You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2011.

I’ve been a judge at the Denver Metro Regional Science and Engineering Fair for nearly a decade now.  It is an annual event held every February at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.  There are two divisions – Junior and Senior – each with numerous categories, including Plant Sciences, Animal Sciences, and Physical Sciences.  Winners from the Fair advance to the State Science Fair, and winners there may advance to even more prestigious competitions.  It is entirely possible for a local student to win a full college scholarship based solely on their Science Fair success.

One intriguing aspect of being a judge is the opportunity to see what fascinates students, and how that evolves over time.  A few years ago, for example, I noticed a dramatic upsurge in projects related to forensic science.  This was a direct result of the popular and numerous CSI TV shows.  Currently, there is a strong trend toward projects related to environmental concerns.

Hutton Architecture Studio has been a Gold Sponsor of the Science Fair for many years.  This entails both judging a category or two, as well as subsidizing the cash awards given to winning projects.  We have proudly sponsored the Junior Division and Senior Division Engineering Awards.  Three years ago, we decided to add an entirely new special project award.  It is the Hutton Architecture Studio Solar Energy Award.  This may be awarded to a student or team from any of the categories in both the Junior and Senior Divisions.  We did this because we want to encourage local students to think about environmental issues and, in particular, the need to utilize renewable energy resources.

This year’s winning entries of the Hutton Architecture Studio Solar Energy Award were “Solar Panel Science” (Junior Division) and “Heat Transfer from Biomass” (Senior Division).

On March 17, 2011 I had the pleasure of attending the annual Cherry Creek Schools Foundation “Leadership for Tomorrow” luncheon.  While I always appreciate the opportunity to attend and provide financial support for this event, this year’s was especially memorable due to the keynote speaker – Dr. Steven Gubser, a Cherry Creek High School graduate and a leading theoretical physicist. 

Dr. Gubser began by describing his family’s quest to provide the best possible education for him and his older brother.  While living in Aspen, attending the public school, Steven’s talents were already so evident that a teacher recommended his family seek a more challenging educational environment.  After an extensive search the Gubsers decided to move to the Cherry Creek School District, just south of Denver.  So dedicated were his parents to excellence in education that they endured the hardship of his mother continuing to live and work in Aspen while he, his brother, and father lived in suburban Denver. 

Dr. Gubser next delivered an informative and, at times, humorous description of his specialty – String Theory.  The speech was loosely based on his recent book “The Little Book of String Theory”.  String Theory is sometimes referred to as the theory of everything and is fairly esoteric, but Dr. Gubser helped the audience grasp the basics.  Superintendent Mary Chesley cleverly built on Dr. Gubser’s explanation in her subsequent remarks about the state of education in Colorado. 

Immediately after the luncheon, a few of us headed to the just completed Institute of Science and Technology (IST).  Director Richard Charles provided a tour of the building for Dr. Gubser and a select group of students.  Some of the highlighted features were the extensive use of daylighting, the displacement ventilation system, the active sun tracing device called a Sundolier that lights the central stair, as well as more aesthetic elements, such as geodetic lines embedded in the terrazzo floor.   In particular, Dr. Gubser liked the series of concentric squares and circles that compose the ceiling over that stair; a built demonstration of the mathematical problem of squaring the circle. 

Finally the entire group stopped to observe one of the “History of Science” murals that enliven the open circulation spaces.  Of the 89 scientists, mathematicians, and technologists honored on the murals, there is only one Cherry Creek Schools graduate – Dr. Steven Gubser.   It gave Dr. Gubser, who also happens to love rock climbing, the opportunity to ascend a convenient step ladder and sign his name over his place on the mural.  We hope this is the beginning of an annual tradition at the IST, in which students organize a campaign to invite one of the living scientists honored to come and sign the murals, share their insight into their field of study, and celebrate science.