Zip Away to Summer!

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Before you and your students head to the theme park on your summer vacation, discover how engineers employ key physics concepts, like gravity, friction, inertia, mass, slope and force to design and create thrilling rides. With just a few affordable, easy to find materials, students can build functional zip lines for their ping-pong ball passengers!

Click here for the Science Mill's scalable K-12 curriculum for a Zip Away activity based on this project from PBS Kids.

Science Mill Donors Help Students Dream Big in STEM

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Dream big.  Those two words hold such great promise. But how can students, especially those in rural communities, connect the dots between dreaming big and a successful career?   

Fortunately, the Science Mill museum which opened in Johnson City in 2015, is inspiring more and more students living in small Texas Hill Country towns to see themselves as part of a 21st century workforce in science, technology, engineering, and math.  

And generous donors are stepping up to make sure under-privileged students in the Hill Country have access to the out-of-school STEM enrichment offered by the Science Mill through field trips, STEM immersion camps and visits to the museum.

In the spirit of paying-it-forward, one such donor, Charlie Shaw along with his wife Mary, recently made it possible for 10 area families to each receive a free one-year membership at the Science Mill. Charlie knows from personal experience what a difference a science center can make to an impoverished child.  Growing up in Gulfport, FL, in the 1960s with limited resources, he attended classes after school and summers at the local science center. 

“I’ve been interested in batteries and light bulbs as long as I can remember.  My father used to say I learned to read by studying mail order electronics catalogs,” Shaw said. “I studied electronics at our science center for three years while I was in elementary school and then continued taking classes there through high school.”

Shaw said the Science Mill reminds him of the science center that helped set him on the path to becoming a scientist. “The Science Mill is a teaching science center. An emphasis on special programs with expert presenters sets it apart.  Staff members who assist visitors are well trained and knowledgeable too.”

Today, Charlie is a successful master fabricator and his company, CW Shaw, Inc., has fabricated and provided design expertise for many large-scale, award-winning, internationally recognized projects. His company built the Race Track exhibit, the Giant Lever exhibit, the Create an Explosion exhibit and the Sailboat exhibit for the Science Mill.

To help more students dream big in STEM through a donation, please contact Holly Barton, Director of Operations at the Science Mill by calling 844-263-6405, extension 1002 or at holly.barton@sciencemill.org. The Science Mill is located at 101 S Ladybird Lane in Johnson City, Texas.

Science Mill Awards First Scholarships to Local Graduates

 (L to R) Science Mill Co-founder Robert Elde, Alexis McDougal, Hailey Bickley, Science Mill Co-founder Bonnie Baskin

(L to R) Science Mill Co-founder Robert Elde, Alexis McDougal, Hailey Bickley, Science Mill Co-founder Bonnie Baskin

Johnson City seniors Hailey Bickley and Alexis McDougal are the first recipients of the Science Mill’s new student employee scholarship program. They were each awarded a $500 scholarship to be used towards their post-secondary education as a reward for their outstanding work at the museum.

Science Mill Co-founder Bonnie Baskin said the Science Mill not only inspires students who visit the museum to pursue a future in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), it also influences the high school students who work at the museum.

“One of the first students we hired decided to study forensics because of his experience at the Science Mill,” she said.  “To encourage more of our student employees to pursue careers in STEM, we launched a scholarship program for them this spring.”  

Scholarship recipient Hailey Bickley, who started at the Science Museum last June, said her work experience in the BioLab has her thinking about a possible future in marine biology. “It’s my favorite place to be at the Science Mill,” she said. “I was so excited to see Xotica, one of our axolotls, lay eggs on Mother’s Day. It was a first, as the axolotls have been laying eggs when no one’s around.”

The Science Mill has also expanded Hailey’s geographic horizons. “People from all over the world visit the Science Mill,” she said. “That’s been a big cultural splash for me, having grown up in Johnson City.”  She added that it’s fascinating to hear her explanations translated into different languages by members within a group or family.

Alexis McDougal, who also received a scholarship, said that she applied for a job last fall at the Science Mill because she likes working with children. As one of the museum “Explainers,” her role has been to answer questions about the more than 50 plus exhibits and sometimes give museum tours.

She said her favorite thing about working at the museum has been learning lots of new things and teaching them to other people.  “I would encourage other students to work at the Science Mill.  Not only have I learned a lot of information, I’ve learned good customer service skills.”

Alexis said she’ll miss the friendly staff and the museum environment when she leaves for college soon.  “Working at the Science Mill has been a great experience for me and I’m sad that my time there will be coming to an end shortly,” she said.

To learn more about Science Mill student employee or scholarship opportunities, please contact Holly Barton, Director of Operations at the Science Mill by calling 844-263-6405, extension 1002 or at holly.barton@sciencemill.org. The Science Mill is located at 101 S Ladybird Lane in Johnson City, Texas.

The Science Mill Goes Outside with a New Grant!

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The Science Mill is honored to receive a Texas Outside grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Community Outdoor Outreach Program (CO-OP) for our Science Outside! Club. The CO-OP was founded by TPWD in 1996 to help introduce underserved populations to environmental education, conservation and outdoor recreation programs. The Science Mill’s new Science Outside! Club will further this initiative by engaging fourth through eighth grade students (and their parents) from rural communities in Blanco and Burnet Counties in outdoor science and recreational activities.

“The Science Mill is committed to significantly expanding its out-of-school, outdoor science activities in order to better serve young people from underrepresented populations. Our goal is to inspire young people to envision themselves in STEM careers related to outdoor recreation, conservation and land management. We also want to foster a lifelong appreciation for the outdoors, conservation and the environment,” said Dr. Robert Elde, Science Mill Founder, Science Director and Vice Chair of the Board.

The Science Outside! Club is a collaboration between the Science Mill and Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve, the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, Inks Lake State Park, Pedernales Falls State Park and Blanco State Park. Club meetings will take place at the Science Mill, and participants will also have access activities and events hosted by our partner organizations.

“The Science Mill has a history of successfully offering STEM- and career-focused summer camps and field trip activities, and we are excited to begin collaborating with organizations whose expertise and outdoor spaces are necessary for doing first-rate science outdoors,” said Elde. “We are proud to partner with the State Parks near our communities, the Bamberger Ranch and the LBJ National Historical Park to create and deliver this program.”

Science Outside! activities will include using Micro:Bit and Weather:Bit technology to create personal, digital weather stations, studying aquatic science, learning about conservation efforts and more. Club participants will meet with experts from the Science Mill and local communities for hands-on learning sessions. They will also complete assignments on their own in between club meetings, and report back on their findings.

Keep an eye on this space and our social media profiles for updates on the Science Outside! Club! Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.