MicroMuseum, Session 4: Iterative Design & The Hall of Ocean Life

In our fourth session of MicroMuseum we looked at the process of iterative design and how it relates to what we will be doing over the next two months. Each youth picked a random piece of paper bearing one of the following phrases: design goal, rules and constraints, develop prototype, playtest, revise goal, and repeat. They were then challenged to find those with the same phrase then arrange themselves amongst the other phrases in the order of a good iterative design process. It was a good physically embodied way to make concrete these abstract ideas.

We then introduced the teens to the initial game design for our project  – MicroRangers: Keeping the Balance – but more on that in the future.

To advance that work, we visited the Hall of Ocean Life to imagine the types of interactions and games that could be part of MicroRangers (should that Hall be included). Working in groups, they were challenged to locate an exhibit that matched a randomly distributed description, learn about it, then offer a short pitch about how they might use an augmented reality experience to inform others about the imagined microbial interactions within the depicted dioramas.

For example:

Kelp Forests: Algae, such as the giant kelp are very important for human health for many reasons, including their use in thickening things like ice cream and toothpaste. Seaweeds are also used to wrap sushi rolls, but their cell walls are very hard to digest – that is, unless you’re Japanese. The gut microbes of Japanese people contain genes that can break down those seaweed cell walls. Using genetics, scientists learned that those genes came from bacteria that live on seaweed in the ocean and were horizontally transferred to the gut microbes.

Polar Seas: Up in the frozen Arctic, single-celled algae trap energy from sunlight and, using photosynthesis, convert it into sugars that form the basis of the food chain. The algae can grow in clumps under the ice, which will break off and float around, giving food to the tiny little grazing organisms that swim near the surface. However, scientists recently discovered that global climate change, which results in thinning ice pack, has a surprise consequence. Because more light travels through the thinner ice, the algae grow fast – so fast that they become heavy and sink to the bottom instead of floating near the top. Although the algae may not go to waste because bottom-dwelling creatures will consume them instead, the scientists are unsure how this may affect the overall Arctic ecosystem.

Deep Sea: Though the depths of the ocean do not receive any sunlight, some deep-sea fish have evolved a partnership with bacteria that can use a chemical reaction to produce light – a phenomenon called bioluminescence. The bacteria are often housed in specialized organs on the fish that they can cover up when they don’t want to be too flashy, or open up to expose the light from their symbionts. The fish can use the glows to signal to potential mates, attract prey, warn off predators, or communicate with each other.

As we were in the hall after closing time, we had the ocean-sized room to ourselves, which was a blast. Here are a few photos:

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This Week’s Bonus Learning Activity

Next week we are going to play the popular mobile game Plague Inc. As a bonus learning activity, download the game, destroy humanity with two of the organic diseases below (no nano-viruses please), and write a comparison in the comment section below about the different strategies employed by the two plagues OR by humanity in response. For example, does the bacterial plague destroy humanity in a way different from the fungus? If you only want to focus on one plague, we will be trying the viral one – so feel free to practice and bring in your best strategies for infecting the world.

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Next Session Reminder
No program on Tuesday!
Wednesday 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Please bring lunch
Wait near Teddy and we will pick you up

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