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Field Trip: X-STEM Symposium

This March we were thrilled to participate in X-STEM DC 2019, a youth symposium featuring interactive presentations aimed to inspire youth into careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Ginger was especially excited to eat insects!
Ginger with Zack Lemann, The Bug Chef!

Ginger was thrilled to meet Zack Lemann, an Entomologist, and Bug Chef. She has been writing a research paper on the economical and nutritional benefits of eating bugs, and so had some really well-thought-out questions for him. She got to speak one-on-one after his presentation and asked him if and how he thinks we could convince the western world to embrace bugs as food. His answer: a combination of humor and logic. For example, there is virtually no difference between eating a bug and eating a shrimp, so many folks have already eaten a bug, even if they didn’t know it! Ginger is exploring entomology as a career option and told us she’d prepare some bugs for other C4K members to try.

BriAsia

BriAsia’s favorite session was Dr. Christian Hubicki, who spoke about robotics research. She really enjoyed hearing about the engineering challenges and the potential applications for robotics. BriAsia’s is interested in blending cosmetology with robots. She’s heard of businesses that use robots to paint nails, style hair, and even tattoo people. This sparked an interesting conversation about science ethics– an important topic as more and more things become automated.

We discussed having robots perform things like surgery, and whether we think that would be safer or more not. Most of us said we wouldn’t want a robot doing our surgery but would be willing to get tattooed by one!.

Justin’s favorite speaker was Jess Loeb, the Video Game Software Engineer at PlayStation. He enjoyed hearing about her journey through different companies and different aspects of game design. He liked her explanation of a game designer as a type of translator– they take someone’s vision for a new game and translate that into code in order to make their vision come to life. Jess also defined video games as “interactive entertainment” and made a lot of connections to storytelling– another interest of Justin’s!

James

James’ favorite presentation was by Dr. Bill Schindler, an Archaeologist, and Anthropologist, who spoke about ancestral diets and modern health. He was intrigued by his points on modern-day food. We learned how a lot of our processed food is stripped of most of its nutritional value, so much so that we now can have obesity and malnutrition in the same person. James liked the idea of getting more conscious about what we eat. James was also really fascinated by the National Geographic show that Dr. Schindler co-starred in, where he was sent out to live as our ancient ancestors did, and tried to survive with only the tools they used.

Asad (center)

Asad really enjoyed hearing from Dr. Christian Hubicki, a Robotics Research Scientist, who spoke about creating robots that walk and run. He thought it was really interesting that they observed birds (rather than humans) when researching the mechanics of walking; apparently, birds are much better at it than we are! He was intrigued by the difficulties scientists have in getting robots to balance, walk, and run. Asad is interested in becoming a computer engineer but isn’t sure yet if he’d like to take a more mechanical and robotics route or a game design route.

Ali

Ali’s favorite session was Dr. Hubicki’s presentation on robotics. He was intrigued by the fact that the robots were technically blind, just controlled by the engineers. He says he loves robotics, and always comes to C4K with big ideas– like building a hovercraft or remote control skateboard.

Ali took lots of notes during the conference and came up with a ton of questions. He got in line to ask a question in almost every session. Unfortunately, so did a ton of other kids, so he didn’t make it to the microphone, but we commend his effort!