A DIY-er a heart, I DIY because I can even at times when I should not. The interface of science, art, craft, tinkering, and learning excites me, and I wish I could DIY a portable fMRI machine to visualize the effect of an idea on the human brain.
Some recent experiments I have enjoyed include:
Isolating plant DNA using cleaning reagents – a messy process not for the weak of heart.
Using markers to create spray paint – a very interesting art machine that destroys the marker.
A DIY hydroponics system in a beer bottle to encourage cut stems to grow roots.
My favorite DIY project till date is my daughter.
In my opinion glow-sticks are exceptionally powerful and accessible DIY/citizen science artifacts. Not only do they encourage experimentation through creation of “fun” stuff, they help people visualize the power of a chemical reaction. The physical snapping of a capsule inside a plastic casing enabling the mixing of two chemicals to release electrons which are then captured by a dye molecule to emit light. I find the humble glow stick to be elementary yet powerful science that can easily be used to generate interest and encourage participation in scientific exploration.
A more serious citizen science initiative is the EteRNA project that made it possible for all kinds of people to create unique 3D folded RNA molecules. Although participation in EteRNA requires access to a computer, given the esoteric nature of molecular biology, it is a great way to initiate interest and participation.
I am excited about the DIY Science class because it confirms my belief in the power of DIY in informal science education. I look forward to participating wholeheartedly in all the sessions and getting to know opinions about DIY science as well as the ways in which we practice science.
In this class, I hope to work with physical materials and creating objects that can react to the environment in unique ways (such as change color or structure in different atmospheric conditions), that will serve as a means entertain and inform people about the surrounding environment.
One DIY science project that I found not only interesting but also extremely useful is the OakMapper project in California. (http://www.oakmapper.org/). Oak Mapper is a means for people all over California to report cases of sudden oak death (which is caused by Phytophthora ramorum, an invasive pathogen first discovered in 1995). By tracking the cases of this disease, it could help to contain it and keep the oak population safe. This work is vital in keeping the tree from the brink of extinction, which is the current state of the American chestnut tree after the scourge of the chestnut blight destroyed what had once been a staple of Appalachian forests in the early 20th century.