Graduate and undergraduate students from Drexel University held their first Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Outreach event for local high school students Oct. 2 in the Bossone Research Enterprise Center.
Students from around Philadelphia were invited to spend the day doing hands-on activities geared toward getting teenagers interested in the sciences. The STEM Outreach Event was sponsored by the College of Engineering, the Alumni Association, the Graduate Student Association, the Office of the Provost and the School of Biomedical Engineering.
Josa Hanzlik, a fourth-year doctoral candidate in biomedical engineering and coordinator of the event, created the Drexel Graduate Women in Science and Engineering organization and had been doing outreach for over a year.
“We saw that there are certain students, middle school and high school students, that aren’t getting science, technology, engineering and math education. Or sometimes certain local schools aren’t getting enough resources, or teachers aren’t getting students excited about stuff,” she said.
A majority of the attendees were high school juniors and seniors who were invited through different programs within the College of Engineering. These programs include GK-12, the Lindy Inner-City Public School Program and the Alumni Association. Drexel faculty members were also encouraged to bring their children.
“I think what’s interesting about Drexel is there’s a lot of outreach here. Materials engineering did a Materials Day, and there’s other different outreaches that Drexel does a lot of,” Hanzlik said. “What’s different about this one is it’s not just one department, its cross-major and obviously student-planned and student-driven as opposed to faculty or staff. It’s about seeing the students seeing a need and trying to create an event to fill that need.”
There were three major activity stations set up at the event.Students made lip gloss out of petroleum, Kool-Aid, vanilla, honey and vitamin E oil. This particular activity was created to attract students interested in chemical engineering and mixing things together.
For mechanical engineering outreach, a table was set up to build straw structures. Students competed to build the highest and strongest structure while using the least amount of material.
Another table was for learning about particle diffusion. Students drew designs with permanent markers on T-shirts sponsored by the Alumni Association. When the students dripped rubbing alcohol on the ink designs, the particles bled, producing what appeared a tie-dye effect.
There was also a solar car station using a light bulb as the light source. Various colored filters were tested to see which was the most effective in making the car go.
The students made ice cream using liquid nitrogen at the end of the day.
“The secret to the creamy ice cream is all in the rapid freezing of the mixture. The liquid nitrogen causes the fat and the water particles to stay very small, giving the ice cream its creamy consistency,” Hanzlik explained.
The success of the first-time STEM Outreach event caused some of the organizers to think already about the event for next year.
“Well, the idea was it’d be the first annual one. We’re so excited by it and we have enough materials left, we’re thinking about doing it again, maybe spring,” James Throckmorton, a forth-year graduate chemical engineering student, said.
Drexel students from the weServe program also helped with the event and had an information table set up.
Shirin Karsan, the weServe program director, said, “WeServe is a program that was initiated by students in biomedical engineering. Through University 101 they started to go out, serving in local communities.”
“They became so excited and so passionate about serving that they wanted to do more, and a couple of students took the initiative to go to Africa, to Gambia and Mozambique, and they said, ‘We’re here to help, we’re biomedical engineers,’” she added.
The representatives from weServe did both international projects as well as local.
Andrew Dimatteo, biomedical engineer major and president of weServe, spent his weServe time in the Good Shepherd Rehabilitation center in Allentown, Pa. as well as in the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
At Good Shepherd, he worked to make an eye gaze system for paraplegic patients. The system tracks the eye movement so patients can draw and write with their eyes. While at CHOP he developed a database system for a clinic that CHOP has in the Dominican Republic.
Marko Dimiskovski, a senior biomedical engineer, spent his weServe time in a hospital in Mozambique. He worked on servicing equipment and teaching the staff how to use it.
“There was no equipment that was fixed. They only have electricians and plumbers that don’t know much about medical equipment at all,” Dimiskovski said.
Dimiskovski did assessments of other hospitals in the area. There are hospitals without power or working equipment. Some patients travel miles only to arrive at these impaired hospitals.
Denariel Benn, biomedical engineer and secretary of weServe, volunteered locally in the mayor’s Office of Civic Engagement with AmeriCorps VISTA.
“What I was mostly in charge of was something called the Graduation Coach Campaign, which is a campaign for adults to help Philadelphia youth continue their education and graduate and go on to postsecondary education,” Benn said.
“It’s important to encourage kids to continue their education because it’s not just important to them, it’s important to their family and the community around them. A lot of the issues that we have in the city are because a lot of the people don’t have education,” she added.
Overall, Hanzlik considered the event a success.
“The STEM Outreach Program successfully engaged local high school students, Drexel undergraduate and graduate students, and also local community members in the planned workshops. Since this was our first STEM outreach program, we look forward to further developing the program to engage more local high school students and the Philadelphia community,” Hanzlik said in an email.