Posts tagged ‘science house’

January 1st, 2012

A Conversation with the Founders of Late Nite Labs, a Virtual Science Education Laboratory

With decreasing education budgets throughout the US and world, how can schools without the means to create a full wet lab experience provide a meaningful STEM education to students? A virtual lab can come close to providing the same level of chemistry and physics education? Even for schools that can afford a sophisticated wet lab, a virtual counterpart can greatly amplify it–whether because the equipment is too expensive for experimental use or because the boundaries of time and space that previously existed between periods in school are eroded in a virtual environment, leading to increased creativity and participation.

Enter Late Nite Labs, a company that provides a full-service interactive online virtual science laboratory with a full curriculum suite for both high school and college students. Science House Foundation Executive Director Joshua Fouts discusses the origins, goals and future of the company with its founders CEO David Jaffe and Harris Goodman, Chief Development Officer.

Screenshot of a Late Nite Labs experiment

New Financing
TechCrunch recently reported on Late Nite Labs new round of financing from investors, despite doing well with a strong paying subscriber base in the “tens of thousands.” In our interview Harris Goodman describes how this will help the company accelerate and expand their curriculum development.

A Global Perspective
Late Nite Labs already has an eye on a global market with easy-to-use translation tools that allow non-English-speaking students to use the software. David tells us that they plan on reaching out to more international markets soon.

Competition or Collaboration?
With the dominance of the Khan Academy, which has experienced dramatic growth in the online video education field, we discuss how the makers of Late Nite Labs see their work in relation to the likes of similar online video platforms. Jaffe and Goodman describe what’s next for Late Nite Labs in an era of rapidly evolving technology where virtual world platforms become quickly outdated.

What do Science Teachers Think?
We also explore how science teachers have responded to a tool that could theoretically remove the need for many of the costly wet lab equipment most chemistry and physics labs require. This is not a minor issue for many science teachers. There is significant debate about the educational merits of virtual science labs. Harris and Jaffe explain the ways the experience is unique and, in many ways complementary to a wet lab. One interesting element the Late Nite Labs education experience is that mistakes can be made where incorrect results are fully simulated. They also have a well-defined mathematical system wherein students can simulate the use of materials they would likely never have the opportunity to test in the physical space, for example, working with e-coli.

Listen to the full podcast here:

A conversation with the founders of Late Nite Labs, a Virtual Science Laboratory by ScienceHouseFdn

About our podcast guests.
David Jaffe, CEO and Founder

David Jaffe, CEO and Founder of Late Nite Labs


David is the founder and visionary behind Late Nite Labs. Along with a deep background in online education and applied science, David brings his passion to LNL. Prior to founding Late Nite Labs, David was the CTO of Net Talk. David received his B.SC in Mechanical Engineering as well as an M.Sc from Technion University in Biomedical Engineering.



Harris Goodman, Chief Development Officer

Harris Goodman, Chief Development Officer at Late Nite Labs


Harris leads Late Nite Labs’ business development and sales efforts. Previously, Harris was an associate at a Manhattan based investment bank, where he concentrated on digital media. He also served as VP of Business Development of Kinor Technologies, a semantic web and data base platform. Harris holds an M.Sc from Johns Hopkins University in molecular biology.

December 10th, 2011

Happy Birthday Video Science!

Joe Dyer trying one of his Video Science experiments at home in the UK

Recently we received the below email from Phil and Deb Dyer from the the city of Chester in the United Kingdom, with the above picture of their son Joe. On a visit to New York City the Dyers met Dan Menelly, Science House education advisor and host of Science House’s Video Science app who told them about the app.

“Our 9 year old son Joe has since been fascinated by experimental learning through the Video Science media. As parents Video Science has allowed Joe the opportunity to be given a one to one enriching science experience through digital media. Dan Menelly’s engaging lectures have caught Joe’s imagination and, as Joe says ‘There is really fun stuff to do and, it makes you do amazing things’.

As parents it is sometimes difficult to find a media that engages with your child’s learning process, but we are really pleased that Video Science has achieved this Joe is taking his Alien egg to school soon and will be presenting his experiment to the class, not bad for a 9 yr old!

Kind regards, Phil, Deb and Joe”

Dan Menelly demonstrates a "Light Physics" experiment for the Video Science series.

For the past year Science House education advisor Daniel Menelly and Science House CEO and Founder James Jorasch have spent a few weekends per month at Science House recording new videos for Science House’s Video Science app.

This month we celebrate the release of Video Science 3.0.

Saturdays at Science House

In the early days of Science House Dan Menelly and James Jorasch were discussing how they might collaborate. Dan envisioned a “virtual toolkit” of science teaching tips, tools and experiments for new science teachers based on some of the experiments he does in the classroom. But he didn’t have the technological capability to produce and disseminate this content.

“Science House was looking for ways to leverage cutting-edge technology to reach a larger audience,” James said. “So, Dan and I converted a room in Science House into a mini-studio and started capturing video.”

“Dan would arrive at 11am on Saturdays, usually exhausted from his work week as a full-time science teacher at the United Nations International School, and we’d spend hours setting up the studio. Some days we’d have to pause recording to go get an obscure missing ingredient usually available from a grocery store down the street.”

At Science House, a closet contains artifacts from past Video Science segments, and shelves full of materials purchased for use in future segments, “including ones involving the chemistry of soap, a working model of a turbine and some higher level biological science material,” Dan said.

Originally the videos were uploaded to the Science House website. But, James adds, “being serious Apple fanatics, we decided that it had to be on the iPhone. And when the first iPad application came out, we decided it had to be on the iPad, too.”

The Video Science you see and experience on your iPhone or iPad is the handiwork of Jesse Tayler, CEO and founder of Object Enterprises, a company specializing in mobile applications for business. In the early days, Jesse worked with Gabi de Wit from Science House Foundation (who recently left to pursue her PhD in Molecular Biochemistry at Oxford) to edit and produce the videos and bring them to life on iPhones and iPads.

“Gabi and Jesse together added the digital wizardry and coding that transformed Video Science into media that could be shared by anyone with access to the Internet or an iPhone,” Dan recalled. “Gabi offered her formidable science oversight and excellent editorial guidance to the concept notes we drafted for each new segment, and Jesse shared invaluable data to show which segments drew the largest audiences. We can use Jesse’s data to help shape and produce our next season of Video Science content.”

In the past 25 weeks, Video Science has been downloaded by more than 50,000 new users with some days reaching around 800 new downloads per day or 3,000 per week. It has been downloaded in every country for which there is a store, and Apple adds new stores regularly. Jesse estimates that there are nearly 200,000 downloads by at this point. (The system only allows you to see 25 weeks of download history.)

Not bad for no promotion! Jesse tells us this is unusual on the AppStore since Video Science has never been presented to any of the big tech blogs like TechCrunch or been involved in any promotions, and even still, “it does far better than any other app that I’m aware of that have had silent releases.”

Jesse’s team worked to program the app for a “super-fast release,” which allowed Video Science to get out into the app world quickly and well in advance of other science education apps.

This is when Video Science really took off.

Video Science and Education

Video Science has also been reviewed and recommended by teachers and education strategists as one of the go-to solutions for science teachers looking for curriculum suggestions on the web.

Edutopia blogged about Video Science as being a critical app for engaging students in new ways of learning. How Stuff Works listed Video Science in its top 10 apps for teaching kids about science. And YouthFirst, a resource for teachers included it among their classroom resources.

Dan Menelly described what he hopes people will gain from Video Science, reflecting on his 25 years as a science teacher, scholar and researcher.

“Teaching is a great pleasure. I’ve always enjoyed discussions with new teachers who are building their repertoire with STEM. I decided I could share my ideas, tips and experience with other teachers in cyberspace. My hope is that new teachers will not only interact with these ideas but build on them.

“I always viewed Video Science as a little ‘Tips of the Trade’ resource. Scoutmasters have emailed me saying they really like the “nuts-and-bolts” aspect. Others have described it as “garage-like.” And that’s what it’s intended to be: a nuts-and-bolts garage-like description of science lessons I’ve learned in my career. It’s not a simulation as much as it is a tool for teachers to build on. ”

The Future of Video Science

“The future is international for us,” James told me. In fact, on our recent speaking trip to Brazil we were thrilled when Ana Zeri of the Brazilian National Biosciences Laboratory told the audience that she had a special surprise that she was excited to share with them. That surprise was one of her favorite clips of Dan Menelly’s Stomata experiment.

We’re in early discussions now to create a Brazilian version of Video Science to make the lessons more accessible to non-English speakers.

As for the technology, we’ll continue to evolve with the times, James said. “And if there’s a new holographic display, you can bet Science House will be one of the first organizations to build an app for it.”

“If there are two words I’d like science teachers or parents who are watching video science to take away,” said Dan. “It’s ‘Try This.’ Show these to kids and they’ll teach you how to turn it into something else. “

June 22nd, 2011

“Can I resurrect my puppy?” and other DNA Microscopy questions from Thailand


Russell Durrett with MicroGlobalScope grantees of Ms. Gwenn Pettitt's 4th Grade Biology class in Bangkok, Thailand

MicroGlobalScope science advisor Russell Durrett Reports from his recent trip to Bangkok, Thailand.

What can we do with DNA? Can I resurrect my puppy? Can you mix some zebra cells with eagle DNA so it can fly? These are some of the questions MicroGlobalScope science advisor Russell Durrett fielded on his recent trip to Thailand to meet with MicroGlobalScope grantees.

In what he described as “an awesomely good time,” Russell visited the classroom of MicroGlobalScope grantee Ms. Gwenn Pettitt at the International Community School in Bangkok, Thailand. Russell is a Synthetic Biologist and Co-Founder of GenSpace NYC , a non-profit community biology lab located in Brooklyn, NY, that provides professional biology laboratory space for individuals to conduct molecular biology research cheaply and safely.

Russell spent a few days speaking with Ms. Pettitt’s elementary class, the high school AP biology classes and some kids interested in genetic engineering as well biology and microscopy.

“I started coordinating with Ms. Pettitt early in January. She started talking to the other teachers in the school and I ended up speaking to the 4th graders in the morning, the 9th grade biology class at noon, the upper-class high school biology classes that afternoon and then the 4th grade after school program where we did the microscopy and fruit extraction experiments.


Students prepare their fruit extraction materials.

“The really cool thing I noticed was that the high schoolers were asking the same questions as the 4th graders. ‘What can we do with DNA?’ ‘Can I resurrect my puppy?’ ‘Can you mix some zebra cells with eagle DNA so it can fly?’ ‘Why are people making things that glow so often, and how does that work?’ All the students knew that certain traits were due to certain genes being present, but not really how DNA translated into a phenotype.

“One of the students, was curious about the difference between Asian people and Caucasian people and if I could tell if I compared her and my DNAs.”

During the DNA extraction, the most common question was what you can do after you extract it.

Q: ‘Can you tell the difference between the watermelon and the dragon fruit’?

A: ‘If I cut them with the same pair of DNA scissors, then I can compare the chunks with those I know come from watermelon and dragon fruit’


Materials for the microscopy challenge await the microscope.

“The microscopy challenge was to image crystals,” Russell said. “They did a pretty good job. We had brown sugar, sugar, instant coffee, instant green tea (both vacuum dehydrated, so they had ok crystals) and possibly some other stuff. Bangkok is built on a marshland, so they typically find some cool bugs around their school and image them. In all, they’re doing a great job and the kids are asking a lot of great questions. I’m looking forward to seeing this program expand in the future.”

Thanks for the update, Russell, and thanks to our intrepid MicroGlobalScope grantees for their passion for science!

MicroGlobalScope students show their serious side.