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UNE students and faculty educate hundreds of children at Maine Science Festival

Members of the UNE Chemistry Club at the Maine Science Festival
Members of the UNE Chemistry Club at the Maine Science Festival

April 10, 2018

A group of students and faculty members representing a wide range of disciplines led educational talks and activities at the Maine Science Festival in Bangor, Maine. The festival, which attracted over 9200 visitors over the weekend,  is a celebration of science committed to dissecting, exploring and celebrating the remarkable science, engineering, mathematics and technology happening in Maine every day. UNE has been a major sponsor of the of the festival since its inception in 2014. Associate Professor Michael Burman, Ph.D. serves a scientific advisor to the festival and helped to coordinate UNE’s involvement.  

Burman gave a talk titled, “When life gives you lemons: neuroscience of early life trauma,” about his research investigating the long-term consequences of neonatal pain and stress on subsequent fear, anxiety and pain. This talk was part of the 5-minute genius series which aims to bring exceptional science occurring in Maine to a lay audience.  

The UNE Chemistry Club presented an activity called "Take a Bite Out of Ocean Plastics" in three separate workshops with about 25 middle school students and faculty in each one. Members of Chemistry Club began by explaining the definition and importance of Green Chemistry. For one portion of the demonstration, they showed small, ground-up pieces of plastic in bags and had the audience guess the item that was in the bag. They also showed the audience a piece of fishing wire as well as a filament taken from the wire and explained how the filament could be recycled and used for other purposes. The last portion of the activity consisted of making edible juice pods by mixing sodium alginate with juice and adding a spoonful of that into a solution of calcium lactate and water. 

The UNE Math Club led an activity called, “Code-a-pillar,” which teaches kids about coding by guiding a robotic caterpillar (a code-a-pillar) through a competitive obstacle course. Participants add and/or take away directional pieces to sequence their code-a-pillar toward an end-point goal. The minimalistic activity teaches key, basic ideology about coding, such as sequential and progressional coding, and also teaches problem solving and team work. 

Julie Peterson, Ph.D., associate professor of Psychology and director of Women's and Gender Studies, was a panelist for a talk about implicit bias. Panelists discussed the subtle, non-conscious biases that we all carry into our daily interactions with people from different groups. They described research conducted here in Maine that helps us understand the situations where our implicit biases might be most powerful, and talked about tools to both identify and reduce these prejudices. 

Professor James Sulikowski, Ph.D., gave a presentation about sharks in Maine centered around shark species found in our waters and the research Sulikowski conducts on them, as well as other species around the U.S. 

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