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Vol. LXV, No. 11
May 24, 2013
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More Than 80 Activities
NIH Celebrates Take Your Child to Work, Earth Day

Youngster enjoys “Brains Up Close” exhibit at 6001 Executive Blvd.

Youngster enjoys “Brains Up Close” exhibit at 6001 Executive Blvd.

NIH hosted its 18th Take Your Child to Work Day and celebrated Earth Day on Apr. 25. Thousands of school-age kids (grades 1-12) came for a day of discovery and fun and their parents/guardians probably even learned a thing or two.

More than 80 activities on and off campus kept youngsters engaged and intrigued. Some budding junior scientists conducted simple biology and chemistry experiments. Guests learned about bones, blood, the brain, diseases, robotics and rehabilitation, biomedical imaging, nutrition and exercise and more.

Under tents sprawled across Bldg. 1’s front lawn, Earth Day exhibits taught visitors about NIH’s green initiatives, including greener lab practices and how everyone can take part in reusing and recycling toward a cleaner planet.

Kids Learn, Explore NIH Community

One ever-popular event was “Fantastic Voyage” at the Clinical Center’s department of laboratory medicine. Children made rounds, dressed in scrubs, visiting each of five tables: chemistry, hematology, immunology, microbiology and phlebotomy. They looked in microscopes, Petri dishes and test tubes, learning about cells and other tiny organisms.

Over in the Clinical Center’s south lobby, the exhibit “A Journey into Blindness” displayed a Harry Potter book in Braille and assistive technology such as voice-recognition software and computer screen-reading software for the iPad. The exhibit was designed to educate seeing co-workers and children about blindness and promote equal opportunity.

“We want people to get the concept by showing the technology that allows the visually impaired to get by in the work world,” said Anne “Mitzi” Kosciulek, a human resources specialist at NIH who helps recruit people with disabilities. Teresa Shea, a co-founder of the employee support group 3 Blind Mice, who is blind, invited kids to try on low-vision glasses and use walking canes.

The Center for Information Technology’s Teresa Shea (r) invites youngsters to try out low-vision glasses and walking canes and discusses tools that help the blind thrive in the workplace. Children inspect organisms displayed by CC medical technologist Teresa Genson Bauch.

The Center for Information Technology’s Teresa Shea (r) invites youngsters to try out low-vision glasses and walking canes and discusses tools that help the blind thrive in the workplace.

Children inspect organisms displayed by CC medical technologist Teresa Genson Bauch.

At the Neuroscience Center on Executive Blvd., NIMH and NIDA held interactive sessions to demonstrate how the brain and spinal cord control movement and muscle contractions. Another exhibit, “Brains Up Close,” featured human and small animal brains on display. Some brave kids put on gloves and held one.

While many children learned about the scientific side of NIH, many also learned about the important, non-scientific jobs that support the NIH community.

The NIH Fire Department offered a firehouse tour and demonstrated the stop, drop and roll technique for extinguishing flames. The NIH Police were out on Bldg. 31’s back lawn letting kids try on police gear, sit in a police car and learn about crime prevention. Ofcr. Gary Pickering brought Boomer, one of the department’s explosive-sniffing dogs. On break from checking vehicles and suspicious packages, Boomer charmed many of those who stopped by to pet him.

Patrick Shirdon (r), NIA executive officer, offers free soil to Mikayla Muldoon at the Earth Day event. “Looking Through the Microscope” event at 6001 Executive Blvd.

Patrick Shirdon (r), NIA executive officer, offers free soil to Mikayla Muldoon at the Earth Day event.

“Looking Through the Microscope” event at 6001 Executive Blvd.

At Rockledge, “American Science Idol” let young grant reviewers evaluate made-up research applications and choose the best one to fund.

In the medical arts wing in the basement of the Clinical Center, young folks made crafts at “Artist in You” and learned about medical illustration, design and production in the TV/video/photography studio. “Kids learned how design, creativity and video all fall under art,” said Tammie Edwards, Medical Arts branch chief. “Researchers tell their stories through communication,” she said.

Going Green at NIH

People of all ages celebrated Earth Day. The R&W took youngsters on an educational nature walk. Under tents by Bldg. 1, kids and adults learned ways to reduce their carbon footprint.

Jacqueline Johnson and Montae Reeves from the Division of Environmental Protection (DEP) were overseeing recycling and composting bins, showing people where to toss their trash. “We’re promoting recycling on campus,” said Johnson. “We’ll be starting a compost program in the cafeterias soon.” Johnson said DEP composted more than 65 tons of animal bedding (wood chips, fibers from animal cages, etc.) and food waste from cafeteria prep areas in March alone.

At one tent, Katie Muldoon, project analyst at NIAID, and her 10-year-old daughter Mikayla were given seedlings—pink or purple azaleas—to plant at home. At another exhibit, NIDDK’s Minoo Shakoury-Elizeh displayed green practices in her lab, including cleaner equipment, avoidance of radioactive materials and reuse of Styrofoam, since it cannot be recycled.

At “Fantastic Voyage,” head technician Mohamed Kamara teaches visitors about phlebotomy. Ofcr. Gary Pickering talks with moms about campus security while children pet the K9 unit’s explosive-sniffing dog Boomer.

At “Fantastic Voyage,” head technician Mohamed Kamara teaches visitors about phlebotomy.


Ofcr. Gary Pickering talks with moms about campus security while children pet the K9 unit’s explosive-sniffing dog Boomer.

Nearby, youngsters were putting their names on green paper leaves and hanging them on a “Pledge Tree.” Pledges included recycling, encouraging friends and family to recycle and promising to turn off computers and TVs when not in use.

Crispin Hernandez, an industrial chemist, coordinates a sustainability project on campus to redistribute unused chemicals. He uses the NIH FreeStuff web site as a tool to promote this practice. NIAID launched the NIH FreeStuff site (http://stuff.nih.gov), a sustainability tool to help employees post, search and exchange unused chemicals, office equipment and lab supplies.

“We spend so much money on chemical disposal,” he said. “We have surplus chemicals on campus—never consumed and in good condition—and we should use and reuse them.” As of April 2013, Hernandez estimates NIH has saved more than $4,000 in surplus chemical redistribution using the FreeStuff program. He will describe the program at a meeting of the lab managers interest group on Thursday, June 13 at noon in Bldg. 40, Conf. Rm. 1203.

NIBIB Shares Cutting-Edge Research with Local Youngsters
By Margot Kern

Lisa Harris turns to smile at the crowd that watched her spell C-A-T-S using only her thoughts.

Lisa Harris turns to smile at the crowd that watched her spell C-A-T-S using only her thoughts.

At NIH’s Take Your Child to Work Day, kids and parents gathered with mouths agape as two children wearing special EEG caps typed words on a computer screen using only their thoughts.

Developed by a NIBIB grantee to help severely paralyzed individuals communicate, the caps—which record electric activity from the brain—were just one of many research technologies showcased by NIBIB during the day-long event.

In the morning, nearly 60 visitors ages 8-15 competed in teams to see how many questions they could answer correctly during a NIBIB-run game show called “Who Wants to Be a Bioengineer?” Topics included regenerative medicine and rehabilitation engineering, biomedical imaging and brain-computer interfaces.

NIBIB scientist Hank Eden uses an ice cube to draw a design, visible only by infrared camera, on the arm of Mary Vasilchenko.

NIBIB scientist Hank Eden uses an ice cube to draw a design, visible only by infrared camera, on the arm of Mary Vasilchenko.

Children learned about innovative research such as smart prostheses that can predict your next move and a novel technology that delivers electrical stimulation to the spinal cord and has already helped one paralyzed man stand and regain additional functioning.

Kendall Coles, a 10th grader who participated in the game show and aspires to be a bioengineer, was surprised to learn that a man who lost his fingertip in an accident was able to re-grow it by applying an extract of pig bladder to the wound.

“I didn’t know regenerative medicine was possible,” said Coles. When asked why he wanted to be a bioengineer, he replied, “I like how it helps everyone.”

In the afternoon, kids listened intently as intramural scientist Hank Eden explained different imaging techniques such as CT, MRI, PET and infrared imaging. Hands shot into the air as volunteers were called to demonstrate how an infrared camera generates images by detecting heat.

With the camera pointed towards him, one boy wrote his name on a blank poster using only the heat from his finger. A girl squirmed and then laughed as cold water dripping from an ice cube onto her forearm appeared as a stream of black liquid under the camera.

Later in the presentation, short movies—generated using the latest CT imaging software—allowed kids to travel virtually through winding blood vessels and deep into the inner ear. At one point, 3D glasses were handed out and guests took a trip through a patient’s colon, during which mushroom-like polyps popped out of the screen.

After the presentation, the youngsters were split into groups and taken into intramural labs where they viewed the eye of a fruit fly at 700 times its normal size under a scanning electron microscope. Using a light microscope, they also examined a volvox—a type of algae that forms spherical colonies of up to 50,000 cells.

Dr. John Paul SanGiovanni, a scientist at the National Eye Institute, has been taking his two boys to the NIH-wide event for the past 13 years. He says it’s the stories the scientists tell that benefit children the most. “They come home from the event and they retell those stories, and while they’re doing that, they’re extracting important scientific principles.”

SanGiovanni’s son, Daniel, is a seventh grader and has been to Take Your Child to Work Day five times. When asked what impressed him mostduring the day he replied, “The microimaging. I never knew you could get so close to an object.” He added, “Every time I come, I learn something new.” Daniel says he eventually wants to become a chemical engineer.

Grace Peng, a program director at NIBIB and emcee of “Who Wants to Be a Bioengineer?” said her favorite part of hosting the game show was “eliciting the oohs, ahhs and ewws from the kids.” She added, “I’m gratified when they have discussion and debates over the questions we’ve posed, and I love their follow-up impromptu questions.”

Peng brought both her two sons and her neighbor’s sons to the event. “I think the day is really important,” she said. “It exposes kids to what their parents do, what NIH is all about and it opens up their minds to the latest information about science.”

On the Sunday following Take Your Child to Work Day, NIBIB had an opportunity to share new developments in biotechnology with children outside of the NIH community by participating in the 24th annual Rockville Science Day held at Montgomery College. NIBIB brought the special EEG caps to the event and people of all ages flocked to the exhibit for the opportunity to control a computer using their thoughts. The exhibit was one of 70 hands-on displays that ran the gamut of topics from the environment and nature to space exploration, biotechnology, robotics and rockets. Close to 4,000 visitors attended this year.

Jerry Shen wears 3D glasses while viewing the inside of a person’s colon.

Above:
Jerry Shen wears 3D glasses while viewing the inside of a person’s colon.

Below:
The surface of a fruit fly’s eye at 700X

The surface of a fruit fly’s eye at 700X

 


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