Black Family Technology Awareness Day at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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Programs & Workshops

Programs & Workshops

We plan to use an online system for registration. A complete listing and description of workshop offerings appears below.

Please review and select the desired workshop(s) that you plan to attend. This year, workshops will only be offered during the morning sessions. All workshops will run for up to 45 minutes, unless otherwise noted.

Workshop Schedule

Session One – 10:00 to 10:45 a.m.
Session Two – 11:00 to 11:45 a.m.

(Maximum of 15 participants per session)

Host(s): John Szczesniak
Location: Jonsson Engineering Center (JEC); Room 1010
Grades: All ages
Workshop Session(s): 1, 2

Participants will have an opportunity to see how electricity and plasma are used to cut metals from computer-generated designs.  Using plasma cutters both manual and computer numerical controlled (CNC) and MasterCAM programming software, participants will turn their designs into reality – and create a work of art.

(Maximum of 15 participants per session)

Host(s): Scott Yerbury
Location: Jonsson Engineering Center (JEC); Room 2323
Grades: All ages
Workshop Session(s): 1, 2

People can make computers do really cool stuff. In this workshop, participants will be introduced to basic concepts associated with associated with Computer Numerical Controlled Machining (CNC). Students will learn about milling, drilling, and turning - processes that are controlled by code. In the end, participants will see a demonstration of how to make key chain. 

(Maximum of 25 participants per session)

Host(s): Andrew Reid
Location: Low Center for Industrial Innovation (CII); Room 3039
Grades: Grade 6-12
Workshop Session(s): 1, 2

Interested in learning about cars? This lecture-based workshop will focus on the coming wave of electric vehicles that is realized in the United States, and across the globe. The workshop will answer the following questions that individuals may have about electric vehicles that includes: What are electric vehicles and what type of engineering goes into it?, What are the different types of electric vehicles and how does the technology differ?, What type of infrastructure is needed to support it?, and What solutions are being demonstrated today and what science and technology breakthroughs are needed in the future. Participants will also get a special treat and view a GE Chevy Volt and charging station that will be on display.


Host(s): Dr. Marshall Jones
Location: Darrin Communications Center (DCC); Room 330
Grades: All grade levels
Workshop Session(s): 1, 2

Lights! Lights! Everywhere! In this workshop, participants will learn about laser technology. A laser beam is a unique form of light that continues to do wonderful things to benefit society today. Through the use of video, slides, hands-on objects, and a live laser demonstration, some of the mysteries of laser light will be revealed.

BEETHOVEN TO BEYONCE: The Science Behind a Hot Beat

Host: Nana Menya Ayensu
Location: Darrin Communications Center (DCC), Room 308
Grades: 6-12
Workshop Session(s): 1, 2

A medley of musicology and math, this talk dives into the science that govern how we perceive sound & rhythm, the technology enabling modern-day music production, and the characteristics of songs that become hits.  The content will also be illustrated by music and live demos.


Host(s): Officer Frank Sorriento
Location: Rensselaer Union; Games Room
Grades: All ages
Workshop Session(s): 1, 2

Interested in improving your game? Pool, also more formally known as pocket billiards (mostly in North America) or pool billiards (mostly in Europe and Australia), is the family of cue sports and games played on a pool table having six receptacles called pockets along the rails, into which balls are deposited as the main goal of play. In this workshop, participants will have an opportunity to see how applying the laws of physics can help them to perform with improved style and precision.


Host(s): Alpha Phi Alpha
Location: Low Center for Industrial Innovation (CII); Room 3051
Grades:  All ages
Workshop Session(s): 1, 2

In this workshop, participants will be introduced to the basic concept of civil engineering. Using gumdrops, a box of toothpicks, and other items, teams of up to eight people, will work together to design and build a bridge. Prizes will be awarded to the teams with the strongest bridge.  

(Maximum of 24 participants per session)

Host(s): Sarah DuConge, Frank Myers, Jackie Sanchez, Whitney McKenzie, and Elizabeth Herkenham
Location: Jonsson Engineering Center (JEC); Room 4309
Grades: All ages
Workshop Session(s): 1, 2

Through a series of fun hands-on interactive experiments and demonstrations, participants will be introduced to multiple engineering disciplines.  Participants will explore three separate stations.  Station 1 will offer a quick overview of materials and chemical engineering through the introduction of polymers.  The hands-on activity will include making “goo.” Station 2  will provide a quick overview of environmental and civil engineering linking the two through a discussion of the water cycle and water filtration.  The hands-on activity will include making a water filtration system using everyday materials. Station 3 will offer an overview of electrical engineering, using circuits and powering different light sources.  The hands-on activity will include investigating different conductive materials for building a complete circuit and making a LED stickies. 


Host(s): Rensselaer Athletics
Location: Mueller Center; Rooms 1 and 2
Grades: K – 12
Workshop Session(s): 1, 2

Ready, Set, Go! The goal of this workshop is to challenge the student’s critical thinking and problem solving skills. With emphasis staying active, participants will work in teams to go through a series of obstacle courses that may include team-building, speed, and precision stations, and riddles. 


Host(s): The Children’s Museum of Science & Technology
Location: Low Center for Industrial Innovation (CII); Room 3130
Grades: 3 - 12
Workshop Session(s): 1, 2

It's teeny tiny and its’ science. Join us for this introduction to nanotechnology! Students will explore the world of small, as they experiment with the unusual properties of things at the nanoscale, and investigate real world applications of NANO.  Join us as we get really, really small and explore the new trend in science that is really, really big! 


Host(s): Jacqui C. Williams
Location: Darrin Communications Center (DCC), Room 232
Grades: All ages
Workshop Session(s):  1, 2

In this workshop, participants will have an opportunity to view a slide presentation that showcases various inventions created by women of African descent. Following the presentation, participants will discuss and share their ideas about what they believe the world could use now, and then develop a preliminary design. 

(Maximum of 20 participants per session)

Host(s): Jordan Verner, Joel Mowatt; Simone Veillette
Location: Low Center for Industrial Innovation (CII); Room 3132
Grades: 6 - 8
Workshop Session(s): 1, 2

Are you ready to begin your mission? This hands-on workshop will introduce participants to programming LEGO® Mindstorm robotics using ROBOLAB. The robots that will be used include standard LEGO® parts and a computerized unit that can be programmed with a laptop computer to control the robots’ sensing abilities. Students will modify a robot by adding a light sensor, wheels, and an arm.  They will learn a basic programming language and fill in a pre-existing code in order to have their robot perform a task.  Their robot (aka NXT garbage truck) will drive down a street and sort people’s trash from their recycling by utilizing the light sensor and arm that they design. 


Host(s): GK-12 Triple Helix Graduate Fellows
Location: Darrin Communications Center (DCC) 239
Grades: 6 - 8
Workshop Session(s): 1, 2

Learn how to weave ordinary paper strips into a super strong buckyball!  What do nanotech molecules have in common with African baskets and other weaves? They all use the same hexagonal mesh design. We’ll show you how to use this technique to make a 3D model of these fantastic shapes -- and take a buckyball home with you.

(Maximum of 50 participants per session)

Host(s): Dr. Timothy E. Sams
Location: Darrin Communications Center (DCC), Room 318
Grades: Parents & Guardians (PreK-12)
Workshop Session(s): 1,2

Dr. Sams will lead a discussion on the traditional African and African American values used to develop a strong identity among black children.

LOGO Simple Programming

Host(s): Upsilon Pi Epsilon and the Computer Science Department
Location: Voorhees Computing Center (VCC) South
Grades: 2-12
Workshop Sessions(s): 1, 2

The program will be a basic lecture to introduce students to computer programming. Students will be taught to use Logo, a very simple programming language aimed to the purpose of teaching. There will be a short introduction lecture, followed by a hands-on lab. The lab will teach students how to perform simple functions in Logo. A similar program was previously used for Explore Engineering Day with much success.  *** Rensselaer students will be available to help assist children through this workshop ***

(Maximum of 24 participants per session)

Host(s): Cynthia Smith, Assistant Dean of Students & RPI students
Location: Academy Hall Auditorium
Grades: 4 --7
Workshop Session(s): This is a 90-minute workshop that will run from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m.

Astronauts who walk in space do so in an environment that shifts from extreme hot to extreme cold, and they are subject to strikes my micrometeoroids, sometimes the size of a grain of sand that fly through space at a speed 150 times that of a typical passenger jet.  Engineers have designed spacesuits so that astronauts are able to survive these harsh conditions. In this workshop students will learn about kinetic energy and the forces of nature, about materials science engineering and working in teams will construct “swatches” of space suit material.  Following the construction they will test the materials on the special testing machine to learn whether their “swatch” would protect the astronaut from the extreme conditions.

***This exercise was developed by the Harris Foundation, and former astronaut Bernard Harris, the first African American to walk in space.***

(Maximum of 30 participants per session)

Host(s): Michael Moore – Associate Director of Admissions & Director, Multicultural Recruitment Program RPI
Location: Darrin Communications Center (DCC), Room 235
Grades: Students Accompanied by Parents & Guardians (K-6)
Workshop Session(s): 1, 2

Mr. Moore will lead an interactive discussion regarding the subject requirements high school students must take who are interested in STEM careers.  They will also provide information on how parents and guardians, working in tandem with educators can help prepare their students for these careers. 

(Maximum of 50 participants per session)

Host(s): Lally School of Management
Location: Pittsburgh Building 4114
Grades: 6 - 12
Workshop Session(s): 1, 2

The Lally School of Management will provide a simulation experience that recreates the excitement of a trading floor, real time data and decision making. Focus is on finance.

(Maximum of 30 participants per session)

Location: CII 4034
Grades: K-12
Workshop Session(s): 1, 2

Participants, in teams of 3 – 5, will design and engineer a wind turbine.  Teams will witness how modifications to blade design, length, width, pitch, and material choice may affect the generation of power.

(Maximum of 30 participants per session)

Location: Center for Industrial Innovation (CII), Room 4040
Grades: K-12
Workshop Session(s): 1, 2

Participants, working in teams, will design and create their own microcontroller devices.  Our Edison Inventors will bring life to their ideas using simple low cost hardware and open source software.  Let’s create something neat today!

LET’S BUILD:  Growing Student Interest in STEM
(Maximum of 20 participants per session)

Host(s): Paul Webster, Dir., Community Outreach - New York State United Teachers (NYSUT)
Location: Darrin Communications Center (DCC) , Room 236     
Grades: K-6
Workshop Session(s): 1, 2

Working in collaborative teams, students will design and create their own solar-powered toys and devices. Our young inventors will explore their creativity and learn about solar power. Let’s build something neat today!

(Maximum of 30 participants)

Host: Biomedical Engineering Graduate Council & 4th Family Inc.
Location: 87 Gymnasium
Grades: 3-12
Workshop Session(s): 1

This presentation will utilize the most exciting play in sports to introduce the audience to the STEM concepts that govern human dynamics. A force plate will be used in conjunction with a projector and screen to make the real time measurement and display of the vertical ground reaction force (GRF) generated when a basketball player jumps off the plate to dunk the basketball. The differences in GRFs between different dunks and different players will serve as a vehicle to discuss physics topics such as Newton’s laws and kinetic vs. potential energy and biomedical topics such as muscle mechanics. After the discussion is finished, each child will get the opportunity to jump on the system to dunk on a lower hoop (with express warnings to not grab the rim) to see how much force they can generate. The presentation will end with a dunk contest between the volunteers where the kids hypothesize on who will have the highest force.


Host: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Location: Darrin Communications Center (DCC), room 324
Grades: All ages
Session Time: 10:00 to 11:45 a.m.
(Story times 10:00 to 10:15 a.m. AND 11:15 to 11:45 a.m.)

This is an ongoing session for younger children and families. The session will start with a short African folktale led by Eshu Bumpus, renowned storyteller, an accomplished jazz vocalist and a master at physical characterization. Come and be captivated by African, African-American and World folktales leavened with music, humor and mystery. Additional workshop highlights will include: simple arts and crafts activities, face painting, and more!

Note: We ask that children under the age of 12 are accompanied by a parent, family member, or adult chaperone.

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