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Smithsonian's "Earth From Space" Exhibit Family Day
More than 900 area students and their families came to Rensselaer to participate in the 10th annual Black Family Technology Awareness Day event held on Saturday, Feb. 9. The workshops, designed to spur young people’s interest in pursuing careers in science and engineering, were hosted by Rensselaer’s Office of Institute Diversity. Rensselaer’s Black Family Technology Awareness Day is part of a nationally celebrated week of the same name. The theme for 2008 is “A Decade of Discovery.”

“Black Family Technology Awareness Day is designed to help eliminate the science and technology gap among members of the minority community,” said Kenneth Durgans, vice provost for institute diversity. “By showcasing science and technology in a fun and interactive way, we endeavor to motivate more minority students to pursue careers in these fields.”

The program featured more than 20 workshops — led by Rensselaer professors, students, and community organizations — that included exploring geometry in African designs, making ice cream using liquid nitrogen, learning how to use basic forensic science techniques, discovering the artistic effects of evaporation, and exploring how plastic products are made via hands-on interactive science experiments, among others.

The program also featured a traveling museum honoring the achievements and contributions of black inventors, innovators, and scientists, as part of the collection from the Institute of Black Invention & Technology Inc. In addition, workshops offering tips on preparing for the college admissions and scholarship process were also available for students and their families.

Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson has long warned of what she has dubbed a “Quiet Crisis” in America — the threat to the capacity of the United States to innovate due to reduced support for research and the looming shortage in the nation’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce. The impending workforce shortfall results from a record number of retirements on the horizon in the STEM fields, and not enough students in the pipeline to replace them.

“We need to prepare today’s students for the 21st century economy with a technological focus in mind,” said Durgans. “Effectively using technology in the 21st century is important for full participation in America’s economic, political, and social life. The event provides students, particularly minorities who are underrepresented in the fields, with the programs and mentoring opportunities that will inspire them to pursue careers in science and technology.”
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Inside Rensselaer, Strategic Communications and External Relations
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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 2, Number 4, February 28, 2008
©2008 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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