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An Interview with Science Bob (aka Bob Pflugfelder)

Have you practiced a random act of science lately? Your Teen catches up with Science Bob (Bob Pflugfelder) to learn how to promote a love of science at any age.

From Online To Jimmy Kimmel, Science Bob Has Lots To Say

Q: How did you become Science Bob?

Pflugfelder: I have had a very popular website for years. The feedback that I got from visitors was that I really needed to produce videos. So I rented out some studio space and blitzed through a whole bunch of experiments. One of them got featured on the website Boing Boing, which in turn was seen by Jimmy Kimmel. He invited me to be part of his show. That led to other appearances on other shows.

Q: Tell us about the experiments on your website.

Pflugfelder: My experiments are safe and relatively easy, plus they have a satisfying impact. I always encourage safety first. 1) Always do experiments with a parent. 2) Always wear safety goggles. And 3) No dangerous chemicals allowed. I also encourage students to adapt the experiment: “This is the experiment as I have presented it.” Change is necessary to explore it more deeply.

Q: How do you bring science to the classroom?

Pflugfelder: I assist in our innovation lab, where many kids are building projects. In my own classroom, we have a demolition station where we take apart outdated computers, printers and fax machines to see how they work. We recently took the panel off a fax machine. There were at least 25 different gears. We found the motor that made the gears turn and we hooked it up to a nice, full battery. We could watch the gears turn, and find out what it was. That was an item that was pulled out of a trash can. There are engineering wonders, nature wonders and physics wonders everywhere if you take the time to look.

Q: Tell us about your most recent television job.

Pflugfelder: I was a guest on the Nickelodeon show Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn, about 10-year-old quadruplets: three boys and a girl. It centers around family and sibling rivalry. One of the characters is short-minded, and needs to be inspired to reach a goal. I come in with an inspirational voice. I play myself, Science Bob, on TV.

Q: Is there a way that parents can encourage scientific exploration?

Pflugfelder: All kids are born wanting to explore. If you walk through a forest with a kid who is ten or under, they are naturally curious. They will turn over rocks and logs, test their balance, walk over fallen trees. Suddenly, they hit middle school, and they’re drawn away from the natural world. It takes extra effort to remind them that the fascinating world that they enjoyed exploring is still here, and there’s plenty more to learn.

Q: How can parents help middle school kids sustain their earlier enthusiasm?

Pflugfelder: Middle schoolers will still join along on a family trip. So plan trips to science museums, or trips to other areas of interest that might have a science edge to them. Then, give them tools to learn to take things apart. If you have an old computer, let them open the computer up, and see how things work. Don’t throw out an old printer. Give them screwdrivers. Let them take it apart, and see how it works. They will realize how connected science is to just about anything they want to do in life. Once they’re shown the benefits of understanding the science behind that, they will want to learn more. They learn to appreciate the world around them.

Q: Are there ways to influence high school students?

Pflugfelder: Sign them up for competitions—for example, robotics competitions that they might be interested in. There are often some great online activities with plenty of things to encourage engineering for both boys and girls.

The research shows fourth grade girls and boys are equal in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math). What happens after that?

In the elementary years, girls and boys are, for the most part, matched up. Around middle school, girls tend to drop off. That’s the media’s image—we have a boy-centered culture. We do have some folks trying to change that, and get some more female faces as role models.

Q: What might your future look like?

Pflugfelder: We have not had a science television show for school-age children since Bill Nye left the air almost 15 years ago. I’m not sure why. There’s a big market for it. I would love to see that happen with myself at the helm. I think we need it. There’s an appetite for it. If you look at TV shows like Mythbusters and The Big Bang Theory, they’re all doing really well. I think it’s an indication that our population is intrigued by the science of the world. The time is right.

Susan Borison

Susan Borison, mother of five, is the founder and editor of Your Teen Media. Because parenting teenagers is humbling and shouldn’t be tackled alone.