Sailing Through 25 Years: High Touch High Tech’s Partnership with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines

As High Touch High Tech proudly marks its 25th anniversary in partnership with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, we reflect on a quarter-century of  education, inspiration, and unforgettable experiences at sea. Since the inception of this groundbreaking collaboration, the intersection of science edutainment and the thrill of cruising has provided a unique and enriching journey for passengers of all ages.

High Touch High Tech’s commitment to hands-on, interactive science experiences aligns seamlessly with Royal Caribbean’s dedication to delivering unparalleled entertainment and adventure. Over the years, this partnership has evolved to become a beacon of excellence in combining education with leisure, turning each cruise into an exciting opportunity for learning, and stimulating the imagination and curiosity of Royal Caribbean’s youngest guests.

From erupting volcanoes, to chemical reactions, to staggering through the stars on the upper decks, High Touch High Tech has transformed Royal Caribbean’s youth program into a living laboratory. Families and kids have had the chance to dive into the wonders of science while cruising through some of the world’s most breathtaking destinations.

As we celebrate this remarkable 25-year milestone, we commend High Touch High Tech and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines for their unwavering dedication to education and entertainment. The synergy between these two entities has not only enriched the cruise experience but has also left an indelible mark on the countless minds inspired by the wonders of science at sea.

Here’s to another 25 years of exploration, discovery, and the continued partnership between High Touch High Tech and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. May the next quarter-century bring even more innovation, education, and unforgettable moments on the high seas. Cheers to a journey that combines the best of science and adventure, setting sail towards a brighter, more informed future for all who come on board.

The Importance of Trees!

Trees are extremely important! We here at High Touch High Tech want to highlight trees and all the things they do! They help mitigate air pollution by absorbing carbon and other pollutants. They also provide much needed habitat for wildlife.
Did you know there are Champion Trees? Champion trees are determined by factors such as height and diameter and the champion titles are awarded to many species of tree. To learn all about this you could check out the website:

The tree I am highlighting today is an Eastern Hemlock, who many of you may know is threatened by an invasive insect called the wooly adelgid. The botanical name for this tree is Tsuga canadensis. This champion is in Macon County NC and measures 175 feet high and trunk circumference at 194 inches! The crown spread is 49 feet!

Seniors Love Science!

Dinosaur Dan with seniors at Faye’s Place at Jewish Family Services

 Did you know that High Touch High Tech provides programs for seniors? Once a month, Dinosaur Dan teaches classes at Arbor Terrace and Faye’s Place at Jewish Family Services in Asheville, NC. He says that the experience is always super rewarding and inspiring for both him and the seniors. Seniors have the same level of awe about the world as anyone else as the level of inspiration and curiosity is not lost with age. It is human instinct to learn and be curious! 

Seniors exploring science at Arbor Terrace

During the latest program at Arbor Terrace, they studied genotypes and phenotypes. They drew their phenotypes, observable characteristics, and looked at genotypes. They also compared their individual fingerprints in this experiment.  

Seniors exploring science at Faye’s Place at Jewish Family Services

If you are interested in Senior Science, please contact High Touch High Tech to set up a fun experience!

The Gift Of Inspiration II-PODCAST

High Touch High Tech is all about INSPIRATION! We strive to motivate kids in the field of science! This is part two of our journey into the neuroscience and psychology of inspiration and gratitude.

Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina, a place that always inspires us. Enjoy the podcast!
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Gift of Inspiration

This season, we’re inspired by the view from Looking Glass Rock in Western North Carolina

At High Touch High Tech, we specialize in inspiring the scientists of tomorrow. We know that, behind so many of the most world-changing scientific discoveries, you’ll find an inspired scientist! But what IS inspiration, exactly? Is it an emotion? A psychological process? An electrical signal in the brain? Turns out, it’s all of those and more. Join us for part one of our podcast on the science of inspiration at the link below!

The Three Sisters

What’s on your plate? Oh, just a few thousand years of experimentation, observation, and ingenuity!

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Indigenous American innovation has inspired the foods we eat, Appalachian traditions, medicine and engineering just to name a few. In this latest podcast from High Touch High Tech we dive deep into discussion of the science and history behind why beans, corn and squash are such important staple foods today. We hope this inspires you to explore our history and the contributions of the Indigenous People of the Americas. The scientific advancement of these civilizations are the foundation for food culture across the world. Exploring the legend of the Three Sisters and the practices behind the legend may point the way toward a sustainable future.

Listen to the to the podcast here:

WORMS! Meet Your Decomposers: Earthworms- Lumbricina

credit: wikimedia commons

For more about earthworms and other creepy decomposers, listen to the latest High Touch High Tech podcast! :

On a Spring evening when the air is moist and the nights are getting warmer, I can go outside with a flashlight, shine it on the grass, and see so many earthworms pulling themselves back into the tunnels they have created in the soil. They love my yard because it is full of composting chicken and duck manure from the escapades the domestic birds had in the days before. If you listen closely, you can even hear them moving in the soil! It’s interesting to think that the composted duck and chicken manure is feeding the worms that the chickens and ducks love to eat. I have created an ecosystem that feeds itself.

credit: wikimedia commons

Earthworms are a terrestrial invertebrate found in the soil with segmented setae (bristled body parts to help the earthworm from slipping backwards) on all the segments of their body. They spend their days eating organic matter including protozoa, rotifers, bacteria, and fungi.  Their digestive system runs the length of their bodies, and they respire through their skin. They are hermaphrodites, meaning they contain both sex organs. Though they can reproduce without a mate, they prefer having one. Upon which they exchange sperm and develop eggs.

Earthworm egg sac credit: wikimedia commons

There are about 3000 species of earthworms worldwide. They can be found almost everywhere there is moist soil. Most of today’s earthworms arrived from Europe, most likely from the soil in rootstocks of plants during shipment.

Earthworms appear white, grey, pink, or reddish brown. They can range in size depending on species anywhere from ½” to a whopping 10 feet! The biggest ones can be found in Australia. They are a cold-blooded creature and assume the temperature of their surroundings. They are true worms, meaning they hatch as tiny worms and grow to adulthood without instar stages like that of the beetle or fly.

Hannah G Watson, Andrew T Ashchi, Glenn S Marrs, Cecil J Saunders. Scanning electron micrograph of recently hatched Eisenia hortensis. CC BY 4.0. credit: wikimedia commons

The lifecycle of the earthworms is as follows: they begin as an egg, emerge as a tiny baby, grow to a juvenile, and then become an adult. They can live up to 8 years. The hatchling is a tiny white and threadlike. As they grow into a juvenile, they began to develop colors of grey or reddish brown. When they become adults the band around the upper part of their body develops. This is called the clitellum, and this is the area in which reproduction organs exist. An adult worm after mating lays up to a dozen eggs at a time. The eggs are laid in the soil and are contained in a tiny egg sac that is the sloughed off part of the clitellum. After a 15-day incubation the hatchling emerges. It takes around 60 days for the earthworm to grow into an adult. Then the reproduction process begins all over again.

What are some uses for earthworms? Well, the most useful thing they do is to decompose organic matter creating frass, worm manure. The frass is an amazing fertilizer that is sold for anywhere from $1 to $5 a pound. It is a viable compost that can be applied directly to plant beds and potted plants as well. Earthworms make good fish bait. That is a whole market all its own. Also, as I said before the chickens and ducks love them! They are an excellent source of protein and minerals. They are eaten by humans in China and the Philippines. In Fujian and Guangdong province they are considered a delicacy.  In Southern Venezuela the Ye Khanna people gather them from mud, gut and boil them to eat in dishes and sometimes smoked. They are also eaten by the Māori people of New Zealand. Its is reported that they have an unsurprising earthy flavor.

As we approach sustainability, other protein and mineral sources come into our view that are much less impactful upon the earth. If you have chickens and ducks, consider creating a worm farm in a plastic or wooden bin. Or if your property is set up like mine the earthworm farm is the whole yard enabling your domestic birds to feast as they desire. Overall, the earthworm is a fascinating decomposer that is accessible for study or for a snack, directly under our feet.

Shana M Ritch

For more information go to :

The Black Soldier Fly

Image  credit: wikimedia commons

Listen to the podcast for more on larvae and decomposers! :

All life fits into an ecosystem somewhere. Even what some may consider an annoying creature has a role to play in our intricate and interconnected world. One of those “annoying” creatures is the fly. However, the black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) doesn’t have the typical characteristics of the annoying housefly that interrupts your lunch and quiet while you sleep. In fact, they are beneficial in ways beyond the niche they fill in our ecological community.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

So, this fly is a bit different in appearance to the common housefly. The adults measure about 5/8 inch long. They have a predominantly black body with metallic blue to green on the thorax and a reddish-brown abdomen. They have a wide head and very developed eyes. Their habits are different as well. They don’t buzz around and land on your doughnut releasing digestive juices and bacteria like the housefly. Instead, they are much calmer, can be caught easily, and the spreading of pathogens isn’t a problem. They prefer hiding if they are able. Their metabolic rate isn’t as high, so they fly around less.

The life cycle of a black soldier fly begins as an egg.  The eggs incubate for about 3 days. The entire life cycle can take anywhere from 44-73 days. The time for each stage is dependent upon temperatures and food access. Warmer temperatures are best for the quickest stage development. During the larval stage they may go through 6 instars or stages of shedding and growth. This process takes about 14 days. Then they pupate for 1-2 weeks before emerging as a fully formed black soldier fly. Then they mate, lay eggs and the whole process begins again.

The larvae eat almost constantly, breaking up particles with their mouth parts. Eating in masses together they stir up their food and heat it up with the energy they give off thus increasing the rate of compost. They love compost, household organic waste and manure. They can quickly reduce a compost pile by 50% if the weather is warm. As adults they move less and mostly drink liquids. Their main goal is mating and laying eggs.

In nature the black soldier fly can usually be found around livestock and farms due to their desire for compost and manure. This attribute can be utilized in and around homesteads, small city chicken coops, compost piles and farms.

Image  credit: wikimedia commons

 The larvae have many uses. These include feed for poultry, fish, pigs, lizards, turtles and are sometimes incorporated into dog food. They have a nice balance of healthy fats, nutrients, and amino acids. So, for this reason could they be used for human food? Absolutely. It is reported that when cooked they smell like cooked potatoes, have a crispier outside and a soft yummy inside with a nutty meaty taste. Yum!!! In 2013 Austrian designer, Katharina Unger, produced a tabletop insect breeding farm called Farm 432 ( that can produce a bit over a pound of larvae a week. The larvae are not only a nutritious protein filled meal for us but is also used to produce chitin, a polymer derived from glucose, to aid in removing biofouling (organic buildup) from pipes and the hulls of ships. The larvae manure is called frass and has its own use as organic fertilizer. Nothing goes wasted in nature.

Image credit: pixabay

You could even set up a self-feeding or collection station for your pigs, chickens, and ducks. In an existing contained compost bin, you could construct a ridged tube from the bottom of the bin that leads to a bucket outside. The larvae have a natural tendency to climb. Use that aspect and give them a tube to crawl up and simply set a bucket at the end for them to drop into. Or just let the chickens and ducks wait at the end for a snack.

credit: pixabay

In conclusion, we have examined the lifecycle, and many uses of the larvae for Hermetia illucens. Get innovative and construct your own chicken food producing station.  You can do it with minimal engineering knowledge and just a visit to the hardware store. Explore a sustainable source of protein to create culinary delights such as larvae burgers and crunchy bits for salads and stews.  As you snack you can revel in the knowledge that this less buzzy fly has not only a niche in nature, but a place in our world as we move closer to sustainability.

For more on Black Soldier flies visit:

Shana M Ritch

Worms! Meet Your Decomposers

We are so happy to announce to all of our science friends, near and far, that our High Touch High Tech podcast is BACK!

In honor of this eerie October season we present to you a scientific conversation about worms and larvae. Exploring the creepy nature of decomposers demystifies them, and reveals the value they have in nature.

We delve into the lifecycles and curious facts about champion decomposers such as Tenebrio molitor, Lumbricina, and Sarcophagidae. Enjoy! Here’s the link:

Hurricane Science for Kids

What is a Hurricane?

A hurricane is a large and powerful storm that can be hundreds of miles across! A hurricane has strong winds spiraling inward and upward, and can move at speeds of 75 to 200 mph. For instance, at peak intensity Hurricane Ian was a Category 4 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 155 miles per hour!  The highest and most dangerous category of hurricane is Category 5, with maximum sustained winds of over 155 mph.   

Hurricane Dennis, a Category 4 storm

What makes a hurricane special is that it rotates around the “eye” of the storm, which is the calmest part.  Hurricanes rotate in a counter-clockwise direction in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise direction in the Southern Hemisphere. You need three things for a hurricane to form: warm water, cooler air, and wind.

The center, or “eye” of a hurricane.

Typically, hurricanes form over warm ocean waters of at least 80°F. That combined with the cooler air of early fall sets things up for a hurricane. When ocean waters are warm and the air above is cool, AND there’s a wind that’s blowing in the same direction and at the same speed, this starts forcing air upward from the ocean surface. The winds start to flow outward above the storm allowing the air below to rise, giving the hurricane its strength and its shape. Then something called the Coriolis Force gives hurricanes that special spin you see! Atlantic hurricanes typically occur between June and November.

Even though a hurricane is made of air and water, it has a structure inside!

How are Hurricanes Classified?

Hurricanes are classified into five categories, based on their wind speeds and potential to cause damage.

Category 1: Winds 75-95 mph with minimal damage

Category 2: Winds 96-110 mph with moderate damage

Category 3: Winds 111-130 mph with extensive damage

Category 4: Winds 131-155 mph with extreme damage

Category 5: Winds 155+ mph with catastrophic damage

Sometimes a hurricane will start with a high classification of Category 5 but then drop once it hits land. For instance, Hurricane Matthew started off as a Category 5 but was considered Category 4 once it made landfall in Florida. Once a hurricane hits land it loses strength, i.e. decreases in category, because of cool temperatures, a lack of moisture, and/or friction. Moisture is what fuels a hurricane!

What are some Famous Hurricanes?

1992 – Hurricane Andrew – Category 5

1999– Hurricane Floyd – Category 2

2005– Hurricane Katrina – Category 5

2012– Hurricane Sandy – Category 3

2016– Hurricane Matthew – Category 5/4

2018– Hurricane Michael – Category 5

2022– Hurricane Ian – Category 4

Check out this cool video! Make a hurricane in a bowl at home so you can see how they work:

Sources and Further Reading: