Earlier this month, nearly 1,000 students, families, teachers, and community organizations attended the 16th annual Black Family Technology Awareness Day program at Rensselaer. The event, which is part of a nationally celebrated week of the same name, is designed to spur young people’s interest in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), and the arts.

The opening ceremony featured remarks from President Shirley Ann Jackson and Congressman Paul Tonko.

In her opening remarks, titled “The Greatest Adventure in the World,” President Jackson noted that it was a “delight to welcome many of the brightest young students in the Capital Region” to the annual event because they offer Rensselaer “the chance to demonstrate what we do best, which is to give young people the education and the tools that allow them to change the world.”

This year’s theme, “Innovate to Educate: Re-Introducing Young Minds to Opportunities in STEM,” was meant to explore ways to break down barriers and re-introduce or reconnect students to STEM in ways that are engaging and interactive, and that will open their minds to the infinite possibilities that immersion in the STEM disciplines can provide.

Feeling wowed is only appropriate, since traveling through science, math, engineering, and technology is the greatest adventure in the world, because it is the only adventure that will take you to the stars.—President Jackson

President Jackson noted that Rensselaer would show attendees “some of the infinite number of cool things you can choose to do, if you study science, math, engineering, and technology. The younger children here may not understand the distinction between scientists and engineers. While scientists discover new things about our world, engineers apply those discoveries to solve real-world problems, such as designing a bridge that will continue standing under all conditions, or developing a new kind of insulation for a winter coat.”

Workshops included exploring the science behind music, creating plasma art, building a wind turbine, learning about electric vehicles, uncovering the mysteries of laser technology, designing bridges using gumdrops, investigating different types of engineering, programming Lego Mindstorm robotics, experiencing the excitement of a trading floor through a simulated exercise, making models of nanoscale structures with African hexastrip weaving, applying the laws of physics to the game of pocket billiards, and more.

Special event highlights included an afternoon spent in the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Peforming Arts Center (EMPAC) Concert Hall. Attendees were treated to a live jazz music performance featuring members of the Delmar, N.Y-based jazz group, Ten27. The group’s “The Black Book Project” combines a multimedia production featuring images from the Hubble Telescope with performances of seven original pieces inspired by themes in modern cosmology.

The keynote address was delivered by Christopher Emdin ’03, a social critic, public intellectual, and science advocate. Emdin is an associate professor in the Department of Mathematics, Science, and Technology at Teachers College, Columbia University, where he also serves as director of Secondary School Initiatives at the Urban Science Education Center.

“Feeling wowed is only appropriate, since traveling through science, math, engineering, and technology is the greatest adventure in the world—a greater adventure than tiger taming or motorcycle racing—because it is the only adventure that will take you to the stars,” President Jackson said. Read President Jackson’s full remarks.