Happy Monday, everyone! We’ve returned from a wonderful trip to Lake Superior and I can’t wait to share some photos and stories with you later this week!
On Saturday I joined a free guided tour at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery (WID), probably the most sustainable and modern facility Madison has to offer. Ever since the WID opened its doors in December of 2010, I’ve been meaning to pay a visit and I’m so glad I finally did!
As “a visionary public-private partnership that has taken shape as an innovative building housing two world-class research institutes and a public space for campus and community members to gather and celebrate science”, the WID’s focus is just as much on collaboration as it is on science. The entire building (even the winding stair case) was designed with collaboration in mind.
Sustainability at its best: the trees draw rainwater from the ground.
The geothermally heated building consists of three areas: 1) the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, which is part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 2) The private, non-profit Morgridge Institute for Research, an interdiscplinary biomedical research organization that offers plenty of educational programs. 3) The Town Center, a beautifully designed indoor public area, with quiet niches to work and relax in.
I arrived at the discovery center an hour before the tour started and settled into Aldo’s Cafe to catch up on some of the blog posts I missed last week. The interior is modern and minimalist, the coffee delicious! The cafe is named after Aldo Leopold, one of the pioneers in sustainability, who had a huge influence – not only in Wisconsin, but nationwide. You can even read some of his diary entries (projected on a screen), while you’re waiting for your coffee order.
Our tour began at one of the Media Walls, a wall with ultra-high-definition screens that respond to movement and reveal a new image as you move along. Below you can see a video of my little demonstration (it’s not the greatest quality, but I hope you’ll get the idea).
Media Wall (Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery) from Lisa on Vimeo.
The WID offers a monthly Saturday Science for kids, which I highly recommend. This month’s topic was “Science of the Gross”. The event taught all about “smelly, slimy, creepy & ugly stuff”, and included (but was certainly not limited to) the dissection of a cow’s eye (for ages 10 and up), answers from scientists to questions like “Why is pee yellow and awesome?”, “How do hearts, lungs & brains feel?” and “Why and what do owls vomit?” It was fun walking around the Town Center and seeing those little scientists explore slime, worms, bugs, bats, stinky cheese and other disgusting things. As you can imagine they were having a blast! The next “Saturday Science” is coming up on August 4th (from 10-noon) and the topic is “Physics on Breakdancing”. In fact, I want to go!
There is way more to explore than I can possibly fit into one blog post, but here are four of my favorite Town Center features:
1) 3D Printer (Rapid Prototyping)
The 3D printer can print anything from little whistles to organs. Yes. Organs! They’re not functionial (not yet), but scientists are currently working on making them so, so that people who are in need of an organ transplant have easier access.
An example of a 3D print.
Prints are made by taking a 3D computer file and slicing the model into layers. The printer uses polymer to set down successive layers of those 2-dimensional slices. The prototypes don’t require any assembly and can include movable and functional parts. I’m still blown away!
2) Cisco TelePresence
As part of the tour, we were granted a glimpse at one of the most sophisticated video conference systems. The three large screens create an identical semicircular table in the remote room, making it seem like everyone is in the same room. “When a person in the remote room speaks, he or she sounds as though they are in the room with the local participants.” In fact, our guide recalled a video conference, in which one of the participants in the remote room got up to shake hands with his colleague over here!
3) Entrepreneur’s Research Clinic Lobby
The Entrepreneur’s Research Clinic Lobby (ERC) is a place where current and future entrepreneurs can find great resources, talk to other like-minded people and receive expert advice.
The concept behind the ERC is brilliant. Anyone who wishes to start their own business can schedule an appointment with an advisor from Law and/or Business School to plan the first steps. The service is FREE!
This is where I ended up spending most of the day writing Madison Stroll. Obviously, it’s summer break, so I’m assuming it’s not always this empty, but on Saturday it served as a wonderful spot away from the crowds (I know the pictures make it seem like there were no crowds all day, but that’s because I waited, until they were gone.)
4. Water walls and Fibonacci chimes
The slate water walls are so very intriguing. They are equipped with LED lights that create colorful patterns (accompanied with chimes) once you step onto the little pad.
Chimes in the Fibonacci sequence create a stimulating, yet soothing atmosphere. The Fibonacci sequence is a mathematical ratio that can be found throughout nature.
Given that I’ve never been mathematically inclined, I’m going to refrain from attempting further explanation, but you can find more info here.
The Mesozoic Garden features plants dating to the dinosaur age – it’s such a relaxing and pretty space!
The Wisconsin Institutes of Research offer a wide variety of workshops, conferences and other educational programs. You can also rent their space for private events (such as wedding receptions). Their website is chock-full of great information.
Whether you live in or are visiting Madison, make sure to put this on your list of things to see – it’s a fascinating place for adults and children alike! I know I’ll be working there more often :)