SLC Young Ambassador Blog: Week 1

22 07 2013

     Hello, my name is Alana Zamora from San Marcos, Texas. This year, I was selected as a 2013 Smithsonian Latino Center Young Ambassador; Up to twenty-four graduating high school seniors are selected each year and are given the amazing opportunity to intern in a museum/cultural institution in their local community for four weeks. Currently, I am interning here at the Austin Children’s Museum. I will be posting weekly blog posts to describe my experience here at ACM, as well as, insights into the different summer camps that we offer at the Museum.Image

     This week, I worked directly with children, ages 7-10, that were enrolled in the ‘Inside Out’ full day summer camp program here at the Museum. For every full day camp, we go on daily field trips, experience innovative hands-on activities, and play in the Museum. This week, I assisted in leading science and art activities, played with the children in the museum and supervised them on the daily community field trips.

On Monday, July 1st, we took the children on a walk down to Lady Bird Lake, where we met with two students from the Department of Geological Sciences from The University of Texas at Austin. There, the two students directed the children, as well as myself and the other interns, on how to properly take water samples and how to measure the pH levels. We discussed with the children on what to do if the levels become harmful to the environment and how it can affect the community. When we returned to the Museum that afternoon, we led the children in an activity of designing boats, out of plastic containers and straws, that were durable enough to hold a few dollars worth in pennies.Image     On Tuesday, July 2nd, we took the children to the UT Department of Engineering. There, we met with two students, one studying to be a Chemical Engineer and the other to be a Mechanical Engineer. They instructed the children on how to create their own little ‘rocket’s made out of a straw and tape. After the field trip, we returned to the Museum and started our hands-on activities. I interacted with the children, asking them what they knew abut meteors and craters. Then, I led an activity where the children dropped different sized balls into a bucket of cocoa, and they had to measure the size of the ‘crater’ and describe what it looked like. In the next activity, we gave the children their own Styrofoam ball and they had the opportunity to color and create their own planet.


On Wednesday, July 3rd, we took a field trip to the Goodwill Computer Museum. There, we all had a tour of the museum and learned the history of electronics. Since 1994, Goodwill started a collection of hardware, software, and documentation of recycled electronics. We also learned that Goodwill gives back to the community when you donate items to them; Some of the money that is made by Goodwill goes to helping their employees, as well as other community members, achieve their GED. When we returned to the Museum, we had two activities for the children to participate in: One was, taking apart computers and keyboards, and then putting them back together. The second one was, building their own circuits with circuit blocks and ‘alligator’ clips.


     On Friday, July 5th, we took a field trip to Dell Children’s Hospital, where we were given a tour of the pediatrician’s office and of an operating room. We all learned how to take blood pressure, measure height and weight, perform an ultrasound scan, and how to prevent spreading germs. When we returned to the Children’s Museum, the other volunteers, interns and I led activities in dissecting owl pellets and how to create a lung model, using a water bottle and balloons.Image

Overall, this week has been amazing! The children are so bright and intelligent; I am confident that these individuals will become the strong leaders of our future. I am very excited for the weeks to come! I enjoy the diversity of the interns and campers; Everyone is so unique and there is definitely never a dull moment at camp. Between all of the tours and activities, I hope the children have learned as much as I have. I have never really been interested in science before, but after this week, I find it very engaging! I honestly wish I had attended a summer camp like this when I was younger.Image


Get Excited for Summer Camp

24 04 2013

The school year is almost over and that means it’s time for SUMMER CAMP. Have you made your plans yet?

We are gearing up for an awesome summer filled with new discoveries, fun activities and memorable field trips. This is the last year we’ll be hosting camp at our Museum downtown, so you don’t want to miss it.

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ACM offers half day camps for ages 4-6 and full day camps for ages 7-10 from May 28 – August 16. Full day camps include field trips all around the Austin area.  Camp topics range from science, engineering, art and more. Most of our half day camps are already filled, but there are plenty of spots left in full day camps.

This year, we are excited for our full day camp, “Get a Clue.” Together, we’ll investigate and gather evidence to discover the hidden mysteries around town. Field trips include an investigation at the Driskill Hotel where we’ll reveal the haunted history that lies behind the spooky walls, and a behind-the-scenes visit to the Austin Police Department where we’ll meet real investigators.

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Inside the Museum we’ll extract DNA, experiment with blood typing, solve riddles, decipher codes and navigate through a laser alarm system. At the end of the week, we’ll use our problem solving skills to solve an art heist.

Check out all of our camp topics and register online at

Meet Intern Gabriel Vazquez

12 08 2011

The Museum has several summer interns who help out with everything from day camp coordination to marketing.  One such intern is Gabriel Vazquez who is at the Museum as part of the Smithsonian Latino Center Young Ambassador Program.  The mission of this leadership development program is to cultivate Latino culture while fostering education in the arts, science and humanities. The program matches graduating seniors with museums in their area so that they can get the professional and leadership experience.


Gabriel at camp Engineer It!

During his time at ACM, Gabriel has been an Assistant Teacher for the Engineer It! camp, conducted research about visitor demographics and given tours of the museum.  Gabriel says he serves an essential role to be a role model to children and motivate children to pursue scholarship.  He also remarks that he has learned a lot from working with kids and attending the camp field trips, where he was able to talk to the heads of the Bio-Medical Engineering department at University of Texas.

Gabriel is from San Marcos, TX, and is interested in Bio-Medical Engineering.  He will begin his freshman year at University of Texas at San Antonio this fall and after that join the Bio-Medical program at University of Texas here in Austin.

Thanks for all your help, Gabriel, and best of luck with your next adventure in college!

Young Engineers Going Green

9 06 2011

This week the Museum has been hosting an all-day camp called Engineer It! A large group of kids are enjoying how fun and interesting engineering really is. Every morning the young engineers are invited to places such as the University of Texas Chemical Engineering Lab and the Nanoscience Center.

Back at the Museum the kids will be building, inventing and putting their minds to great use. They’ve constructed wind powered cars and contraptions to keep an egg from breaking as it is dropped to the floor.

The kids were split into small groups and during the first two afternoons of the camp they designed “Eco-Friendly Cities” out of egg cartons, cardboard, toilet paper rolls, and popsicle sticks. Each group needed to create a central theme that would reduce costs on electricity, water, or energy for their city. Each building was supposed to have some type of energy saving concept.

Here is a video of the kids working on their “Eco-Friendly Cities” and a couple of their finished products.

Engineer It! 2011 from Austin Children’s Museum on Vimeo.

A few kids had solar panels, some built farms and one little boy had an idea to create motion censored lights for his building to cut down on the amount of electricity that is used.

Next week the Museum is holding a camp called Get a Clue where the kids will get to be junior detectives and learn about mysteries behind science and science behind mysteries. Sign up Here!

Women’s History Month: Ellen Ochoa

12 03 2011

For Women’s History Month, we want honor women who have made a great impact in science and engineering.

Ellen Ochoa

Ellen Ochoa is commonly known as the first Hispanic woman to ever travel to space. She is also a pioneer in spacecraft technology.

Ochoa first achieved great success in school. She received a bachelor of science degree in physics from San Diego State University a master of science degree and doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford University.

Ochoa became an astronaut in 1991 after being selected by NASA. She primarily worked on flight software, computer hardware and robotics.

Ochoa first went to space in 1993. She was on a nine-day mission aboard the shuttle Discovery.On this mission, she helped to study the Earth’s ozone layer.

Ochoa has been into space a total of four times. She has spent over 1000 hours in space!

Ochoa still works at NASA, but she no longer participates in spacecraft operations. She is now Deputy Director of the Johnson Space Center, where she helps to manage and direct the Astronaut Office and Aircraft Operations.

Ellen Ochoa has also pioneered in science technology where she spent most of her time trying to further help space exploration. Her accomplishments in space exploration and technology continue to inspire us all.

Which women in history inspire you?

Engineering Challenge!

18 02 2011

This Saturday, we are celebrating National Engineer Day at the museum. You can celebrate this day with us by participating in an engineering challenge!

Civil engineers design and build big infrastructures like buildings, bridges, tunnels and dams. This takes a lot of work and requires a lot of planning and thinking.

When an engineer builds a bridge, the engineer has to think about all of the people that will be driving on that bridge. The bridge has to support people and cars, so it must be sturdy for safety.

We are challenging you to test the sturdiness of paper in different shapes!

The only supplies you will need are paper, tape and books. We used our paper and tape to design three different shapes. We chose to make a triangle, a cylinder and a square box.

We used old cards to create our shapes.

After we designed our shapes, we tested how sturdy each shape was by placing books on top of them.

The cylinder.

The triangle.

The square box.

We found the cylinder was very sturdy and could hold the most books!

You can also try to use different materials to design your shapes, and you can try to balance different things on top of them.

What did you discover about civil engineering in this challenge? Be sure to let us know!

Special Family Learning Event this Sunday

14 10 2010

Austin Science and Engineering Festival is coming to Austin Children’s Museum this Sunday, Oct. 17 from 1-5 pm.  Take part in the hands-on activity “Cracking the Code in the Digital World,” to learn about the science, technology and engineering behind cable television. The festival which includes events throughout Austin culminates in an expo at the Austin Convention Center Oct. 23-24. The expo will provide leaning opportunities for children and adults of all ages for free. Time Warner is sponsoring the festival as part of the Connect a Million Minds initiative.


Phot Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, The SeaWiFS Project and GeoEye, Scientific Visualization Studio