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State Sen. Fred Akshar speaks with Go Green Institute campers Chloe Marshall, Michael Vitiator, Matthew Perna and William Strong during the program's poster session about the research the students did to build a simple water filtration system.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
Go Green Institute: Season 8
August 3, 2016Tweet
Designed to excite middle- and high-school students about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), the Go Green Institute offers a 10-day, hands-on experience.
Program organizers Wayne Jones, professor and chair of chemistry, and Alexsa Silva, director of chemistry instruction and outreach, partner with Binghamton City Schools to provide the institute, which wrapped up its eighth annual summer program July 22.
“Creating a pipeline of young people interested in careers in science and engineering is critical to ensuring the U.S. remains competitive in science and technology globally,” explained Jones. “It is also important to New York state, where organizations are actively seeking applicants for STEM positions now. The current pool of qualified applicants is already slim, yet the number of jobs in the STEM field is only anticipated to grow.”
Until now, Go Green’s two-week curriculum targeted sixth graders, an age group still excited by and open to science and most likely to take its interest forward into a STEM-related career.
High school students were added to the mix for the first time this year, with a curriculum of their own. The value of this strategy is the STEM inspiration a high school student might take away from working with a University student – and the inspiration a middle school student might take away from working with a high school student. The slight age difference helps convey a more realistic sense of what’s possible, what might come next.
President Harvey Stenger got things started at this year’s culminating poster session by sharing his early dislike of chemistry – “all that memorizing!” Things took off for him, however, once he connected with the right chemistry professor and he went on to become a chemical engineer. “If it had not also been enjoyable, I would have given up,” he told the audience.
Go Green is designed to be enjoyable, and to hold students’ the attention, with multiple activities, locations, subjects and mentors. Over the two-week program, teams of students also research and document a sustainable project for presentation on the final day.
“The program curriculum becomes a little more challenging each day,” explained Derek Dwyer, a graduate student who works closely with Jones. As one of many program mentors, “his role is to closely observe the student project groups, stepping in to help when invited or to prevent safety concerns.”
In addition to STEM basics, such as “Introduction to Research,” activities included:
• A tour of the University’s Nature Preserve
• A visit to the University’s Center of Excellence (COE), including a tour of the data center with Vice President of Research Bahgat Sammakia
• A well-timed “science” break in the form of liquid-nitrogen created ice cream
Kanad Ghose, chair, professor and director of computer science, talked about data centers and why decreasing the costs and the environmental impacts of running and cooling them was such an important research goal. Students listened as Ghose painted a picture of life without data centers that included no cell phones, no Facebook, no online shopping and “the worst that can happen to young people – no games!”
Go Green concluded with presentations by the teams and they stood by the posters they created and presented their findings to family, members of the campus community and local legislators. Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo and Akshar took in the team projects and spent time talking with many of the groups.
After the presentations, an awards ceremony was held. Jones and a panel of speakers addressed the audience of students, family, friends and media, University Provost Donald Nieman also commended the teams for their “important work addressing issues facing society by using science.”
Lupardo, who has attended all but one Go Green “graduation” held up her 1935 Ansco camera as she spoke. “Ansco film, made right here in the First Ward, was used to film the first moon landing in 1969,” she said. “The camera and its film is a visual for students to see exactly how creative ideas and innovation built our community and how a career in STEM fits into that.”
State Sen. Fred Akshar congratulated students on their efforts to “create a sustainable community for all of us,” adding “society needs people like you!” The urgent need for more qualified STEM applicants “highlights the importance of investing in our community’s future through the proper funding of elementary and higher education, so programs like Go Green continue,” he said.
“The success of the Go Green Institute,” Jones said, “is thanks to the dedicated support of Binghamton faculty members and students, faculty members from SUNY Broome and middle-school science teachers, all working closely with the students.”