Science becomes fun at Hunts Point studio

Photo by Janie Thomas

Yazmin and Jacob Mercado test the heart's electricity at Iridescent Science Studio's Family Night.

Iridescent lights a spark for children and their families

Ten-year-old Winfred Darko looked on as electrical sparks flew from the apparatus in front of him.

 A student at Hyde Leadership Charter School, after getting a lesson, he had built the device to mimic the part of the heart that causes it to beat by generating electrical impulses. “I liked the experiment because at school we don’t usually do stuff like this,” he said.

Winfred was among the dozens of youngsters who brought their parents and caregivers to Family Science Night at Iridescent Science Studio in the BankNote building on Garrison Avenue this spring.  The free, four-week program highlights the primary mission of Iridescent—to interest children of color in science and engineering, and to encourage them to consider careers in those fields.

The heart exhibit proved particularly popular at the event, in which parents joined their children in undertaking experiments.

 “I came here because my school recommended me to come and I thought it would be a nice experience for my mom and dad to come,” explained Ashlyn Paneto, 13.

 “I liked to learn so much about the heart. It pumps a lot,” said Joel Gomez, 9, adding, “I will come back on Friday.”

College students Durin and Denisa Lleshi, who are studying engineering at Cooper Union, lectured about the parts and functions of the heart, then showed the kids and parents how to build the model. With tape and scissors, each family cut a heart-shaped image from poster board, then taped a light bulb wired to a battery to it. When the wire was touched the battery, a spark jumped from the model.

 “Nice,” said Antonia Torres, 7, who added that she liked seeing the spark best. “It teaches about what happens in your heart,” Antonia explained.

Like her son, Winfred’s mother Azi Lossiwa, was fascinated by the heart. “I liked the experiments, especially because of the heart. When they let us do this experiment, the light came on. I really enjoyed the hands-on approach,” she said.

That’s the kind of reaction Bryan Johnston, the director of Iridescent Science Studio, hoped for. “We want to inspire, educate, and get kids connected with science in a fun way,” he said.

 “Kids who participate in our programs not only learn some things by hearing, but also learn some things by doing,” said Erika Allison, Iridescent’s executive director, whose eyes lit up when she talked about the program. “The kids can be an inventor of their own learning and their own projects.”

The Science Center chose Hunts Point because it is an underserved community and because people of color are under-represented in science and engineering careers. But Iridescent’s programs are unique not only in Hunts Point but in the New York area, said Johnston. “The idea is to build the space and expand it into a New York-wide science center so kids from all over the boroughs can come,” he said.

Carmen Rodriguez, a Hunts Point resident who accompanied her children to the Family Science Night, was pleased. “It was cool. It was nice. It was my first time and it was a nice learning experience. In the community we do not have anything to do, so it gives the family something to do on Fridays. I will definitely be coming back,” she said.

A version of this story appeared in the June 2011 issue of The Hunts Point Express.

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