Microbe Hat Project

Scientists and policy-makers alike are struggling to engage the public with scientific topics ranging from vaccination to global climate change. One challenge is that there are few tools that take creative approaches to engage diverse audiences in scientific discussions.

The Microbe Hat Project blends fashion, science, and technology to create tools designed to facilitate communication efforts on specific subjects. The hats are Derby-style hats that feature microbial elements: 3D printed microbes, microbial cellulose, and microbial pigments. The hat becomes a talking point to guide constructive discussions about microbial science topics. The project uses data-driven approaches to design hats that are tied to key topics. The project has two goals.

First, to take advantage of the audience that fashion already has, reaching communities that science communication efforts often overlook and using them to amplify the discussion.

Second, to create an open-source protocol that will allow the program, and tools, to be adopted by communities around the world.

Taken together, the project enables students, educators, and scientists to create opportunities for constructive dialogue and effective science communication.

Where have these hats been exhibited?

  • In the audience of the TED 2019 conference in Vancouver, BC
  • On the community theater stage at TED SUMMIT 2019, in Edinburgh, Scotland
  • On the Hacker Runway of DefCon (the world’s largest hacker conference) in 2019
  • On the Ig Nobel Stage in 2019, Cambridge, MA
  • UPCOMING: These hats have been accepted for display by the Museum of Hats (Latvia)
  • UPCOMING: These hats have been accepted for display by the National Hat Museum (USA)
  • COVID-CANCELLATION: A presentation on this project will showcased at the American Society for Microbiology conference in Chicago, IL in June 2020
  • A presentation at the American Society of Microbiology Annual Conference in 2021 (virtual)

The Open Source Education Module

Check out this link on github for updates to the education lesson module. Future updates will include assessment practices.

Further Readings

Something as simple as a hat can’t really be that effective at communicating science and changing minds… right?

Well, not according to history. Check out this article on how a science communicator used a flower on a hat–with the help of Marie Antoinette–to communicate the science of the potato and in the process saved a nation from famine.

Contributors: This project was made possible with the 3D printing files kindly provided by S. Chimileski and others (see guide for more info.) The base hats are made by other designers. The Climate Change hat, Antibiotic Producers hat bases were made by the brilliant Marie Galvin Boston Millinery. The purple pigment headband is made possible with a citizen-science microbial discovery collaboration with Brooke Jude at Bard College

(c) Anne A. Madden

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