Friday, January 27, 2012


Another First Lego League (FLL, grades 4-9) season has come and gone. In this project our teams met every Thursday after school for 8 weeks at HSC where we worked in collaboration with Beltrami County 4H’s Science, Engineering, and Technology (SET) program. We started with 4 tournament slots and then donated one bid to a neighboring county and arrived at regionals in Northome with 3 teams rip roaring ready to go and busting at the seams. It was a big big task, but we were able to turn 20-25 squirrelly kids into focused winning teams! Our young engineers designed, built, and programmed their robots with sensor-stimulated artificial intelligence to independently maneuver about, completing a variety of tasks on a competition board with food safety as our unifying theme this year. They also presented accompanying project reports, skits, and demonstrations which identified food safety issues and then they proposed technological solutions to these problems.

This competition is an amazing example of how kids can grow in ways we expect, but also in ways and manners beyond how we might imagine they would. In addition to honing abilities in mechanical and computer engineering, they learn teamwork and time management skills as they prepare their robots and develop them to championship status.

Our squads brought home hardware from the Northern Minnesota Regional Robotics Tournament once again. This year they won two bronze and a silver medal with one team garnering a special recognition and proclamation for design excellence by using pneumatics to accomplish robotic tasks. This is a high profile program that brings HSC much recognition in the community. Though we did not make our bid to the FLL State Robotics Tournament this year (as we have in years past), our top team missing by just one ranking, most of the kids

As for this year, we are not finished showing our "right stuff." Look for us at the "ROBO SHACK" this summer at the Beltrami County Fair where we will feature these and other technological achievements of our young engineers. They have formed a permanent club and are continuing to meet the first Thursday of every month at HSC.

THANK YOU – Paul Bunyan Communications is and has been our steady major sponsor, supporting us in equipment acquisition (these robots are not cheap) and by paying our tournament entry fees along with other associated costs. This project would also not be possible without the volunteer efforts of parents and coaches––thanks a bunch!

If you would like to help us out next season or have a child in this age range who shows a real interest in technology, especially robotics, contact James Owens at 444-4472.

Reef News

Many things around HSC are continually changing; such is life in our 210 gallon reef tank. The tank’s charm lies not so much in its capacity to hold liquid but its capacity to support marine biota. Here in Bemidji we are about as far from the ocean as anyone on Earth could be, so this tank has been a bit of a local spectacle. We are lucky to have had it donated to us. Come see it if you haven’t lately.

The task of reef tank maintenance is formidable, as it takes a generous input of energy, a plethora of specialized equipment, pure H2O, NaCl (sodium chloride = salt), the right combination of living elements, and timely applied human capital. It is all worth it, though, when you hear the excitement it generates, especially with young children. The little ones shriek and shrill as they easily recognize Nemo and Marlin (Clownfish––Amphiprion percula). Pixar and its computer animators helped make these lovable vertebrates a popular part of the America’s entertainment lexicon, and in so doing they actually reinvigorated the reef aquarium industry.

Let’s tell part of a tale that two very different species share. Clownfish live in a "symbiotic" (mutually beneficial) relationship with our bubble tip anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor). Clownfish are very busy fish and extremely aggressive. Because they are quite active, the clownfish are thought to be "clowning around." Clownfish perform an elaborate dance with an anemone before taking up residence, gently touching the bubble tipped tentacles with different parts of their bodies until they are acclimated to their host. A layer of mucus on the clownfish skin makes it immune to the fish-eating anemone’s lethal sting. In exchange for food scraps and safety from predators, the clownfish drives off intruders and preens its host anemone, removing parasites.

Clownfish spend their entire lives with their host anemone, rarely straying more than a few meters from it. They lay their eggs about twice a month on the nearest hard surface concealed by the fleshy base of the anemone, and they aggressively protect the developing embryos. Just after a clownfish hatches, it drifts near the surface for a week or two as a tiny, transparent larva. Then it metamorphoses into a miniature clownfish about a centimeter long that descends to the reef. If the young fish doesn’t find an anemone and acclimatize to its new life within a day or two, it will die.

Surprisingly, all clownfish are born male. They have the ability to change their gender, but will do so only to become the dominant female of a group. This change is irreversible! Should the female in the anemone group die, the dominant male then becomes female and breeds with one of the males that inhabit the same sea anemone. Changing gender is not particularly rare among coral reef fish, but most change from female to male.

Food, Food and Fun

Coming Saturday February 18, 2012

The science of food has never been more personal!

For the third edition of “e-cubed” (e3 III), Headwaters Science Center will take "Dining at the next level" to completely new heights. This year, gourmet cooking will be a live experience! Chef Mike Holleman with Indian Harvest has gathered together an extraordinary company of chefs who will join him in preparing special recipes - LIVE! In addition to Mike, participants are:
  • Chef Bill Downs - Sanford Center
  • Chef Arron Evenson - Lueken’s
  • Chef Reed Olson - Wild Hare
  • Chefs and specialties from Minnesota Nice,
  • Cabin Coffeehouse, Tutto Bene, Harmony Co-op, and others
  • Chef Daniel Eastman - Concordia Language Villages 
Tickets are $45 and are on sale now at HSC. Stop in at 413 Beltrami Avenue to pick up your tickets. You may reserve them up to 24 hours in advance, and pay with a credit card by calling 218-444-4472.




Sunday, January 22, 2012

Fundraiser Ends - A Success!

The “I Gave Ten” fundraising campaign came to a close on December 31. We are thrilled to report that we were able to take full advantage of the $40,000 in matching funds due to the generous donations and support of the Bemidji area, surrounding communities, and far away friends of the Science Center. $40,000 was raised by Dec 15th, but our ultimate goal was to reach $100,000. At the time of this writing we have raised (including the match) about $90,000. THANK YOU to all who have helped us make it this far.

If you would like to help us make it the rest of the way to our goal we will welcome donations at any time. It has been very inspiring and heartwarming to see so many people step up to help insure the continued success of the Headwaters Science Center. It has been encouraging to have so many stop in and offer not only monetary support, but verbal support for what the science center means to them and to this community.

Here’s what people are saying about Headwaters Science Center:

Without a doubt one of the most hands-on, family-friendly science centers anywhere.

I love HSC! I love the people, the exhibits, the programs, the animals… I love the whole spirit of the place! Keep up the great work!

HSC Rocks! (and chirps, slithers, grows, etc.) May HSC continue to touch lives, empower the community and impact the future.

This is an investment in our kids! “The employees and volunteers at HSC are making a difference in so many peoples’ lives! This place is awesome!

Like the Mississippi Headwaters – a source of inspiration for discovery.

The Science Center is a great asset to the community.

A big, hearty, Thank You! goes out to Paul Bunyan Broadcasting, RP Broadcasting, Coyote 102, Minnesota Public Radio, Q107, Paul Bunyan Communications, The Bemidji Pioneer, and the Buyline for helping us get our message out. We couldn’t have done it without you. We appreciate you and the way you support this community.