April Was Extra Geeky for the DC Area!

I’m guessing when you think of the Nation’s Capital, it’s likely your thoughts steer more towards politics and government, rather than science and engineering. Living in the DC area has always proved to be full of interesting places to visit and sights to see. I will admit that I take for granted the attractions of the area and haven’t seen nearly as many as are on my “must-see” list, but I have been trying to make sure I share as many of these activities with my two young boys as possible. The last month has truly been filled with timeless memories for all of us.

It’s not every day that you are treated with your first view of a space shuttle that has flown in space; unfortunately my first view would also be the last view of a shuttle in flight. On April 17th, I gathered with hundreds of members of the NASA Goddard community in a personal fly-over by the Space Shuttle Discovery on its way to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Space Shuttle Discovery was mounted atop the NASA 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft as it made three passes over downtown Washington, D.C. before it made a personal flight over NASA-Goddard. There were many misty eyes watching Discovery as the shuttle program had been a huge inspiration for so many of the scientists and engineers that worked at Goddard.

Image above: Space Shuttles Enterprise, left, and Discovery meet nose-to-nose at the beginning of a transfer ceremony at the Smithsonian's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Thursday, April 19, 2012, in Chantilly, Va. Photo Credit: NASA/Smithsonian Institution/Carolyn Russo

After landing at Dulles airport in Virginia, on April 19th there were several ceremonies to commemorate the arrival of Discovery and the departure of the shuttle Enterprise from the space hanger in the museum. NASA even hosted a social media gathering for a lucky 30 guests to be part of the momentous occasion. I had applied to attend, but alas wasn’t selected.

Timmy the Monkey and Carrie from Think Geek!
So excited to finally see Discovery with my boys.















The following weekend, my family decided to head to the Udvar-Hazy center to take a look at Discovery up close and personal. We weren’t the only people with this same idea, it was packed! She was a beautiful sight, covered in her patchwork of thermal blankets and the engine cone was still attached. It was awesome. While we were there we met up with Timmy the monkey and Carrie from ThinkGeek. It was so much fun sharing history with so many people, not to mention seeing the smile on my 3-year-old’s face when he told me that he wanted to go to space. We even left a little bit of GeekMom and GeekDad behind on a shuttle tire to be preserved in the Smithsonian!

As a finale for the month, our family attended the 2012 USA Science and Engineering Festival this past weekend. We were lured by a chance to finally meet GeekMom’s publisher Ken Denmead during his book signing for The Geek Dad Book for Aspiring Mad Scientists, but stayed for the truly overwhelming amount of coolness we were surrounded by. I have never seen so many amazing exhibits in one place, the majority of them being hands on! Our family learned about different forms of auto fuel as compared to gasoline, we saw a snake robot, we were able to watch an entire line of MakerBots in action, we played with circus physics and met Sid the Science Kid and Super Grover in person! With two little ones, it was incredibly overwhelming, but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, and have already put it on our schedule for next year.

Our Family with GeekDad/GeekMom publisher Ken Denmead, my son was instantly in love with the blow gun Ken showed him.
Meeting Sid the Science Kid!!!
Meeting Super Grover












Did any of you have any especially memorable geeky activities in the last month? Are you from the DC area and get to experience any of these events too? GeekMom would love to hear from you!

Note: Unless otherwise noted, all pictures were taken by either me or my husband, GeekDad Brian.

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Review:The Geek Dad Book For Aspiring Mad Scientists by Ken Denmead

I don’t think there’s anyone out there that hasn’t imagined themselves a mad scientist at least once. For me, it was every time they made me wear those crazy goggles in science class while I waited for something to bubble over or change color or let out noxious fumes. I couldn’t help but hear an evil little laugh in my head. Muah ha ha ha! Okay, not everyone heard the laugh, but now everyone does have the chance to go all mad scientist and laugh out loud right along with their kids.

The latest in the Geek Dad books, The Geek Dad Book for Aspiring Mad Scientists: The Coolest Experiments and Projects for Science Fairs and Family Fun hits shelves on November 1st and is now available for pre-order. I was fortunate to receive an early copy to check out, and now I’ve got a very long list of experiments my kids have planned for every weekend through next year.

Much like the previous Geek Dad books by Ken Denmead, publisher of GeekDad.com and GeekMom.com, this one will inspire you and your kids to try new things as you explore and learn. And although it’s a GeekDad book, you’ll find plenty of projects based on ideas from our very own GeekMom editors Kathy Ceceri, Natania Barron and Jenny Williams, so don’t think it’s exclusively for the dads of the world. The projects are rated for cost, difficulty and duration so you know exactly what you’re in for before you start. It’s especially helpful to look at the duration, as although some of the projects can be completed in an hour, like Exploring Fluid Dynamics: The Magic of Mentos and Soda, others can take weeks like Growing Crystals For Power.

There is a range of difficulties covering primary school kids right on up through high school, which makes this ideal fodder for science fair projects. Although the ideas and the how-to are all laid out, the book never loses sight of the fact that science fair projects are supposed to leave kids guessing, at least a little, right until the end.  To help parents with this, there are even handy spoiler warnings where appropriate, pointing out key bits of information that you should hold back from your kids so they learn to discover the answers for themselves.

I think one of the things that I like best about the book is that it isn’t a dry instruction manual.  It’s not just, here’s a project, here’s how you do it, move along.  It actually reads more like a mad scientist’s handbook.  The very first project, Extracting Your Own DNA, is written with an eye toward creating loyal minions to help in your plans for world domination.  Really, who hasn’t wished they could do that, and what kid wouldn’t jump at the chance to see how it might be possible?

And perhaps my favorite section, which I intend to make my kids study, highlight, and study again, contains experiments under the heading Apocalypse Survival Science.  Once we’ve started messing with DNA and creating our own clones, you know the zombie outbreak is just around the corner, and this group of projects nicely addresses that problem.  You and your kids will learn how to save the world together!

Whether you’re looking to inspire a love of science in your young child, or to encourage an older child to hold on to their curiosity about how things work, this book is sure to give you ideas galore and hours of fun and educational entertainment. You can pre-order your copy now at Amazon, B&N, Indiebound, Powell’s, Books-a-Million or iTunes.