You found a planet!: Robert Simpson crowdsources scientific research and accelerates discovery at Zooniverse

TED Blog


Scientific research is generating far more data than the average researcher can get through. Meanwhile, modern computing has yet to catch up with the superior discernment of the human eye. The solution? Enlist the help of citizen scientists. British astronomer and web developer Robert Simpson is part of the online platform Zooniverse, which lets more than one million volunteers from around the world lend a hand to a variety of projects — everything from mapping the Milky Way to hunting for exoplanets to counting elephants to identifying cancer cells — accelerating important research and making their own incredible discoveries along the way.

At TED2014, Simpson took us through a few of Zooniverse’s 20-plus projects (with more on the way), some of which have led to startling discoveries — including a planet with four suns. Below, an edited transcript of our conversation.

Are you a scientist?

Well, I’m a distracted astronomer. Yes, I’m an astronomer at University of Oxford. But I’m there…

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Save the World, Study STEM: Air, Water, and Food

On the most basic level, there are a few things that we humans require on a daily basis to survive: air, water, and food. Yet the changing conditions of our planet have placed intense strain on these fundamental requirements of human life. Thanks to researchers from the STEM community, people are finding new and inventive ways to meet these needs. Read on to find out how scientists are providing creative access to air, water, and food.


17r3x3lzcjd2vjpgBreathing is so passé. Scientists at Boston Children’s Hospital have recently discovered a way that can oxygenate a person’s blood should he or she stop breathing. Through the use of microparticles comprised of oxygen and lipids, medical professionals can keep people alive for 15-30 minutes after failing to breathe. Since every second can be crucial in a number of life-threatening situations, this new technology will have a major impact on the medical community. Read article.


warka_water.jpg__800x600_q85_cropMany people in industrialized societies take access to clean water for granted. Yet the fact remains that a large percentage of people have minimal access to drinking water, making life in many parts of the world a daily struggle. Yet a new project called Warka Water may hold the key to providing gallons of fresh water to remote areas by…drumroll… pulling it out of thin air. No, seriously. Check it out!


By 2050, Earth will likely be home to more than nine billion people. That’s a lot of mouths to feed. In a special eight-month series, “The Future of Food,” National Geographic investigates how to meet our growing need for nourishment without harming the planet that sustains us. Check out this amazing project.

So what do you think… inspired yet?

Is math the language of the universe? A bilingual TED-Ed Club explores

Who doesn’t love a good math story?

TED Blog

LFNY1 Student Pierre Hirschler gives a TED-Ed Club presentation, exploring math as a universal language.

In New York City, it’s common to hear ten different languages just on your walk to work in the morning. For the students at Lycée Français de New York, that kind of multicultural exposure doesn’t stop at the schoolhouse doors. With a combination French-English curriculum, this PreK-12 school educates students who represent more than 50 nationalities. And when the LFNY TED-Ed Club chose a topic for their final presentation, the students were drawn to language — more specifically, the possibility of a universal one.

LFNY’s presentation, titled “Math Universe,” is a collaboration that combines individual research presentations from each member of the club into a larger final piece, which was presented by club member Pierre Hirschler. Marie De Azevedo, a senior at LFNY, explains it: “We found a wider question — which was ‘Is math the language of the…

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Celebrating the Month of the Military Child and What Makes Us Successful

Month of the Military ChildAs you’ve hopefully noticed, our focus on the STEM-Works team is to provide easy access to a vast array of engaging content related to STEM education, education advocacy, and innovative practices related to education.  We are dedicated to students of all ages and from all corners of the world but this month we’re excited to join forces with our military community and support the Month of the Military Child.

Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in the Military Child Education Coalition’s (MCEC) National Convening in DC. This event was focused on engaging education leaders from around the country in a critical discussion of how to best promote academic success for military and veterans’ children.  In preparation for this event, MCEC asked us to watch a few talks that set the stage for some of our discussions at this event.

The following video is a talk by Angela Lee Duckworth titled “The key to success? Grit.” In this talk, she describes her research and experience related to understanding what promotes success in people. You may be interested to find out that IQ isn’t what she identified as a key factor to success.

This video and the thoughts shared by Dr. Duckworth set the stage for one of the first exercises that we conducted at the conference – identifying our “sticky strengths.” It was such an interesting discussion, that I want to continue it with you all here.

Think about a strength (we’ll call it a “sticky strength”) that you developed during your childhood that has defined your success in your life and/or career.  For example, some of the characteristics that emerged from our discussion at the conference included resiliency, persistence, empathy, grit, and self-awareness.

So now we want to hear from you – what do you think your “sticky strength” is? What strength did you develop in childhood that has defined you over the years? How has this characteristic impacted your life and/or your career? I’ve started the discussion by sharing mine so join the conversation and share yours in the comments below!

National Robotics Week: Design a Bot Scavenger Hunt

Dustbot_Demo_Pontedera_001You may already be aware, but National Robotics Week starts this coming Saturday. This celebration, which takes place April 5-13, 2014, provides a number of ideas, activities, and resources for those who wish to explore and highlight the field of robotics. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with why robotics is important to society, the celebration’s website says it best:

“Robotics is positioned to fuel a broad array of next-generation products and applications in fields as diverse as manufacturing, health-care, national defense and security, agriculture and transportation. At the same time, robotics is proving to be uniquely adept at enabling students of all ages to learn important science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts and at inspiring them to pursue careers in STEM-related fields. Robotics Week is a week-long series of events and activities aimed at increasing public awareness of the growing importance of “robo-technology” and the tremendous social and cultural impact that it will have on the future of the United States.”

Yet it is true that the field of robotics can seem somewhat daunting to newcomers. To add our contribution to National Robotics Week, we have created a robotics-themed Scavenger Hunt for the month of April. This “Design a Bot” scavenger hunt acquaints students (and everyone else) with the week-long celebration of robotics, and provides an opportunity to envision their very own bots.This hunt will help students find their way to a starting point in robotics, and ultimately will introduce them to some professionals in the field. So if you feel like celebrating National Robotics Week at home or in your classroom—and we really, really think you should—we hope that this fun activity will find a way into your weekly repertoire! So check it out, will ya?


This month’s exciting STEM news – March, 2014

Many of our featured subjects collided in the headlines last month. Here is a recap of some of our favorite STEM stories that surfaced in March.

The Animal Kingdom IconAnimal Kingdom/Under the Sea

The Animal Kingdom and Under the Sea subjects are equally represented in this month’s first story. National Geographic recently reported the longest dive lengths and deepest dive depths of any mammal ever seen. A long-term study of Cuvier’s beaked whales recently revealed that these underwater mammals travel to unprecedented depths of almost 10,000 feet. This new information is particularly important in the continuing study of the effects of sonar activity on sealife. Read article.

Extreme Weather IconExtreme Weather

A report highlighting the impact that climate change is already having across the globe was released by the U.N. last month. From agriculture to human health, this report shows that all areas of the globe are being equally affected. Read article.

Medical Innovations IconMedical Innovations/Space

This month brought another mash-up headline from the fields of Medical Innovations and Space. While it’s no secret that space travel has certain repercussions for the human body, a new study actually revealed that the shape of human heart changes while in space. The heart, which is normally, well, heart-shaped, becomes more spherical by a factor of 9.4% when exposed to low or no gravity environments. Read article.

Robotics IconRobotics

Google has taken an interest in robots. A large interest. The fact that this tech giant has been buying up robotics companies has left some people asking, “Why robots?” That question is explored in this month’s robotics article. Read article.

Video Games IconVideo Games

MIT psychologists have uncovered that when trying to make physical sense of our world, our brains act much like…video games.  Read article.

Wind Energy IconWind Energy

There’s no doubt that the use of wind energy has been on the rise in America. To show the progress that we’ve made as a country, the federal government produced these interactive maps. They’re pretty cool and definitely worth checking out. Read article.

So there, various STEM subject lovers. We’ve got you covered!