Orlando Science Center Awarded Major NASA Grant

Collaboration will take STEM engagement directly to underrepresented students in neighborhood community centers, including a nationwide engineering design challenge

NASA has recently awarded Orlando Science Center (OSC) a three-year $795,000 grant to support a multi-year partnership with national reach that implements weekly STEM engagement for youth from underserved communities across the City of Orlando. The Science Center was one of only three institutions nationwide to receive funding in this cycle. As NASA presses forward with plans to return astronauts to the Moon through the Artemis missions and expand our understanding of the universe with the James Webb Space Telescope, the agency is working to ensure students across the U.S. can have the opportunity to share in the excitement of space exploration.

NASA has recently awarded Orlando Science Center (OSC) a three-year $795,000 grant to support a multi-year partnership with national reach that implements weekly STEM engagement for youth from underserved communities across the City of Orlando. The Science Center was one of only three institutions nationwide to receive funding in this cycle. As NASA presses forward with plans to return astronauts to the Moon through the Artemis missions and expand our understanding of the universe with the James Webb Space Telescope, the agency is working to ensure students across the U.S. can have the opportunity to share in the excitement of space exploration.

Orlando Science Center has launched Neighborhood Science, an initiative focused on providing high-quality STEM education for multiple days each week in afterschool programs and community centers within underrepresented neighborhoods. The first Neighborhood Science program will feature a STEM lab in the Grand Avenue Community Center in Orlando’s Holden Heights neighborhood. Through consistent and authentic STEM learning, this program will help address the rising demand for STEM careers in Florida and the intense underrepresentation of women and people of color in STEM fields across the country.

The NASA award will support a collaboration between OSC, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Swampworks, and the City of Orlando’s Grand Avenue neighborhood community center. Content will be in alignment with ARTEMIS and NASA’s Communication Themes (Humans in Space & Moon to Mars). It will also create and launch a new engineering design challenge for teams that can be scaled nationwide in year 3. This project will enable participants to work together to authentically contribute to NASA’s ARTEMIS mission using virtual engineering platforms like TinkerCAD, real-world materials and supplies, and evidence-based engineering designs. Participating youth will create a solution to a problem identified by NASA KSC Swampworks that astronauts engaged in the ARTEMIS mission may face as they live in space or travel from the Moon to Mars.

“We are excited to partner with the Orlando Science Center and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Swampworks to bring a STEM lab directly to our young residents at the newly renovated Grand Avenue Neighborhood Center,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. “We are grateful for such partnerships and collaboration to ensure our young residents have more opportunities to learn, grow and thrive in the City of Orlando.”

NASA’s TEAM II grant program provided substantial multi-year funding to only three informal education organizations nationwide during this cycle. Projects were selected with the goal of helping to inspire the next generation of explorers through STEM learning – and to expand student participation in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Informal education institutions, such as science museums, planetariums, libraries, and zoos are uniquely positioned to reach students, including those who are historically underrepresented and underserved in STEM fields.

NatureWorks is Evolving!

Orlando Science Center is breathing new life into NatureWorks! 

NatureWorks has paused operations to make way for Life, a new exhibit on nature and conservation premiering late 2023

We understand that you may have some questions about this transition, so please read on to learn more!

What is the meaning of Life?

Life is an exciting new exhibit that will take guests on a journey through three unique habitats. Through hands-on activities and animal encounters, guests will learn how they can positively impact and protect life all around our changing planet.

Photo by Courtney Shapiro

How long will it be under construction?

Design and production of an all-new exhibit experience is a time-consuming process, and our team is working with world-class exhibit designers to make sure this one-of-a-kind opportunity is just right. It will be about 18 months once NatureWorks goes offline before we premiere Life.

Where will the animals go?

While all our animal encounters happen on the exhibit floor, we have several areas behind the scenes where we care for our critters so none will be displaced during this transformation. A few of our friends are moving to new residences at partner zoos, aquariums, and science centers, but many of your favorite animal ambassadors will remain to help us engage and educate visitors.

Will there still be animal encounters during construction?

Yes! The animals in our care will remain active ambassadors for the Science Center through animal encounter experiences and meet and greets around the building. We also have presentations and programs starring our animals so you can learn even more!

Will the Cypress tree and swamp still exist?

You won’t have to say “see you later” to our gators! Florida wildlife and environmental conservation are very important to the Science Center. The iconic swamp will be upgraded and be featured as one of three unique habitats in Life, which will include our gigantic and beloved Cypress tree plus some new features.

Will Life introduce new animals?

We feel the best way to tell the story of our changing world is through the animals that call it home. Get ready to make several new friends when Life premieres late 2023. Stay tuned for exciting updates to be unveiled along the way!

Photo by Roberto Gonzalez

Enjoy a COOL Summer of Science at Orlando Science Center

With four floors of air-conditioned exhibits, live shows, and more, spend your summer doing science!

Times, tickets, details, and more! 
  • Orlando Science Center will be open 7 days a week from May 26 - August 9 including Memorial Day and the 4th of July
  • Daily hours of operation are 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. 
  • For information on our health and safety guidelines, please review our full health and safety plan here.

Brand New Exhibits

A young girl prepares to race against a screen depicting a paralympian runner

Bionic Me Presented by AdventHealth and Rothman Orthopaedics

Level 2

Control a computer using the power of your mind, try out exoskeletal super-strength, and see how a bionic eye works in our NEW summer exhibition, Bionic Me.

With more than a dozen interactive exhibit pieces, visitors will get hands-on with the ingenious technology that is changing the human experience, improving lives, and propelling us forward.

 
 
Natures Wonder

Fusion: A STEAM Gallery

Level 3

Have you heard the BUZZ about the newest installation in Fusion: A STEAM Gallery at Orlando Science Center?
 
Presented in collaboration with members of the Central Florida Watercolor Society, Nature's Wonders: The Curious and Beautiful World of Pollinators will showcase our world’s prized pollinators.
 
Including birds, butterflies, moths, bats, beetles, and of course, bees, these creatures are unaware of how crucial their role is to our ecosystem.

Timed Experiences

Audience in a movie theater

Larger-Than-Life Theaters 

The domed giant-screen Dr. Phillips CineDome and high-definition Digital Adventure Theater both offer educational films daily, and all films are included with general admission.
 
Cool Science live show with liquid nitrogen demonstration super cooling Peeps in a beaker.

COOL Science Shows

From to StoryTime to some literally cool liquid nitrogen demonstrations, check the daily schedule to see all of the exciting live science programming!

Feed Your Mind

Take a break and take a bite with Food Heroes! 

Built and designed to complement the new 4Roots Cafe, this exhibit explores the complexities of our food system and how we can make it more sustainable and healthier for everyone.

Mark Your Calendars

Don't miss these exciting upcoming events:

  • Learn the skills you need to feel empowered to create! Whether you’re a professional maker or exploring a new hobby, everyone has something exciting to learn during Make Fest June 18 & 19!
  • RSVP to a party 65 million years in the making! We’re going on
    safari into the prehistoric past to uncover dino-mite programming,
    including larger-than-life live shows, claws-on activities, and more during our Paleontology Party August 28 & 29
  • There’s no age limit on curiosity! Whether you’re looking for a get-together of old friends or a fun date night out, Science Night Live is your chance to let out your inner child and experience everything the Science Center has to offer - without the kids! 
Guests enjoying The Hive A Makerspace

STEM Surfboard Lesson for Kids • The History and Science of Duke Kahanamoku

Dive into the history of Duke Kahanamoku with a history and STEM surfboard lesson for kids

You've probably heard the term "The Big Kahuna" in reference to an important person, thing, or objective. But where does this term come from? This Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we're diving into the history of the original Big Kahuna - Olympic Medalist, and the Father of Surfing - Duke Kahanamoku with this history and STEM surfboard lesson for kids of all ages!


 

While surf, sun, and swimming have become synonymous with the Hawaiin Islands, this has not always been the case.

At this time, Hawaii was in the midst of many cultural and governmental changes. The expansion of Christianity and foreign missionary influences were having a major impact on Hawaiian heritage and traditions such as surfing. By the end of the 19th century, foreign missionaries had almost erased surfing - or the act of riding waves - from the Hawaiian Islands.

This is where Duke Kahanamoku rides in!

The Big Kahuna was born in Haleʻākala in 1890. He was an excellent surfer, 5-time Olympic Swimming Medalist, actor, and proud representative of his native land. He and a group of fellow surfers even saved the lives of eight after a wave sank their 40-foot boat!

His Kahanamoku Kick swimming technique, superior surfing, and all-around positive passion gave Duke the opportunity to share his skills with the world. He began participating and teaching in surfing exhibitions around the world, going on to become the first person to be inducted into both the Surfing Hall of Fame and the Swimming Hall of Fame.

Sure enough, surfing started to become popular in Hawaii again! Despite the emerging designs including lighter, hollow boards, Duke preferred his own surfboards to be made from koatree using traditional Hawaiian methods, bringing his roots back into the sport. His natural abilities and love of the sport led him to become the legendary surfer known as “The Big Kahuna” and the “Father of Surfing.”

As we reflect on Duke’s life and accomplishments, let’s also look back at his culture and childhood. Duke came from a well-known family that ruled several kingdoms. This gave him a deep appreciation and understanding of Hawaiian culture, which he fought for throughout his entire life. In 1959, when Hawaii became the 50th US State, Kahanamoku was officially named the State of Hawaii Ambassador of Aloha.

There is a statue of Duke in Hawaii near the beach where his ashes were spread. He will forever be loved by the people of Hawaii and looked at as a hero. Because of his talents and passion for surfing, he is known for giving Hawaii a new dimension of international stature, stating that, "he was the soul of dignity."

He is still well loved in his native home of Hawaii, but he is also beloved by surfers everywhere. Not only was he a hero, a great person, and a pioneer-- he was just an all-around good person who fought for Hawaiian culture and surfing.

This summer when you’re hitting the waves with your surfboard, think about the origin, and thank Duke for making surfing what it is today. Surfs up!

a statue of duke kahanamoku in hawaii

Expand with an activity! 


 

Whether you're hitting the beach, the pool, or creating a tropical getaway in your own backyard, add a little science to your summer with you this surfing STEM lesson for kids! 

Surfboards can come in all shapes and sizes and are made out of different kinds of materials depending on the surf. Using materials you can find around the house and a little creative flair, learn about the science of surfboards with this easy DIY activity! 

a photo of small colorful foam surfboards

A Letter from an OSC Events Intern

A Letter From An Events Intern

In late 2021, I was searching for an internship position in Central Florida to gain more experience in the events industry. After contacting countless businesses and companies, the Orlando Science Center’s Meetings and Events Department reached out to me to offer an internship position with their team. Reflecting on all the events I helped facilitate and the in-depth knowledge I have gained as an events intern, I am confident when I say that interning at the Orlando Science Center is one of the greatest decisions I have made.

The events industry is vast. It ranges from corporate meetings to weddings to trade shows. Although the Orlando Science Center mostly hosts weddings, it does bring in many different types of events including fundraisers, meetings, and corporate galas, just to name a few. As a meetings and events intern, I have learned many tips and tricks as well as best practices that will undoubtedly prove to be beneficial in my professional endeavors, no matter what sector of the events industry I pursue.

This internship opportunity has not only been skillfully enriching, it has also been outright fun. All events and weddings are different, which is why I love them. Every time I come in for my shifts, there is always something new to do. For instance, I once found myself building a couple’s Harry Potter Lego set for their wedding day decorations! If you enjoy hands-on activities and inputting your own creative touch, you will love interning at the Orlando Science Center.

Live Happy Studio
Katie Fletcher Photo

As part of the Meetings and Events Department, I have gained extensive event production abilities by creating contracts, submitting work orders, developing event production schedules, and so much more. This internship also pushes you to develop your interpersonal skills with all types of personnel including staff from other departments, your supervisors, and event vendors. Talking about vendors, this position has helped me become more familiar with our local Central Florida vendors and distinguish who are the top service providers in the City Beautiful.

Vendors are crucial in all sectors of the event industry so acquainting myself with experienced businesses and being able to distinguish quality service will definitely be fruitful in the long run. This image below shows MJ from Junction 88, one of the preferred entrainment providers at the Orlando Science Center. He dressed up in Jedi cosplay for a Star Wars-loving couple! As an intern, you truly will be able to differentiate those highly dedicated vendors, like MJ, who go above and beyond.

All in all, putting everything that the Orlando Science Center has taught me into words is simply not possible. You learn how to implement the right lighting for events, how to facilitate vendor load-in and load-out to minimize waiting, what a standard wedding timeline looks like, and overall, how to exceed a client’s expectations by creating the most phenomenal event for them. I would recommend interning with the Orlando Science Center’s Meeting and Events Department in a heartbeat because I am confident that you will love it as much as I did.

Interested in joining the OSC team?

We are looking for highly passionate and dedicated people to help support our mission of inspiring science learning for life. Orlando Science Center offers a variety of employment opportunities which vary from entry level positions to supervisory and management roles. 

SCOPE Magazine for Science Center Members

Check out the latest issue of SCOPE Magazine!

With so much going on at Orlando Science Center, it's hard to keep track of everything included in your OSC Membership! That's why our team is dedicated to getting our Members the latest exhibit news and goings on at the Science Center.

Science Center Members receive SCOPE Magazine three times per year in the Spring, Summer, and Fall to give them the full scope of what's in store that season. Members also get a granular, up-close view of the month ahead through our monthly Member e-newsletter, MicroSCOPE, get it? 

For more frequent updates, join our OSC Member Community on Facebook! 


Summer 2022 Issue

Flip through the current e-magazine or download it below. 

Mess Fest is Back!

Join us for the messiest weekend of the year at Orlando Science Center!

 What’s the best kind of mess? The kind YOU don’t have to clean up! Get hands-on with our ooiest, gooiest, messiest activities during Mess Fest! From slime time to fizzy paint, join us for some good clean fun during Mess Fest as we get creative with our favorite colorful and sensory-friendly activities.

Explore Mess Zones and learn the science behind your favorite che-MESS-try experiments, see a foam-splosion on the terrace, create your own custom slime, and more! If you don’t make a mess, you’re not doing it right!

Don't miss special guest performances by WeFlip Entertainment! Have fun learning about physics in this amazing acrobatic show.

Don’t miss these mess-tivities!

  • Slip into the Mess Hall and learn about the science behind our favorite messy activities with spin art, Alka seltzer painting, and more!
  • Meet some creative local artists and makers who have turned being messy into a profession
  • You'll have a blast learning about the science of suds with foam-splosions on the terrace
  • Flip out during WeFlip Entertainment's incredible acrobatic show
  • Our littlest learners are invited to join Messy Science StoryTime and MiniMaker Workshops in KidsTown
  • Create your own custom slime in Dr. Dare's Lab
  • And so much more!
Guests watch large cloud of foam exploding during outdoor Science Live show.

Prepare for Mess Fest at home with a messy DIY activity! 

Learn about the science of slime with ooey-gooey oobleck or observe our capillary system in action using a colorful coffee filter with some of our favorite, messiest, OSC at Home experiments! 

We suggest setting up a workspace outdoors to keep the mess outside your home. Then, take a photo and share on social media #OrlandoScience Center for a chance to be featured on our page!

Local Teen Scientists Compete to Save the World at Dr. Nelson Ying Science Competition

From fighting climate change to saving bees, local teen scientists are changing the world!

To compete in the prestigious Dr. Naleson Ying Science Competition, each entrant must be a Central Florida high school student and pursue a research project that has the ultimate goal of benefiting humanity. This year, each finalist’s research had an environmental focus, from cleaning up microplastics in the oceans to monitoring methane emissions to combat climate change to protecting and sustaining bee populations. In addition to the grand prize winner, each finalist received $500 to continue their research.

Ella Pilacek, a sophomore at Oviedo High School in Seminole County, has won the top prize in the prestigious Dr. Nelson Ying Science Competition at Orlando Science Center. Her research project, which was focused on proving that bees could be encouraged by Pavlovian conditioning to pollinate specific plant species, won a scholarship of $5,000, a $1,000 award for her science teacher, and an additional $1,000 for their school.

Pilacek was named winner during an awards ceremony at the Historic Dubsdread Ballroom on Sunday, April 24, following a day of presenting her findings to judges on Saturday, April 23, at the Science Center. This year, the competition and the awards ceremony were held in person for the first time since 2019. The previous two years, they had been conducted virtually due to the pandemic. Since 1999, Dr. Nelson Ying — local scientist, entrepreneur and philanthropist — has partnered with Orlando Science Center to celebrate outstanding student scientists through his creation and sponsorship of this competition.

Ella Pilacek - OSC Ying Competition Winner holding trophy

Meet the Finalists!

Kyra Henriques, Oviedo High School, Seminole County

Microplastics have potential to harm health and her research could lead to ways to easily extract them from aquatic environments to combat pollution. The chemical properties of ferrofluids contribute to their binding to microplastics, which could facilitate magnetic extraction of microplastics.

Kyra Henriques - OSC Ying Competition Finalist holding trophy

Lavanya Natarajan, Viera High School, Brevard County

Landfills emit methane during waste decomposition, but large portions of this potent gas escapes undetected, fueling global warming. She developed a system to monitor methane emissions in real-time, which could help reduce greenhouse gases by 50% by 2030.

Lavanya Natarjan - OSC Ying Competition Finalist holding trophy on stage

Varun Madan, Lake Highland Preparatory School, Orange County

Honeybees are extremely important to our natural ecosystem due to their role as an essential species of pollinator. This project involved creating a probiotic treatment mixture made from lactic acid bacteria and a type of machine learning technology to help honeybees fight off a harmful gut parasite.

Varun Madan - OSC Ying Competition Finalist holding trophy

Atreya Manaswi, Orlando Science High School, Orange County

Hive beetles are an invasive pest and a danger to bees, a very important pollinator species. This project built on his previous research that suggested beer was extremely effective for attracting and trapping small hive beetles. He investigated the attractiveness of a volatile oil blend that was fabricated by isolating key odor compounds found in beer. Trapping small hive beetles can ensure protection and survival of beehives.

Atreya Manaswi - OSC Ying Competition Finalist holding trophy

Pilacek’s winning research supported using Pavlovian conditioning with bees so they would follow specific scents to plants that aren’t their usual food sources. The next step in her research will be to test it in the field, using these scents to attract bees to endangered plant species, which would encourage pollination and combat habitat fragmentation. Previous winners of the Dr. Nelson Ying Science Competition have gone on to continue their research at top universities, compete in national science competitions and ultimately pursue exciting STEM careers, including positions at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Ying is a longtime supporter of Orlando Science Center. After sponsoring numerous exhibits and serving on the Science Center’s board of trustees, he decided to invest in the long-term impact of our mission to inspire science learning for life. In 1999, he and volunteer Fred Curtis launched the Dr. Ying Science Competition with Orlando Science Center to celebrate and inspire exemplary science students to use their expertise to address real-world problems. Ying’s son, Nelson Jr., now oversees the competition with Curtis in collaboration with Orlando Science Center. They continue to engage and mentor young people to leverage their passion for science to make the world a better place.

Community Scientist Movements You Can Contribute to

Add to Scientific Research Projects as a Community Scientist!

There are thousands of brilliant scientists with PhDs and decades of experience who are on the cutting edge of science and technology. But that doesn’t mean we can’t all do our part in pushing the field of science further! Zooniverse is an online collection of scientific projects that everyday science enthusiasts – also known as community scientists – can take part in.

There are numerous different ongoing experiments that require the eyes, ears, and minds of the masses. Want to join the fight against antibiotic resistance? Or perhaps you want to further the research of penguins and their environment? You can even help astronomers find ripples in the very fabric of spacetime! These and even more fantastic projects are taking place right now, and they need YOU to become a citizen scientist to help out!

Check out some of the exciting projects you can help with below, or visit the main Zooniverse website to explore more ways YOU can become a community scientist!

Out-of-this-world astronomy!


 

Galaxy Zoo 

There are hundreds of billions of galaxies in our observable universe, waaaay too many for astronomers to classify on their own. This is where you come in! Analyze actual photos of distant galaxies that few humans have ever seen, and help us to better understand our universe in the process.

Planet Four

In this project, scientists can study pictures of Mars’ southern polar region to determine seasonal changes. Helpers will mark CO2 vents as fans or splotches to help understand how Mars’ seasonal pattern works.

Field Work


 

Notes from Nature 

This project allows you to explore the hand-written notes of historical botanists. Help modernize and digitize the important work that scientists from hundreds of years ago embarked on.

The University of Wyoming Raccoon Project

Look at pictures of raccoons trying to access food from a puzzle box! Using these pictures, citizen scientists will use special tools to identify what type of animal is onscreen to improve the project’s algorithm. The algorithm will help researchers study the behavioral patterns and traits of our favorite “trash pandas!”

Hummingbirds at Home

Using the Audubon Hummingbirds at Home app, you can create your very own “patch” to study hummingbirds and their activity. The patch can be your backyard, your porch, a local park, or any area you’d like! By studying hummingbirds and the nectar they collect, you can help scientists study the impact of global climate change!

iNaturalist

Have you ever seen a plant or animal and wondered what it was? There's an app for that! The iNaturalist app not only helps you identify new organisms, but hare your findings with scientific data repositories like the Global Biodiversity Information Facility to help scientists find and use your data. All you have to do is observe, point, and click! You can download the free app for Apple or Android devices.

Making Change


 

Power to the People 

Close to 1 billion people live without electricity worldwide but fixing this has proven to be an expensive and time-consuming endeavor. The only way to solve this problem is to train an AI to identify homes in rural areas but training such a complex algorithm requires the help of hundreds of people... people like you!

Anti-Slavery Manuscripts

Guests will review handwritten correspondence between 19th anti-slavery activists and turn them into text that can be more easily read by teachers, students, historians, and artificial intelligence programs.

We hope you enjoy these citizen scientist projects. Thank you for making a difference and furthering scientific research!

OSC At Home Emails

Get a round up of our latest activities and ideas delivered straight to your inbox so you don't miss a thing!

Find out when we release new resources by following us on social media!

 

Follow us on social media for even more science fun including fun facts, games, behind-the-scenes photos, and more!

 

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Support OSC At Home

In these ever-changing times, it is our pleasure to adapt quality Orlando Science Center experiences to engage with everyone while they are safe at home. Please consider supporting our operating fund to ensure we can continue developing resources today and well into the future. Thank you for your generosity and support!

STEM Starts Here: Orlando Science Center Preschool

Learn and grow with Orlando Science Center STEM Preschool! 

STEM starts here at Orlando Science Center! A few spots remain for three-year-olds in Orlando’s oldest and most prestigious STEM preschool. Act now so you don’t miss out on this amazing opportunity for your early learner. Since 2009, Orlando Science Center’s trained preschool educators have nurtured young children while building critical 21st-century skills in a fun and safe environment.

Students benefit from a learning space that includes hands-on activities, plus the content-rich STEM experiences available only at Orlando Science Center. Every facet is explored as a learning opportunity. Storytime can use the “Three Billy Goats Gruff” as a basis to explore bridge building or arts and crafts to encourage students to invent a solution for a problem in their lives.

Introducing STEM concepts within the preschool learning environment reduces the barriers of entry found later in the life. Students are excited, rather than intimidated, by these subjects and their confidence with STEM concepts stays with them as they progress to kindergarten and beyond. Orlando Science Center has also created professional development for preschool educators so they can bring hands-on STEM learning into their own classrooms.

a preschool childand teacher  excited about the success of a science experiment

Over the past decade, Orlando Science Center’s preschool has graduated hundreds of confident, inquisitive learners. Our team has created a learning environment unmatched by any other preschool in the region. Teachers ignite the curiosity of their students and present challenge-based activities created to nurture skills in problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication. 

Orlando Science Center’s STEM preschool fills to capacity quickly so don’t delay. Enroll your child now to provide them with a learning environment unmatched by any other preschool. Three-year-olds enrolled for this Fall will be guaranteed a spot in our VPK program when they turn four. Contact Reservations at 407-514-2112 or classes@osc.org for more information or to arrange a tour of the Preschool.

Licensed by the Department of Children and Families – Childcare Center  C09OR0729

Voluntary PreKindergarten Provider (VPK) – Early Learning Coalition of Orange County

Open to any child and family regardless of race, ethnicity, faith or creed


 

a preschool boy finger painting