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Vol. LXVI, No. 11
May 23, 2014
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Science Is Cool!
Take Your Child to Work, Earth Day Add Fun to Science

On the front page...

Alanna Espiritu enjoys robotic surgery lab.
Alanna Espiritu enjoys robotic surgery lab.
It’s quite possible NIH has the coolest Take Your Child to Work Day anywhere. There are so many fascinating and interactive activities that the adults learn and have as much fun as the kids.

Some youngsters explored the wonders of the brain. Others learned about vision, hearing, bones and teeth. Some looked at bugs, genes or stem cells under a microscope. Some kids even maneuvered a surgical robot arm, learning about the role of technology in health care.

The 19th Take Your Child to Work Day (TYCWD) on Apr. 24 featured dozens of activities that left kids intrigued, inspired and enlightened by the work their moms, dads and guardians do at NIH. Meanwhile, outside, on Bldg. 1’s lawn under a bright blue sky, an Earth Day celebration was in full swing.

Continued...

The day’s events kicked off with a family fitness session on the Bldg. 1 lawn with Donna Richardson, a fitness instructor, member of the Presidential Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition and ambassador to the First Lady’s “Let’s Move!” campaign. Before leading a group of kids in an aerobic workout, she suggested good seeds we can sow for a healthy future: Get moving (30 minutes of daily exercise for adults, 60 minutes for kids); eat healthy (remember the fruits and veggies); be an ambassador to the Earth (recycle and conserve water); and help others.

Day of Discovery

TYCWD featured educational activities both on campus and off. At the Clinical Center, events included the longtime favorite “Fantastic Voyage.” Kids put on scrubs and visited various work stations from microbiology to chemistry. Over in the CC’s rehabilitation clinic, kids did pulmonary fitness tests and learned how our muscles use oxygen to make energy for movement. “We also talked to kids about different careers they can have if they study exercise,” said Bart Drinkard, a CC exercise physiologist and physical therapist.

CC anesthesiologist Dr. Muhammed Yousef shows kids how to intubate a patient, using a surgical robotic arm on a dummy. Ragini Mehta (r) leads the microbiology session at “Fantastic Voyage” through the CC department of laboratory medicine.

CC anesthesiologist Dr. Muhammed Yousef shows kids how to intubate a patient, using a surgical robotic arm on a dummy.

Ragini Mehta (r) leads the microbiology session at “Fantastic Voyage” through the CC department of laboratory medicine.

Another popular activity in the CC was the da Vinci Si surgical robot demonstration. Kids learned how the NCI Urology Branch uses robots in surgery. Some kids got to intubate a dummy and others picked up paper clips with a robotic arm. The CC got its first surgical robot in 2006, said Belinda Avila, a CC supervisory health technologist who helped coordinate TYCWD. On average, she said, the CC conducts about 110 robotic urological surgeries a year, mainly partial nephrectomy and prostatectomy. She also talked about sterile processing and noted that all expired surgical supplies in the operating room are either used for training or get recycled.

In Bldg. 31, some kids played a bioengineering video game while others took in a safety demonstration out on the patio conducted by the NIH Police. Over in NIAID’s conference room, Dr. Dawei Lin, senior advisor for bioinformatics, led a series of exercises to show how genetic code letter strands (A, G, C, T) replicate themselves. “Science is related to disease and health but it’s also fun,” he told a roomful of kids, who got to build DNA base pairs out of Legos.

Mia Thomason (l), daughter of OD’s Kristen Dunn-Thomason, and Eileen Luo, daughter of NHLBI’s Yan Luo, fearlessly hold Madagascar hissing cockroaches. Guidance is provided by a volunteer from the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. NIAID’s Dr. Dawei Lin is joined by his kids Samuel and Heather, who is holding up a Lego double helix. NBC’s Veronica Johnson (r) shows Storm Team 4’s equipment to kids.

Mia Thomason (l), daughter of OD’s Kristen Dunn-Thomason, and Eileen Luo, daughter of NHLBI’s Yan Luo, fearlessly hold Madagascar hissing cockroaches. Guidance is provided by a volunteer from the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

NIAID’s Dr. Dawei Lin is joined by his kids Samuel and Heather, who is holding up a Lego double helix.

 

 

NBC’s Veronica Johnson (r) shows Storm Team 4’s equipment to kids.

Photos: Bill Branson, Ernie Branson

 

A Greener Environment

Earth Day displays emphasized personal safety, conserving resources and the beauty of nature.

One display featured tips for home and workplace safety with coloring books for the kids. At an NIDCD table, kids spun the Noisy Planet wheel to learn about noise hazards and ways to protect their hearing. NICHD distributed cups of soil to inspire kids to begin their own composting project. NIMHD teamed up with NIH’s Bicycle Commuter Club to promote this green mode of transport. Kids rode on a course between Bldgs. 1 and 2 and learned bicycle maintenance tips.

Sometimes, the beauty of nature is clouded over by storms. This year, meteorologist Veronica Johnson from NBC’s Storm Team 4 showed kids the cameras and gadgets on the station’s weather truck that help predict tornadoes and other severe weather.

Under one tent, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases had a table for the budding entomologists. Kids fearlessly held live Madagascar roaches that looked half the size of their little hands.

NIH’ers and their kids also learned about the many green features on the NIH campus. William Floyd, director of NIH’s Division of Environmental Protection, told kids about the electricity generating plant, the solar panels on several NIH building rooftops and electric vehicle charging stations, to name a few.

It was a day filled with fun activities to educate kids about public health and career paths in science and to suggest ways for people of all ages to create a healthier, greener, sustainable environment for all.

Visitors to a table of bone samples A doctoral student learning rehab sciences, who shows a child how his heart rate rises while pedaling on an exercise bike as Eric Christensen of the rehab medicine physiology lab looks on. Donna Richardson, ambassador to the First Lady’s “Let’s Move!” campaign, who leads kids in an aerobic workout in front of Bldg. 1.
Shown above are (from l) visitors to a table of bone samples; Jared Gollie (r), a doctoral student learning rehab sciences, who shows a child how his heart rate rises while pedaling on an exercise bike as Eric Christensen of the rehab medicine physiology lab looks on; Donna Richardson, ambassador to the First Lady’s “Let’s Move!” campaign, who leads kids in an aerobic workout in front of Bldg. 1.

Collins, Tabak Educate, Entertain NIH Kids

NIH director Dr. Francis Collins
NIH director Dr. Francis Collins (above) and Dr. Lawrence Tabak
Dr. Lawrence Tabak

Children of all ages flocked to Wilson Hall in Bldg. 1 on Take Your Child To Work Day for a rare opportunity to meet with NIH director Dr. Francis Collins and NIH principal deputy director Dr. Lawrence Tabak.

The children listened intently as Collins explained the function of DNA, how it makes each of us unique and how the discovery of DNA by James Watson and Francis Crick dramatically improved our understanding of disease and our ability to treat it.

When asked why he chose to be a scientist, Collins responded that as a young child his first desire was to be a truck driver. But thanks to the influence of a high school science teacher who inspired his interest in chemistry, he changed course. After a number of questions, including one about whether he built Bldg. 1 (to which he candidly admitted he did not), Collins pulled out his DNA-inscribed guitar named Rosalind to play an original song called Walking Through the Genes.

“Does anyone know why Rosalind would be such a good name for a guitar with a double helix on it?” Collins asked his audience. “Rosalind Franklin did experiments with DNA where she took pictures of it using an X-ray. Watson and Crick figuring out the double helix depended very much on her data from those experiments, but Rosalind Franklin never received credit. So this is Rosalind and every time I pick it up, I think of Rosalind Franklin and what she did to make it possible for all of us to know about DNA.”

Tabak, a dentist who previously directed the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, followed Collins to provide an entertaining and educational discussion on dental health. The topic was of great interest to the children, many of whom shared that they had conducted school science projects looking at the effect of soaking their baby teeth in an acidic liquid such as soda or juice. The effects, they pointed out, were not good. The teeth dissolved, which Tabak stressed was a lesson on why we want to limit our consumption of sugary and acidic beverages. He explained to the kids that if they liked to do science experiments then they may want to work at NIH, where scientists get to conduct experiments every day.

When asked about his favorite part of the event, 12-year-old Aidan Myles said, “The DNA song! It was catchy and Dr. Collins can really sing!”

 


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