light detection of explosives, biological substances, and developing infrared spectroscopy as a new method for medical diagnosis of infections and breast cancer.

Starr Surf Skis: Just as Burton brought surfing to the mountains, fellow Vermonter Jason Starr has brought skiing to the surf. The new skis that are allowing skiers to take their skills to the ocean. It’s not just water skiing, it’s steep water skiing!

Creative Microsystems: From plasma-sphere light sculptures to lab-on-a-chip and other micro-scale inventions, come see some of the innovative solutions Bill Parker and his team have developed for the aerospace, telecommunications, biotechnology, and the medical device industries.

Alpine Wings: Detachable parafoil used in place of ski poles to reduce the weight on the legs, assist with steering or braking, improve stability, and generally adding to the fun and merriment of traveling down a mountain.

Hammerhead Sleds: Take the sport of sledding from the backyard to the biggest hills with patented steering systems, front polycarbonate and rear HDPE skis, state-of-the art materials, and precision engineering.

Safety Caps, Inc: The world’s only oversized, ventilated electrical outlet safety plug designed to eliminate suffocation while providing superior electrical shock protection and reducing drafts in your home.

Geometoy, Inc: Geometric toys including Reptangles. Reptangles are turtles that can snap together in a wide variety of geometric transformations -- flips, turns, slides, and more.

Lynx Fasteners: Silent thin-film fasteners with over six times the strength of Velcro® and 1/3 the thickness, water-proof zippers and other thin and silent clothing fasteners.

MicroStrain, Inc: SensorCloud™ manages big data from the internet of things - global networks of smart sensors embedded in machines, structures, and our environment.

Bronchobat: A breath controlled video game to help kids with cystic fibrosis stick to their treatment regimen and improve their breathing performance through challenging and entertaining exercise.

Diva Dangler: Just in time for holiday shopping, come check out the Diva Dangler, an amazing earring organizer perfect for all who have a tangled mess in their jewelry box.

For photos from THAT'S BRILLIANT! please go to our facebook album. I'd love to hear your thoughts about our ECHO After Dark events. Please share your comments with me below or email me directly.

Upcoming ECHO After Dark programs:

Thursday, January 12, 2012, 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm
Café Scientifique: Topic 23: The Next Frontier: Higher Education in Space!
Join us in conversation with Carl Brandon, Professor, Science and Aeronautical Engineering Technology, Vermont Technical College. With a grant from the Vermont Space Grant Consortium, a part of the NASA Space Grant program, a group of students from four Vermont colleges and universities, are making significant contributions to the development of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) workforce by developing a CubeSat, a new space technology. Come to ECHO's After Dark Cafe Scientifique program to join in the dialogue about this major cooperative endeavor! Suggested donation $5. Event for 21+ with cash bar and themed drinks opens at 6.30 p.m., discussion begins at 7 p.m.; free light hors d’oeuvres sponsored by VT Sigma Xi, Scientific Research Society.

Thursday, February 9, 2012
We are now accepting reservations for our ECHO After Dark event: FeBREWary. The Science of Beer. will be two events that evening. From 6-7 p.m. for members only there is a beer and cheese pairing with 5 beers and 5 cheeses for $40 led by judicators of beer/cheese tastings. This event is limited to 26 people. Your admission to this event also gets you into the second event from 7-9 p.m. entitled FeBREWary, the Science of beer. If you wish to attend this second event only you can pay $15 for members, $20 for non-members, which includes 5 beer tastings and a signature tasting glass plus a full evening program. To make reservations, please call 1-802-864-1848 x 7. For more information please go to ECHO After Dark.

Top right photo: John Cohn, Vermont FabLab
Left photo: guest riding Segway
Bottom left photo: Tom Mezzner, WPTZ NewsChannel Five, modeling Alpine Wings by inventor Lorenzo Blum

Monday, December 19, 2011

Volunteer & Intern Appreciation Week Jan. 9 - 15

As the Volunteer & Intern Coordinator at ECHO, I have the good fortune to work with some wonderful people who help us carry out our mission on a daily basis. ECHO has approximately 150 volunteers & interns who provide over 8,500 volunteer hours per year and we are all extremely proud of their efforts and humbled by their dedication and hard work.

Who are these people? They are folks just like you, local residents, retired teachers, students from local colleges and universities ~a great mix of personalities and talent.

While we diligently recognize our volunteers and interns on a regular basis with a heartfelt thanks, coffee, or goodies like food or gifts, we all know that nothing beats a party! So, twice a year we throw a big bash for our volunteers and interns to celebrate their efforts and honor their service.

This time we are doing something a bit different. Starting January 9th to January 15th 2012, ECHO will host a week-long event to celebrate our volunteers and interns. We will have signs, decorations, food and gifts to give our hardworking crew, as well as door prizes, and a midweek luncheon with ECHO staff.

We are looking forward to congratulating these individuals who give so much time, experience and energy to ECHO and we'd like to involve our visitors too! During Volunteer and Intern Appreciation Week we encourage our local visitors and members to come in and say hello and thanks to our volunteers and interns. Each day an ECHO member will help us select the volunteer or intern who will win the door prize of the day!

We look forward to seeing you during Appreciation Week (January 9-15, 2012) when we commemorate the dedicated group of volunteers and interns who are at the heart of all we do, and for whose efforts we will be forever grateful.

Do you want to become an ECHO volunteer? You are welcome to find out more through our website or contact me directly at my email address.

Photos: Top Right-Volunteers at 2010 Appreciation Night
Bottom Left-Long-time volunteer, Alida Dinklage, spends time with visitors at the Champlain Sea Tank

Friday, December 2, 2011

What is that smell?

As a newcomer to ECHO I wanted to relay a recent experience I had with our traveling exhibit. My first trip into Grossology was last month, on a 'getting to know your new habitat' expedition. Although the giant burping man was the first thing to grab my attention, somewhere beyond him lay an odoriferous
wonder that was so gross I had to investigate further. I've had enough biology to recognize giant bacteria when I see it and my eye caught a few examples at a colorful station against the wall. On this table I found 4 super-sized petre dishes containing equally super-sized bacterium models. Bellow these visual wonders are corresponding 'smell stations' which contain smells that originate from bacterial creatures living all over our bodies. An adventurous person like myself just can't help sticking their nose over one of these stations and taking a deep whiff. Pee-ewe! What could have made that smell? Through some exploration at this station I learned that what I had just smelled was created by a bacterium called Brevibacterium epidermidis, which apparently lives on ourfeet. I have to admit that although I'm familiar with my own smelly feet after a long hike I haven't ever experienced the magnified version of this. It was unforgettable and as odd as it may sound, something I recommend as a new and unique experience.

Certainly I'm not the only adventurous visitor to science centers out there. If you count yourself or your children among those who wonder "What does that smell like" or "What makes us burp" I strongly encourage you to come down to ECHO for your own adventure through Grossology. If you come to ECHO on Saturday, December 10th we have some special programming about the Reality of Cooties, which, as a younger brother, I have always wondered about. As a former EMT in Brooklyn, NY I'm also psyched to explore the FACT Ambulance that day. And, if you're interested in boosting your health through the cold and flu season VNA is offering flu shots from 11am - 1pm for only $30.

You only have a few weeks left - Grossology leaves on Jan 8th. But don't worry, ECHO is open through the holiday season (except Dec 24th and 25th). Our next exhibit, Seasons of Change, opens on Jan 21st. As a recent transplant to New England I’m looking forward to learning about how the changing climate might affect the ecosystems and culture here around the lake.