Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Robotics at HSC Is On a Roll!

Another First Lego League (FLL) season is underway for 4th - 9th graders. In this project, our three teams meet every Thursday, and many other days too, after school for 7 weeks at Headwaters Science Center where we work in collaboration with Beltrami County 4H’s Science, Engineering, and Technology (SET) program.
 Our young engineers design, build, and program robots with sensor-stimulated artificial intelligence that independently maneuver about a standardized competition board, completing a variety of tasks, with “Nature’s Fury” as our unifying theme this year. At the tournament, the teams also present accompanying project reports, skits, and demonstrations that identify natural disasters; then they propose technological solutions to these problems. We have three regional tournament bids this year at Northome, MN on December 7, 2013. If any of our teams advance, they will compete in the FLL State Robotic Tournament on February 8, 2014 in St. Paul, MN.

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. They learn that, in order to bring their robots to championship status, they need teamwork and time-management skills in addition to abilities in mechanical design and computer programming.

This high-profile project brings HSC a good deal of recognition in the community. 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. Past participants have formed a permanent club and are continuing to meet the first Thursday of every month at HSC; that group is currently designing and building a large underwater robot that seeks out and records the presence of aquatic invasives and has the ability to capture water and sediment core samples.

Paul Bunyan Communications is and has been our major sponsor, supporting us in equipment acquisition (these robots and their peripherals are not cheap) and paying our tournament entry fees along with other associated costs. This project would not be possible without the volunteer efforts of parents and coaches. Thanks a bunch! It’s a tall task (and a rewarding one) to turn 20-25 squirrelly kids into focused winning teams. If you would like to help us out this season or in the future, or have a child in grades 4-9 who shows a real interest in technology, especially computers and robotic engineering, contact James Owens at 444-4472.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Remembering Dusty

We were sad to announce the passing of Dusty our Chinchilla. She was very old and had a wonderful life as one of the HSC animals. May she always have a dust bath to roll in, a gentle hand to scratch behind the ears, and a bowl of raisins.

Here’s a thought. On Giving Tuesday December 3rd, make a donation to Headwaters Science Center and dedicate your donation to “Dusty” the late Chinchilla. There is a place on the donation form to do this. HSC will designate your donation to improve and maintain the live animal exhibits. 

Giving Tuesday is a national day for giving back. What a great way to “give back” the 16 years of joy  and wonderment that Dusty gave to all the kids and adults at HSC.

Some comments from Facebook:

Friday, November 29, 2013

Monday, November 25, 2013

Live Streaming December 2013

                            Full STE(A)M Ahead 
Current Happenings by Susan Joy 

Susan Joy
Season’s greetings to all HSC members, supporters, volunteers, staff, and board! I’d like to use this space to thank all of you for your commitment to supporting high-quality, informal Science, Technology, Engineering, (Art) and Math (STE(A)M) in Northwestern Minnesota! HSC is invested in, and committed to, the people of Bemidji and the surrounding region because of the support we receive locally.

Donors are critical to supporting our mission, as we are a not-for-profit organization and receive no operating support from Federal, State, or Local governments, nor do we receive support from a national or regional science museum organization. We are supported locally by individuals who choose to support our mission through annual giving, businesses who provide sponsorships for various activities, and our loyal visitors and members.

Individuals who choose to make a gift to HSC make a difference in the lives of the 13,000 school children who participate in an HSC activity either at their school or on our exhibit floor. 100% of donations made to HSC stay right here to support our organization. There are lots of different ways to support HSC. We have openings on our board of directors for individuals who are willing to donate 10 hours per month to supporting our mission through governance. Friends of Headwaters Science Center, a new group of volunteer ambassadors, also seeks new members to help with HSC events and outreach. If you don’t have time to commit to a volunteer position, we always welcome the donation of an item from the wish list that is posted on our website.

Did you know that the best way to support HSC doubles as the perfect family gift? That’s right! A $65 family or grandparent membership supports the programs and activities that we do every day and gives
you FREE admission to our exhibit floor for a year, a 10% savings on merchandise in the HSC Science Store, and discounts on summer camps, Science Club, and birthday parties. In addition to all the amazing benefits listed above, your membership is portable and provides reciprocal admission at over 350 science centers worldwide through the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) passport program. Stop in today and find out how you can support HSC and enjoy the benefits of membership.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Understanding Headwaters Science Center

Perspectives from a Volunteer - John Mathisen 

Does Headwaters Science Center really matter? Is the lofty mission and vision of HSC being achieved, or is it just a place for kids to come and play with cool stuff?

I have been a volunteer there for almost 20 years now, long enough to see how HSC has affected the lives of individuals from childhood to adulthood.

This is what I have seen over the past two decades.

Children and young volunteers from years ago have grown up and moved into science careers. We have kept in touch with some of them and know they have become biologists, chemists, physicists, museum curators and medical doctors. They all say that HSC played a significant role in their career choices and initially turned them on to science. Score 1 for HSC.

Every time I’m on the exhibit floor I see the eyes of children light up as they discover something new about science, and their imaginations soar just like the hot air balloon. They ask questions and get answers from the ever-present professional staff. Is it possible I am seeing the beginnings of future scientists that our country so desperately needs? I think so.  Score 2 for HSC.

The live animals at HSC offer a huge learning opportunity. Not only do kids and adults learn a few facts, but they get the notion that all living things are valuable and deserve our respect – even snakes and tarantulas! So often I see fear and apprehension transformed to admiration and wonderment. Teaching at HSC is not about the facts of science – it’s about a way of thinking about science. And it’s so much fun. Score 3 for HSC.

Finally, it is wonderful to watch kids, parents and grandparents learn and explore science together on the exhibit floor, and family activities are often the focus of events and programs. Clearly, a benefit to our society. Score 4 for HSC.

Headwaters Science Center is a nonprofit organization and receives no public funding. About one-third of operating expenses comes from gifts and donations. And therein is the rub. They have to ask for donations. You can help to “Make a Difference” by participating in Give to the Max Day on November 14. Check out the HSC web site  for information. Open your heart and your wallet to keep HSC going strong, Drop By Drop.

John Mathisen

Friday, November 1, 2013

What is a Vernal Pool?

Our current fundraising effort at Headwaters Science Center called Drop-by-Drop refers to "Vernal Pools" as part of the metaphor for levels of giving in relation to bodies of water. Some people are not familiar with this term and are asking for a definition.

So here goes.

A vernal pool is a type of temporary wetland formed each spring from snow-melt and spring showers. By early summer, after the frost is out and evaporation increases, vernal pools disappear. Some people refer to them as leaf-litter ponds, because in wooded areas the substrate under the water consists of decomposing leaves.

 And therein lies their little secret.

Fairy shrimp
(courtesy Vernal Pool Association)
A vernal pool is a great habitat for invertebrate life because of the nutrients released by rotting leaves and vegetation. Invertebrates such as fairy shrimp and mosquito larvae thrive in this aquatic environment providing a source of food for many animals that we are familiar with, such as salamanders and frogs that have an aquatic larval stage in their life cycle.

Fairy shrimp, mosquito larvae and other invertebrates provide an important source of protein for birds, such as mallards and wood ducks, as they begin their reproductive efforts - and the pools actually serve as courtship and mating areas for the breeding pairs although nesting and brood-rearing may occur at some distance. A host of other animals visit vernal pools for drinking water and to prey on the tadpoles, frogs and salamanders.

Vernal pools are often destroyed by draining and filling as development of forested areas occurs. Timber harvest opens the canopy, raising temperature and increasing evaporation, and the pools dry up much earlier compared to those in an uncut forest.

So our metaphor is complete. Vernal pools are small and to some people insignificant, but they have an important role to play in forest ecology.  Likewise, a donation of a small amount of money to Headwaters Science Center may seem insignificant, but can make a huge difference when combined with other small donations. Even a single drop of water can make big things happen when combined with many other drops!

Please visit our donation page, choose a level of giving and make your donation on Give to the Max Day November 14th.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Three Minutes at Headwaters Science Center

If you have never visited  Headwaters Science Center, but often wondered what goes on in there - this video is for you.

Please help us continue to serve the kids and adults of Northern Minnesota with a generous donation to our cause on Give to the Max Day on November 14, 2013. It can be done online at our secure web site with - and it's tax deductible! Learn more here

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Message from the HSC Staff

The staff at HSC says, "Please participate in Give to the Max Day on November 14th to help make HSC even better and more exciting for the kids (and adults) of northern Minnesota."

The theme for HSC is all about water: "Drop-by-Drop You Can Make a Difference." Create the vernal pool, make the river flow, fill the lake and make the ocean roar.

Please come visit us soon.

Last year, more than 53,000 individual donors logged on to and gave more than $16.3 million to nearly 4,400 Minnesota nonprofits and schools in 24 hours during Give to the Max Day. Nov. 14 is the fifth annual Give to the Max Day.

This is the third year that HSC has participated. It's always a fun and exciting day!

PRIZES                      PRIZES                   PRIZES

You can amplify your giving in a number of ways during Give to the Max day:

Offer a match 

Organizations or individuals that offer a donation match will be highlighted so donors will have the opportunity to double their donation – a double drop.
If you would like to offer a match, please email the amount and time period and we will set it up.

Win a golden ticket 

A nonprofit will be randomly chosen every hour to have $1,000 added to their donation. Additionally, two $10,000 Super-sized Golden Tickets will be randomly drawn at the end of the event.  You can split your donation up into many separate donations and enter an amount (min $10) any hour to increase your chances for winning a prize.

Power hours 

Nonprofits that raise the most money during each of five power hours will win a $1,000 prize grant. The organization from each category (all nonprofits and schools, medium nonprofits, small nonprofits, and Greater Minnesota) that raise the most from 2:00-2:59 a.m., 5:00-5:59 a.m., 5:00-5:59 p.m., 6:00-6:59 p.m., and 11:00-11:59 p.m. will each win a $1,000 prize grant, for a total of $5,000 in prize grants each power hour!
You can join the “Great Minnesota Give Together” on November 14 by clicking on the “Donate Here” button!  It's safe and tax deductible.

(Donations by check or cash are always welcome anytime)