Find us on Facebook

January 1st, 2013

You can find updates and pictures from our events at

Hope to see you there!

Call for volunteers for local STEM events

October 16th, 2011

Cascades Science Center Foundation needs you! You do not have to be a scientist to be part of our team. We are a new non-profit organization with a mission to help underserved kids get excited about Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). 

We are looking for Activity Leads and Activity Assistants to take charge of leading the STEM activities at our Science Squad event.   The volunteers work directly with the students, guiding them through their tasks.
Volunteer Responsibilities
  • Activity Leads take charge of one activity with up-to 5 students and optionally 1 assistant.  We will provide 1 hour orientation before the event.
  • Activity Assistants assist the Activity Leads work with the students on their tasks. No previous training required, though you are welcome to attend the activity lead orientation. 


Event Dates
Oct 30, 2011   11:00 – 03:00 PM   Microsoft Store, Bellevue Square Mall, 116 Bellevue Square, Bellevue
Nov 19, 2011  11:00 – 03:00 PM   Kent Library, 212 2nd Avenue N. Kent
Dec 17, 2011  10:30 – 03:00 PM  Mount Baker Community Club, 2811 Mt Rainier Drive South, Seattle



About Science Squad
Science Squad is an event where activity leads work with the kids to build STEM oriented projects.  At these events, the kids have an opportunity to learn basics about science behind real-world things through hands-on activities.  Depending on the length of the event, the kids may even build a project of their own and take it home.  The activities range from problem solving scenarios to designing and building projects.   You can find pictures of our previous events at


The Cascades Science Center Foundation (CSCF) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to sparking kids’ imaginations and providing a venue for the whole family to discover and explore science.  We will provide a physical and virtual venue where kids can engage in scientific query. Our goal is to foster science literacy in young people so they are able to compete in a 21st Century global economy.

Science Squad at Enatai Elementary

September 9th, 2011

At part of 2011 United Way of King County Day of Caring on September 16, Cascades Science Center Foundation is partnering with 20 Microsoft Employees to lead a fun-filled science day at Enatai Elementary School in Bellevue, WA.  The event will host chemistry, physics, software, engineering, biology and other science interactive activities for the 4th and 5th grade students at Enatai.   The science day is branded Science Squad.  Check out the event flyer here.

Science behind hurricanes

August 26th, 2011

Hurricane Irene is the first named storm and the first major hurricane in 2011.  There is much news coverage about this at this time of the year.  It is very important to track these huge storms and to make accurate predications about their movements. Many people live in areas affected by hurricanes.

News agencies report the path of the hurricane to notify residents of the area who may be impacted.  If the National Hurricane Center scientists believe a hurricane is threatening to reach a populated area within 24 hours, they will issue a hurricane warning. People prepare by gathering and sheltering property and boarding up homes and businesses. Sometimes people will even be evacuated from an area if the forecast calls for an extremely strong storm. Many lives have been saved by these preparations.

Did you ever wonder how these names get assigned? The National Weather Service names hurricanes to quickly identify them. The names are assigned in alphabetical order alternating between female and male names. There are separate lists of names for hurricanes in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Origin of hurricane is WIND. The hurricane takes its name from the West Indian word huracan which means “big wind.” Storms that occur over the Atlantic or the eastern Pacific Oceans are called hurricanes. The same kind of storm that forms over the western Pacific or Indian Oceans is called a typhoon. This name comes from the Chinese word taifun or “great wind.”

STRONG WINDS.  Hurricanes have top wind speeds of at least 74 miles per hour, but wind speed can reach 180 miles per hour. The closer you are to the storm’s center, the faster the wind will be. The top wind speed will be reached within 60 miles from the center of the hurricane. As you move away from the center, wind speed is slower. At 300 miles from the center, the wind speed may be only 18 miles per hour.

How to predice the hurricane? To study conditions inside hurricanes, teams of pilots and weather scientists fly regular missions into these storms. They get measurements of wind speed, temperature, air pressure, and other weather conditions at different altitudes. These investigations help scientists make predictions about hurricane formation and movement.  NASA satellites are also flying above Hurricane Irene, providing forecasters at NHC with temperature, pressure, wind, and cloud and sea surface temperature data. All of those things are critical in helping forecasters determine how Irene will behave and track.

How do hurricanes form? Hurricanes and typhoons are not just violent winds. They are giant, whirling storms that develop in a special way.   The energy of a hurricane comes from the heat released when water vapor condenses to liquid water. The atmosphere above a tropical ocean is the only place enough warm, moist air is available to produce the energy necessary to create a hurricane.  Hurricanes form only in the tropics where extremely moist air and heat are concentrated over the ocean, near the equator.  Hurricanes develop during the season when it is a wet season (typically late spring to early autumn) and the water temperature is at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit both day and night.

Here is what’s going on:

  1. Evaporation of the warm water into the atmosphere over the ocean makes the air very moist.
  2. Winds blowing across the ocean in different directions begin to push masses of warm, moist air toward each other. This event is called convergence.
  3. When the air masses collide, the air in the center starts to rise, forming an updraft.
  4. At high altitudes, the moist air of the updraft begins to cool and water droplets form. These water droplets form clouds.
  5. Large cumulonimbus clouds begin to grow and thunderstorms develop.
  6. More thunderstorms form as more convergence and updrafts occur. If the thunderstorms do not dissipate, they may start to gather together. This formation is called a tropical disturbance. Many more thunderstorms join the disturbance. This weather event becomes large enough to be influenced by forces created from the Earth’s rotation.
  7. The tropical disturbance begins to swirl and becomes a vortex of thunderstorms. Updrafts are continuously pulling more air into the disturbance.
  8. When the winds begin to blow continuously at 23 miles per hour, the storm becomes a tropical depression.
  9. The tropical depression continues to gain power and becomes a tropical storm  when the wind speed becomes 40 miles per hour.
  10. At any time, the disturbance, depression, or storm can run out of hot, moist air and weaken or die out. If it continues to gain strength and reaches 74 miles per hour we call it a hurricane.

Check out the following experiment from Steve Spangleer science on how to simulate creating your own hurricane in a water bottle.


Science Squad Event at Des Moines Library

August 21st, 2011

We had our first Science Squad event at the Des Moines Library in Des Moines, WA.  This was our first time venturing south of Seattle.  The Des Moines Library is very beautiful and the staff was very helpful throughout the process of organizing this event.  The event was targeted at kids 8 – 12 years old, but we had kids younger than that coming into the room.  In our next event, we are now thinking of accommodating a less complex activity in the subject, if possible for the younger kids, when they come to the booth.   Despite the (rare) gorgeous summer day outside and holiday season, we had a decent turnout for this event.

Thank you Activity Leads

Such a 1:1 hands-on event is not possible without the help of our activity leads who guided the kids through their activities.  We would like all the activity leads for their participation and donation of the material involved.

  1. Physics – Raj Kunnath – (Microsoft Engineer)
  2. Chemistry – Elizabeth Heftel (Microsoft Engineer) and her husband Brennan
  3. Math – Ellis Corets – (Former Boeing Engineer)
  4. Software – Ashley Myers (Microsoft Engineer)
  5. BioTech – Sonu Arora (Microsoft Engineer)
  6. Space – Ted Cook (Science Video Maker)
  7. Geology – Suzan (Science Enthusiast)
  8. Engineering – Gary Foss (Boeing Engineer)
  9. Biology – Barad Balraj (Grade 7 Student)

It was really exciting to see the kids get fascinated when they saw how slime was made, or how lemons actually powered the clock or even when the bulb lit up due to solar panel.

You can check out the photos of this event posted at our Facebook site.

We are now looking forward to our next such event! :-)

2011 Space Elevator Conference in Redmond

August 8th, 2011

The 2011 Space Elevator Conference

Thursday Evening, August 11 through Sunday, August 14, 2011

Microsoft Conference Center,
Redmond, Washington, USA

As part of this conference, there are Family Science Fest FREE Events.

Family Science Fest FREE Events (more details here)

  • Date: Saturday,  August 13, 2011
  • Time: 1:00 to 5:00 PM
  • 101: Introduction to the Space Elevator concept
  • RoboQuest: A family-focused event for kids of all ages


Hands-on-Science: Make a simple motor

July 31st, 2011

Electric Motors are used in so many real-world applications.  In fact, you can see them being used in household items such as fans, refrigerators, washing machines and vacuum cleaners.   An electric motor uses electrical energy to produce mechanical energy, while a generator (or dynamo) uses mechanical energy to produce electrical energy.  Let’s build a simple motor to understand the basic science principles behind it.






What do you need?


  • Step 1 – Prepare the coil using the wire
    • This is the part of the motor that moves. Starting about 3 inches from the end of the wire, wrap it 25-30 times around a AAA battery to form a coil.  Leave the tail about 3 inches long on each end.
    • Now carefully pull the coil off of the form, holding the wire so it doesn’t spring out of shape.
    • To make the coil hold its shape permanently, we will wrap each free end of the wire around the coil a couple of times, making sure that the new binding turns are exactly opposite each other, so the coil can turn easily on the axis formed
      by the two free ends of wire, like a wheel
    • If this method of holding the coil together is too difficult, feel free to use scotch tape or electrical tape to do the job. The important thing is to keep the coil together, and to have the two ends of the wire anchored well, and aligned
      in a straight line, so they form a good axle.
  • Step 2 – Remove top half of the insulation from the tail ends of the coil
    • It’s a small and subtle trick that makes the motor work. Hold the coil at the edge of a table, so the coil is straight up and down (not flat on the table), and one of the free wire ends is lying flat on the table.
    • With a sharp knife, remove the top half of the insulation from the tail end.   Be careful to leave the bottom half of the wire with the enamel insulation intact.
    • The top half of the wire will be shiny bare copper, and the bottom half will be the color of the insulation.
    • Do the same thing to the other tail end, making sure the shiny bare copper side is facing up on both wire ends
  • Step 3 – Prepare support for the coil
    • Straighten the larger loop of each paper clip.  This will form the support for the coil.
    • Hold one support to each end of the D cell.  This is done so electricity can flow from one support into the coil and back through other support to the battery. But this will only happen when the bare half of the wire is facing down, touching the supports. When the bare copper half is facing up, the insulated half is touching the supports, and no current can flow.
  • Step 4 – Insert battery in the base, connect supports and attach the coil
    • We will use the battery holder to hold the battery.
    • Attach the supports to the holes in the plastics at the end.
    • Insert the battery into the holder.
    • Set the coil tail ends in the paper clip support.
    • Place the magnet on top of the battery holder just underneath the coil. Make sure the coil can still spin freely, and that it just misses the magnet.    Adjust the coil so it spins close to, but doesn’t touch, the magnet.  Adjust the
      coil and the clips until the coil stays balanced and centered while spinning freely on the clips. Good balance is important in getting the motor to operate well.
    • Place a strip of paper between the battery and the electrical contact in the holder.  This is the on/off switch. Remove
      the paper to allow electricity to flow into the motor, and replace the paper when you want to stop the motor and save the battery.
  • Step 5 – Start the motor
    • Remove the paper
    • Give the coil a gentle push to get it going.
    • You have succeeded if the coil spins by itself for 10 seconds.  If it doesn’t start, try spinning it in the other direction. The motor will only spin in one direction.

What’s happening?

An electric motor uses electrical energy to produce movement or mechanical energy.  The key to understanding the electric motor is to know how electric current behaves in a magnetic field.  The operative principle in an electric motor is the same as an

Electricity is created when particles become charged.  Some are negatively charged (electrons), some are positively charted (protons) and others have no charge (neutrons).  The opposite charges attract, while particles with similar charges repel each other.  Combining electricity with magnets makes an electric motor.  An electric current in a magnetic field will experience a force.

What makes a motor turn is based on the fact that magnetic fields produce physical force that can move things. If you have
ever played with magnets you have seen this in action as you use one magnet to attract another magnet or force it to move without touching it, depending on how you line up their poles. All magnets have a north pole and a south pole. Like poles repel each other and unlike poles attract each other.  So, in a motor, electricity is used to create magnetic fields that oppose each other and cause something to move.  For a detailed explanation, see How does an
electric motor work

Why does your hair stand on end at the Van de Graaff generator in the Museum?

The Museum’s Van de Graaff generator removes electrons from the large globe, giving it a high positive charge. If you stand on an
insulated plate and touch this globe, all parts of your body become positively charged, including your hair. Since like charges repel, every hair on your head is now trying to get away from every other hair. The best way is to stand straight up. Result – flyaway hairdo!





Hands-on-Science: What happens to water when frozen?

July 25th, 2011

Have you ever placed a water bottle in the freezer for some time? What did you notice when you take it out? Did you  ever wonder why people put covers on their outside faucets in the winter? Why isn’t it a good idea to leave water in a garden hose during freezing temperatures? It’s the power of ice.







What do you need?

  • 3 small plastic drinking cups, one with a lid dish or pan big enough to hold all three
  • Water
  • Freezer


  • Fill all three cups with as much water as possible without overflowing. Put the lid on one.
  • Set all three cups on the dish and place in the freezer overnight.
  • Check to see what happened the next morning. Did the water stay the same size after it became ice?
  • Leave the frozen items in the freezer for a few days. Did you notice any changes?

What’s happening?

When water freezes, it expands. (Peculiar!!) When water is left in a garden hose during freezing temperatures, the force of
the ice expanding can cause the hose to break open. The same thing can happen with the water pipes in your house. If the water freezes in the pipe, it can break the pipe open.  As water cools further and freezes into ice, another property takes place: it actually becomes less dense.  Most substances are most dense in their solid (frozen) state than in their liquid state, however water
is not.  Have you noticed ice floats in water?  This explains why icebergs float and lakes freeze from the top down.  If
water froze from the bottom up then all life in the water would be killed and life might not have evolved on Earth.

Hands-on-Science: Write a simple computer program

July 19th, 2011

Do you find computer programming daunting? Perhaps it doesn’t have to be when the folks at Microsoft are trying to make it fun and easy.   Let’s write a simple Small Basic program.

What do you need?

  1. PC


  1. Download Microsoft Small Basic 1.0 and install it in your computer.  If the link doesn’t work, lookup Microsoft Small Basic and install the latest version available.
  2. Type “Small Basic” on the Windows Start button.  Launch the application by clicking on it.
  3. Once Small Basic is started.  Click on New.
  4. Click on Save.  Name the file “Sample”.
  5. Now write the following program.   This is a simple program that sets the background color to Red, adds a rectangle, a circle and text.  It also moves the text to certain position on the screen.   Once you have written all the program lines.  Click on Run.  What happens? What do you see?

GraphicsWindow.BackgroundColor = “Red”
paddle = Shapes.AddRectangle(120, 12)
ball = Shapes.AddEllipse(16, 16)
words = Shapes.AddText(“Hello Science Explorers!”)
Shapes.Move(words, 25, 30)

If all the instructions you have given to the computer are right, you should see the following output window:

Want to tell the computer to do other cool things? To learn more about it follow the links below.  There are other interesting samples available within the Small Basic guide:






What’s happening?

When you click on “Run” to run the program, behind the scenes, Small Basic is converting the high level statements to machine language, which then produces the results you see on the output window.

“Microsoft Small Basic puts the fun back into computer programming.  With a friendly development environment that is very easy to master, it eases  students of all ages into the world of programming.”

Small Basic 1.0 Blog Announcement:

New Small Basic Home Page on MSDN:

Small Basic Teaching Curriculum in different languages:

E-Book content licensed for use on MSDN:


Hands-on Science: Surface tension

July 18th, 2011

In these fascinating water experiments you will learn how many paperclips you can add to a glass full of water.








What do you need?

  • Glass
  • Water
  • Box of paperclips


  1. Fill the glass with water until it is level full
  2. Now make a guess how many paper clips can you drop in the glass without the water overflowing?
  3. Count the paperclips as you drop each in the glass
  4. Ask another family member to do the same and see if they could add more

What’s going on?

Believe it or not water is sticky – not sticky like glue – but water molecules are very attracted to each other. If you had a glass of water, then the water molecules in the centre of the glass would be attracted to the water molecules above them, below them and to the side of them. But the water molecules on the surface of the water do not have any molecules above them to be attracted to, so they become more attracted to the molecules to the side and below them – this causes surface tension.

Water molecules have a positive and negative charge like little magnets. the negative part of the water molecule is attracted to another water molecules opposite pole where they stick together.  The attraction of water molecules to other water molecules is called cohesion. The force of the cohesion allows water to form a small dome over the top of a glass as you add the paperclips without overflowing.

Bonus Question: Can you make the paper-clip float? See answer here.