The Story of Sue’s Bones

Here at MiSci, assembly work is underway for our latest special exhibit, A T. rex Named Sue! A life-sized casting of the original at the Field Museum in Chicago, Sue is the world’s most complete T. rex skeleton ever found, measuring at 42 feet long and 12 feet high at the hips! Learn more about this limited engagement exhibit in the following blog adapted from The Field Museum’s website.

Excavating Sue’s Bones

When Sue Hendrickson discovered her namesake’s bones sticking out of a bluff, all she could see were a few large vertebrae.

Sue and the rest of the team chiseled away the rock surrounding each bone and reinforced the fossils with glue. Next, they made a protective jacket for each piece by layering on cloth soaked in plaster.

It took six people 17 days to free Sue. By that time, the team realized they had a unique find—a virtually complete, articulated skeleton of a huge Tyrannosaurus rex.


Preparing Sue’s Bones

The Field Museum purchased Sue at auction in 1997 and brought her to Chicago.

The museum built the glass-enclosed McDonald’s Fossil Preparation Laboratory—a state-of-the-art facility for removing the rock from Sue’s bones.

First, preparators began clearing away the rocky matrix by using an air scribe (a mini jackhammer). Next, the bones were cleaned with an air-abrasion machine (a mini sandblaster) and other fine tools. Any broken bones were carefully glued back together.

In total, it took 12 Field Museum technicians more than 30,000 hours to prepare Sue’s bones! Just the skull alone required 3,500 hours of work.


Modeling Sue’s Bones

After cleaning and repairing Sue’s bones, preparators made exact copies of each one—five complete casts in total.

Some of the copies remain at the museum so that visiting scientists can study Sue’s bones. Others have been assembled into full skeletons and travel the world, giving everyone a chance to see this amazing T. rex.

Sue’s missing bones also needed to be fabricated. The Field Museum called other museums with T. rex skeletons, hoping to find models for the absent parts. But in Sue’s case, these bones weren’t big enough.

Instead, substitute pieces were created. A few of Sue’s bones were cast twice, then the extra casts were modified in size and shape to fill in the gaps. Some bones that were present on one side but missing on the other were matched using computer generated modeling. And a couple of bones—like the missing tip of Sue’s tail—were sculpted by an artist.


Exhibiting Sue’s Skeleton

Once Field Museum preparators had cleaned and repaired her bones, Sue was ready to be assembled. So, the Field Museum called in Phil Fraley Productions, experts in mounting large, fossilized specimens.

Older methods of mounting heavy fossils involved drilling holes through the bones for iron supports. But Fraley’s method safely cradles the bones in the positions they would have held in life. The result is a more realistic posture for Sue that doesn’t damage her bones.

Finally, Sue made her dramatic debut on May 17, 2000. And now, in 2015, Sue comes to Detroit Oct. 17 – Dec. 31!

Teaching Super Hero Science

By Charlie Gibson
MiSci Outreach Coordinator

Each year the Michigan Science Center’s Traveling Science program designs new workshops and presentations to match the Collaborative Summer Library Program. This year the theme was “Every Hero Has A Story” so we knew we’d be talking about heroes like Superman.

The problem is that we can’t exactly explain how Superman soars, but we can explore how lots of other objects achieve flight.

To the workshop! Taking inspiration from The Tinkering Studio at San Francisco’s Exploratorium we set out to build a pair of Wind Tubes. Because these programs were intended to travel, the design had to be compact but also sturdy so it would hold up to constant loading and unloading.

Our first wind tube.

Our first design involved a cardboard framework wrapped around curved sheets of 0.03 inch thick polycarbonate film. Josh, one of our incredible exhibit techs, painstakingly cut windows into a Quik-Tube so the kids could see their creations fly.

The problem was that it didn’t break down easily, it took up a lot of space in our van, and the visibility of the objects inside was low.

Velcro was the answer – as it often is! By attaching the two polycarbonate sheets to each other with Velcro, we created a near seamless cylinder meaning no disruption in the airflow and it had far more visibility (see below). Not only that – but the entire thing breaks down easily and we can store the sheets in a portfolio!

Josh attaching the Velcro with the protective film still on the sheet.

We’re excited to be including this tinkering program in our regular offerings and look forward to further exploration of flight in classrooms across the state.

The final product.

Allen Tucker’s Incredible Science Machine Story

Allen_TuckerMy name is Allen Tucker and I was the winner of the VIP tickets for the fantastic event known as the Incredible Science Machine (ISM) at the Michigan Science Center. Before I get into how I managed to attend it, let me tell you a bit about myself. I am a 15-year-old from North Carolina and I have been a domino builder probably since I was around 7 or 8. I have always been attracted to how they fell, their sound, and building with them. I have built with Mexican train dominoes, then wooden, then Maria Lamping dominoes, and now BulkDominoes on my YouTube channel, PluxDomino.

I heard about ISM on Lily Hevesh’s YouTube channel (Hevesh5) and I knew it might be too far of a drive from North Carolina all the way to Michigan (11 hours!). I told my parents about it and they tried to order tickets only to find they were sold out, so I began my search of finding a way to get a ticket. I saw that they were giving away 4 VIP tickets to whoever could post the best domino chain reaction through social media. I had only 10 hours left until the contest closed. I quickly built a 1,500 domino video and submitted it via Facebook. I fell asleep that night hoping that I would somehow win the contest.

I woke up the next morning to find out that I had won the contest!!! I won 4 VIP tickets!!! We quickly packed and headed for Ohio where we stayed overnight with my grandpa. The next day, we headed up to Michigan where we were given a warm welcome for being the VIP ticket winners. It was my first time seeing a huge domino event, so I didn’t know what to expect, but the fall-down was really great! I got to meet Hevesh5, SuperMarMarMan1, xXDominoMasterXx, and other YouTubers that I have been following for years! The event was really fantastic and was a great experience for me as a domino builder.

U.S. Navy: Taking High Tech Underwater

Adapted from a U.S. Navy blog by Petty Officer 1st Class Brett Cote.

Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Jose Lopez, assigned to Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit ONE, moves a buoy in the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of Northern Vietnam, May 22, 2015. Lopez is part of a Defense POW/MIA Accountability Agency underwater recovery team searching for two aviators who are believed to have crashed in the area during the Vietnam War. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brett Cote/RELEASED)

Many people associate the U.S. Navy with boats, but these military men and women have a variety of high-tech jobs both above and below water.

Navy divers conduct salvage, harbor clearance and de-beaching for maritime disasters, underwater repairs to U.S. Navy and NATO ships and submarines, underwater construction, and submarine rescue.

Using the most modern diving equipment available, divers operate in a variety of conditions — from tropical waters to frigid Arctic waters beneath icebergs.

Many of these divers are members of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) recovery team, whose mission is to provide the fullest possible accounting for missing U.S. personnel to their families and the nation.

One DPAA team is currently in Northern Vietnam searching for the remains of two naval aviators who are believed to have crashed into the Gulf of Tonkin during the Vietnam War.

“The visibility down there is less than a foot,” said Navy Diver 2nd Class Kyle Loftren after a six-hour shift underwater. “It’s like learning what it’s like to be blind for a day, and learning how to do everything by touch.”

Searching in zero-visibility conditions is slow and methodical work. The divers dredge sediment from a two-by-two-meter square area and the topside team sifts through all the sediment.

“We’re looking for anything that is man-made … anything that is not natural to the environment,” said Roger Antrim, a DPAA life support investigator.

On this particular site, the team is keeping an eye out for signs of life-support equipment like material from a parachute, a life vest, or an ejection seat.

“I speak for a lot of folks in our organization who are combat veterans [of] Afghanistan or Iraq,” said Marine Capt. Bobby Fowler, the recovery team leader. “This mission obviously holds a very special place for us. We would want something like this to happen if something ever happened to us like what happened to these two aviators who we’re looking for today.”

The Navy is hosting Detroit Navy Week August 24 – 30 to provide area residents an opportunity to learn about the Navy, its people, and its importance to national security and prosperity. Navy divers and members of the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery will be at MiSci on August 28 to share their experiences and discuss the role of STEM in their work. Both are included with paid MiSci general admission. Also, don’t miss performances by the Navy band on August 25 at 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. (outside, weather permitting) and the  Navy’s STEM truck in the MiSci parking lot on August 28, featuring interactive hands-on activities from 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. These outside activities are free.

Making a Difference at Summer Science Camp

By Breon Canady
MiSci Educator


MiSci Educator
Breon Canady


Breon also loves working with Pinky, MiSci’s albino leopard gecko!








Hello there! I’m Breon (or as the MiSci campers call me, Miss Breon). I am one of the MiSci Summer Science Camp educators this summer. I’m no stranger to camp life, having also worked as the Head Counselor at Camp Innisfree, a Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan camp. When I’m not educating at MiSci, I am living my life as a post-graduate, professional actor in Metro Detroit.

The smiles on the faces of the children that I work with are what keep me driving forward as a camp educator and counselor. I know all our hard work is worth it when I see them creating something brand-new or when I get to watch their critical thinking skills blossom. I’m having a blast while working at MiSci and I’m learning more about different teaching techniques and the value of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and STEAM (STEM plus art).

I have a bachelor of fine arts in theater. I once asked myself, “Why STEM?” thinking that it didn’t encourage students to be creative. But now, I understand that how crucial STEM knowledge is even if you don’t pursue a career as a conventional science or engineer. I now consider myself an advocate for STEM because without the talent of STEM professionals, some of Broadway’s biggest shows would not be possible! Without engineers, popular shows like Wicked wouldn’t exist. Without science, Phantom of the Opera would exist only on paper.

As a STEM educator, we don’t tell children “your only option is to be a doctor or scientist.” Instead, we provide students with skills and information so they can find their niche and apply STEM skills to jobs in any field.

There are still two weeks left in MiSci’s Summer Science Camp! To learn more, visit our Summer Camp web page. Or, to register for camp and meet Breon and our other amazing educators, please call 313.577.8400, Option 5. We also offer Mid-Winter and Spring Break camps – stay tuned for details on our 2016 programs.


A Tale of Two Robots

MiSci’s Robot Lab experience, open this summer, teaches robotics and coding with Finch robots. Designed by Carnegie Mellon, these small robots translate computer languages into motion, sounds, and visual effects. Robot Lab is also home to two larger robots, Knowbot and Baxter. Both robots have been attracting attention, so this blog is dedicated to telling their stories.


knowbot2Formerly located on the lower level near the Toyota Engineering 4D Theater, Knowbot’s new temporary home is in Robot Lab. Officially named Griot Knowbot, this robot was created by artist Jim Pallas. He was originally designed as a fundraising tool.

Knowbot accepted coins or bill in his mouth and used a sensor to respond with one of more than 150 sound files his memory. Most of the responses were based on quotes from scientists,  philosophers, inventors, comedians, artists and others.

Knowbot has an industrial look meant to reflect the history and character of Detroit. Industrial discards form most of Knowbot’s body and around his heart are mementos of Europe, Africa, the Middle-East, the Mediterreanean, and more, in recognition of the people who have come to Detroit from all over the the world. “We tried to make a Motor City Griot that combines art and technology to continue the oral tradition and that expresses the bold spirit of Detroit,” Pallas wrote on his website.

Today, Knowbot is retired from fundraising, but enjoys his work in Robot Lab. He greets guests as they enter the exhibit space and holds two tablets with information on robotics, contributing to the educational content in Robot Lab.


baxterBaxter is on loan to MiSci from Magna Corporation. He has served as the “face” of Robot Lab appearing in the news media, including Channel 4’s Live in the D. He is currently stationed in Robot Lab, where he demonstrates a wide range of simple tasks. Most of all, guests enjoy shaking hands with Baxter or giving him a fist bump.

MiSci’s Baxter is one of many Baxters created by Rethink Robotics to help businesses with their manufacturing process. According to the company’s website, organizations across North America have integrated Baxter into their workforce. “(He) is a proven solution for a wide range of tasks – from line loading and machine tending, to packaging and material handling.”

For now, MiSci’s Baxter is enjoying a life of leisure away from the manufacturing line. He enjoys entertaining MiSci guests and teaching them about robotic capabilities.

Be sure to stop by MiSci’s Robot Lab during your next visit to meet both Knowbot and Baxter.

Becoming a Professional Domino Artist

By Lily Hevesh (Hevesh5)
Domino Artist


It may seem ironic to spend weeks constructing a project only to destroy it, but that is precisely the art of domino building and toppling.

I am Hevesh5 and I am a 16-year-old Domino Artist. Domino art involves creating intricate patterns, 3D structures, images, and chain reactions using dominoes specially designed to set up and knock down. I set up thousands of dominoes in ways that creatively fall and produce remarkable effects. Building dominoes requires a whole lot of patience, time, knowledge of physics, and a super steady hand.

I got into domino art at the age of 10 after searching “dominoes” on YouTube. I found a TON of mind boggling domino videos with thousands upon thousands of dominoes and was completely amazed by the projects that people were able to build. I thought dominoes were just setting up a line and knocking them down, but you could make 3D structures, towers, pictures, words, and so many other amazing constructions out of dominoes. After watching hundreds of videos, I was inspired to try building dominoes myself.

Throughout 6.5 years of practice, I have worked my way up to the level of a professional domino artist producing domino setups for companies as well as viewers on my YouTube channel. I have done a live domino topple for Prudential, events at the Brattleboro Museum and Arts Center, a lyric video produced by Kevin Jonas for Bethany Mota, and commercials for Campbell’s Soup, Lenovo, and Honda. Currently, I am the most subscribed domino artist on the web with nearly 500,000 subscribers and 100 million views!

Thanks to the YouTube domino/chain reaction community, I have become good friends with other builders including Sprice, the mastermind behind the Incredible Science Machine. We had always dreamed of the chain reaction community coming together to create one large setup. When Sprice told me he found some space to host a huge domino/chain reaction event I was so excited and eager to get involved! After a huge success from the Kickstarter fundraiser, we immediately began the plans to make the Incredible Science Machine a reality. On Saturday, July 18, we’ll launch the Incredible Science Machine at 3 p.m. and we’re hoping to set a new Guinness world record.

View a replay of the Incredible Science Machine and follow us on Facebook to find out if the team set a new world record.

NASA’s Journey to Mars


In the classic Ray Bradbury book, The Martian Chronicles, humans land on Mars only to discover it is already populated by Martians. Naturally, disaster ensues. In real life, NASA’s Mars mission – scheduled for the 2030s – is sure to be more successful. 

In the past, Mars may have had conditions suitable for life (although none as complex as described in The Martian Chronicles) and NASA is hoping to uncover evidence of this, answering the age-old question “does life exist beyond Earth?”

Although 2030 may seem far away, NASA is already preparing for the mission. Three astronauts recently returned from 199 days in orbit on the International Space Station and NASA will be monitoring them to determine how the human body changes in space.

During their time in orbit, the astronauts conducted a number experiments that will advance the Mars mission and benefit those on Earth.

Special Pants
The Fluid Shifts experiment tests one theory to explain why more than half of astronauts experience changes in their vision. This experiment uses special pants to help pull fluids from an astronaut’s upper body to their legs – similar to the effect of gravity on Earth.

Neck Collars
Drain Brain uses a neck collar to relieve pressure inside an astronaut’s head, which may help relieve headaches caused by lack of gravity.

Espresso Machines
The Capillary Beverage study, using an espresso machine, helps researchers better understand how fluids move in space.

A 3-D printer aboard the International Space Station created a wrench – the first object to be 3-D printed space.

To learn more about the Journey to Mars project, visit the NASA website and check out our Journey to Space IMAX® film opening June 13. This film, narrated by Patrick Stewart, explores the past and future of human space exploration, including the Mars program.

Introducing MiSci’s Robot Lab

Thanks to support from Quicken Loans, MiSci will open a new Robot Lab June 20! The Robot Lab will allow guests to learn computer coding and manipulate a two-wheeled robot known as the Finch. The Finch robots were developed in Carnegie Mellon’s Robot Institute and are designed to engage students with computer science. The Carnegie Mellon website offers a complete description of this innovative educational tool.

(The) Finch … can be programmed by a novice to talk, dance or even make its beak glow in response to cold temperatures. 

The simple look of the tabletop robot is deceptive. Based on four years of educational research sponsored by the National Science Foundation, Finch includes a number of features that could keep students busy for a semester or longer.

“Students are more interested and more motivated when they can work with something interactive and create programs that operate in the real world,” said Carnegie Mellon’s Tom Lauwers.

Read more …

Visit us this June for your chance to learn coding, play with the Finch, and even compete against your friends, family and other guests! Members: don’t miss our members-only Summer Kickoff on June 18!



Guest Blog: Hyperscore – Changing how we Understand Music

By Katie Scharra, MiSci volunteer


As a master’s student of anthropology at Wayne State University, I am always looking for fun ways to spend a day or two away from schoolwork. I am extremely interested in the way adults and children alike interact with alternative modes of learning, so I jumped at the chance to work with a new Michigan Science Center exhibit. I’d like to share the awesome things I’ve learned about the Hyperscore exhibit and program, how children and adults interact with it, and my hopes for the future of the exhibit at MiSci.

Hyperscore is an incredible music composition software created by Tod Machover – a renowned composer and MIT professor.  By assigning colors to individual sets of notes, Hyperscore lets you create music through your own drawings. The exhibit is part of a program called Symphony in D, which asks Detroiters to capture the sounds of the city using Hyperscore or a related app. These sounds will be used to create a symphony which will be performed by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in November.

Seeing how Hyperscore is used by visitors of all ages has been the most rewarding part of the past few weeks. As children came to experience Hyperscore, I began to notice a distinct pattern. While older children love the software and find it pretty intuitive, younger children didn’t seem to understand how to use it, even when I guided them. After I tried to explain how to draw across the screen, a parent said to me, “They don’t know what ‘click and drag’ means.” It was an absolute shock to learn that ‘the click of a mouse’ is an increasingly obsolete term.

Luckily, the Michigan Science Center is a place full of wonderful employees ready to challenge themselves and try something new. Within a week, MiSci had new Microsoft Surface tablets, allowing Hyperscore to be run by touch. We still have several PCs for those who are familiar with the mouse, in addition to three touch screen tablets. These touch screens have completely changed the experience of this already incredible program. Imagine, musical notes coming right from your fingertips. This will be extremely familiar to musicians, however, for those cannot read a single note (like me), the act of creating our own music is incredibly exciting.

In August, I’ll return from my internship in Colorado, and the MiSci team and I hope to host one or two workshops on Hyperscore. These programs will allow visitors to learn Hyperscore in-depth and to re-create the sounds of Detroit. I encourage everyone, regardless of musical ability, to visit MiSci and try Hyperscore. It will change the way you understand the music you hear every day.

Learn more about MiSci’s volunteer program.