STEAM & Families Science Festival
with IDEA New Rochelle VR/AR/360 Video and fellows
Greetings from the inaugural STEAM & Families Science Festival, sponsored by Bayer, at the Albert Leonard Middle School (ALMS) in New Rochelle!
On a beautiful June evening, excited students and their families descended on this suburban middle school to celebrate STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math. STEAM education has gained significant momentum in recent years as Americans realize the value of encouraging these students to pursue these specialized disciplines. It is a lofty goal: to inspire and engage their minds, to think critically and creatively when often we aren’t given much more than a few minutes to draw them in, to excite them.
It was with this objective that Omer Uzun, Aina Lakis (PTA STEAM Committee Members at ALMS)and Julie Verville, the New Rochelle middle school science chairreached out to IDEA NR a few months ago. They heard that New Rochelle was selected for Bloomberg Philanthropies’ 2018 Mayors Challenge. Coincidentally,
ALMS PTA was also a recipient of a grant from Bayer. And with that funding, the first (and hopefully annual) ALMS PTA Science Festival was born.
Omer Uzun is something of a techie himself (ahem … a bit of an understatement about an MIT alum). Because of his own interests and skillset it became clear that IDEA NR’s initiatives were in line with his school’s goals. There was an opportunity to collaborate with the School District as well as promoting our organization in the community! Our Fellowship / Residency Program is chalk full of the best creative and technological minds in the industry and they could share that same enthusiasm with these students. So we loaded up our equipment and ventured from our Lab above the train station to the tree-lined streets of New Rochelle.
Our mini team consisted of our awesome resident, Bayeté Ross Smith, (Check out his TED talks here). He showed the kids the camera and how it worked. They looked at the controls and the view from the camera on the Samsung phone through the gear 360 App. When they put on the headsets they were looking at a 360 video he created with POV and The NY Times about Ruby Bridges. The video was shot on site at the school which was formerly William Frantz Elementary school and they drew in the archival photographs that documented Ruby’s process the first few days, of integrating in that school in New Orleans in November of 1960. The audio was narration by Ruby’s teacher, Barbara Henry, describing the first day and the entire school year, when Ruby was the only child in that school because the white parents withdrew all their kids.
Bayeté was a rock star with these kids. They gathered around him, waiting for their turn to put the headsets on. They were riveted to the screen and twirling their bodies to match the movement of the video.
Our other creative resident was Charity Everett whose project told the story of Eve who is on a heroine’s journey from the beginning of time to present day using the bleeding edge technology of augmented reality. We needed to download HP Reveal App for this project, Go Back and Fetch It. The intention was for these students to view Charity’s large wall art through this lens and the story would come to life.
Our brilliant and thoughtful Creative Lab Tech, Mahe Dewan, came with his own friendly assistants (the fabulous Jackie and Malcolm) whose energy was contagious. They brought our Oculus headset and a laptop to demo a VR experience for these kids (and adults too, I might add!). Mahe presented them with a cave experience utilizing 3D sound and breathtaking visuals that put users on an “on-rails” experience as they traversed automatically through a deep yet light filled cove, with natural waterfalls, neon light markers, and an ominous implication of something deeper. You can imagine how popular this demo was. The kids were hanging around during the setup so they didn’t lose their place in line. ALMS’ principal, Mr. Barnes, even took a turn as we got to enjoy his VR dance!
It was great to see New Rochelle’s Mayor, Noam Bramson, who stopped by to say ‘hello’ and to wish us well!
The entire event was tremendous! Staff, parents and students at Albert Leonard Middle School treated us wonderfully. Thank you for inviting us, and congratulations on your success! Perhaps we’ll see you again next year!