Museum lets black children see success in science

An exhibit was designed to showcase successful black people in science and motivate children to look into the field.

Civil engineering experiments with marshmallows and toothpicks, blood pressure tests and dinosaur fossils kept children wide-eyed Saturday at the Science Museum of Minnesota.

The museum, in St. Paul, had its 14th annual “African-Americans in Science” exhibit Saturday to encourage young black students to get excited about science.

The exhibit gave children an opportunity to meet with experts from an array of science professions and businesses, including the University, Guidant, Minnesota Department of Transportation and 3M.

Event Coordinator Gail Vold Greco said the event was part of the museum’s Science Fusion program, which is designed to showcase successful black people in the science field and motivate children to look into science careers.

According to the 2000 census, 11 percent of scientists at the bachelor’s level and fewer than 4 percent of Ph.D. scientists are black, American Indian or Hispanic. These groups make up approximately 27 percent of the U.S. population.

Helen Woldai, a member of the Black Student Union and chemical engineering student, said the lack of diversity in science majors is noticeable at the University and often can be uncomfortable.

“If I decided not to go to class one day, people would notice,” Woldai said. “In a lecture of about 200 people, there are only about five black people.”

Chemical engineering and material science professor Frank Snowden took part in the event and said the barriers to science careers can be broken by encouraging kids to like science at a young age.

“This exhibit shows that there are many minorities engaged with science at the high level,” Snowden said. “We can be excited about science and participate and do well.”

The exhibit kept parents just as busy trying to keep up with their children. One parent said the exhibit was a fresh alternative and showed children that being interested in science isn’t a bad thing.

“This exhibit gives my kids a chance to see successful people from jobs that don’t get much attention,” James Wagner said. “It shows that being smart and taking an interest in science is cool.”

Vold Greco said kids can be inspired by science when they are given a hands-on experience.

“We want to give kids an opportunity to experience science in a whole new way,” she said.

The exhibit also intended to give kids a role model besides an athlete or celebrity, said Haftom Dessalegn, an aerospace engineering sophomore and volunteer at the event.

“They are bright kids and they can be something,” he said.

” Freelance Editor Emily Kaiser welcomes comments at [email protected]