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NYC high schoolers discover opportunity at Big Red STEM Day

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By Jamie Black for the Cornell Chronicle

Anasia Brewster, left, and Alondra Vences, right, students at the High School of Sports Management in Brooklyn, learn how to use electroplating to make a silver penny and a copper nickel, while Cornell University graduate student Arianna Gagnon looks on.

Anasia Brewster (l) and Alondra Vences (r) of the High School of Sports Management in Brooklyn learn how to use electroplating to make a silver penny and a copper nickel, while Cornell University graduate student Arianna Gagnon looks on.

While many New York City high school students might have spent the first Saturday in November playing Pokémon GO, some of their peers were creating their own games using a JavaScript-based code that doesn’t require any prior programming knowledge.

Part of the first Big Red STEM Day, Nov. 5, it was just one of the workshop activities designed to expose high school students from communities underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to educational and career opportunities in those fields.

Held on the Weill Cornell Medicine campus, Big Red STEM Day is a collaborative effort run by students, faculty and staff across Cornell campuses and the New York City Department of Education. While Cornell Tech representatives taught student attendees to create their own Pokémon GO games and SnapChat filters, graduate and undergraduate students from the Ithaca campus showed teens how to use electroplating to make a silver penny and a copper nickel. Medical and biomedical doctoral students taught them how to use staining methods to differentiate bacteria from soil, yogurt and even their mouths, and a Cornell Cooperative Extension associate engaged them in cartography and mapping activities to create their own collaborative design for a neighborhood park.

“Being here today really opened my eyes to the world of science and technology,” said Tamia Phoenix, a junior at Excelsior Preparatory High School in Queens. She was one of 60 students from 10 high schools in Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx to attend the daylong event. Her classmate, Maurice Watson, said, “We got to choose two activities for the day: one that we were potentially interested in for a career and one workshop we may have never considered.”

Organizers hope that attending the college-level STEM program prompts the students to pursue higher education in science and medicine.

“Exposure to STEM is critical for high school students,” said Marcus Lambert, director of diversity and student services at the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences and a STEM Day discussion panel moderator. “It’s that spark, the discovery of what science and technology have to offer them in the future.”

Fatou Waggeh, a high school student at the Manhattan Center for Math and Science, learns how to use staining methods to differentiate bacteria from soil, yogurt and even their mouth.

Fatou Waggeh, a high school student at the Manhattan Center for Math and Science, learns how to use staining methods to differentiate bacteria from soil, yogurt and even someone's mouth.

Not only did Big Red STEM Day immerse the high school students in problem-solving and community-building STEM exercises, it also allowed high school students to network with faculty and undergraduate, graduate and medical students.

“The collaboration among Cornell campuses and the Cooperative Extension office enabled the research that’s being conducted by faculty and graduate students on campus to be translated into an educational opportunity for the underrepresented youth in New York City,” Lambert said.

Jennifer Tiffany, executive director of Cornell University Cooperative Extension-New York City programs, was encouraged by the students’ enthusiasm. “We saw a tremendous response from the students,” she said. “There was so much intensity in their questions, a real interest in expanding their knowledge of STEM.”

The New York City Department of Education urged students to encourage their friends to consider studying STEM courses in college and pursue careers in these fields. “These students will feed the field of research for science, technology and medicine,” Tiffany added. “They are the future.”






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Drone Discovery in Brooklyn and across the nation

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New York City schoolchildren fly foam gliders to mark 4-H National Youth Science Day at Public School 21 in Brooklyn.

New York City schoolchildren fly foam gliders to mark 4-H National Youth Science Day at Public School 21 in Brooklyn.

By Jon Craig for the Cornell Chronicle

A Brooklyn school gymnasium was transformed into a landing pad for drones on Oct. 7 as part of a Cornell-sponsored science discovery program.

Laughter, cheering and plenty of questions from more than 300 inner-city schoolchildren filled the air at Public School 21. Drone Discovery in New York City was a big hit, and part of a larger 4-H National Youth Science Day that involved an estimated 100,000 children across the country.

Lucinda Randolph-Benjamin, Cornell Cooperative Extension-New York City extension associate for family and 4-H youth development, kept busy rounding up and lining up students in various work stations. At one of the stations, they eagerly learned coding – to design virtual flight paths. Another gave them a chance to make gliders and hover aircraft while learning about vertical and horizontal flight maneuvers.

The most popular task of the day, however, was flying drones made of white foam and videotaping solo flights with mini-cameras.

Teachers, Cornell staff, collegiate 4-Hers and 4-H leaders and volunteers designed the drone challenge and later guided excited schoolchildren through the learning exercises.

“We get to constantly learn, too,” said Jackie Davis-Manigaulte ’72, a senior extension associate based in Manhattan.

Susan Hoskins, senior extension associate at Cornell’s Institute for Resource Information Sciences, said the children are also taught about how unmanned drones are used in many real-world applications beyond warfare, including collecting agricultural data on crops, plants and diseases; bird and other wildlife studies; in search-and-rescue operations; and inspecting underneath bridges and servicing out-of-reach utility lines.

“We continually learn from each other and together,” Hoskins said.

Davis-Manigaulte said teachers are given 4-H discovery packets so they can continue discussing and practicing what the students learned at P.S. 21 on Oct. 7.

“We want to make sure these youths get stimulated,” Hoskins said.

They’re encouraged to think differently from how they would in a traditional classroom setting, Davis-Manigaulte added, noting the exposure might get them thinking about studying different subjects or pursuing careers in research, science or aviation.

Drone Discovery and the accompanying engineering design challenges were developed by staff and faculty members in Cornell Cooperative Extension and the College of Human Ecology. In addition to solving real-world problems, students are taught about safety and regulations, remote sensing and flight control.

“We’re trying to connect these kids with bigger issues,” Hoskins said.
[end of Chronicle article]

maille 4-h

Alexa Maille with schoolchildren in Brooklyn on National Youth Science Day

NY State 4-H at Cornell was selected by National 4-H to design and lead this year's 4-H National Youth Science Day project. This spring, at the time of the announcement that NY 4-H would lead the competition, Alexa Maille, NY State 4-H STEM specialist in the BCTR, said, “4-H is a powerful vehicle for STEM education because it is based on what young people are interested in, allowing them to take an active role in their learning. Drone Discovery will provide youth an outlet to practice thinking like scientists and engineers, as well as engaged citizens, as they explore cutting-edge technology. This project will foster a sense of discovery in youth all around the country.”


A drone flies in Brooklyn; kids fascinated - Cornell Chronicle




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Light bulbs or seeds? Metaphor and understanding genius

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Kristen Elmore

Ideas are commonly described using metaphors; a bright idea appears like a “light bulb” or the “seed” of an idea takes root. However, little is known about how these metaphors may shape beliefs about ideas or the role of effort versus genius in their creation, an important omission given the known motivational consequences of such beliefs. We explore whether the light bulb metaphor, although widespread and intuitively appealing, may foster the belief that innovative ideas are exceptional occurrences that appear suddenly and effortlessly—inferences that may be particularly compatible with gendered stereotypes of genius as male. Across three experiments, we find evidence that these metaphors influence judgments of idea quality and perceptions of an inventor’s genius. Moreover, these effects varied by the inventor’s gender and reflected prevailing gender stereotypes: Whereas the seed (vs. light bulb) metaphor increased the perceived genius of female inventors, the opposite pattern emerged for male inventors.

The above is the abstract from a new article in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, Light Bulbs or Seeds? How Metaphors for Ideas Influence Judgments About Genius, co-authored by Kristen Elmore, postdoctoral associate in the Program for Research on Youth Development and Engagement in the BCTR. A recent New York Times article on the findings further discusses the light bulb vs. seed metaphor in the context of gender:

These two metaphors are often used to describe scientific discovery and what we perceive as genius. Along with them come ingrained, subconscious associations that may have unintended consequences, according to a study published Friday in Social Psychological and Personality Science. Researchers found that we find an idea more or less exceptional depending on the metaphors used to describe it. And not just that: Those metaphors had different effects depending on the gender of the idea’s creator.

Kristen Elmore, a developmental and social psychologist at Cornell University and lead author of the study, saw metaphors about ideas everywhere. She saw light bulbs on bulletin boards at schools and in student essays about inventions. Less frequently, young people were exposed to metaphors that describe nurturing ideas like seedlings.

Dr. Elmore and her colleague, Myra Luna-Lucero, a researcher at Columbia Teachers College, set out to study whether these metaphors carry unexplored implications. In a series of three experiments, more than 700 adult men and women, mostly in their 30s, were exposed to a variety of male and female inventors whose ideas were described as emerging like light bulbs or nurtured seedlings.

They found that people tend to rate discoveries that came about “like a light bulb” as more exceptional than those that are “nurtured like seeds.” But not when the inventor was a woman. In that case, people rated “nurtured” ideas as more exceptional.


Light Bulbs or Seeds? How Metaphors for Ideas Influence Judgments About Genius - Social Psychological and Personality Science

Metaphorically Speaking, Men Are Expected to be Struck by Genius, Women to Nurture It - New York Times



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4-H youth explore careers, college experience

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By R.J. Anderson for the Cornell Chronicle

Cate Schick, 16, of Garden City, New York, launches a glider she constructed as part of the “Geospatial Discovery” track at 4-H Career Explorations.

Cate Schick, 16, of Garden City, New York, launches a glider she constructed as part of the “Geospatial Discovery” track at 4-H Career Explorations.

Nearly 380 middle and high school students from 42 New York counties streamed across campus June 28-30 to launch rockets, dissect mouse embryos, calibrate watershed models, program robots and learn what it takes to create a sustainable future. Those activities were among the many hands-on workshops taught by Cornell faculty, staff and graduate students at the 4-H Career Explorations conference, an annual event targeting 4-H’s mission of healthy living, leadership, citizenship and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

With Cornell’s campus as a launch pad, the event is fueled by the sharing of research tools and expertise facilitated by the Colleges of Human Ecology, Agriculture and Life Sciences, Arts and Sciences, and Engineering and the Faculty of Computing and Information Science.

“Through these resources, we want to spark youth interest in careers and career pathways while helping them develop academic, leadership and life skills,” says organizer Alexa Maille, New York State 4-H STEM specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) at the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, a research and outreach arm of the College of Human Ecology. “And through it all, we’re also hoping to foster a connection between Cornell and each kid who participates.”

For Cate Schick, 16, of Garden City, New York, that’s exactly what happened. Along with providing learning and leadership opportunities, Career Explorations has allowed her to take the Cornell student experience for a Big Red test drive.

“When I signed up for my first conference in 2015, I thought I might one day look at Cornell as one of the schools I would apply to, so it would be fun to visit,” she says. “But now, especially after these last two days, I know that it’s definitely where I want to go. It just feels like home.”

Participating in the “Geospatial Discovery” track led by Susan Hoskins, a senior extension associate in soil and crop sciences, Schick said learning about drones, mapping and remote sensing – and all of the related careers – was equal parts eye-opening and inspiring.

“Even though I really didn’t have much background on any of that stuff going in, it’s definitely spurred some new interests,” Schick says. “I’m already planning to get out and do some geocaching when I get home to Nassau County.”

Hoskins’ course was one of the event’s Focus for Teens career tracks aimed at the 265 participants heading into grades 10 through 12. Meanwhile, the 114 middle school attendees rotated through a series of 45-minute workshops on topics such as climate leadership, biomedical research, nutrition, polymer chemistry and coding.

Having just completed his fourth year of Career Explorations, 16-year-old Justin Bennett from Steuben County has sampled a variety of programming tracks during his 4-H experience. And while he’s impressed with the campus, loves meeting faculty and grad students, and like Schick hopes to one day attend Cornell, Bennett says it’s the interaction with other 4-H youth that he looks forward to the most each year.

“I love meeting and learning about other people,” he says. “Plus, being here is just plain fun. I enjoy working in groups on projects and being part of collaborative processes. It’s a great way to interact and to learn.”

CCE Distance Learning Educator Paul Treadwell concurs. Treadwell, now in his 16th year as a presenter at Career Explorations, led the Youth in Focus track “Making for Sustainability.” He believes the energy of youth along with their open minds and diverse voices is what drives the program’s continued success.

“There is always a degree of uncertainty when you meet a new group of youth,” Treadwell says. “It’s during that first hour together that the learning really begins – I learn about them, they learn about each other and together we define the program goals. And then the work begins as the teams form and begin to pick apart the challenge they have been given.

“Less than 48 hours later, the program ends, the kids head home and I stop to marvel in what has just happened,” he continues. “A group of kids from diverse parts of the state came together, learned from and with each other, thought together and developed solutions to a design challenge which they knew nothing about two short days ago. And they did this all with respect and openness and a willingness to speak, hear and share possibilities. It always humbles me. And it’s the reason why I look forward to running my 17th Career Explorations session next year.”

4-H youth explore careers, college experience - Cornell Chronicle



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Cornell partners on 4-H National Youth Science Day

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by Ted Boscia from the Cornell Chronicle

youth with glider

Members of a 4-H career perspectives class on the Arts Quad with a glider.

When an expected 100,000 children and teens participate in the nation’s largest youth science event this fall, they’ll make hands-on discoveries using educational kits and guides developed by a Cornell team composed of campus and county partners.

On 4-H National Youth Science Day (4-H NYSD), Oct. 5, young people in cities and towns nationwide will undertake an interactive engineering design challenge created by Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) in partnership with National 4-H Council.

The program, Drone Discovery, explores the science behind unmanned flight and how remote sensing and drone technologies can be applied to address community needs, such as tracking the spread of an invasive plant species, monitoring a city’s solar energy grid or searching for lost people or pets.

Cornell plans to mark 4-H NYSD by hosting Drone Discovery events with New York City schoolchildren Oct. 5, followed by a campus event with Tompkins County youth Oct. 21.

Conducting experiments with adult facilitators, participants will use foam gliders and keychain cameras to design, build and test drone models, and code flight paths for real-world scenarios. Participants will learn everything from flight dynamics and aircraft types, to drone safety and regulations, to remote sensing and flight control, while piquing their interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers and concepts.

alexa maille

Alexa Maille

“4-H is a powerful vehicle for STEM education because it is based on what young people are interested in, allowing them to take an active role in their learning,” said project leader Alexa Maille, state 4-H STEM program specialist in the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research (BCTR) in the College of Human Ecology. “Drone Discovery will provide youth an outlet to practice thinking like scientists and engineers, as well as engaged citizens, as they explore cutting-edge technology. This project will foster a sense of discovery in youth all around the country.”

National 4-H Council selected Cornell as the partner for 4-H NYSD this spring after a competition among land-grant institutions. Across New York’s 57 counties and New York City’s boroughs, approximately 190,000 youth annually participate in 4-H programs offered by schools, local clubs, camps and other locations – a youth development network underpinned by Cornell expertise. Administered by the BCTR, New York state 4-H acts as the youth component of CCE, focusing on helping young people to grow in the areas of STEM, healthy lifestyles and citizenship.

Andy Turner, New York state 4-H leader, credited Cornell’s work on 4-H NYSD to an “active and creative STEM team already doing innovative work.”

In addition to Turner and Maille, Cornell’s core 4-H NYSD planning group includes Susan Hoskins, a senior extension associate in soil and crop sciences, along with youth development leaders at CCE-New York City and CCE-Broome County.

“The project will demonstrate Cornell’s strengths in STEM in the 4-H program, and fits beautifully with the goal of reaching 10 million youth via 4-H across the nation by 2025, up from the current reach of 6 million,” Turner added. “Hands-on, STEM-oriented projects like this have the potential to help thousands of youth think about science in a different way, perhaps helping many of them to start on a pathway that can lead to a promising career.”

Hoskins, an expert in geographic information system mapping and remote sensing who has used these technologies for agricultural research, has a long history teaching geospatial science to 4-H youth. As drones and other unmanned aerial vehicles become commonplace, she imagines broad possibilities for children and teens to discover the science and applications of drones and consider the ramifications for society.

“Drone Discovery offers a great opportunity for youth engagement by introducing them to emerging fields and inspiring them toward academic and career paths that will arise from these new technologies,” Hoskins said. “All of the lessons are grounded in the real world, too, so the program encourages active citizenship as our society prepares to take on rapidly evolving questions about drone regulations and policies.”

Hoskins will pilot the Drone Discovery curriculum with youth on campus June 28-30 for 4-H Career Explorations, an annual event expected to draw 380 youth from around the state to explore STEM fields.


Cornell partners on 4-H National Youth Science Day - Cornell Chronicle






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2015 Iscol Lecture

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Workforce of the Future
Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Reshma Saujani
Founder and CEO, Girls Who Code

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Student hydroponics lab is the only one in NYC

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Jennifer Tiffany, Roger Turgeon, and Jennifer Sirangelo

In the basement of the Food and Finance High School on W. 50th Street in Manhattan, tilapia swim in large, circular tanks. Under the guidance of Cornell Cooperative Extension applied scientist and extension associate Philson Warner, students help raise these and other varieties of fish that go on to be used in school lunches, distributed to green markets, and donated to hunger relief programs. By working in the  Hydroponics, Aquaculture, Aquaponics Learning Lab, students fulfill their state-mandated science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) lab requirements.

Recently Jennifer Sirangelo, National 4-H Council president, toured the labs to see how 4-H students are excelling in STEM projects. The tour was led by students, but the BCTR's Jennifer Tiffany, interim executive director of Cornell University Cooperative Extension - NYC and the school's principle Roger Turgeon we on hand. The labs were originally created as a part of the school's culinary program. The labs also include a hydroponics facility a few floors up. There waste from the fish is used in a nutrient-rich, soil-free culture to raise vegetables. The hydroponics process also serves to clean the water, which is then returned to the aquaponics lab to raise more fish, creating a symbiotic loop.







Video: Fish Farm Coop, Students Get Along Swimmingly in Hell's Kitchen - NY 1

Big Apple's Only Hydroponic Student Lab Showcased - Cornell Chronicle
Food and Finance High School Impacts Students and 4-H Alum in STEM - 4-H Today

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BCTR in the Fall 2013 issue of Human Ecology Magazine

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hemag_fall2013The cover of this fall's issue of Human Ecology Magazine features 4-H's efforts to promote STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education. The college is host to various STEM outreach programs, many specifically for girls. New York State 4-H Leader, Valerie Adams-Bass is quoted,

This generation uses technology every day with cellphones and computers, and it's very intuitive for them, but they don't always explore it in a comprehensive way. Our 4-H STEM programs help them to better understand how technology is relevant to their lives and their future careers.

Other BCTR connections in this issue:


Human Ecology Magazine, Fall 2013

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4-H Youth “Give STEM a Chance” at Cornell

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Making LN2 ice cream

Making LN2 ice cream

The 4-H Finger Lakes District and Cornell’s New York State 4-H Youth Development Office sponsored its first 4-H Science Sampler Day on Saturday, November 9, 2013 on Cornell campus. Sixty-eight 4-H members in grades 6 – 8 from across New York State enjoyed an opportunity to sample STEM-related workshops taught by graduate and undergraduate students and outreach educators. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math) topics included Natural Enemies, Reptile Behavior, Geocaching, Stream Ecology, Tsunamis in Asia, Spiders, Polymer Creation, Cornstarch Monsters, Primitive Plants, and LN2 Ice Cream.

The program, offered as an experiential opportunity to introduce 4-H youth to STEM topics, also served as a both a college-campus experience and a way to introduce youth to the exciting annual 4-H Career Explorations Conference for 8th – 12th graders that is held on campus each summer (the 2014 conference will be held July 1-3).

Participating youth were able to experience geocaching with a GPS unit, make ice cream with liquid nitrogen, get up close and friendly with snakes, engage in a biomedical engineering case study of the common diaper, and manipulate their own polymer creation, just to name a few of STEM activities that engaged youth in learning by doing.

In addition to having fun, participants reported: learning new things about science and careers in science, gaining an increased interest in going to college, wanting to revisit Cornell, and intending to work harder in school science classes. They also expressed that the combination of 4-H and Cornell provided them a unique opportunity for both learning science content and learning about careers.

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Smart Clothing, Smart Girls teaches 4-H youth about fiber science

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An FSAD undergrad leads course students in yarn bombing a railing.

This summer a group of 24 middle school girls participated in a week-long course, Smart Clothing, Smart Girls: Engineering via Apparel Design, which was conceived by faculty, staff, and students in the College of Human Ecology's Department of Fiber Science & Apparel Design (FSAD).

From the Cornell Chronicle article on the course:

Cornell researchers led the girls, from 4-H programs in Livingston, Ontario and Wyoming counties and the Syracuse chapter of Girls Inc., through four modules: advanced materials, wearable electronics, design technology and the engineering design process. The girls participated in hands-on laboratory and design activities, such as fiber burn tests, sewing and draping, and working with circuits and switches. They also observed such state-of-the-art equipment as a laser cutter, thermal manikin and 3-D body scanner – and worked alongside Cornell and industry experts, mostly women, (including a teleconference with a spacesuit designer at NASA).

As the co-administrator of the state 4-H youth program, the BCTR has a direct connection to this course. But other characteristics of this program align with the BCTR's mission and outreach plans:  STEM education, engaging teens, and National Science Foundation funding. Smart Clothing, Smart Girls organizers are working to develop a curriculum and teaching materials to distribute to youth programs around the country.

Program teaches girls engineering via apparel design - Cornell Chronicle

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