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Unique Forms in Sculpture Physics

on Wed, 03/12/2014 - 21:38

Recently, grateful students (and staff) were a little sad to see the end of Sculpture Physics, a new 5-week workshop offered at Think Tank this semester. Instructor Samantha Minter developed and taught a brief, highly engaging art class which had each student creating original work. Over the course of the workshop, students worked on four separate projects, all of which took inspiration from the various properties of physics such as gravity and light. For instance, one project's goal was to create a sculpture which suggests that gravity is amiss. This was achieved by shaping a wire-frame base to which clay was then applied and sculpted. The finishing touches required some detail painting to help bring ideas like an upside down tree and floating figures to light.





Another project involved cutting identical paper shapes using the ROYGBIV color spectrum, then bending and affixing them to a wire axle on a stick, creating a functioning pinwheel. The pinwheel, when spun via wind energy, demonstrates how these colors blend together into a white blur, indicating that white is the essence of all the colors. The pinwheel project eventually led into a separate work where students were tasked to create an abstract sculpture consisting of wire and colored foil that moves and interacts with wind.  

Photos: (Above)Samantha gives Josh some pointers while Rebecca adds clay to her wire tree frame. (Right) A ROYGBIV pinwheel.

See more images from the Sculpture Physics workshop HERE.


The Art of Science Learning Needs You!

on Wed, 02/26/2014 - 20:27

Beginning March 1, 2014 through January 2015 an exciting new program is being implemented in Worcester.  Funded by the National Science Foundation, 100 participants will be testing a cutting-edge curriculum that links arts-based and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) learning and will apply this information to develop new transportation solutions for our city.  Most meetings/workshops are scheduled on Saturdays to take place in locations in greater Worcester and range from 4-7 hours in length consisting of seminars, hands-on interactive workshops, and professional panel discussions.  

Volunteers are needed for general support before, during, and after sessions in areas such as taking attendance, passing out, and/or collecting curriculum materials, etc.  We are looking for volunteers to be part of an exciting initiative that will make a difference in our community.  The volunteer application process is currently underway and available online   More information can also be found at:
Klaire Reis uses petri dishes and reflective epoxy polymer to show off colors and patterns that can be found in natural cellular reactions.

Workshop Highlights & Scholarship Opportunities

on Mon, 12/30/2013 - 17:21

The new year brings new challenges and room for growth as Think Tank prepares new course and workshop offerings and continues to nurture partnerships with local educational organizations. After a successful semester of workshops held at the EcoTarium, the mission to collaborate and expand presses onward with the following Friday workshops:

                                                                                   Students of Art Biology sketch dioramas in an EcoTarium exhibit.                                                                                              See more photos HERE!

Think Tank has also begun an ambitious scholarship program which focuses on making after-school workshops available to youth in the city of Worcester. We are currently offering two tuition-paid scholarships for each of the following workshops/courses:

Click the Classes link in the menu above for a complete listing of Think Tank courses and workshops. Details for applying for scholarships can be found here.

Metal Material & Arts - November 15th 2013

on Sun, 11/10/2013 - 22:18

For four weeks, students aged 12-16 have been participating with Worcester Think Tank and the Worcester Center for Crafts in a new curriculum that blends traditional craft with science. Students have been guided through four six-hour-long days by a blacksmith, chemist, science educator and two metal artists. In blacksmithing they have learned basic forging techniques, practices in stretching and bending of steel, and general safety around hot metal and torches. At completion students will have forged two main objects: steel S hooks and steel forks

In addition to traditional blacksmithing skills, Joshua Swalec (Ferromorphics Blacksmithing and contractor at WCC) has asked students to consider properties and states of metal in different conditions. In one exercise he asks students to superheat one side of a low carbon steel rod. Students observe the color differences at different places on the rod in regard to time and placement of the torch. Once attaining a bright glowing orange at one end, students quench (submerge quickly in water) the rod. One by one they break the rod down into small segments and view them under stereoscopes for observable differences in grain. The difference in grain is due to differences in the state of the molecular structure upon quenching. The initially hotter parts reveal a smoother grain and cooler parts a more rigid texture.  

In addition to considerations made while learning blacksmithing techniques, students spend 1-2 hours per workshop gaining a foundation in the chemical properties of metals with Oleg Maksimov. Experiments on metal densities, reactivity to acids and bases and differences in melting point connects scientific concept and theory to their practice in metal work. 

Metal artists Liz Ryan and Lauren Anabela teach applications of the use of metal in art. Students learn stamping, patinas (use of heat and/or chemicals to influence color and pattern on the metal), salt water etching, and soldering to create charms, rings, and bracelets. 

On Friday, November 15th, the WCC will hold a Metals Family Fun event from 7:00-9:00pm. This event will include an outdoor blacksmith forging demonstration, an indoor metal arts activity making bangle bracelets, and general opportunity to meet with students and teachers involved in this curriculum. Light refreshments will be served. Though this event is otherwise free, bangle braclet making aks for a $25 fee. If interested in participating please be sure to arrive no later than 8pm in order to successfully complete your project. Those interested in bangle braclet making please RSVP to to allow for materials preparation. The Worcester Center for Crafts, is located at 25 Sagamore Rd. Parking lot available.








Thomas carefully observes his soldering job after quenching a copper ring.

Ornithology Among The Trees

on Tue, 10/15/2013 - 15:15

Donning cloth security harnesses, helmets, sketch books, and the sheer will to explore, students of Art Biology class head to the EcoTarium's Tree Canopy Walkway for an interactive bird watching session. EcoTarium educator and ornithology enthusiast, Alex Dunn, leads the group along with WTT founder, Lauren Monroe, and resident art teacher, Jen Swan. After Alex guides us through safety protocol we set forth, one at a time, across the first bridge. The Walkway consists of three tree-house sized platforms, interconnecting bridges, and a plethora of tether cables which dangle and stretch like metallic vines.

The students spend some time exploring each platform, clipping their carabiners back and forth between the web of heavy cables, before we're asked to settle on a specific platform with sketch book and pencil in-hand. On one of the platforms, surrounded by a group of students, Alex holds up a small speaker attached to an iPod. Suddenly, the excited energy of the group begins to focus into a quiet calm as the speaker unleashes the sounds of Black-Capped Chickadees mobbing an Eastern Screech Owl. Within moments, actual Black-Capped Chickadees descend into the tree canopy.

Alex, who has been into ornithology since the 5th grade, explains how the recording of the birds mobbing the Screech Owl is like a call-to-arms; the chickadees hear trouble and come to aid their brethren. In our case, they simply perch on the surrounding branches perhaps wondering what all the fuss is. The commotion doesn't only stir the Chickadees- we soon see other species appear in the foliage such as the White-breasted Nuthatch, Downy Woodpecker, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Tufted Titmouse, and Blue-headed Vireo.

The students sit and lean attentively. Jen Swan encourages them to observe and illustratively document the birds even if the visibility is fleeting. In the coming weeks the students will implement some of what they learn in this experience to render 3d bird sculptures which they shape and paint themselves. It is a beautiful sight to behold, sharing this space with the students, teachers, and nature.

As Alex and I recounted the experience, I asked what was appealing to him about bird watching. “They don't stand still for you," he pointed out, explaining how he enjoys the challenge of the hunt.  Alex also appreciates how ornithology is "part of this larger story", acting as an entryway to studying a vast and complex ecosystem. I interpret this into how we have to be vigilant and perpetuate awareness in order to keep the practice alive, keep our thirst for such knowledge satiated. I can't help but draw a correlation between these words and the experience of teaching youth! Learn more about local ornithology on Alex's blog.

Telegram Article Spotlights Think Tank!

on Thu, 10/10/2013 - 15:25


WORCESTER — The teacher was barefoot and wore a tank top and shorts. Eight kids were crowded around two tables pushed together in a large room that had beat-up wooden floors, pictures painted on the walls, a world map on which south was up, and a collection of items that would seem about right in a science room. On one student's hand was a very large grasshopper. Before long, the teacher, Leo Spinner, brought out an Eastern millipede. 

Read the full article and view photos HERE!

Inspired Science!

on Tue, 04/23/2013 - 20:14

MCPHS grad student and PhD candidate, Steve Richards, ran a wonderfully successful genetics workshop at Think Tank this Spring semester. The workshop, titled Genetics: The Fly Room, was inspired by the work of Thomas Hunt Morgan, a famous scientist who played a crucial role in the shaping of modern genetics. Morgan established the Fly Room at Columbia University with a group of students in the early 20th century. The Fly Room served as a vital hub for genetic research that influenced every generation to follow. Morgan was known for his democratic and socially dynamic approach to academic science. He encouraged and nurtured the acceptance and collaboration of ideas regardless of degree or status. 

In a similar fashion, Steve encourages his students to ask questions and creatively investigate the object of study. He introduces the concept of his genetics workshop with the following excerpt from the class forums: 

Drosophila melanogaster is the most genetically well known, and most common model organisms in the science community. Their short lifespan, fast reproduction time, and degree of current knowledge that we have about them makes the flies perfect for the young geneticist. Over the length of the course we have identified many of the common phenotypes for genetic mutations of interest, and also took a look at some of the mutants we will be working with.

The flies we have been using are very much lab quality flies. What this means is that they are genetically designed to be able to carry desirable mutations. Since scientists often work on genes of interest that may not have a visually distinctive phenotype, we need another way to easily identify flies that have a specific mutation. This is where “markers” and “balancers” come into play. Without going into too much information many of the flies used in the lab are “balanced” and have “markers” built into their genes. This gives the flies easy to identify traits, and also ensures their genetic stability. 

Continue reading Steve's Fly Room write up HERE.


Think Tank Realizes Collaborative Vision

on Fri, 03/15/2013 - 20:57

Amidst growing ambition and opportunity in 2013, Worcester Think Tank has realized collaborative relationships with other local educational organizations with great success! WTT director, Lauren Monroe, and teacher, Leo Spinner, have been paying weekly visits to Spirit of Knowledge Charter School(SOKCS) in downtown Worcester. While Lauren conducts hands-on science labs in one classroom, across the hall Leo introduces students to herpetology (the study of reptiles and amphibians) with a plethora of live creatures the students learn to properly handle and examine while discovering important facts. I've had the pleasure to assist Lauren at SOKCS twice during these visits which left me amazed and impressed by the student's interest and patience with challenging chemistry and biology experiments.

Another leap forward was accomplished when Lauren connected with New Street Glass Studio director, Gale Scott, last year to develop a hybrid, hands-on chemistry and glass blowing workshop. This semester, students have been experimenting and learning about glass chemistry with Lauren and Oleg Maksimov at Think Tank and then relocating down the street to practice glass and flame working with Gale. Worcester Magazine recently published an article about this collaborative! Click HERE to read.

                                                                                                                   Students at SOKCS learn about DNA extraction

The Study of Information

on Tue, 03/12/2013 - 20:36

A variety of newspapers lay sprawled across the table as students of Is it Newsworthy? scan and scrutinize popular internet news sources and culture. Jennifer Ladner and Jessie Trowbridge of Screen Savvy Kids have taken on the important role of teaching media literacy to youth during a time where information sharing is predominantly digital and increasingly available.

Over the past few weeks students have been challenged to investigate the credibility of news sources, question potential bias, study journalistic styles, and employ their acquired knowledge in their own original news article. For their article, students were asked to choose a topic from and conduct their own investigative reporting.

Being granted a couple of opportunities to sit with the class, I've observed a valuable and unique dynamic between Jennifer and Jessie as they bring different perspectives that seek similar goals to a group of intelligent and knowledge-hungry students.  

Local Biodiesel Producers Visit Think Tank!

on Thu, 12/15/2011 - 18:31

A small scale biodiesel demonstration was held at Think Tank on Tuesday 12/13. Fall General Chemistry students learned how to convert WVO (waste vegetable oil) into biodiesel. Check out the educational video! A fuller version with all student commentary coming soon!