100th Science Cafe and Beyond

STORY BY LAURA KRUG
PHOTOS BY CLARK CHEN

On Monday evening, Dr. Paul Adams addressed a gathering of FHSU students, professors, people from Hays and students from Thomas Moore Prep-Marian as he had many times before; almost 99 to be exact. The 100th Science Cafe event on the night of September 16th, 2019 marked exactly 11 years since the first event. To mark the special occasion, the event was held in the Robbins Center.

The science cafe began over 10 years ago as an effort between Dr. Paul Adams and his wife Cheryl Shepherd-Adams, who was involved with Kansas Citizens for Science, to provide a space for presenting and discussing science in the Hays community. The event was initially held at Semilino Coffee Shop, which is no longer open. Then the meeting moved to Gella’s and finally to the current location at The Venue in Thirsty’s. 

The casual setting of the meeting is very important to contributing to a model of engagement and discussion of ideas; and to distance the gathering from the feeling of a formal lecture. Science Cafe is not funded by the university, but instead by private donors. The focus is to engage the Hays community with science, but often does include professors and students from FHSU.

Posters were hung around the Robbins Center representing the topics of all 99 previous science cafe meetings, which have covered many hot topics in science over the past 11 years, and has invited a huge variety of guest speakers. The group has hosted expert physicists from Kansas State University and Kansas University to speak on particle physics and CERN, the particle collider in Switzerland. 

Past topics in social sciences include presentations on political polling and a recycling presentation given by Hays High School students to raise awareness of pollution. Chris Mooney, a notable environmental journalist, presented on misconceptions about science in journalism at the 50th science cafe. A memorable science cafe presentation was “How to Make Your Own Beer”, presented by the Gella’s brewmaster.

The topic for the 100th science cafe was “How to Become a Citizen Scientist.” 

“I challenge you to be a scientist” Adams said, and explained that practices of data collection and interpretation by everyday people can help advance scientific knowledge. 

“Although our society has a perception that scientific research has been relegated to universities and to high-level laboratories, it is possible to be a citizen scientist without any formal training,” Adams said. “By recording wildlife, weather conditions, water quality and other natural phenomena, non-scientists can help provide data that can make scientific discoveries. Citizen scientists who collect data have already helped save lives from the Zika virus, flooding and climate change-related natural disasters.” 

Dr. Adams encouraged everyone to engage in citizen science projects that can be found online, and said amateur scientists can train through tutorials on how to collect data properly. To conclude, Dr. Adams renewed his commitment to providing the science cafe to engage with the Hays community. 

“100 science cafes is great, but 200 is better,” Adams said. Special edition t-shirts were then given out as door prizes.    

The final presentation of the night was by the FHSU Science Outreach Coordinator G.G. Launchbaugh, who helps coordinate the MakerSpace in Forsyth Library. Launchbaugh spoke on his work engaging with the Hays community and surrounding areas with STEM. 

“We mainly do workshops for elementary students,” Launchbaugh said , but their workshops include weather balloon launches for highschoolers, technology demonstrations and 3D printing activities for all ages. The MakerVan that is used for outreach was parked outside the event and was available for demonstrations after the event.  

The next science cafe topic will focus on the “Importance of Scientific Education in Western Kansas” and will be on October 14th at The Venue at Thirsty’s.

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