See the unseen world. The Community of Microbes exhibition explores populations of bacteria, yeast, and fungi too small to see by the eye alone through an augmented-reality-enabled interactive pop-up. Artist Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya, in partnership with microbiologist Anne Madden, creates a series of eight environments through sculpture and technology that illuminates the secrets behind the success of microorganisms in order to bring their complex, unseen world to new audiences—both in person and online. The exhibition is presented by the Cooper’s Albert Nerken School of Engineering STEM Outreach. Citizen Science projects are highlighted as ways that microbial discoveries continue to be made. Visitors will discover communities both familiar and mysterious —for instance beer, which is made with a common microbe (yeast) and the bobtail squid which glows blue due to the presence of the Vibrio bacterium. Everyday environments like the New York City subway are contrasted with overlooked locations like plant roots or the darkest places in the human gut. At the same time the microbe communities presented through this work reflect the beauty of life at one of the smallest levels known, and visitors will learn how the players in these microbe communities interact with each other, and how these ecosystems create positive benefits for people Community of Microbes invites curious souls of all ages to explore these unseen worlds and reevaluate how they perceive these minute life forms. The word “microbe” often conjures images of germs, infections, and other scary or unsettling things. But this pop-up was designed to educate visitors to how these tiny organisms that hide in plain sight may in fact be helpful. Geared towards both adult and school aged audiences, educators are invited to register their student group for visits. Technology to interact with the augmented reality components is provided. The student program is designed to explore the science of microbes and the technology used for telling their stories. This project is supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and has received guidance from a diverse scientific advisory board and key contributions from collaborator Leonora Shell.
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