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Center for Biotechnology Education Inspires Next Generation at Science Fest

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Thousands of school-age children visited the Johns Hopkins University Center for Biotechnology Education booth at the USA Science & Engineering Festival Expo to dissect owl pellets and learn about the harmful effects of ultraviolet light.

The Center for Biotechnology Education participated in the fifth biennial event, held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. The three-day event, considered the largest science festival in the country, featured approximately 3,000 hands-on activities presented by hundreds of universities and public and private organizations.

The Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth; biophysics department; physics department; applied mathematics and statistics department; and Applied Physics Laboratory also showcased at the festival.

At the Center for Biotechnology booth, students used tweezers to dissect sterilized owl pellets in a search for bones. Owls eat their prey and swallow their food whole. They regurgitate what they can’t digest. By picking apart the pellets and scrutinizing them under a microscope, young scientists could determine which animals the owls had eaten. The kids thought the activity was cool, gross -- or a combination of the two.

In another activity, the students each strung three ultraviolet-sensitive color changing beads onto a pipe cleaner. When the white beads were exposed to ultraviolet light, they changed to a vibrant color. The exercise was a way to explain to children that ultraviolet light can be dangerous, can cause sunburn and can even damage our cells.

Outreach to K-12 students is an important part of the Center for Biotechnology’s role in the community, as faculty and staff strive to spark children’s early interest in science. In addition to K-12 outreach initiatives, the Center for Biotechnology Education offers classes through Advanced Academic Programs, a division of Johns Hopkins’ Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. Part-time graduate degree programs are offered at the Montgomery County Campus.

Founded by serial entrepreneur Larry Bock and Lockheed Martin executives to address the shortage in science and technology talent, the USA Science & Engineering Festival is the nation’s largest science festival and was developed to ignite the next generation’s interest in pursuing careers in science and engineering, according to festival organizers.

CATEGORY: K-12 Outreach, In The Community