By Maria de Bruyn
On November 18, young people and their families had a chance to explore pursuing careers in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and/or math). The second annual Black STEAM Fair was organized by Anissa McLendon, founder of the yearly E3 STEM summer camps. McLendon has received various awards for her work. The participating organizations had informative and entertaining presentations to promote BIOPIC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) youth interest in the featured career fields.
Empowering Excellence through Exploration (E3 Camp) collaborated with Hargraves Community Center, community donors, and the NAACP Chapel Hill-Carrboro Branch for its second annual Black STEAM Fair for Black 10 to 17 years old at the Hargraves Community Gym last Saturday.
One presentation focused on a career as a forensic evidence technologist (more popularly known as crime scene investigator or CSI). Police technician Tamika Price explained her work and kept her audience’s attention while her colleague Alexandria Rudd answered questions about being a police officer.
Price explained that technicians must have a four-year college degree and complete an additional 6-month training period. She highlighted how DNA testing — based on a collection of hair and skin cells at crime scenes — has become a valuable part of her research.
Representatives of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools’ Career and Technical Education Department explained other types of work involving investigation and research. This included presentations on biomedical sciences, STEM Engineering, and Automotive Services. Maresa Tate of UNC’s Psychology and Neuroscience Department offered students the chance to play Research Bingo, draw sections of the brain on a swim cap, and try out a memory task while having an MRI scan.
David George (lab facilitator), Amaya Horner (education fellow) and Leon Bradford (insectarium manager) of the Museum of Life and Science presented fairgoers with live animals. Horner explained that her degrees in environmental science and parks & recreation from NC State prepared her for her role as a museum educator. Horner and George showed visitors how the Malaysian forest scorpion would appear blue when exposed to ultraviolet light. This can happen in the wild under moonlight. Their presentation also featured moth identification games, other “bugs” to examine, and souvenirs for students.
Attention was given to careers involving artificial intelligence and the arts. Jenny Marvel, Ackland Museum Head of School and Community Programs, created a small “viewfinder” for children to look through. The idea behind it, she explained, is to help students “look close and think far.” The viewfinder is intended to help people focus on details and slow down a bit in life to become more aware of what is around them.
Marvel further explained careers available at an art museum, including educators, curators, exhibition designers, preparators (who help build and install displays), and collections managers.
STEM engineering, learning math through chess, dentistry, working in law enforcement and fire rescue, and building construction were other careers highlighted by presenters. When a young visitor was asked if he was enjoying the fair, he nodded a definite yes. When asked what he liked best, he immediately answered “everything!”
Maria de Bruyn participates in several nature-oriented citizen science projects, volunteers at Mason Farm Biological Reserve and the Orange County Senior Center, coordinates a nature-themed book club, posts on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/bruynmariade/) and writes a blog focusing on wildlife at https://mybeautifulworldblog.com.