Youth take first step toward science career

10/8/2008 - By: Alice Good

Twelve-year-old Tanaya James is anxious to show people how they can conserve water in their potted plants through the use of superabsorbent polymers, called hydrogels.

“I have always tried to save water,” said the 7th-grade, Mendive Middle School student, who wants to become a veterinary scientist. “I also like public speaking, and so I’d like to show other people how they can save water in their homes.”

James and other Sparks and Reno students will celebrate the first annual 4-H National Youth Science Day by demonstrating water conservation experiments on Wednesday, Oct. 8, at 4 p.m., in the University’s Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center’s Randall Rotunda.

“These experiments and competitions are good opportunities for youth of all ages to get excited about science, technology, engineering and math, and particularly careers in these fields,” said Karen Hinton, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension dean and director.

Under the supervision of water scientists, 4-H youth will demonstrate how well hydrogel polymers (long molecule chains that grab onto water molecules) absorb water from a disposable diaper and from potting soil in an experimental soaker. A short discussion will follow about the effectiveness of this technology in environmental conditions, such as indoor and outdoor gardening.

Watching the demonstration will be representatives of Gathering Genius, Inc., a Nevada nonprofit organization that will support and host the world’s largest pre-college science competition May 10-16, 2009, in Reno. The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) is the world’s only science, math and engineering project competition for high school students. It is expected to draw 6,000 visitors to Nevada and generate $6.6 million in travel and tourism revenue to the state.

Representatives of Gathering Genius will share comments about how area students can be prepared and mentored to participate in scientific presentations and competitions, and potentially advance to international competitions such as the Intel ISEF.

“Mentoring and encouraging young students to participate in science competitions and demonstrations can build their confidence,” said Hinton. “This contributes to their success as a student and helps them continue on a path to a college degree and, ultimately, to join the workforce in the era of globalization.”

This national science initiative—an activity of National 4-H Week, Oct. 5-11—hopes to inspire the 6 million 4-H members to explore scientific careers, and in turn, make a difference in their communities.

House Resolution 1390, passed Sept. 22, recognizes 4-H National Youth Science Day because “the need for science education, especially outside the classroom, is crucial to our country’s ability to remain globally competitive.”


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