Action Items from Blogging While Brown 2014

The Blogging While Brown conference, now in its 7th year, is a great place for bloggers of color to convene, learn, and have fun.  I attended for the second time, and while it was fun to return home to the New York area, I wanted to leave with some action items to implement.  I'm going to make the list public so that I can be held accountable - feel free to call me out!

  1. Develop a writing schedule
    • Currently aim for weekly content, but I'd to do something more concrete.  I'm going to start writing 30 min on Mon, Wed, and Fri  - even if that means only one blog post goes out a week. The end goal is to have 2-3 posts a week.
  2. Investigate STEM freelancing opportunities
    • Begin pitching article ideas to publications that I'm already reading.  Even if I'm rejected several times, I'll still gain valuable pitch writing skills.
  3. Provide STEM services for local businesses
    • Starting with the local Chamber of Commerce, I'm going to create a list of small businesses that may benefit from someone with a STEM background.  Eventually I'm going to increase the range from Milwaukee to Chicago
  4. Increase Science / Math tutoring opportunities
    • Get list of existing tutoring opportunities in libraries, churches, community centers, etc that fit the hours of 6-8 on weekdays or anytime on the weekends.
    • Consider starting my own tutoring service
  5. Speak at a conference
    • Create a speaker link on the site, which will borrow content from the Press section. The section will include a list of topics I can speak on, and video / photography of me speaking.
    • After the section is created, I can refer to it when apply to science related conferences for speaking.



Future City: I Believe the Children Are Our Future

Our kids rock! But you wouldn't know that if you listened to the doom and gloom that's often reported in the mainstream news. Disparity sells, and there are always more stories about kids doing bad in school and failing tests than there are with our kids achieving.  Positive programs never get the attention that they deserve, even national ones with a great track record like Future City. From the website:

The Future City Competition is a national, project-based learning experience where students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade imagine, design, and build cities of the future. Students work as a team with an educator and engineer mentor to plan cities using SimCity™ software; research and write solutions to an engineering problem; build tabletop scale models with recycled materials; and present their ideas before judges at Regional Competitions in January. Regional winners represent their region at the National Finals in Washington, DC in February. 


Last weekend I had the pleasure to serve as a judge for the Wisconsin Regional finals at the Kern Center for the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE).  It's a beautiful gym and it was fun to see all of the students carrying their city models that they built out of recycled materials into the center. Here's a pic from the outside at the wonderful time of about 7:30am. The white truck in the background is from a Fox news van that was covering the event.

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The judges sat in a room and teams would come in and give a short presentation and Q&A session. The teams spoke about their ideas on how to solve transportation using the model that they built, and had moving parts and visual aids. The models themselves were quite cool as they were made of recycled parts - everything from Starbucks cans to computer speakers.

Unfortunately, as a judge i could not take photos of the individual science models, but below is a photo of the main hall.  You can see quite a few well-dressed kids next to their visual aids, ready to explain the feats that their city accomplishes.

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I left the event pumped and optimistic for the future of science in our country. We are in good hands, but we can't get lazy - we need to encourage this spirit of innovation in ALL grades.  Once kids find out that #ScienceLooksGood, they'll help move us to the next era.

Also, the title to this post refers to one of my favorite songs, the Greatest Love of All by Whitney Houston. I had to learn this song while attending the YMCA as a kid.

Not to be outdone, the Eddie Murphy film Coming to America featured a hilarious rendition of Greatest Love of Y'all by Randy Waaaatttttttssssoooooonnnnn and Sexual chocolate.

Your Library May Have 3D Printing

Inside 3D Printing Expo

As I've blogged about before, 3D printers are awesome! They are a little expensive - Makerbot's 3D machines hover around $2000 - but you can print out small 3D trinkets and have a blast! The main store where you can see demos is the Makerbot store in NYC.  Luckily, some libraries are getting into the act and opening up their own 3D printing stations so that you can get in on the fun! 

According to the Washington Post :

Cleveland and D.C. are part of an expanding club of public libraries making 3-D printers available to patrons, often as part of a “maker lab” type environment. The Johnson County Public Library in the Kansas City suburbs debuted a “MakerSpace” in the spring with a MakerBot 3-D printer, iMacs, cameras and other equipment and software people might not normally be able to access at home.
The Westport Public Library in Connecticut launched a similar Maker Space with a 3-D printer this month after a successful “Maker Faire” showcasing the tech in the spring.   Ben Miller, director of the public library in Sauk City, Wis., called their acquisition of a 3-D printer in 2012 part of a larger move to “creation rather than consumption.”

Check out a video of the 3D printing area at the Harold Washington library in Chicago:


Darius Simmons, Trayvon Martin and Barriers to STEM Diversity

Eyes of the Innocent

Why would a young child be interested in a field such as science where they will be consistently seen as "the other"? 

As an advocate for STEM, I'm always looking to get more folks involved in science. As a Black man, it feels the most rewarding to help contribute to more women and minorities involved in scientific disciplines.  The science space lacks gender and racial diversity, which can bring judgments, stereotypes, and reactions that are often not based on truth.  During my career journey, I've often had to worry about being the only Black person around. If I make a mistake, I have to worry about it being attributed to just me or to generalized perceptions of the Black community. 


Both Trayvon Martin and Darius Simmons were young, unarmed, Black teens that were murdered because of what they looked like. They were profiled as dangerous, regardless of their actual intentions, and they paid the ultimate price when confronted by someone who believed in the profile. 

It's important to realize that in the case of Trayvon, Darius, and numerous other youths, its the barrier to LIFE, not just diversity, that has proven to be impenetrable.  Just like other children who have lost their lives, we don't know what contribution to society they may have made. How many future scientists, presidents, historians, or artists are being eliminated? 

Why would a young child be interested in a field such as science where they will be consistently seen as "the other"?  Because the dream of America is to be a real melting pot, where individuals can truly succeed regardless of their background. America strives to be a place where fields such as science accurately represents the broad diversity of the population.

One thing is for sure - many activists are being created and emboldened by this horrible situation. Let's make a change. I know I won't stop reaching out to make sure that the STEM community is diverse as it can be. #ScienceLooksGood indeed.

42 Lounge: Nerds in Downtown Milwaukee

42 Lounge, 326 E Mason St, Milwaukee

42 Lounge, 326 E Mason St, Milwaukee

As a science blogger, I love to talk about all things science related with like-minded people. I had my spots in Philadelphia, which was my home for the last 6 years .. until now. I've moved to Milwaukee, and one of my main concerns is making sure I can find places where I can geek out about space, Iron Man 3, and the latest video game.  Luckily I've found a great place to hang out at the 42 Lounge in downtown Milwaukee. 

Watching live video game matches like Starcraft at a bar is heaven.

Watching live video game matches like Starcraft at a bar is heaven.

The great thing about places like 42 Lounge is that it has a nerd theme. Video games, tabletop games, and general science and tech talk rule the day - along with alcohol of course! Speaking of drinks, there are some great geek themed drinks from this list - my favorite so far is the Pokemon drink Lavender Town Syndrome (Hpnotiq, Vodka, Grenadine, Sprite).  

I was also able to test out the wifi connection using a Blackberry Z10, as well as take the photos for this post.  It was great to be able to talk about phones with other geeks in the area. Many of them, including me, had long given up on Blackberry after being surpassed by Google Android OS and Apple iOS phones, but the Z10 has changed many minds. Being able to hand them the phone and have them play with it, debate about it, and compare it with existing phones was a huge plus.

Check out the videos below for an interview with 42 Lounge co-owners Tony and Lynn Nilles, as well as a tour of the bar itself.


This post also appears at TWIB.