Space Shuttle Discovery To Fly For The Last Time

A 30-year mission is coming to an end for NASA.  Today, Space Shuttle Discovery is making its final launch from NASA Launch Pad 39A from Cape Canaveral, Florida.  The Space Shuttle flights are coming to an end, with Discovery making its 39th launch from the surface of the Earth.

Discovery is set to launch at 4:50 p.m., with a crew of six commanded by Steve Lindsey,  a retired Air Force colonel. Its 11-day mission – ferrying supplies and a humanoid robot to the International Space Station — will be its 39th since 1984, and its last.


Tens of thousands of people are expected to watch the launch from vantage points all along the Space Coast. Among those in the VIP area will be Florida Governor Rick Scott, watching the first launch since he took office in January, as well as U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden.

In addition to Lindsey, 50, a fighter pilot who flew dozens of missions in Iraq, the crew includes pilot Eric Boe, 45, an Air Force colonel and fellow fighter-pilot veteran, from Atlanta; and mission specialists Alvin Drew, 47; Steve Bowen, 47; Michael Barratt, 51, a medical doctor; Nicole Stott, who lived on the Space Coast for many years while working as a mission engineer at Kennedy Space Center.

The mission marks the beginning of the end of the 30-year space shuttle program. Discovery, arguably the most-storied and versatile spaceship in the fleet, should be followed by Endeavour in April, and, if all goes well, Atlantis as early as June. Then, for the first time in nearly 60 years, the United States will have no government-owned rocket ready to launch.

Delayed for various reasons since November, Discovery’s last launch will feature an interesting bit of cargo.  That would be the robotic astronaut Robonaut 2, who will be heading to the International Space Station as part of Discovery’s last mission.  It’s kind of interesting how the end of an era overlaps with the beginning of a brand new era, isn’t it?  Just think, in ten years, there’ll be unmanned space shuttles flying everywhere.

Good luck, NASA.  Here’s to a successful last mission for the old warhorse!

High Touch High Tech of Houston shows students why science matters!

On February 11, 2011, Doppler Dean from High Touch High Tech visited CCS to conduct science experiments on “matter” with both first grade classes.  During this in-school science field trip, students participated in experiments with many different materials and substances regarding solids, liquids, and gases!   

First graders now know that matter is the “stuff” that makes up all the things in the world. Using a balloon, students discovered that the air we breathe is different. It is not a solid or a liquid. You can’t see it. The stuff that blows up a balloon is matter, and it is a gas!   Matter, as we understand now, is made up of teeny-tiny bits called atoms. Atoms are too small to see. Millions of atoms could fit on the period at the end of a sentence! Thanks to Doppler Dean for helping the first graders to better understand this scientific concept

Festival of Knowledege 2011

High Touch High Tech sponsored the WNC Nature Center’s Festival of Knowledge again this year & it was a blast!  The annual festival highlights a free science fair where kids make awesome science projects & compete for great prizes. The Best in Show award this year won a FREE Birthday Party from High Touch High Tech! Other kids in attendance were able to get hands-on & make space mud. You can see just how much fun everyone had in these pictures.

Is It Magic Or Science? You Be The Judge!

Allison from High Touch High Tech Vancouver found some great ways that you can become a magician! The following little ‘tricks’ will appear to be magic until you understand the science behind them.  There’s an old saying that science begins with wonder, and getting your students to wonder how tricks like these work is an excellent way of getting them to want to know more about the science behind them. These simple science experiements are a fun & easy way to get hands-on!

Hot & Cold Water:

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How can water be hot & cold at the same time?

You Will Need:

Three bowls or dishes: one containing cold water, one hot water, one lukewarm. Arrange the bowls in a row with the lukewarm water in the middle.

Safety note: Test in advance to make sure that the hot and cold water is not dangerously hot or cold. Pupils should be able put their hands in the bowls without discomfort or risk of scalding

The Trick:

Ask for two volunteers from the audience – I mean the pupils – and explain that you are going to perform a special bit of magic with three bowls of water. Ask each of your volunteers to roll up their sleeves. One dips a hand into the cold water, while the other does the same with the hot water. Leave the volunteers standing in place for a minute or so, while you explain to the class that these two bowls contain perfectly ordinary water, but the middle bowl contains magic water, which has the amazing property of being both hot and cold at the same time.

Then ask your volunteers to remove their hands from their bowls and put the same hand into the middle bowl. Ask: ‘Is the water in this bowl hot or cold?’ The pupil whose hand was in cold water should say ‘Hot’, while the pupil whose hand was in hot water should say ‘Cold’.

Ask them to take their hands out of the bowl, swap places and put their other hand into the opposite bowl. Again leave them with their hands in place for a minute or so, then again have them put the same hands into the middle bowl. This time they should give the reverse answers.

How It Works:

So how can the water be both hot and cold at the same time? Ask the children for suggestions, and they should tell you that because one child’s hand was in cold water to begin with, the lukewarm water would have seemed hot by comparison and vice versa. The point to establish is that the way we sense the world is relative; we become used to our surroundings, so how we perceive a different environment depends on where we approach it from. For example, go into the playground from a warm room and it might feel cold; go outside from a cold room and the playground would feel warm. Ask the children if they can think of other similar examples and to devise experiments to test their theories, such as going from a darkened room into a brightly lit one and vice versa.

Ghostly Writing:

The room is haunted… or is it?

You Will Need:

  • Lemon juice
  • A fine paintbrush or a cotton bud
  • Paper
  • A source of heat, such as a naked light bulb, a candle, a Bunsen burner or perhaps an iron, if you have one available.

Safety note: always take appropriate precautions when using a naked flame or very hot objects in the classroom.

The Trick:

In preparation, use the paintbrush or cotton bud to write some messages on pieces of paper with lemon juice. Leave this to dry overnight and then distribute them around the room, along with several sheets of untreated paper.

Gather the pupils together and tell them that you have discovered something amazing – that your classroom is being haunted by a mysterious ghost. They will probably dispute this, so tell them you can prove it; you will ask the ghost to make a message appear on a blank piece of paper. Hold up one of your prepared pieces of paper to your heat source (or iron it if you’re using an iron). The ghostly message will slowly appear as if by magic.

Safety note: be careful not to burn yourself or set fire to the paper!

You can then ask the pupils to find the other pieces of paper you have hidden around the class and you can test each one in turn to discover whether the ghost has left any more messages.

How It’s Done:

Tell the class that of course it wasn’t a ghost who was writing, it’s all down to science again. Can they work out what really happened? Explain that all living things contain carbon, so if you write on paper with a clear juice from something once living, it will char and turn into black carbon when heated. The writing was made with lemon juice, which is invisible once it dries, but when it was heated enough, the carbon in it was released and it became visible. As an extension activity, you could have the pupils make invisible writing with other organic liquids, such as milk or onion juice, and see if the same thing happens.

Add Some Science To Your Valentine’s Day- FUN and Simple Activities!

Love has a lot to do with chemistry, so if you’re looking to connect Valentine’s Day with chemistry, you’ve come to the right place.

Take a look at these FUN and simple experiments that relate to Valentine’s Day.

Crystal Heart Decoration:

This crystal heart only takes a couple of hours to grow & makes a pretty Valentine’s Day decoration!

 Materials Needed:

  • Borax
  • Water
  • Pipecleaner


  1. Shape the pipecleaner like a heart. It’s fine to have a ‘stem’ at the bottom of the heart, since this will give you a way to suspend the heart in the crystal growing solution. You can always clip it later with scissors or wire cutters.
  2. Prepare the crystal growing solution by stirring borax into boiling hot water until it stops dissolving. You can tell you have enough borax if a little powder starts to accumulate in the bottom of the container.
  3. Add food coloring, if desired. Alternatively, if you want a colored heart you can simply use colored pipecleaners.
  4. Place your heart shape into a container. It’s best if the heart doesn’t touch the sides or bottom of the container, which you can achieve by hanging the heart from a pencil or butter knife. However, you’ll get decent results just setting the heart into the container.
  5. Pour the borax crystal solution into the container, being certain all of the heart is covered. Try to avoid getting any undissolved solid into this container.
  6. Allow the crystals to grow on the heart for several hours or overnight. When you are satisfied with the crystals on the heart, remove it from the crystal solution and allow it to dry. You can hang the heart as a decoration. The crystal heart may be stored wrapped in tissue paper.

Make Colored Flowers:

It’s easy to make your own colored flowers for Valentine’s Day, especially carnations and daisies, but there are a couple of tricks that help ensure great results. Here’s how you do it.


Materials Needed:

  • Fresh Flowers, preferably white – don’t use wilted flowers since they might not be able to absorb water well.  Good choices include daisies and carnations.
  • Food coloring
  • Warm water


  1. Trim the stems of your flowers so they aren’t excessively long.
  2. Make a slanted cut at the base of the stem under water. The cut is slanted so that the stem won’t sit flat on the bottom of the container. A flat cut can prevent the flower from taking in water. Make the cut underwater to prevent air bubbles from forming in the tiny tubes at base of the stem, which would prevent water/color from being drawn up.
  3. Add food coloring to a glass. You’re looking at about 20-30 drops of food coloring per half cup of warm water. Warm water will be taken more readily than cold water.
  4. Set the damp stem of the flower in the colored water. The petals should become colored after a few hours. It may take as long as 24 hours, however, depending on the flower.
  5. You can set the colored flowers in plain water or flower preservative, but they will continue to drink water, changing the pattern of the color over time.

Getting Fancy

You can slit the stem up the middle and put each side in a different color to get bi-colored flowers. What do you think you will get if you put half of the stem in blue dye and half in yellow dye? What do you think will happen if you take a colored flower and put its stem in dye of a different color?

How It Works

A few different processes are involved in plant ‘drinking’ or transpiration. As water evaporates from flowers and leaves, the attractive force between water molecules called cohesion pulls more water along. Water is pulled up through tiny tubes (xylem) that run up a plant’s stem. Although gravity might want to pull the water back down toward the ground, water sticks to itself and these tubes. This capillary action keeps water in the xylem in much the same way as water stays in a straw when you suck water through it, except evaporation and biochemical reactions provide the initial upward pull.

High Touch High Tech uses enthusiasm to ignite fifth-graders’ minds in Dallas, TX


Lakeside Elementary’s fifth-grade students became scientists and shared hands-on experiences of concepts established by Sir Isaac Newton through participating in a PTO-sponsored workshop of “Newton in the Nutshell.”

Cranium Crystal & Rockin’ Ruth Ann, scientists from the Dallas location, used enthusiasm to ignite fifth graders’ minds as they perfromed various experiments to test Newton’s three laws of motion.

You can find out the details of their awesome hands-on experience by reading the latest article in the  Plano Star-Courier or just click the link below

Students at Scotland Elementary in Ridgefield, CT Get Their Hands On Science!


Students in Ridgefield, CT will get to experience FUN , hands-on science in the upcoming weeks & months. High Touch High Tech of Conneticut will be exposing the students of Scotland Elementary to the amaxing world of science and nature.

Kindergarten through fifth grade will participate in interactive hands-on workshops funded by the school PTO.  The students are excited about upcoming programs including The Power of Light, Smarty Plants, Get Buggy, Edison’s Workshop & more!

You can read the full article published on by clicking the link below..

5 Fun, Scientific Facts About Chocolate

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With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, we thought it would be fun to share a little sweet science. Chocolate has long been associated with the holiday of love, but did you know there is actual scientific reasoning for why we love chocolate?

For the past 7 years, a popular club at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has celebrated the science of chocolate!  The Laboratory for Chocolate Science was founded by a group of students who had a thirst for chocolate knowledge and motivated by their sweet tooth.  The Boston Globe has an article about The Laboratory for Chocolate Sciencehere, and the kids have some cool scientific facts we’d like to share.1. Chocolate has no caffeine!  Can this be true?  Yes, according to a 1993 article in the journal Biochemist, as quotedby the MIT peeps.  Processed chocolate, broken down into its chemical elements, showed an undetectable amount of caffeine. Which explains, perhaps, why I can’t handle a single cup of coffee, but can down a LOT of chocolate.2. Chocolate contains serotonin.  We knew chocolate made us feel good, and here’s why.  Serotonin, which is the most concentrated of all the neurotransmitters contained in chocolate according to the MIT site, is responsible for feelings of well-being and contentment, as well as curbing anxiety and depression.

3. Chocolate can “bloom.”  You know when you open a package of chocolate that’s been sitting on the shelf for awhile and it has some white shmutz on it?  This is called “bloom,” and it happens when, over time, fat (cocoa butter) molecules suspended inside the chocolate bar rise to the surface and recrystallize.  “Bloomed” chocolate is not dangerous to eat, but it will be dry and less flavorful than the original product.

4. Chocolate is a “polymorph.”  No, this doesn’t mean it can take the form of broccoli or 12-grain bread. But it does mean that there are multiple ways – VI, to be precise (they’re given Roman numerals) – to arrange the particles of chocolate in its solid phase. The most desirable is polymorph V (5), which is stable enough for that pleasant “crack,” but still fluid enough to have that delicious melt-in-your-mouth feeling that we all crave.  See this article for more on polymorphs.

5. Chocolate is cool(er than us).  In its optimal form (polymorph form V), chocolate’s melting point is around 35 degrees Celcius.  This is just below the average temperature inside the human body.  The slight difference is the scientific reason why chocolate melts in that sloooow, delectable way: it’s warm enough to melt, but not so warm as to liquify on contact.

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NASA Finds 1200 New Exoplanets


While NASA continues to search for more rocky planets outside of the solar system, they’re also still searching for Earth-like planets here in our own backyard.  For example, Cygnus is one of our closest neighbors, from a galactic sense, and NASA has deployed the Kepler Space Telescope to study the Milky Way galaxy. As it turns out, the Kepler Space Telescope is pretty good; NASA has discovered 1200 rocky exoplanets in the constellation Cygnus, including 58 planets with Earth-like life-friendly orbits.

There’s only one problem:  now you have to tell which exoplanets are simply rocks and which are actual planets.


Kepler basically measures how many objects of a certain size cross in front of the face of the star.  Given Kepler has an accuracy rating of nearly 80 percent according to CalTech, it’s likely that most of these discoveries are actually planets, which means that Earth-like planet systems may be pretty common.

You can read more about the new discovery on or click on the link below:

Japanese Volcano Wakes Up After 52 Years


The Shinmoedake volcano is widely known to an international audience.  For James Bond fans, it’s known as the secret volcano base of Bond villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld.  However, for the Japanese, Shinmoedake is best known as the volcano that’s erupting right now.  Shinmoedake volcano, in the Kirishima mountain range on the southwestern island of Kyushu, is currently erupting in violent fashion after waking up last week.  Experts believe this may be the biggest eruption of Shinmoedake since 1716. After 300 years, the Shinmoedake volcano is waking up.

In a lot of ways, this has been a big year for volcanic activity, and this seems to be increasing.  Shinmoedake is causing a lot of problems for the Japanese.  There are Europe-style travel disruptions, Indonesia-style evacuations (1000 people & growing as the risk increases), and the very real fear of lava erupting from the long-quiet peak.  This is looking like the real deal, and something to be worried about if you’re planning on traveling to Japan (or live there).


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