Rachel Wood-Robinson and Elizabeth Case, founders and riders of Cycle for Science.
Rachel Wood-Robinson (left) and Elizabeth Case (right), founders and riders of Cycle for Science. Photo courtesy of cycleforscience.org

Earlier this month, CapSciComm colleague and science reporter Elizabeth Case traded in her press badge for tire patches and other cycling paraphernalia. A former UCLA physics major, AAAS Mass Media Fellowship recipient, and an active member of the data journalism and coding community, Case is about to embark on a coast-to-coast bicycle ride that will unite all of her science communications passions into a single mission. She explains that mission here:

waterbottle_solatomHey! I’m Elizabeth. Until about five days ago, I was the agriculture, environment and business reporter at the Davis Enterprise. I’ve passed that baton into the very capable hands of Felicia Alvarez, who will make her CapSciComm debut on February 25th.

So, has this happened to anybody else? Where you joke about doing something for so long, that it actually becomes your future? That’s what happened with Cycle for Science, a cross-country bike trip I’m making this summer with my friend Rachel Woods-Robinson, a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.

We’re leaving April 17th. The trip will take about three months.

We met while studying physics at UCLA, burning the midnight oil in particle physics labs. Rachel and I were lucky to end up in physics, but leaving high school, neither of us thought we would be scientists—because we had no idea what that meant. She played trombone; I was going to study English.

That’s where the “For Science” in our trip comes in. As we bike across America, we’ll be stopping at middle schools and summer programs to teach hands-on lessons about physics and renewable energy. We’re hoping to show the students we meet that science is creative, impactful, and the key to understanding and changing the world around them—as well as to have frank discussions about stereotypes about scientists.

The core of our lessons will be the Sol Cycle, a miniature, 3D-printable, solar-powered bicycle we are in the process of designing. When it’s finished, we’ll release the 3D files online so anyone can print it. We’re working with a local Bay Area education group to create lesson plans around specific Next Generation science standards (e.g. conservation of energy and engineering design).

A prototype Sol Cycle, a solar-powered toy for science education designed by scientists Rachel Wood-Robinson and Elizabeth Case. Photo courtesy of cycleforscience.org
A prototype Sol Cycle, a solar-powered toy for science education designed by scientists Rachel Wood-Robinson and Elizabeth Case. Photo courtesy of cycleforscience.org

As neither Rachel nor I are teachers, we’re extremely cognizant of the fact that we do not understand the challenges science teachers face in the classroom. That’s why we will also be interviewing science teachers and educators about innovation in the science curriculum, and curating hands-on lessons and labs. We’ll post all of these videos online for everyone—parents, teachers, curious kids—to use.

We’ve already talked to three teachers, one based in Sacramento, one in San Francisco and one in Cambridge, Idaho. Their stories have left us floored. Their 12 hour days, their non-existant lab budgets. Their dedication and ingenuity. These are the stories people need to hear to glimpse the need in our nation’s classrooms.

So here’s our ask: we’re hoping to raise money to cover the prototyping and manufacturing costs of the Sol Cycle, find and tell as many stories about educators as we can, and get the word out to any teachers along our route who might be interested in having us stop in their classroom. This is a project we’ve poured hundreds of hours into, and stems from our fundamental belief that a more engaging science classroom is a more diverse one.

If you’re interested in supporting this effort, or want to learn more, visit www.indiegogo.com/projects/cycle-for-science, check out www.cycleforscience.org, tweet to us at @cycleforscience, or just drop me a line at wecycleforscience@gmail.com.

Thank you for your support—I hope you’ll come along for the ride!

Best,
Elizabeth

Elizabeth Case will be at the February 25th CapSciComm networking social from 5:30p to 6:30p to answer any questions about cycleforscience.org. Come by to wish her farewell and good journey!

The planned travel route of the Cycle for Science team. Graphic courtesy of cycleforscience.org
The planned travel route of the Cycle for Science team. Graphic courtesy of cycleforscience.org
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