Monday, February 28, 2011

25 Feb 11 - Project Exploration

Hey, blogspot readers, science comes to life at this annual dinner ...and this time SouthSide didn't play with the chemicals!

Tonight, this reviewer was honored to attend Project Exploration's Dinner With A Dinosaur XI which was more than an ordinary fundraising event. It gave guests, contributors, parents of Project Exploration participants and sponsors to partake a special opportunity of interacting and viewing science demonstrations. There were exhibits about what it's like being a fossil preparator to how to make cool tasty chemistry treats or what's the difference between thrust and lift. Also, friendly snakes and other modern "dinosaurs" including a rather calm crocodile made an appearance for everyone to meet up close and personal (if you dare). The host of WYCC's City Science - Mike Davis entertained guests of all ages with other fun science-related demonstrations featuring the ever-popular frozen marshmallows (yummy). See, blogspot readers, science can be a fun learning experience when its brough to life before your eyes.

During the cocktail hour, SouthSide visited a couple of exhibits starting with the High Flying Science which was presented by some of the students in the Men's Aeronautic Challenge (MACH-10). The knowledgeable young men expertly taught this reviewer there's no difference between an airplane and helicopter and without a tail rotor a helicopter will spin out of control. They also mentioned how they not only experience flying with models but on real fight simulators as well as meet the people working within the science of aviation including a trip behind the scenes of Chicago's Air and Water Show. Someday, blogspot readers, students like Nick Ramirez will be flying the next super jet for the US Air Force all because of this program offered by Project Exploration. Then, this reviewer visited the Chill Out Chemistry exhibit presented by Sisters4Science group in which they were demonstrating how chemistry can be used to make homemade treats. SouthSide saw a familiar face from last year's dinner there - Brittany of Prospective Middle Academy who showed how to make vanilla ice cream. This bubbly young lady was asked what she enjoyed the most about Project Exploration to which she replied "...that they take time out [like the annual dinner] to show what they [the students] learned..." She also enjoy interacting with other people to demonstrate hands-on science experiments. Most all of, she likes how "...Project Exploration brings different science programs together..." for her to explore and expand her curiosity.

SouthSide also met the other faces working in conjunction with Project Exploration and its commitment of bringing science to life. She met Laurie Parker, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of the Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at Purdue University. Dr. Parker first partnered with Project Exploration in 2004 as part of an after-school program and now with a lab of her own, she's able to bring students like Gensis Galan (who spoke during a brief program about her Project Exploration experience) to work alongside with her graduate students. Here's what Dr. Parker had to say about Project Exploration and its science-related programs "...Project Exploration has a business plan that [actually] works ...[it] creates opportunities for kids who wouldn't otherwise have [them]..." Being the only young female scientist within her department, she highly encourages for more girls and minorities to change the face of science for more diversity. Dr. Parker was excited " see where Project Exploration goes in the coming year..." SouthSide saw the beaming glow within Dr. Parker's eyes while Ms Galan, a senior at Prospective Charter School, spoke about her experience working with grad students on projects such as testing mice cells containing alzheimer's. That same glow was also in the eyes of K'Maja Bell's mother, Kim, when SouthSide briefly spoke to her about her daughter, a freshman at Mother Mcauley who hopes to be an astrophysist one day. She had nothing but praise for Project Exploration and the internship opportunity K'Maja has been undertaking at Chicago State University with Dr. Kim Coble after joining 3 years ago. Here's what Ms Kim Bell had to say "...[it's] awesome ...[K'Maja] really loves it... been hooked on science ever since sixth grade..." To sum up her experience with Project Exploration thus far, blogspot readers, she would like to add "...amazing..."

For the last 11 years, Project Exploration, founded by Dr. Paul Sereno (palentologist at University of Chicago) and Dr. Gabrielle Lyon, has been bridging the gap between scientists and science-related fields with inner city students - particularly minorities and girls. How - you might ask, blogspot readers, by instilling the notion that science " something each and every [student] is capable of doing..." This non-profit organization offers FREE science education programs to minority youth and girls ensuring they have access and personalized experiences with scientists. Essentially, Project Exploration brings science out of the stuffy classroom setting into real life ...real world situations such as spending a summer at an actual fossil dig or lab with grad students. The science education programs offered also equips Project's student participants with just more than knowledge but hands-on skills and a path for future studies and other life experiences. And Project Exploration can successlly state that after a 10 year study (conducted by researchers at the University of California Berkeley - read the full report here that 95% (students 18yrs and older) have graduated or on track to graduate high school, 50% enrolled into a four-year college (or graduated) and 60% are pursuing higher education majored or majoring in STEM (Science Technical Engineering Medical)-related fields. Yes, blogspot readers, the numbers are very impressive however Project Exploration wants to do more in bringing science to life such as building a student youth science center as well as doubling the number of student participants to 500. Yet, they cannot achieve these goals (and more) without the wonderful support from sponsors like National Geographic, Pearson Foundation, University of Chicago, OAS Software Corporation as well as individual sponsors and donors. 100% of each dollar from sale of the raffle tickets and bids (during the live auction) goes directly to the programs offered by Project Exploration.

Still, this fine non-profit organization needs your support, blogspot readers, in helping to bring science to life to more students city-wide. Visit and discover more about Project Exploration as well as details on how you can be involved and/or donate.

Until next time, support your local scene,

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