News Column

What is a bubble bit?

May 23, 2014

By Jacqueline Bostick, The News Herald, Panama City, Fla.



May 23--PANAMA CITY -- Engineering students kept child's play in mind when building an interactive bubble exhibit that was installed at the Science and Discovery Center of Northwest Florida on Wednesday.

Bubble Bits, designed and engineered by seniors at Florida State University Panama City under the guidance of Naval Support Activity Panama City mentors, displays a rolling screen of shapes made up of small bubbles.

"It's going to be a popular exhibit," said Stephen Leach, associate dean at FSU Panama City.

Colors inside a tank change as shapes are input and "printed" in bubbles. By simply pressing "send" and "clear," the shape is shown in bubbles, or the "keyboard," used to input a design, is cleared so that a new design can be input.

PHOTO GALLERY

"This partnership with FSU P.C. and the Navy is unbelievably valuable," said Linda Macbeth, executive director of the museum. "We would not be getting new materials in here without that."

The engineering program at FSU Panama City is not application based, so the hands-on experience involved in making Bubble Bits is good for students and the community, according to Geoffrey Brooks, electrical and computer engineering professor.

"It's the first project that's intended for kids to play with," Brooks said of senior graduation requirement assignments called "capstone projects."

"The key is that we have the subject matter experts in the community that can participate," he said. "I think it's good, something the community needs."

A handful of excited children rushed toward the exhibit Monday, all taking part in testing out Bubble Bits by pressing or banging on buttons. One child yelled across the group to tell another child to "press send." A shape of a box made of bubbles scrolled up the screen.

The simplicity of the exhibit doesn't fall short of complex scientific principles.

"They see principles of buoyancy and drag; the bubbles move slowly," said Bill Porter of the Navavl Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division. "That's not water; it's glycerin. In water, the bubbles would rise much too fast."

Controlling the shapes of the bubbles by punching light-activated buttons is another element of the exhibit that could spark curiosity in children, he said.

"I don't want to teach the kids here," Porter said. "I want them to see something and ask. If you start building up that reaction in them to ask, to figure out how it works, then you've created a STEM professional in the future."

Want To Go?

- What: Bubble Bits permanent exhibit

- When: Tuesday -- Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed holidays

- Where: Science and Discovery Center of Northwest Florida, 308 Airport Road

- Cost: Adults, $7; children, seniors, military, $6

___

(c)2014 The News Herald (Panama City, Fla.)

Visit The News Herald (Panama City, Fla.) at www.newsherald.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


For more stories covering arts and entertainment, please see HispanicBusiness' Arts & Entertainment Channel



Source: News Herald (Panama City, FL)


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