Motion on the Mo’ River

It’s been a busy few weeks on the MosSE Spring tour! This week, 418 Fort Benton Longhorns, Geraldine Tigers, and Highwood Mountaineers learned about the physics of motion.  Fort Benton hosted the whole shebang, including Family Science Night, which brought in a crowd of 44 children and 36 adults.

MosSE’s Motion exhibit aims to make physics fun and relatable to everyday observations and experiences. When talking about the works of Bernoulli, Newton, Kepler, and Einstein, one can’t help but appreciate that the true genius of these scientific greats wasn’t necessarily in their abilities to solve complex math problems (though that helps!), but rather in their abilities to look at everyday phenomena and understand them on truly vast or mind-bogglingly small scales.  For example, our Gravity Well station applies Kepler’s works on planetary motion and Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity to a coin spinning round and round a cone.

A lot of curiosity at Family Science Night tends to revolve around the Gravity Well.

A lot of curiosity at Family Science Night tends to revolve around the Gravity Well.

Visitors to Motion learn that spin has a lot to do with stability.  The Giant Turntable explores this principle, and it’s neat to see what kinds of examples kids can come up with on their own.  How is a spinning disc on the turntable similar to a bicycle in motion, and what do gravity, angular momentum, and centrifugal ‘force’ have to do with some of the fun experiments we conduct? The Giant Turntable is also a great way to talk about testing hypotheses, collecting data, and developing theories.

The physics behind spinning things can be conveyed in so many different ways, whether we’re talking about our solar system, a figure skater doing a pirouette, or playing with a fun and challenging toy.

“Figure skaters” learning about conservation of angular momentum.

Some 'helicupters' going up, up, and away!

Some ‘helicupters’ going up, up, and away!

Our excellent host, Mrs. Arganbright, told us that every year that MosSE visits the Longhorns, more people come out for Family Science Night, which was terrific to hear!  We would like to thank the students, faculty, and staff from Fort Benton, Highland, and Geraldine for their enthusiasm, curiosity, and hospitality. It was a real pleasure learning about physics with everyone!


Sarah and Matt


MosSE Visits the “Brain-iacs” of Browning


After a quick switch of exhibits in the U-haul, MosSE headed north to Browning, home of the Browning Indians. Upon arrival, the Browning Middle School gym was transformed into an exciting space of neuroscience exploration! Seven different stations intrigued the minds of many budding scientists. We spent the day investigating the brain with 217 7th and 8th grade students, as well as 11 teachers and volunteers. We dug deep into the different lobes of the brain and what the specific functions are of each. For example, the frontal lobe is located behind our foreheads. Humans tend to have larger frontal lobes than most animals, because this part of the brain processes personality and high level thinking, among other things.


Students walk through the “Big Sky Big Brain” to discover TBIs

There also different lobes in charge of processing our five main senses: sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing. Participants were able to explore these senses at the “Senses Station.” Can you guess the scent based only on what you smell? Can you use only your sense of touch to identify the toy in the mystery box? Are you a “super taster”? All fun questions to be answered at the station.


Upside Down Googles

Probably the most visited station was our “Visual Rebound”. And what kid doesn’t want to test their skills and shoot a basketball? Then add vision distortion googles and the fun never ends. Students learn how our brain is so easily tricked, but also how adaptive it is, at this station.


Score! Even with distorted vision.

Later that evening we were excited to host Family Science Night, when students are invited to come back with family and friends to explore the temporary museum again.  Over 100 people came out to see what the fun was all about. Many of the returning students headed straight for the ever popular “Mind Games” station. Participants focus on moving the ball to their opponents side of the game board using brain power! You can help your friends by quizzing them on math facts or vocabulary words, to get them thinking.


Who’s got the stronger mind?

Overall we had a great time with the “brainiacs” of Browning! Thank you to the staff and volunteers that made the trip possible. We hope to see you all again! Sincerely, Sarah, & Lizzie

Anaconda Job Corps Gets the Job Done with “Motion”

sign 2

MosSE hit the open road again. This time the “Motion” exhibit made its way to Anaconda and was welcomed by the Anaconda Job Corps. Participants explored eight stations pertaining to different forces of physics. We also brought with us Mickey Lyngholm from Missoula College. She had great information to share with students ready to enter the workforce, as well as opportunities to further their training.

Mickey Lyngholm  of Missoula College,

Mickey Lyngholm of Missoula College, “Rev Up” Outreach

The Job Corps members were able to see first hand the wonders of physics! For example, students tested the four forces of aerodynamics through spectrUM’s “Flight Simulator” and also had the chance to create their own designs for “Flying Cups”. Can you name all four forces? Thrust, drag, gravity, and lift. Another fun one is spin. A crowd favorite was the “Gravity Well”,  where students watched as pennies spun faster and faster down the well. These eager young adults didn’t shy away from the childhood joys of the “Tops Table” either. Spin is just so much fun! Many participants even spun themselves on our “Lazy Susan Spin Station”.  Our Turntable was stationed outside, but around 12pm, it started snowing!  We had to put the Turntable away in the afternoon.

leaving town

Despite the weather, participants were thankful for our visit and enjoyed the unique science experience. Through the day 170 students (age 16-24) and 15 instructors explored the temporary science museum set-up in the Job Corps gymnasium. A big thanks to all of the polite volunteers who helped us load up in the snow, we look forward to visiting again! Sincerely, Jessie, Sarah,& Rachael

“Best in Show” Visits Ronan

We have arrived in Ronan to the backdrop of the majestic Mission Mountains!

It has been another successful trip to Ronan! We could not have done it without the help of many volunteers including those from Kicking Horse Job Corps, St. Luke Hospital, Salish Kootenai College, and Ronan High School. With our “Best in Show” exhibit, students and families experienced some of our favorites from Hands on Health, Brain, and Motion. Over three days, 747 students from K. William Harvey Elementary School, Pablo Elementary School, Valley View School, and Charlo Middle School were able to visit the Ronan Events Center, which we transformed into a science museum. During these field trips, every student first met our friend Mr. Sniffles, the giant nose, as we talked about what causes us to get a runny or stuffy nose. Students became doctors and helped diagnose Mr. Sniffles’ case of sniffles.

Students swabbed our giant nose to collect a sample and diagnose the

Students swabbed our giant nose to collect a sample and diagnose the “sniffles.”

Then students observe the sample under the microscope.

Then students observed the sample under the microscope

Students also explored the 14 other exhibits in small groups. From the physics of motion to the parts of the body, students learned a lot about science! Each field trip then ended with a liquid nitrogen demonstration. What’s the coldest temperature that you have ever been in? Maybe -40 degrees F? Well, nitrogen turns from a gas to a liquid at -321 degrees F. Pretty darn cold!

LeeAnna Muzquiz from CSKT’s Tribal Health Department explains Anabody at Ronan’s Family Science Night.

Students watch as the pennies spin faster and faster down the Gravity Well.

Students watch as the pennies spin faster and faster down the Gravity Well.

Students get a chance to take apart and put back together “Anabody”.Many students returned to the Ronan Event Center to share with their families what they had learned during school and to explore a variety of additional science booths from the community. Attendance was fantastic with almost 500 community members coming out to explore.

A glimpse at the Colossal Brain from above.

A glimpse at the Colossal Brain from above.

The biggest hit of the night just may have been making ice cream with liquid nitrogen.

The excited crowd anxiously awaiting the freshly made liquid nitrogen ice cream!

The excited crowd anxiously awaiting the freshly made liquid nitrogen ice cream.

We would like to thank the Ronan Chiefs and Maidens and Ronan PTA for hosting us and sponsoring the experience. Chiefs & MaidensRonan PTA Sincerely, Sarah and Matt, MosSE Educators

“Brain” Travels the Blackfoot Valley to Potomac

Wheels are moving again with MosSE’s Spring tour, this time with a stop in Potomac, MT, home of the Potomac Pioneers.  We set up our neuroscience exhibit in the Pioneers’ gym for school groups and Family Science Night, fittingly during Brain Awareness Week (  Living just 30 minutes up the road from spectrUM’s home base in Missoula, many of the kids have been to our museums before, so it was a real treat for us to talk about the brain with some budding experts.IMG_0617

During the day, we explored a variety of neuroscience topics with 68 students in grades K-8.  It’s neat that so much of what we know about the brain comes from studying experiences common to all humans, no matter the age.  For example, have you ever had a memory pop up after smelling some aroma, or shaken a box you got in the mail to figure out what’s inside before excitedly opening it?  Our Senses Station explores fascinating experiences such as these.

What great big brains! Do you know how big your brain is?

What great big brains! Do you know how big your brain is?

Senses Station

Senses Station

One of our favorite parts of the MosSE program is Family Science Night, because it gives students a chance to bring their friends and family to their museum-for-a-day and share what they’ve learned, or spend more time exploring topics that have been on their mind since earlier in the day.  It’s also great getting to meet folks from the community who were not around during the school day.  Family Science Night at Potomac was a blast, and we were stoked to see 43 people show up, mostly for the full 2 hour event!

Family Science Night!

Family Science Night!

In addition to learning about how our sense work, we also explore how the brain communicates chemically and electrically with the rest of the body.  Using special glow-in-the-dark fruit flies, we can learn lots about genetics and the nervous system.  The special fruit flies have a trait engineered into them called “bioluminescence,” which is a big word meaning “life that glows.”  What bioluminescent animals can you think of, and what are some uses for engineering bioluminescence into plants and animals?  There are tons of awesome applications in medicine, industry, sports, and the arts.  IMG_0612

Two of the most popular stations are our Mind Flex game and our iPad electroencephalogram (EEG).  These devices use brain electricity to power a variety of tasks and games.  In addition to being a blast to play with, these devices help us understand how neurologists can measure and study brain and body functions.

Mind Flex

Mind Flex

Handheld EEG

Handheld EEG

Our brain and eyeball dissections are always a hit.  Comparing the anatomy of the sheep brains we use for the dissections to human and other animal brains is a great way to really wrap our minds around the amazingness of the animal kingdom.  We just ask that students please refrain from saying “ew!” if they are squeamish, though “ewe!” is perfectly acceptable.




We also did a special liquid nitrogen demonstration.  No direct relationship to the neuroscience theme of the night, but any night that includes altering the states of our world’s more abundant gas is a good night.

...But it's an amazing floor cleaner.

…But it’s an amazing floor cleaner.

Colder than Montana in Winter!

Colder than Montana in Winter!

Well, that’s it for now, but we would like to express our appreciation for the help, enthusiasm, and curiosity of the the Pioneers students, parents, faculty, and staff.  We look forward to seeing you all again soon!


Jessie, Sarah, and Matt

Soaking in some Brain Science in Hot Springs, MT

Well, Hot Springs K-12 Savage Heat, you’ve outdone yourselves!  The latest MosSE stop was in the town of Hot Springs, where our truly excellent hosts made sure we were well rested for a big day of brain science (neurology).


Family Science Night in the new Savage Heat gym

246 K-12 students came through their gym-turned-museum during the school day to learn about how human and non-human brains look, feel, function, and have come to be the way they are today.  We talked about the five senses, how brains use electrical and chemical signals to control the body, what happens when we trick the brain, and a number of other fascinating topics.  What bright young students they have in Hot Springs!  We were also glad to see a great turnout at Family Science Night later that evening, with over 60 students very excited to share with their parents what they had learned earlier in the day. MosSE tailors exhibits and explanations to all audiences, and I know this educator feels that children and adults of all ages had a good time while learning lots of neat things.

Walking through the giant inflatable brain is fun for everyone!

Walking through the giant inflatable brain is fun for all ages

Parents trying out our EEG (brain wave machine).

Parents trying out our EEG (brain wave machine)

Much can be learned about the brain by challenging the senses, and our Senses Station does just that.  What do you suppose is in those containers that those students are shaking?  Also, what does the world look like upside down?


Students challenging their senses of hearing and vision

Can you figure out what you are smelling when you can’t see it? Hmm… I wonder how the brain helps us answer these types of questions?

Blind smell test.  Also, go Griz!

Blind smell test. Also, go Griz!

One station that proved to be a big hit was the Mind Flex game.  Players must control a ball floating above a moving track, often in competition with a friend.  It takes a lot of concentration, but luckily these players have strong brains!


Mind Flex

And of course, what neuroscience exhibit would be complete without some dissections?


MosSE is baaaack on the road with sheep brain dissections

That’s all for now, but weMosSE educators would like to thank the students, parents, faculty, and staff of Hot Springs Elementary and High School.  We were amazed by the help and participation of a number of folks in the community and found the entire stay delightful!  Photos like the one below make us excited to visit again soon. IMG_0586Sincerely, Matt and Amanda, MosSE Educators

MosSE’s Washington State Debut!

The spectrUM Discovery Area’s mobile science program, MosSE, kicked off its spring tour with its first ever stop outside Montana on January 23-24. At the Tri-Cities Family Expo in Pasco, Washington, children and families experienced Hands on Health, with guided heart and eye dissections, a surgery simulation station, and other hands-on activities that explore health, the body, and nutrition.

HoH Washington Tour

Sadie and Zach, spectrUM MosSE educators, head out in a UHaul bound for Washington state!

2,700 children and their family members experienced Hands on Health at the Expo, which was sponsored by Trios Health. In addition, earlier in the week, spectrUM’s educators hosted field-trips for 118 local schoolchildren.


spectrUM’s Hands on Health Exhibit at the TriCities Health Fair in Pasco, Washington.

Lisa Teske, director of marketing & business development for Trios Health, said, “Hands On Health was a spectacular exhibit for the Tri-Cities Family Expo this year. The event draws thousands of local families, and I was thrilled to see them not only stop but linger in our booth to take in all of the interactive learning available. We continue to hear from local teachers and parents about it. SpectrUM sent two fantastic educators along with the seven stations and, together with our staff volunteers, we delivered a memorable health education experience for Tri-Cities families.”

spectrUM is eager to continue our spring tour, which includes stops in Hot Springs, Potomac, Anaconda, Fort Benton, Browning, Bozeman, and more!  Stay tuned!

MosSE’s Fall 2014 Wrap-Up

This fall MosSE marked several exciting firsts: our first visits to the communities of Culbertson, Terry, and Glendive, and our first visits to Prairie and Dawson counties. We were delighted by the warm and enthusiastic welcome we received at each tour stop.

This fall, we brought hands-on exhibits and activities to 2,098 Montanans at 5 tour stops. Since 2006, MosSE has reached 44,985 people at 72 schools and public libraries in 29 counties and on all 7 of Montana’s reservations.

We owe many thanks to our gracious and supportive host communities: Rocky Boy, Box Elder, Culbertson, Terry, and Glendive. Our fall 2014 tour was powered by the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation and the North Central Montana Talent Search, to whom we are also grateful.

Stay tuned for MosSE’s spring 2015 tour!

Brains Thrive in Glendive!

To wrap up our fall MosSE tour we traveled east to the far reaches of our great state in the Montana badlands. In the town of Glendive, we encountered stunning geologic formations and dinosaur remains, as well as a thriving population of young neuroscientists.

Some of Glendive's up and coming neuroscientists getting "in touch" with brains!

Glendive’s budding neuroscientists get “in touch” with a brain.

We spent three days in Glendive helping students explore the many wonders of the most complex organ in our body.  “This was awesome!,” “Please come back next year,” and “Can we come back?” were frequently heard in the gym as students filed out after their field trips. Over 500 kids explored the exhibit during school and another 100 students and their family members dropped in for Family Science Night.

Focus can be fun! A Glendive student models one of our most popular activities in the Brain exhibit.

A Glendive student models one of the most popular Brain activities.

We enjoyed explaining how our genetics influence our lives, including our brain formation and our perception of the world around us. Students learned how similar the “recipe” for humans is to the “recipe” for fruit flies, despite the many apparent differences between our two species. Because we humans have so much in common with fruit flies, neuroscientists can experiment on fruit flies to learn more about the human brain…without all the sticky ethical problems of experimenting on humans.

A family explores our model organisms: glowing fruit flies! These fruit flies have glowing neurons, or brain cells, which allow us to see the internal structure of our nervous system.

A family explores our model organisms: glowing fruit flies. These fruit flies have glowing neurons, or brain cells, which allow us to see the internal structure of our nervous system.

As always, our exhibit on brain plasticity was a huge hit, as students and families challenged themselves to our visual rebound game to see how quickly their brains could adapt to new information.

Our brain continues to change and adapt even when our bodies finish growing! These community members test their brain plasticity at family science night.

Our brain continues to change and adapt even when our bodies finish growing. These community members test their brain plasticity at family science night.

Glendive students model our altered reality and upside-down goggles!

Glendive students model our altered reality and upside-down goggles.

We had a great time sharing our exhibits with the student-scientists of Glendive.

And that wraps up our fall tour! Stay tuned for our travels this spring!

See you on the other side!

See you on the other side!

A Terr-ific Time in Terry

From Culbertson, we packed our giant brain into the U-Haul and moseyed 125 miles southwest to Terry, home of the Terriers. As we tell you about our time in Terry, we thought we’d also walk you through just a few of the exhibits and activities that students experienced in their school gym-turned-science museum.

Our entry (and exit) into the exhibit. I don't think the kids wanted to leave, but leaving through the massive Big Sky Brain Project brain makes it a little bit better.

Terry students entered the exhibit through…a giant brain, of course

  •  Can you trace a star while looking in a mirror? What can we learn about the relationship between sight and hand coordination from that experiment?  Can you identify a smell when you can’t see what you’re smelling? Do you know if you are a supertaster?  Do you know how hearing works? Five basic senses allow humans to perceive the world.  MosSE’s Senses Station helps us understand how they work.

    All sorts of cool things on this table.

    Families learning and exploring the senses at Family Science Night

  • Did you know that our brains use electricity to send signals around the body?  Have you ever heard someone say, “a light went on in my head” when they’ve had an idea?  Well, that expression is fitting when talking about brain waves and electroencephalograms (EEGs, for short).  A MosSE activity called Mind Games illustrates how electricity functions in our brains by letting us use our brain waves to make a ball float in the air.

    Intense concentration!

    Intense concentration!

  • Some plants and animals glow in the dark on their own.  It’s called bioluminescence, and sometimes scientists and doctors can make otherwise non-glowing things glow in order to learn about certain parts of anatomy.  During our stay in Terry, we saw many curious minds checking out MosSE’s special glowing fruit flies’ bioluminescent muscle cells and neurons.

    That is soooo cool!

    A young scientist explores bioluminescent fruit fly cells

In all, 143 Terry students experienced “Brain.” Family science night was also a huge success, with 90 children and their family members showing up to play and learn about neuroscience on an eventful Thursday night of Homecoming Week.

This tour stop was powered by the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation. Thanks also to the excellent students, faculty, and staff at Terry Public School. We are especially grateful to superintendent, Casey Klasna, for his enormous amount of help during our stay.  Also, Michelle and Thadius Wolff were the best hosts a couple MosSE educators could have. Mrs. Wolff’s culinary skills and knowledge of the town’s history were very impressive.

We had a great time in your community and can’t wait to see you next time!

"And as you can see here, a colossal brain."

A MosSE educator in training