Take Your Child to Work Day: A Little Work, A Little Play, A Lot of Science

By Samuel Lopez, staff writer; photos by Julia Lizmi, WHK student intern, and Chris Worthington and Samuel Lopez, staff writers
A photo of a girl in mid-jump, about to land on a plastic bottle that will launch her paper rocket into the air

A paper rocket is about to take flight courtesy of its youthful owner, who crafted it at Take Your Child to Work Day’s Air Rockets booth.

The second-floor conference room in Building 538 exploded into a blur of motion as children began looking for clues to help Dr. Chaos fill in the last four pieces of “the human genetic code.” With just 10 minutes to solve the puzzle, they rushed around, sifted through science-themed items, and scoured the workspace-turned-escape room for leads. Seven minutes later, they succeeded, triumphantly emerging into the hallway.

Dr. Chaos’ Escape Room, courtesy of Frederick’s Surelocked In Escape Games, was one of more than 40 kid-friendly activities available during NCI at Frederick’s recent Take Your Child to Work Day. As in previous years, the annual event brought hundreds of children to the NCI at Frederick campus for an action-packed day of programs meant to entertain, educate, and spark interest in science.

The escape room was a new activity this year, and judging by some participants’ reactions, it was also one of the most popular. Another newcomer, “Ozobot and OzoCodes Introduction,” delighted children by teaching them how to program diminutive robots. Those who wanted to take a break from the action could stop by Days End Horse Farm Rescue’s corral—also new this year—where they could pet a miniature horse.

As always, there were programs that catered to all tastes. “You Be the Investigator” challenged participants to create a “containment unit” to protect their patient—an egg—as it was transported down a steep incline. In Building 549, the Scientific Library hosted five activities ranging from a book swap to Reading Education Assistance Dogs, four-legged friends who were trained to sit quietly while children read to them. Elsewhere, programs like “Plant Doctors” allowed children to get their hands dirty and perform small scientific investigations.

And, of course, there was plenty of liquid nitrogen ice cream.

Check out the photo roll below for more about the event.

Children work together to crack the human genetic code in Dr. Chaos’ Escape Room. The escape room quickly got turned upside down as children scrambled to find clues. Guided by volunteers, children and parents ventured to programs scattered across the NCI at Frederick campus. BJ Bosche, host of the “Fire and Ice” program, dazzled his audience with a rainbow of burning gasses as well as demonstrations of what happens to mundane objects when exposed to heat and extreme cold. As usual, “Fire and Ice” ended with a hands-on finale: a chance for children to “breathe smoke” like a dragon by eating a cheeseball flash-frozen in liquid nitrogen. Building 426’s training room was converted into the “Science Room,” which was packed with hands-on activities. In addition to making slime (shown above), children visiting the Science Room could learn about osmosis, balance, and other scientific principles. Across the hallway from the Science Room, the ever-popular liquid nitrogen ice cream drew a crowd eager for a treat on a hot summer day. Reactions ranged from curiosity to excitement to uncertainty. In the end, though, most agreed that it was delicious. More than just play: by digging around in the Interactive Natural Hazards Sandbox, children could see how topography affects flooding and snowfall. Building 430 hosted the popular “Ozobots and OzoCode Introduction,” where children could learn how to program a handheld robot. Using colored markers, the children drew maps that instructed the ozobots how to move. Meanwhile, at “Programmable Robot Mice” children learned how to instruct robotic mice to navigate a plastic-cup maze and reach a wedge of cheese. The “Programmable Robot Mice” program. Children who joined in the “Plant Doctors” program became impromptu scientists, testing plants for infections. For some, the activity was intense… …for others, it was joyful. “Whose Blood Is It Anyway?” taught children about blood types. Participants were called upon to solve a crime by performing blood-typing tests on mock specimens. Outside at the central hub, a dozen activities allowed children to do everything from construct air rockets… …to extract DNA from a strawberry. Fort Detrick Fire and Emergency Services was on hand to let children test their mettle as firefighters by putting out a simulated fire with an actual hose. Fort Detrick Fire and Emergency Services’ simulated fire activity. Children could also decorate a tote bag by using markers and kid-safe chemical compounds to create unique patterns. Decorating tote bags. Decorating tote bags. Activities like ring-toss… …and science-themed temporary tattoos brought a carnival aspect to the day’s scientific atmosphere. Parents and children who sought a more relaxing interlude could visit the miniature horse from Days End Horse Farm Rescue… …Courtney Kennedy’s “Rescue Rules” dogs… …or the National Institutes of Health bomb dog. A fully stocked grill and food tent was also on hand to feed hungry children and parents.