As an astrobotanist, Richard Barker’s job is to research how plants grow in outer space. He spends his days at the University of Wisconsin-Madison working on NASA-funded research, which includes bioengineering plants and rocketing them to the International Space Station to monitor how they respond to space flight.
But as an entrepreneur, Barker’s job is to give high school and undergraduate students around the world a taste of how cool his day job is.
Barker is the founder of Collaborative Science Experiment, or CoSE, a startup that designs “easy-to-use” time-lapse photography equipment and classroom materials for experiments on plant growth. The products range from a 3D-printable machine that resembles a black rice cooker, to more sophisticated setups that let students tinker with microgravity.
“You can photograph other stuff with them too — microbes, stem cells,” said Barker. “There’s a lot of teachers, they’re trying to create really engaging classrooms for their students. But a lot of the engaging phenomena in the world takes longer than an hour to observe.”
The project is a for-profit company, but Barker said that making money is not his absolute bottom line. He wants to democratize botany and astronomy and help educators teach science literacy to kids. He wants his business to be accessible to all schools, even those that aren’t wealthy. Read the full story here.