Outreach Bonanza at the Cambridge Science Festival

During this year’s Cambridge Science Festival, which ran from April 19th—27th, members of the Foundations of Complex Life team participated in more events than ever before. With 17 offerings of our geological timeline tour, a delegation at the MIT Museum’s Space Day, and a field trip with the Science Club for Girls, it was a big week in outreach.

MIT at the Final Frontier

Roger Summons and postdocs Kristen Miller and Julio Sepúlveda engaged a very eager public—both young and old—at Space Day, held at the MIT Museum on Saturday, April 26th. With help of a wide variety of hands-on materials, including geological field gear, fossils, replica drill cores, and videos of the JPL Mars yard with Curiosity’s Earth-bound siblings, they addressed a seemingly unending stream of questions about all aspects of the group’s research in astrobiology, from understanding mass extinctions to the technical intricacies of detecting organic matter on Mars.

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STEMinistas visit Chandra OCC

Foundations of Complex Life education and public outreach lead Ben Kotrc has been working with the Science Club for Girls as they develop an Astrobiology module for their STEMinistas! program for grades 6-8. As the crowning element to end the first-semester trial run of the curriculum, we facilitated a visit to the Operations Control Center (OCC) of the Chandra satellite, housed on MIT’s campus. A group of 18 brilliant STEMinistas, mentors, and their leaders toured the OCC and peppered our tour guides (two Chandra mission planners) and the engineers manning the mission control desks with a barrage of wonderful questions—about everything from the history of the mission, space weather and space debris, to their own career paths.

A Walk through Geologic Time

For the fourth year running, we also presented our popular to-scale geologic timeline along the Charles River during the Cambridge Science Festival. This year, we offered a total of 17 tours, many more than in previous years—and although the weather was not on our side (the wind, in particular, wreaked havoc on the signs and carried several of them away), we were delighted to also welcome a a group of 14 students from YouthBuild in Quincy, studying for their GEDs.

In addition to the many human visitors who took the option of a self-guided tour, we also noticed a very concentrated avian visitor studying the timeline signs…

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