So, has this happened to anybody else? Where you joke about doing something for so long, that it actually becomes your future? That’s what happened with Cycle for Science, our cross-country bicycle trip to bring hands-on science lessons to classrooms, libraries and summer programs.
We’re Rachel Woods-Robinson, a solar cell scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, and Elizabeth Case, a science journalist starting her PhD in mechanical engineering in the fall, and we leave April 17th. The trip will take about three months.
We met while studying physics at UCLA, burning the midnight oil in particle physics labs. Rachel and I were lucky to end up in physics, but leaving high school, neither of us thought we would be scientists—because we had no idea what that meant. She played trombone; I was going to study English.
That’s where the “For Science” in our trip comes in. As we bike across America, we’ll be stopping at middle schools and summer programs to teach hands-on lessons about physics and renewable energy. We’re hoping to show the students we meet that science is creative, impactful, and the key to understanding and changing the world around them—as well as to have frank discussions about stereotypes about scientists.
The core of our lessons will be the Sol Cycle, a miniature, 3D-printable, solar-powered bicycle we are in the process of designing. When it’s finished, we’ll release the 3D files online so anyone can print it.
As neither Rachel nor I are teachers, we’re cognizant of the fact that we do not understand the challenges science teachers face in the classroom. That’s why we will also be interviewing science teachers and educators about innovation in the science curriculum, and curating hands-on lessons and labs. We’ll post all of these videos online for everyone—parents, teachers, curious kids—to use.
We’ve already talked to three teachers, one based in Sacramento, one in San Francisco and one in Cambridge, Idaho. Their stories have left us floored. Their 12 hour days, their non-existant lab budgets. Their dedication and ingenuity. These are the stories people need to hear to glimpse the need in our nation’s classrooms.
Our Kickstarter, which will cover the prototyping and manufacturing of the Sol Cycle, was successfully funded last week. We exceeded our goal of $6,000 by over $1500, meaning we’ll be able to ship more Sol Cycles to more teachers, and leave sample bicycles, solar panels, and motors in the classrooms
We’ll be chronicling our progress at www.cycleforscience.org. We hope you’ll come along for the ride!