On November 19, 2011, B. Warren Brooks organized a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) activity at his church, the Mt. Olive Baptist Church of Arlington, Va. This learning event was hosted by Cub Scout Pack 505 (National Capital Area Council). Youngsters attending the nearby Hoffman-Boston Elementary School in Arlington, Va., were also invited.
Mr. Brooks, the Cub-Master for Pack 505, sought to implement an initiative within the Boy Scouts of America to spread knowledge of STEM. His aim was to marry the Boy Scouts initiative with a separate effort by the LEGO Company to encourage young people to think about engineering and innovation. The company donated sets of LEGO building blocks for the activity.
Mr. Brooks recruited me to talk to the boys about Pharmacology and Toxicology. We previously collaborated on numerous community service activities through our memberships in the Northern Virginia Chapter of Concerned Black Men.
“Who here has ever gotten sick and had to go see a doctor?” the boys were asked as a fun way to open up my talk. Several hands quickly shot up in the air, each with a story. That question was followed by a discussion (with lots of pictures), about what a cell in the biological context, and how chemicals such as medicines, exert their effects on living systems.
Two other speakers were recruited as well. The first was Harry Archer, also a member of the church, as well as a highly accomplished mechanical engineer. He developed several patents in the areas of rocket motor and plating technologies. He talked to the boys about ejection seats in aircrafts and how they function. After Mr. Archer’s discussion, the boys were given the sets of LEGOS and encouraged to build shapes and structures that might be relevant to the talk they had just heard.
In order to interact with a scientist in a laboratory setting a third speaker participated in the event via video-conferencing (Skype). Dr. Matthew Kunz, an Astrophysicist from Princeton University and a former Eagle Scout himself, made an informal presentation. He discussed how new observational tools are allowing scientists to see very distant areas of outer space and things such as the birth of new planets in other systems, and similar phenomena which previously could not be viewed.
Mr. Brooks was pleased with the event. He hopes to increase participation from the community for future STEM focused events. Regarding the importance of such events, he quoted language from the Boys Scouts of America Website which stated, “Ten-year employment projections by the U.S. Department of Labor show that of the 20 fastest-growing occupations projected for 2014, 15 of them require significant mathematics or science preparation.”
He stated that “What we know to be true is that parents can help increase their child’s career horizons by simply exposing them to STEM. Kids who have limited exposure to new technology fields will have a tough time getting prepared for the next generation of job opportunities.”