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What Really Matters: Rensselaer, Junior Museum, and NSF Open the "Molecularium"

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December 11, 2002

What Really Matters: Rensselaer, Junior Museum, and NSF Open the "Molecularium"

Troy, N.Y. — More than 20 elementary-school students from the Susan Odell Taylor School visited the country's only 'Molecularium' today. Housed in the Lally Digistar II Planetarium in Troy's Junior Museum, the "Molecularium" is designed to introduce students in grades K-3 to simple material science concepts, including the states of matter - solids, liquids, and gases - and addresses the requirements of the New York State science curricula.

Rensselaer professors developed the content for the "Molecularium" as well as the animation for the seven-minute-long pilot program. The project is a collaboration of Rensselaer's Nanotechnology Center and The Junior Museum, with funds from the National Science Foundation's Nanoscale Science and Engineering Initiative.

"Similar to the way a Planetarium introduces people to the outer reaches of space, the "Molecularium" is designed to take kids inward to the smallest forms of matter, including atoms, molecules, and polymers" says Linda Schadler, a materials scientist at Rensselaer and one of the directors of the project with Shekhar Garde, a chemical engineering professor, and Pawel Keblinski, a materials science professor. "We hope to develop a 20-minute-long program if the pilot is shown to be useful in helping children understand science concepts as required by New York State science curricula."

Hosted by the molecule H20, the "Molecularium" features a guest appearance by Sponge Bob Squarepants (who plays a 'solid'), a 3-D DNA walk-through, and even a family of 'mers,' which strung together, form a polymer.

"We are pleased to present this exciting program which encourages young children's curiosity about science and the world around them," said Tim Allen, executive director of The Junior Museum.

The Museum has developed an entire set of hands-on curricular activities around the "Molecularium." The students learned that all materials are made up of atoms and molecules, built molecular models to see how atoms bond to form molecules, and discussed differences in molecular motion in solids, liquids and gases. They also made a polymer and took it home.

To attend a show at the "Molecularium," contact the Junior Museum at: 235-2120, or visit The Junior Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Contact: Megan Galbraith
Phone: (518) 276-6531
E-mail: N/A


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Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, 32 research centers, more than 145 academic programs, and a dynamic community made up of more than 7,900 students and more than 100,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include more than 145 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration.