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Chemistry @ Brown Pilots STEM Day for High School Students

January 25, 2017

On January 24, 2017, 30 students along with teachers and staff from the 360 High School in Providence visited Brown for the first-ever STEM Day, hosted by Prof. Ou Chen and sponsored by the Department of Chemistry. The goal of STEM Day was to spark an interest in STEM fields and connect high school students directly with undergrads, faculty, and resources.  Dubbed a "mini-conference," STEM Day was a half day featuring interactive panel discussion with undergrads in STEM concentrations, breakout sessions for high schoolers to see and do science, an opportunity to hear from college advisors on resources for college access and success, and tours of Sciences Park and the Main Green.  

View the day's schedule here!

Undergrad Panel Discussion

"What is it like studying STEM in college? How did you know what concentration to pick? What careers are you preparing for?" Undergrads from various concentrations, including computer science, chemistry, biology, geology, and engineering answered these among many other questions from the high school students and their teachers. The panel was moderated by Prof. Brenda Rubenstein of the Department of Chemistry.

Breakout Sessions

Conference participants took part in three breakout sessions: Goofy Putty, Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream, and a demo at the Humans2Robots lab.

Goofy Putty

By making goofy putty (a mixture of glue and borax creating a substance that acts like both a liquid and a solid), students challenged their understanding of the phases of matter and learned about polymers. Led by undergrads Daniel Erdosy and Daniel Choi, students asked questions about atoms and molecules, which prompted a discussion of graphene, which is at the forefront of research in materials science. 

Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream

When you mix heavy cream with milk and sugar, not much happens... until you add liquid nitrogen. Within one minute, you have ultra-smooth ice cream! Undergrad Bowie Lee and Profs. Kathleen Hess, Eunsuk Kim, and Jerome Robinson led the demo, incorporating the importance of liquid nitrogen in research laboratories. 

Humans 2 Robots Lab

Thanks to the generosity of the Tellex Robotics Lab, participants learned about robots: what they can do, why researchers study them, and some of the popular myths about robots. Eric Rosen, an undergraduate in the Tellex Lab, showed participants one of the robots in the lab (named "Baxter"), explaining how the robot recognizes the objects in the room.

College Access & Success

Advisors from College Visions, the College Crusade, and Brown's College Advising Corps led a discussion on resources available to high school students on applying to and paying for college. The group asked several questions, including what freshmen and sophomores can do to prepare for the application process. 

The Department of Chemistry thanks the faculty, staff, and students involved with putting together and leading this conference and looks forward to continuing outreach efforts to local schools.