What Crystal Parks ’15 remembers most about going to camp as a kid was the computer room. “You’d always find me in there,” she said. Parks never lost her passion for computers – she will graduate from the University in May with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Engineering – nor did she lose her desire to share her passion.
So this week, she joined other members of UB’s student chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) when they volunteered at the Discovery Museum in Bridgeport during its annual African-American History Month Celebration. The event is a venue for outreach as well as an engaging experience for the community.
This year, graduate and undergraduate students from UB – hailing from the U.S., Nigeria, and Haiti – greeted hundreds of museum visitors and shared their love of science, technology, engineering, and math with the many children and families who visited their table.
“These same university students also represent a diversity of STEM careers: biomedical engineering, medical laboratory science, computer engineering, and mechanical engineering,” said UB Mechanical Engineering Professor Jani Macari Pallis, who also participated in the event.
“The event provides us with an opportunity to expose K-12 students to STEM careers through interaction with our NSBE university student scientists and engineers as the children conduct hands-on science, math and engineering activities.”
This year, UB students brought tiny robots equipped with sensors.
They were a big hit. “They couldn’t believe it!” said Azeez Ojo, a graduate student majoring in biomedical engineering. “The robots have sensors so if you put your hand in front of them, they’ll turn. They change direction. We showed them how they work.”
One young girl picked up the miniature robots to figure out how their legs moved and were constructed. “She asked so many questions,” said a very pleased Parks. “That interested me. Often it’s the boys, but she wanted to know more.”
Ojo, an international student from Nigeria, was equally thrilled to work with young people. “The kids didn’t know much about engineering. We wanted to expose them.”
The robots may resemble tiny toys, “but engineering is about making life better,” Ojo added. “It’s about problem-solving.”
“Back home, I see Africa is still the way it is, underdeveloped, because of a lack of education,” he said. “Information is important. That’s why I volunteered [at the museum], to get kids. They should have a passion for learning. It starts when they are young.”