Our Summer of Science Communication

Each summer we take on a few students, both from the local high school and a few college interns, and introduce them to the rapidly evolving world of science communication. This is probably one of the most enjoyable aspects of my job at Ricochet Creative Productions. Science education is my passion and I have spent most of my career trying to have people see the relevancy of science to their lives. So it is always encouraging to get a group of students in the office, put them on a project, and then watch what they can do. And, without fail, they always impress me!

So here are a few of their projects from this summer….

Video Production

Ricochet Creative Productions started as an animation studio – we produced Flash animations for site such as BooneWeather.com and corporate training locations. We have always had an interest in entering into the documentary world, especially if it could be coupled to science communication. About a year ago we approached Dr. Ray Williams, an entomologist at ASU and another scientist who shares a passion for science education, about a project by which we would feature one of his research projects.  Dr Williams was, of course, keen on the idea, and we decided to produce a short video on his work on community ecology and biodiversity.

We were very lucky in that Beth Davison from Appalachian State University, a local expert in producing documentaries, came out and spent two afternoons with everyone talking about how to do documentary work. Beth discussed not only lighting, but how to set up a shot and how to maximize the video making process. The photo below has one of our students setting up the cameras for a shoot of Dr. William’s experiment area.

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The project involved not only taking video of the study site, but also taking video inside of a lab, and designing Flash animations that could be used to explain the experimental design that Dr. Williams was using to the influence of specific variables (genotype and nutrients) on plant-insect interactions.

The video then went into an editing stage, which of course involved not only video and audio work, but also identifying areas that needed voice overs or new material. The end result of this project is presented below:

Biodiversity and Plant-Insect Interactions from Learning Interactives on Vimeo.

Science Writing

Several of our students this summer also engaged in preparing content for the Ricochet Science website. I initially designed Ricochet Science as as site where I could share some of the resources that I had prepared while teaching my introductory biology and human genetics courses. The site has evolved significantly since its first days on blogger. Now it not only has articles, but also a vast collection of video resource and infographics.

The challenge with students is not that they aren’t capable of writing about science, but that they want to write term papers. Usually, the first draft of an article reads like an obituary – lots of facts, but very little that is interesting. Still, they were all quick studies, and a number of them either produced articles of their own (such as the one on gut bacteria and obesity below), or contributed to other articles that were in work.

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Social Media

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For the past several years we have been having our interns work on our social media pages – namely our Facebook and Twitter sites.  These sites are very successful, and that is almost solely due to the work of our students!

Science Animations

As usual, we had our summer full of animation projects to support a number of higher ed publishing and elearning initiatives at Ricochet. These typically involved building animations in Flash and Captivate, adjusting audio levels, constructing close-captioning resources and then optimizing the output for the web and mobile environment.

This summer, one of their tasks was to help in the production of a series of prep videos for our STEM education projects. These covered everything from the metric system to the scientific method, and all are available for free on the Ricochet Science YouTube channel.

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So, I would like to thank Theresa, Kim, Marcus, Chloe, Devin and Kayla for all of your hard work this summer!  A special thanks should go out to my partner, Sandy, who was the brains behind all of these projects and kept everyone busy throughout the summer. The office already seems quiet! Keep up the good work and follow the #SciComm !!