The Magnitude!

Join High Touch High Tech in celebrating
Richter Scale Day
April 26th!

Does the
name Charles F. Richter mean anything to you? Is he your friend on Facebook or Instagram?
Is he a YouTube Star? No! Back in 1935, 86 years ago, this man developed a
mathematical way to determine the strength of earthquakes!

You may have
heard the term “Richter scale”, but the official name is Richter Magnitude
scale. Charles Richter was working at the California Institute of Technology
and developed a mathematical device to compare the size of earthquakes. Trying
to determine the strength of earthquakes is no easy task. In fact, it is extremely
complicated and requires serious math.

The
magnitude of an earthquake is determined from the logarithm of the amplitude of
waves recorded by seismographs. Adjustments are included for the variation in
the distance between the various seismographs and the epicenter of the
earthquakes. The epicenter is where the earthquake first began. On the Richter
Scale, magnitude is expressed in whole numbers and decimal fractions.

For
example, a magnitude 5.3 might be computed for a moderate earthquake, and a
strong earthquake might be rated as magnitude 6.3. Because of the logarithmic
basis of the scale, each whole number increase in magnitude represents a
tenfold increase in measured amplitude; as an estimate of energy, each whole
number step in the magnitude scale corresponds to the release of about 31 times
more energy than the amount associated with the preceding whole number value.
Amazing!!

Richter
was born in Overstock, Ohio.  He grew up with his maternal grandfather,
who moved the family to Los Angeles in 1909. After graduating from LA high
school, he attended Stanford University.
In 1928, he began work on his PhD in theoretical physics from the
California Institute of Technology, but, before he finished it, he was offered
a position at the Carnegie Institute of Washington.

He became
fascinated with seismology (the study of earthquakes and the waves they produce
in the earth). Thereafter, he worked at the new Seismological Laboratory in
Pasadena, California under the direction of Beno Gutenberg.

In 1932, Richter and Gutenberg developed a
standard scale to measure the relative sizes of earthquake sources, called the
Richter scale. In 1937, he returned to the California Institute of Technology,
where he spent the rest of his career, eventually becoming professor of
seismology in 1952.

Richter
chose to use the term “magnitude” to describe an earthquake’s
strength because of his early interest in astronomy; stargazers use the word to
describe the brightness of stars.

Gutenberg
suggested that the scale be logarithmic so an earthquake of magnitude 7 would
be ten times stronger than a 6, a hundred times stronger than a 5, and a
thousand times stronger than a 4. (The 1989 earthquake that shook San
Francisco was magnitude 6.9.)

The
Richter scale was published in 1935 and immediately became the standard measure
of earthquake intensity. Richter did not seem concerned that Gutenberg’s name
was not included at first; but in later years, after Gutenberg was already
dead, Richter began to insist for his colleague to be recognized for expanding
the scale to apply to earthquakes all over the world, not just in southern
California. Since 1935, several other magnitude scales have been developed. But
it is the Richter scale that remains the standard.

Interested in becoming a seismologist for the day? Create your own earthquake with our at-home experiment, Shaker Table. Test the magnitude of your earthquake and give it a rating from the Richter Scale!

Giant Pandas: Goofball or Genius?

Join High touch High Tech in celebrating
Giant Panda Day
March 16th!

Even the toughest among us cannot resist a little tiny internal “awwwww” when we happen upon a viral video of rotund Giant Panda babies bombarding their caretaker with their squishy, playful bodies.  How about when one falls off something in a goofy, bamboo-induced haze?  If you are one of those folks for whom even these panda delights fail to amuse, perhaps it might pique your interest to know that pandas are also absolute evolutionary freaks.  There are few animals on earth that can match the Giant Panda for sheer evolutionary mystery.  Until the 1980’s we did not even understand what they were, taxonomically. And only in 2019 did we figure out the secret of how a biological carnivore managed to subsist on an almost entirely vegan diet.  Pandas are more than just cute little bamboo-chomping doofuses, they are a testament to the relentless drive to adapt and survive that unites all of life on a level that is way more than skin deep.

Since pandas were made known to modern biological science in the 1860’s, the debate raged over if the soon-to-be-world-famous fuzzball was a bear, a relative of a racoon, or its own branch entirely.  Compounding the mystery is the fact that internally, as far as muscles, teeth, and organs, a panda is almost exactly like a bear.  Yet in diet and lifestyle, it resembles another highly adorable mammal of the Southwestern Chinese bamboo forests, the Red Panda, which is more closely related to a skunk.  The Giant Panda and the Red Panda both have elongated wrist bones called “pseudothumbs” that allow them to grip and eat their main meal, bamboo.  Which they do, constantly, to the tune of 20 to 40 pounds a day for a Giant Panda!

If Giant Pandas are bears, which are carnivorous, how is it that they learned to survive almost exclusively on plants?  If they are not bears, how is it that their internal organs are the exact same as bears, without any of the extra stomachs, enzymes, and digestive tricks that allow herbivorous animals to survive on tough, cellulose-based food?  What even IS this freaky little fuzzball?  Thanks to genetic sequencing, some helpful fossils, and some VERY devoted biologists, in 2019 the entire picture began to come together.  It turns out that genetically, pandas are bears.  Their closest living relative is the South American Spectacled Bear, which is itself a very ancient form of bear; it is theorized that pandas are the oldest living branch of the Ursine family tree.

The fossil record also shows that there were possibly some species of prehistoric panda ancestors that were at least somewhat adjusted to eating plants, with some fossil bear teeth displaying the similar cusps and folds to what a Giant Panda uses to grind up its non-stop daily bamboo feast.  So Giant Pandas are bears… but how do they eat all that low-nutrient cellulose, almost exclusively, and survive?  After years of careful GPS tracking and lots of analyzing poop, researchers discovered the Giant Panda, like any experienced vegan, knows very well how to survive on plants.  It turns out the maybe-not-so-doofy-after-all Giant Panda eats seasonally, and in their seasonal eating is enough protein to sustain your average WOLF!  At one time of year, Giant Pandas eat the nutritious shoots of lower-elevation bamboo, then switch to its leaves until, at the higher elevations, another type of high-nutrient bamboo shoot becomes available.  Giant Pandas are so specialized to eating bamboo that they know it on a molecular level and go through a series of rotations across a year that ensure they get exactly the nutrients they need.  So, don’t be fooled by the cute face and sleepy eyes, pandas are geniuses!  Not only can they survive on a nearly impossible diet, but they have also convinced us humans to feed and protect them, too!

The giant panda’s distinct black-and-white markings have two functions: camouflage and communication.  Most of the panda – its face, neck, belly, rump – is white to help it hide in snowy habitats. The arms and legs are black, helping it to hide in shade. So, for this week’s at-home experiment we are building our very own Scavenger Hunt Binoculars. Maybe you’ll even be able to find one of those tricksy giant pandas on your search! Check out the lesson plan & supply list here!

Sources:
More on the evolutionary mystery of panda bears:

2019 discoveries on Giant Panda diet:
https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2014/07/how-pandas-survive-their-bamboo-only-diet

Bonus adorable baby panda video – because you earned it:

Pistachios, a yummy seed!

Join High Touch High Tech in celebrating
National Pistachio Day
February 26, 2021!

Pistachios are the seeds from the fruit of a small Persian tree, Pistachia vera. They have been cultivated for at least 3,000 years, widely in Central Asia to the Mediterranean region. Green and slightly sweet, pistachios are called nuts, but botanically are seeds. Related botanically to cashews and mangoes, pistachios are one of the oldest flowering nut trees, and are one of the only two nuts mentioned in the Bible.

Pistachios
ripen in late summer or early fall growing so energetically that the kernel
splits the shell. These trees are wind pollinated which means one male tree can
produce enough pollen for 25 seed-bearing female trees. Female trees produce
their first seeds at age five and can bear fruit for up to 200 years!

Native to
western Asia and Asia Minor, the trees grew wild in high desert regions and
legend has it that for the promise of good fortune, lovers met beneath the
trees to hear the pistachios crack open on moonlit nights.

Thanks to
their high nutritional value and long storage life, pistachios were an
indispensable form of sustenance among early explorers and traders, including
travelers across the ancient Silk Road that connected China with the West.

The
kernels can have different colors, ranging from yellow to shades of green. They
are usually about an inch long and half an inch in diameter. But if you want to
taste one, you’ll have to crack open its hard shell first.

Have you
ever seen a red pistachio? In the 1930s, importers began dyeing the shells
bright red to disguise blemishes that occurred during harvesting. This practice
made the pistachios more attractive to consumers. Though some enjoy the red
color, many believe the red dye adversely affects the taste of the pistachio
kernels.

Pistachios
became a food as early as 7,000 B.C. They came to the United States in the
mid-19th century and commercial production began in the 1970s when farmers
began diversifying from the heavy almond industry. The first major commercial
crop was harvested in 1976.

California,
Arizona, and New Mexico make up all of America’s commercial pistachio
production. You can buy pistachios shelled or unshelled, roasted, or salted. They
are available in most grocery stores, and you can buy them in bulk from
pistachio growers.

California
is second only to Iran in pistachio production, according to the Agricultural
Marketing Resource Center, a group of experts from Iowa State University,
Kansas State University and the University of California, who serve as an
information resource for agricultural producers.

Iran is
universally known for producing some of the best quality pistachios in the
world. In 2018, the global production of pistachios was about 1.4 million metric
tons, with Iran and the United States as leading producers,
together accounting for 72% of the total. Secondary producers were Turkey,
China, and Syria.

In Iran,
pistachios are known as the smiling nut.  In China, they are called the
happy nut. Pistachios are also known as the green almond. No matter the name,
they are delicious!

We all know that pistachios are good, but we only eat the seeds.
What happens to all those shells? What would you do with thousands of tons of
leftover nutshells? It is a question that Turkey — the world’s third-biggest
producer of pistachios, behind Iran and the USA, has been asking itself
for years.

Usually discarded pistachio shells end up in landfills, but
pistachio-loving Turks think they have found a far better solution by turning the
shells into a biogas, an alternative fuel produced by the breakdown of organic
matter.

Now Turkey wants to use pistachio shells to power its first
eco-city, which will require fermenting tons of the green waste in so-called
digesters, and then using the resulting gases, mostly methane, to generate
heat.

The idea is not as odd as it sounds. For starters, the green city
will be built in what is arguably the best possible location: Gaziantep
Province. This southern region near the Syrian border is the heart of Turkey’s
pistachio production, yielding more than half of the country’s pistachios!

“When you plan such environment-friendly systems, you take a
look at the natural resources you have. So, we thought the ecological city
could be heated by burning pistachio shells,” explains Seda Muftuoglu
Gulec, the municipality’s expert on green architecture.

This peculiar source of energy is renewable and cheap because
Turkey has plenty of shells to go around, so much so that it exported 6,800
tons of pistachios last year! 500 tons shy of the weight of the Eiffel Tower, according
to the Southeast Anatolia Exporters Union.

Experts say turning pistachios into biogas, while untested, is not
only technically feasible but also extremely convenient. Turkey claims
that nutshells are the most efficient source of alternative energy in the
region and could satisfy up to 60 percent of the city’s heating needs.

The planned 7,900-acre, nut-fueled city will be six miles from the
province’s capital city, Gaziantep, and is expected to become home to 200,000
people.

This is Turkey’s first attempt at building an eco-city, and it will be the only one in the world that is heated by pistachios. In Australia, macadamia nutshells are already being turned into biomass. Meanwhile in Monterrey, Mexico, the methane generated from decaying garbage is being turned into electricity to illuminate city lights.

Clever people and scientists the world over are turning to green energy as a useful substitute for fossil fuels. Think about that next time you eat some pistachios!

Now, we all know that nuts contain fat….good fat, but fat none the less. The team at High Touch High Tech has come up with a FUN way to test if foods have fat. Check out the lesson plan, grab your supplies…and a handful of nuts, and try our Nutty Nutrients Fat Tester at home experiment!

Should old acquaintance be forgot?

It
is almost New Year’s eve! Although most people are happy to be saying goodbye
to the year 2020, it has certainly been a year to remember! Of course, when we
talk about New Year’s eve, the words of Auld Lang Syne will surely come up! Why
is that? What’s the song about?

This
song’s melody is synonymous with the new year (and the theme of change) in the
English-speaking world, despite nearly incomprehensible words. The problem is
that the text on which the song is based is not in English at all — it’s
18th-century Scots, a similar but distinct language responsible for lyrics in
the song such as “We twa hae run about the braes / and pou’d the gowans
fine” that are utterly incomprehensible to Americans.

But
the story of how an 18th-century Scottish ballad became
synonymous with the new year is tangled, involving both Calvinist theology’s
traditional aversion to Christmas and the uniquely central role that watching
television plays in American New Year’s celebrations. Bridging the gap is a
Year’s Eve and transformed a Scottish folk custom into a global phenomenon.

“Should
old acquaintance be forgot?” is a rhetorical question the song asks?

The
answer is that it’s a rhetorical question. The song is asking whether old
friends should be forgotten, as a way of stating that obviously one should not
forget one’s old friends. The version of the song we sing today is based on
a poem published by Robert Burns, which he attributed to “an old
man’s singing,” noting that it was a traditional Scottish song.

So,
remember to not forget about your old friends! And on that note, let’s dive deeper
into the cultural history of New Years.

The
earliest recorded festivities in honor of a new
year’s arrival date back some 4,000 years to ancient Babylon.
For the Babylonians, the first new moon following the vernal
equinox—the day in late March with an equal amount of sunlight and
darkness—heralded the start of a new year. In 45 B.C., New Year’s Day is
celebrated on January 1 for the first time in history as the Julian calendar
takes effect.

Soon
after becoming Roman dictator, Julius Caesar decided that the traditional
Roman calendar was in dire need of reform. Introduced around the seventh
century B.C., the Roman calendar attempted to follow the lunar cycle but
frequently fell out of phase with the seasons and had to be corrected. In addition,
the college of priests, the Roman body charged with overseeing the calendar,
often abused its authority by adding days to extend political terms or
interfere with elections.

One
of the oldest traditions still celebrated today is Chinese New Year, which is
believed to have originated over 3,000 years ago during the Shang Dynasty. The
holiday began as a way of celebrating the new beginnings of the spring planting
season, but it later became entangled with myth and legend. According to one
popular tale, there was once a bloodthirsty creature called Nian—now the
Chinese word for “year”—that preyed on villages every New Year. To frighten the
hungry beast, the villagers took to decorating their homes with red trimmings,
burning bamboo, and making loud noises. The ruse worked, and the bright colors
and lights associated with scaring off Nian eventually became integrated into
the celebration.

Festivities
traditionally last 15 days and tend to center on the home and the family.
People clean their houses to rid them of bad luck, and some repay old debts as
a way of settling the previous year’s affairs. To encourage an auspicious start
to the year they also decorate their doors with paper scrolls and gather with
relatives for a feast. Following the invention of gunpowder in the 10th
century, the Chinese were also the first to ring in the New Year with
fireworks. Since Chinese New Year is still based on a lunar calendar that dates
to the second millennium BC, the holiday typically falls in late January or
early February on the second new moon after the winter solstice. Each year is
associated with one of 12 zodiacal animals: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon,
snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. Modern
celebrations of the Lunar New Year include the tradition of giving the
gift of a bright, beautiful red envelope (known as hóngbāo) to your
friends and family. These envelopes are filled with money – and symbolize good
wishes, luck, and prosperity for the new year ahead.

In
Iran and other parts of the Middle East and Asia, the roots of Nowruz (or “New
Day”) reach far back into antiquity. Often called the “Persian New Year,” this
13-day spring festival falls on or around the vernal equinox in March and is
believed to have originated in modern day Iran as part of the Zoroastrian
religion. Official records of Nowruz did not appear until the 2nd century, but
most historians believe its celebration dates back as far as the 6th century
B.C. and the rule of the Achaemenid Empire. Unlike many other ancient Persian
festivals, Nowruz persisted as an important holiday even after Iran’s conquest
by Alexander the Great in 333 B.C. and the rise of Islamic rule in the 7th
century A.D.

Ancient
observances of Nowruz focused on the rebirth that accompanied the return of
spring. Traditions included feasts, exchanging presents with family members and
neighbors, lighting bonfires, dyeing eggs, and sprinkling water to symbolize
creation. One unique ritual that arose around the 10th century involved
electing a “Nowruzian Ruler”: a commoner who would pretend to be king for
several days before being “dethroned” near the end of the festival. Nowruz has
evolved considerably over time, but many of its ancient traditions—particularly
the use of bonfires and colored eggs—remain a part of the modern holiday, which
is observed by an estimated 300 million people each year.

In
the same region, ancient Egyptian culture was closely tied to the Nile River,
and it appears their New Year corresponded with its annual flood. According the
Roman writer Censorinus, the Egyptian New Year was predicted when Sirius—the
brightest star in the night sky—first became visible after a 70-day absence.
Better known as a heliacal rising, this phenomenon typically occurred in
mid-July just before the annual inundation of the Nile River, which helped
ensure that farmlands remained fertile for the coming year. Egyptians
celebrated this new beginning with a festival known as Wepet Renpet, which
means “opening of the year.” The New Year was a time of rebirth and
rejuvenation, and it was honored with feasts and special religious rites.

Not
unlike many people today, the Egyptians may have also used this as an excuse
for getting a bit tipsy. Recent discoveries at the Temple of Mut show that
during the reign of Hatshepsut the first month of the year played host to a
“Festival of Drunkenness.” This massive party was tied to the myth of Sekhmet,
a war goddess who had planned to kill all of humanity until the sun god Ra
tricked her into drinking herself unconscious. In honor of mankind’s salvation,
the Egyptians would celebrate with music, revelry, and—perhaps most important
of all—copious amounts of beer.

As
you look toward 2021, no matter how you choose to celebrate, we at High Touch
High Tech – Science Made Fun, wish each one of you a safe, happy, and joyous
New Year!

And if
you’d like to kick off the new year with your very own fireworks, try out our
at-home experiment, “Exploding Colors”!

You can
also watch our “How To” video here:
https://youtu.be/QSBsGSYUKLY

Poinsettia Day

Join High Touch High Tech in Celebrating
Poinsettia Day
December 12, 2020

It’s
Poinsettia Day – Yay! What is this day all about? It all started with a
scientist!

John
Roberts Poinsett was a botanist, a scientist who specializes is plants and
trees. He was also a physician, and the 1st United States Ambassador
to Mexico. Poinsett introduced these beautiful red, white, or pink plants, that
were named after him, poinsettias. This man sent poinsettias from Mexico back
to greenhouses that he owned in South Carolina. Before its renaming as the
poinsettia, the plant was known as the “painted leaf” or the “Mexican flame
flower.” Its scientific name is Euphorbia pulcherrima.

In
Spain, Puerto Rico, and other Central America countries the
poinsettia is known as Flor de Pascua or Pascua, meaning Christmas
Flower. Poinsettias have served important roles throughout
history, for example: The Aztecs used the plant to produce reddish-purple dye
and as an antipyretic (fever reduction) medication.

It’s
Christmas time, and what do you see in the storefront of just about every shop
you pass? Besides sprigs of holly and bright, twinkling lights, you are likely
to see colorful arrangements of poinsettias too.

These breathtaking flowers are common during
the holiday season. However, do you know why? The poinsettia has a deep
cultural and symbolic meaning. Seen as a symbol of purity by the Aztecs, in
today’s language it symbolizes cheer, success, and brings wishes of mirth and
celebration! Recognized as the birth flower for December, poinsettias
are used as decorations to create a festive atmosphere throughout the
entire world, particularly in Europe, but also in the USA, Canada, South
Africa, and Australia.

Paul Ecke Jr is considered the father of the poinsettia
industry due to his discovery of a technique which caused seedlings to branch.
This technique allowed the poinsettia industry to grow! The Paul Ecke Ranch in
California grows over 70% of the poinsettias sold in the USA! The Ecke family
had a secret technique that caused every seedling to split and branch,
resulting in a fuller plant.

A poinsettia fun fact is that in 1952 the NCAA College football
arena in San Diego was named the Poinsettia Bowl! Interestingly, the poinsettia’s main attraction is not its flowers, but its
leaves! The flowers of the plant are the yellow clustered buds in the center
(termed “cyathia”). The colored leafy parts are bracts or modified leaves, that
turn color in response to the plant forming flowers. When buying a poinsettia,
make sure it has the buds, preferably not yet open.

Interested in learning more about plants in general? Check out our Smarty Plants at-home experiment to see if you can extract the chlorophyll out of a plant leaf. If your poinsettia has any green leaves, you can test them for chlorophyll too! Grab your supplies & check out our lesson plan here:

References:

An Interview with Our Founder and CEO: Dinosaur Dan Shaw

We spoke with Dan Shaw to get the scoop on High Touch High Tech’s 25th anniversary.  Dan Shaw lead the industry in STEM education enrichment programming. Dan Shaw has been CEO at High Touch High Tech since the company’s foundation in 1992 and has now been developing franchise locations for 25 marvelous years.

Q: Describe what High Touch High Tech does.

A:  High Touch High Tech pulls the science out of books and puts it into the kids’ hands. High Touch High Tech also does exactly what our name implies; High Touch, grabbing the materials and putting it in their hands, and then High Tech preparing students for our high tech world. High Touch High Tech is also a science experience that comes to you, so teachers, parents, after-school directors, special events. They know that when they hear High Touch High Tech we’re coming to their location to provide a science experience for students.

Q: What lead you to create High Touch High Tech?

A: High Touch High Tech was created because my daughter came home from school one day and asked me if I had any good ideas for a schoolwide carnival that they were having, and what their classroom should do for that carnival. I suggested that we create a hands-on science booth! Where the kids could walk up and do a make and take experiment. Now this was in 1992, and it was pretty groundbreaking! We went there, the teachers absolutely loved it, [and] the kids adored the programs that we provided for them. They were able to understand it, they communicated with me well. I created a naming convention, I called myself Dinosaur Dan, figuring that would be a much more approachable term for them. We did some pretty interesting, sophisticated experiments at that booth. The teachers came up to me and told me that they need me to come back to that school, and they will figure out how to pay me, but what they saw me do they had not seen before. And that was [what I had done] pulling the science out of the textbook and putting it into the children’s hands. That was how HIGH TOUCH HIGH TECH  was born.

Q: Do you feel that High Touch High Tech’s slogan, “Science Experiences that Come to You,” well represents your company?

A: Absolutely. It really speaks to exactly what we do. We bring a hands-on, totally participatory science experience to wherever the location can be. Often times a teacher will ask us “we want to host your program, but our classroom is not big enough because another teacher wants to join us,” or “we need to do it in another room.” So, we tell them that any multipurpose room, a pavilion outside the school, the cafeteria because we truly believe that real learning can take place wherever learners gather and can engage in exciting ways to learn. And that is exactly what we do at High Touch High Tech. Because of how important that phrase is, not only in our marketing, but we trademarked it [the phrase “Science Experiences That Come to You”] so that it can officially represent our brand, at all of our locations all over the world.

Q: The masses know you as Dinosaur Dan, where did Dinosaur Dan come from?

A: Well Dinosaur Dan is a very approachable, rather than being “oh Mr. Shaw I’ve got a question,” it’s “hey, Dinosaur Dan I don’t understand this, help me out.” It reduces any barrier that a child may have to asking a question, so that it’s easy to approach Dinosaur Dan. We’ve adopted this naming protocol for all of our scientists all over the world. You take the first letter of your first name, and you match it to a science concept. We have a Chemistry Carol, we have an Alkaline Alyssa, we have a Terri-dactyl, we have a Tommy Tsunami. So, it’s very, very important that you have a name that it totally approachable for kids.

Q: Why is the work that High Touch High Tech doing so important?

A: The work that High Touch High Tech does is so important because it stimulates kids’ imaginations and curiosity in science. Even more than that, I feel it addresses an achievement gap that is so prevalent in our schools, and it puts the opportunity for every child to get the science into their hands and to explore and discover at their own pace and learn the science on an equal scale that every student does.

Q: High Touch High Tech is all about hands-on education. How do you learn yourself?

A: Totally the same way. I am a total visual learner. And so, in the early years of developing programming, our initial programs, they were tactile. Everything had to be in your hands, visual images were forefront. That how I learn, and that’s how we’ve prepared a generation of children to start learning.

Q: Why do you believe that STEM education is important?

A: Stem education is among the most important because it is, as we know [the abbreviation of STEM], Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics. And those are the key fundamentals that kids really need to learn at a young age and continue to build [upon] a foundation in those subjects. STEM education itself builds self-esteem; it builds confidence. Once kids can understand that confidence and what they themselves are able to do, it puts them on a course for success.

Q: How has the market for STEM enrichment programming changed in the 25 years that High Touch High Tech has been in operation?

A: STEM is now a very, very popular term. But we like to say that High Touch High Tech was STEM before STEM was a thing. The market has changed as trends in education have changed from every 5 or 6 years or so. It’s important that we see change. From Science Across the Curriculum in the 90’s, to No Child Left Behind in the early 2000’s. It’s so important to stay on top of these trends, but with all these trends, and the terminology may change, the pure and applied, and fundamental science never changes. And that is how we’ve been able to stay current, stay flexible. Whatever the curriculum directions go we provide that reinforcing, fun science for students.

Q: What does 25 years of High Touch High Tech mean to you?

A: 25 year of High Touch High Tech is 25 years of excitement. 25 years of slime. 25 years of volcano eruptions. 25 years of joy on kids’ faces, of that eureka moment where they actually discover something, not only about their experiment but what they themselves are actually able to achieve. 25 years of panning for gems. 25 years of making earthquakes. 25 years of learning about space. 25 years of going to schools and introducing those new administrators to what High Touch High Tech does. 25 years of doing local fairs and festivals and engaging in the community. 25 years of fabulous.

Q: Why did you become an entrepreneur?

A: I’m sort of an unlikely entrepreneur. I was a scientist; I went to a carnival at my daughter’s school. That is where I first encountered working with children and showing them really cool, fun science experiences. I started talking to teachers there, that’s when that teacher came up to me and told me that “this was incredible, we need have you to come back to our school, we’ll figure out how to get you paid, but we need you to come back. You were able to pull the science out of out of the book and put it into the student’s hands.” That’s kind of the beginning.

Q: Has being the founder of High Touch High Tech developed you as an individual?

A: In so many ways. My level of confidence soared. My level of satisfaction [in life] soared as well. What we’re doing at High Touch High Tech is incredible. We’re really changing lives. There’s no complaint department at High Touch High Tech. Because teachers appreciate it, student love it, appreciate it, and can’t get enough of it. So, it’s very much a win-win relationship between teachers and High Touch High Tech, and between students and High Touch High Tech.

Q: Using one word, how would you describe yourself?

Q: What was your background prior to founding High Touch High Tech?

Q: Why did you choose to establish High Touch High Tech as a franchise?

A: The best way to make sure that every child everywhere could experience and benefit from our programming was going to be through individual owned and operated locations. So, franchising was the perfect model for that.

Q: What is the benefit of having franchise locations?

A: That’s the magic here. All the franchisees bring a completely different set of tools, and experiences, and talents to the table. And we discover those during our 5 days of training here at our national office, and we are able to build on that throughout that week of training. Franchisees find out themselves what their strengths are, and what their weaknesses are that they may not have even realized. And we push that all together into talent, and we share with the new franchisees how to take their very specific talents and incorporate it into our business model, which is so flexible. That’s why they become very, very successful themselves.

Q: You even have some international franchise locations, really allowing High Touch High Tech to impact students you wouldn’t have reached otherwise. Would you say you’re proud of that?

A: Oh absolutely, very proud of that. Here in the US, we are a melting pot of so many different cultures. Different cultures have different values, but even when you go and open locations in other countries those cultures there still value will value science, education, and educating their children. It makes for a very easy segway to take our programs overseas.

Q: What are a few of your key accomplishments over the course of High Touch High Tech’s 25 years?

A: My single biggest accomplishment was when we sold our very first franchise, and that was in New Jersey, in Wyckoff Bergen County New Jersey. It meant to me that somebody, that I didn’t know from many states away from where I was, was able to learn about our concept and draw so much interest in it that they contacted me and they were interested in doing it[opening a franchise]. Another big, big accomplishment for me was that faithful day when we brought our High Touch High Tech onto Royal Caribbean Cruise ships. It was in 1998 when I approached Royal Caribbean and they were seeking out, [had] a desire educational, fun experiences for children that were in the youth programming on the ship. Our science programming was perfect for that because it’s super fun for kids, and it’s valued by parents. So, if the parents are sunbathing on the deck, if they’re off on an island, if they’re in the casino, if they’re at a show, they know that their children are not only having fun, but they’re being educated as well.

Q: Describe your partnership and relationship with Royal Caribbean Cruises.

A: Our partnership with Royal Caribbean Cruises is now in its 22nd year. It was one of the most significant achievements of my career. It was our opportunity to take our highly successfully programs that were deep in the classroom of elementary students nationwide and we were able to move forward with Royal Caribbean Cruises and introduce our brand of programming to the general consumer population. That has proven to be a very, very successful partnership with Royal Caribbean. Since our beginning with them in 1998 through today, the last 8 ships that they’ve come out with they have set up a science lab. Because on a cruise ship, every square inch is designed to be revenue generating. For a cruise line to dedicate space for our brand of hands on science, which is capturing the imagination and curiosity, fueling that imagination with children that are on vacation. And we developed family programs, so that families as a whole could participate in science programming has been extremely successful. I see our partnership with Royal Caribbean Cruises continuing to grow.

Q: Where do see High Touch High Tech in 5- or 10-years’ time?

A: I believe that we’re going to continue to grow. We’re on a beautiful growth trajectory, both domestically and internationally. I see our growth because I’m interested in [making sure] that every child, everywhere can experience our programming. Beyond the child [out] there are entrepreneurs that are looking to change their career or have a second shot at perhaps their dream of owning their own business. Our concept works perfectly for that individual, no matter what skill set they bring. We are able form and mold our franchise concept to meet their strengths and improve upon their weaknesses so that they can have the dream of owning their own business. [Even] Beyond that it’s not only owning your own business, but a business that is changing lives and that’s what we do at High Touch High Tech. So it see that as our definite growth trajectory as we always are very excited as new technologies emerge, and new trends in education emerge, we like to stay on the forefront of that so we can produce the materials to assist the teachers in those classrooms to make science meaningful and memorable to young students.

Q: Would you say you’re excited for the future of High Touch High Tech?

A: Oh absolutely, very excited.

Q: What does success look like to you?

A: Success to me is the satisfaction of seeing students inspired in science and striving to conquer new concepts. Building excitement in children. And also, success for me is seeing our franchisees develop their territories and grow their territories and have the satisfaction of making money from our business [model] and growing and being satisfied with that level of income and ambition. Some of our franchisees have raised their families through High Touch High Tech, [having] weddings for their children. So, it’s been a wonderful experience seeing our franchisees being successful, from a financial point of view, and of course being successful from our business model, which is putting the students’ experiments into their hands.

Q: What has been your secret to success?

A: The secret of my success has been drawing inspiration from our franchisees, because watching them in the field, doing what we taught them from our national office, and seeing their impact on the community, seeing their impact with students. Watching their territory base grow, reading all the testimonials from teachers from their location, is very deeply satisfying for me. And just shows the entire concept being the correct model so we can expand quickly and that our programming can touch the lives of just so many children everywhere. We’re able to be a cheerleader to our franchisees and supporting them, drawing inspiration from the great work that they do is a key success factor.

Q: Who is an influential person that you admire?

A: That person is Neil deGrasse Tyson for sure. He’s amazing, and he inspires everybody to reach for the stars, learn things you never knew you never knew. I just love the guy and think he’s amazing.

Q: What is the best advice you could give a new business owner?

A: Believe in yourself. Maintain high ethics, maintain high quality of whatever product or service that you’re providing. But believe in yourself, have confidence to deliver whatever it is or what you’re trying to do.

From the Field

“From the Field”

Summer Science

Hemlock Hayden, High Touch High Tech of WNC

As a new Scientist to High Touch High Tech, having the opportunity of engaging and inspiring young minds to think about and get excited about science has been a very new, yet extremely rewarding experience. Not just doing fun experiments themselves but seeing the faces of the students light up just when seeing us enter the building gets me excited to teach even more!

In one particular case this summer, I had the opportunity to go to Emmanuel Lutheran’s Summer Rocks! Camp every day for a full week. Starting off, the kids seemed disheartened that they were going to have to learn more outside of school and during a summer camp, but once we started off with explaining all the cool things scientists do and performing a WOW! experiment, they instantly became engaged and wanted to learn more. After that first visit, the students lit up with excitement, yelling “Yay! Science time!” when I would walk through the door.

From doing actual chemical reactions to make chalk and slime in programs like “Mystery Science”, to physics and engineering programs dealing with robots and rocket flight in programs like “Flight Command”, each experiment engaged the students more and more and pushed them to think harder about how each experiment worked on a scientific level. After each day, a new student would walk up to me, explaining how the experiments of that day were so fun and interesting to them, and that it made them want to pursue that respective branch of science when they were older.

Moments like these are truly the moments that make me love working as a Scientist for High Touch High Tech. Inspiring the next generation to even be just A LITTLE more interested in general science than they would have been, to me, is extremely important in an ever-changing world. Science doesn’t have to be hard, or scary. As long as you have an interest in it, then science is FUN!

High Touch High Tech is…..Science Made FUN!

800.444.4968

December 2013 E-News: The Curious Evolution of Holiday Lights!

Christmas lights are the most recognizable sign of the season. These lights warm up the coldest of December nights – giving a nostalgic glow to our homes & communities. Even though we are so familiar with these traditional holiday lights, there is a bit of background science that you may not know.

The Curious Evolution of Holiday Lights!

During the Holidays, we see all types of colorful lights! People decorate the outside and inside of their homes with lights that are switched on ceremoniously in neighborhoods across the globe. This tradition dates back to the 17thcentury when people first began putting lights on their Christmas trees by attaching small candles to the branches using wax or pins, according to the Great Idea Finder. But, it wasn’t until the late 19thcentury, that decorating with small glass lanterns with lit candles really took off. As a result of using candles, most people didn’t put up their lights until Christmas Eve due to the risk of fire.

In 1882, one of Thomas Edison’s apprentices, Edward Johnson, created the first lit Christmas Tree for the Holiday Season. This tree was in New York City and had 80 small electric lights he called “dainty glass eggs.” Edward Johnson invented the first string of electric lights.

These electric lights; however, posed a danger as they heated up tender Evergreen branches and needles. Albert Sadacca created safe electric Christmas lights in 1917. The first year, the lights were all white. But, the following year, he made colorful Christmas lights that became a sensation in homes across the country.

Lights are also an essential Hanukkah tradition. A candelabrum (lamp stand) with nine branches, called a menorah, is lit during the 8-day Hanukkah holiday. In the Jewish tradition, the menorah brings light to this time of year.

Modern LED Holiday Lights

For decades, incandescent light bulbs have decorated Christmas trees, window panes, and the outside of homes with bright colors during the Holidays. However, older incandescent light bulbs pose some problems. These strings of lights actually use a lot of energy, the older bulbs can also get very hot after running for long periods of time, and we’ve all taken part in the greatest holiday mystery of all time…”Which bulb is causing the strand of lights to go out?!”

Fortunately, scientists have invented LED light bulbs that solve these problems. LED stands for Light-Emitting Diodes. These modern bulbs use 10% of the electricity needed for incandescent light bulbs! LED bulbs are much cooler so they are much safer. For an extra bonus, LED bulbs last for an extremely long time & eliminate the search for the string outage culprit! For the holidays, you will see all colors, shapes, and sizes of LEDs decorating homes for the season.

A Long Way From Candles

The basic foundation of the Christmas light, the incandescent bulb, hardly changed for nearly a century, and is only now undergoing its first major revolution as we start replacing our old tungsten lights with energy-efficient LEDs. Yet in that same time, we’ve gone from sticking burning candles in a tree to creating massive, computer-controlled – and completely excessive – light displays like this:

One thing’s for sure: No matter what the technology at hand, no matter what the reason to celebrate, the human desire to light up trees and houses in December will forever be a source for amazing – and often hilarious – innovation.

So, where do the old Christmas lights go?

Around this time every year, millions of American households not only toss out their Christmas trees, but also, millions of strands of burnt-out Christmas lights. While they are supposed to be placed in the recycling bin, most would end up at the garbage dump if it were not for a tiny town all the way across the world called Shijiao located in Southern China.

That’s because, while there is no market for the lights in the USA, there is a great demand for the raw materials that spring from these discarded decorations in China, an opportunity that the small town of Shijiaohas capitalized on, for almost twenty years. Today, over 20 million pounds of discarded lights make their way to the town’s nine recycling facilities.

Once there, they go through a rather complicated process that separates the flecks of precious metals (copper from the wire and brass from the light sockets) from the plastic and glass that the insulation and bulbs are made from.

The strands are first manually untangled and then placed into a shredder that chops them up into tiny pieces. These are then mixed with water and shaken – upon which the heavier metal flecks flow in one direction, while the lighter plastic and glass flow in another – similar to how old miners used to pan gold. The respective materials are then accumulated and sold to Chinese manufacturers who turn them into all kinds of different products including, slipper soles!

So the next time you buy a product made in China, be sure to look at it closely – For somewhere in them you may see a glimmer of your tossed Christmas lights.

As the days get shorter and the nights get darker, we welcome colorful Holiday lights! As you decorate around your home with lights, don’t forget that you, too, can create a fun, colorful magic light box to wow your friends and family with this month’s at-home experiment!

This year, as you begin to string the lights around the Christmas tree remember that you are continuing a tradition that goes back hundreds of years! In addition to holiday lights, some of our other favorite holiday products, from decorations to toys, have surprising origins, too!  Ever wondered where tinsel comes from and why we drape it over the trees? Or have you ever asked yourself when people started to wrap their presents in paper? Learn the history of these and other interesting holiday inventions here.

Editor’s Note: One of the best resources I found for this guide came from JimOnLight.com. His is a six-part series, the first three of which I consulted before writing this article. If you want to read more about the subject, check out the following sources:
Part 1: History of Christmas Lights
Part 2: Modern Lamp Types and Sizes
Part 3: Form Factors of Christmas Lights
Part 4: Christmas Light Power and Safety (new)

August 2013 E-News: Science of the Southpaw!

There’s no denying it. Left-handers are the odd men out.

Sure, lefties make up about 10 percent of the population — but, frankly, it seems like society has forgotten about them. Right-handed gadgets, awkwardly designed desks, cooking tools that fit comfortably in your right hand make the modern day conveniences not so convenient for those that are left-hand dominant.

What causes someone to become left-handed or often referred to as a southpaw? Scientists aren’t exactly sure, but research points to a complex collaboration between genes and environment. While no exact set of “leftie genes” have been discovered, people who dominantly use their left hands do have more left-handed family members. And researchers have found different brain wirings in righties vs. lefties. But no matter what it is that drives someone to be ambilevous, science has also uncovered a particular set of personality traits that left-handed people tend to have.

So for all of you lefties, leftie-loving righties and ambidextrous folks out there — it’s time to brush up on your left-handed knowledge and help put an end to leftie discrimination once and for all. This month we say… let’s hear it for the Lefties!

1. Loud & Clear: Lefties hear speeches differently.

People who are using their left hands when listening may more easily hear rapidly changing sounds than those who are using their right hands. Georgetown University researchers who conducted the study found that the left and right hemispheres of the brain specialize in different kinds of sounds — the left hemisphere, which controls the right hand, likes rapidly changing sounds like consonants, while the right hemisphere, which controls the left hand, likes slowly changing sounds, like syllables or intonation.

According to their study, if you’re waving an American flag while listening to a presidential candidate, the speech will sound slightly different to you depending on whether you’re holding the flag in your left or right hand. The research could ultimately result in better treatment for stroke and language disorders.

2. How You Handle Your Health: Does hand dominance determine your health?

Only about 10 percent of the population is left-handed. Now, here’s some food for thought: About 20 percent of people with schizophrenia dominantly use their left hands. Coincidence? Probably not, say scientists, who have also found an increased risk for dyslexia, ADHD, and certain mood disorders in left-handed people, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article.

Researchers are not exactly sure how to explain it, but many believe it’s related to how the brain is wired. Your noggin is divided into two halves — the left side and the right side. Most people (righties and lefties alike) rely on the brain’s left hemisphere for tasks like language functioning. However, about 30 percent of left-handed folks are either partial to the right hemisphere or have no dominant hemisphere at all. According to scientists, having one hemisphere dominate is much more efficient — and that’s why some left-handers are at an increased risk for learning impairments and brain disorders.

However, lefties may be in luck when it comes to other health conditions: A survey of more than 1.4 million participants, which was published in the journal Laterality, found that left-handers had lower rates of arthritis and ulcers.

3. Left Wing or Right Wing? Either way, we vote for Left-Handers!

Doesn’t matter which way they swing politically: A surprisingly high percentage of recent U.S. Presidents were on the left (in terms of handedness, of course).

The lengthy list of left-handed leaders includes four of the last seven commanders in chief — President Obama, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Gerald Ford — as well as past presidents James Garfield and Harry Truman. In fact, there’s a rumor that Ronald Regan was born a leftie, but stringent school teachers converted him to a righty when he was young.

Should right-handed presidential wannabes fake it? Our penchant for left-handed U.S. Leaders is probably pure coincidence; however, some science suggests that left-handed politicians actually have an advantage in televised debates. As a whole, people tend to associate right-handed gestures with “good” and left-handed gestures with “bad,” according to the researchers. Since television presents a mirror image, the lefties are the ones who appear to gesture with their right hand (the “good” hand).

4. Out of Left Field: Southpaws Will Beat You In Sports.

Golf legend Phil Mickelson; tennis ace Rafael Nadal; boxing champ Oscar de la Hoya — did you know that a number of your favorite sports superstars are lefties?

Actually, left-handers may have the advantage in sports that involve two opponents facing each other, such as tennis, boxing and baseball, according to an MSNBC review of the book “The Puzzle of Left-Handedness” by Rik Smits. The author chalks it up to the fact that those sporty Southpaws get a lot more opportunity to practice against their dominant right handed opponents than vice versa (since there are so many more righties out there).

Talk about a homerun for lefties!

5. Leave the Celebrating to the Lefties: They Have Their Own Day!

Mark your calendar — August 13 is International Left-Hander’s Day.

Lefties across the globe will be celebrating the event, which was first launched in 1992 by the UK-based Left-Hander’s Club to increase awareness about the left-handed lifestyle. According to the group’s Web site, it’s a day “when left-handers everywhere can celebrate their sinistrality and increase public awareness of the advantages and disadvantages of being left-handed.” If you’re a righty, don’t worrythis holiday doesn’t discriminate against dominance.

How should you observe the occasion? Create a “leftie zone” — a designated area of personal space where everything must be done in a left-handed fashion, from your workspace setup to the way you use cutlery. And that rule also extends to any right-handers who happen to enter the leftie zone!

Don’t get left out of the celebration! Check out these free resources for great ways to get involved with your own activities or Left-Hander’s Day Party!

All over the planet, nine out of 10 people, on average, favor their right hand for writing, throwing and so on. Despite more than a century and a half of research, scientists have yet to find an exact answer for what determines a person’s handedness. But, did you know that hand dominance stretches way beyond the bounds of being human. Many mammals, including our closest living relatives the chimpanzees, bonobos and gorillas, exhibit a preferred hand. Dogs do too!

But the shocking science doesn’t stop there! You can discover much more fascinating facts about your left-handed friends at LiveScience.com.  From cavemen to can-openers to left-handed staircases, check out these great resources to learn even more incredible things about your left-handed friends:

LiveScience.com: Why Lefties are So Rare

Look Mom – Both Hands! The Science of Life’s Extremes: Right vs. Left Handed

What Makes a Lefty: Myths and Mysteries Persist

Explain It! The Truth About Left-Handed People