University City Science CenterNew FirstHand Lab Is Dedicated to STEAM Programming for Middle-Schoolers

There’s nothing more meaningful to a student than hands-on experience. For the last 18 months, that has been the operating philosophy of the University City Science Center’s STEAM Initiatives program, which uses the Arts to engage students with the STEM subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Beginning today, STEAM Initiatives has a new name and website that captures the power of firsthand experiences: FirstHand.

Equal parts Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math, FirstHand’s mission is to provide Philadelphia’s curious minds access to the knowledge and resources of the Science Center.

FirstHand programming serves local youth from under-resourced schools and the teachers and professionals from their communities. FirstHand aims to spark an interest in the STEAM disciplines for students to explore and cultivate, now and throughout their lives.

“As we look to Philadelphia’s future, we must strive to keep the talent pipeline filled with students who are prepared to become the innovators of the future,” explains Science Center President & CEO Stephen S. Tang, Ph.D., MBA. “That’s where FirstHand comes in, tying into key areas of the Science Center’s mission and activities, including workforce development, resident engagement, community engagement and placemaking.”

FirstHand lessons are brought to life at the new FirstHand Lab, among Port incubator companies on the Science Center campus. By dedicating a lab to FirstHand programs, the Science Center is providing students with a space to experiment and discover firsthand, alongside scientists and educators. Engaging projects provide a gateway to creative, design-based applications of science and technology. FirstHand programs also feature mentorships with scientists from the Science Center’s resident companies, where students learn about and experience STEM entrepreneurship in real-world applications.

Current FirstHand programs include AmpItUp, which explores the inner workings of the batteries and circuits; DNA Selfie, a girl-focused workshop where participants create a new kind of self-portrait by examining their cells using photo-microscopy; and PolymerPlay, where students use laser cutters, power tools and vacuum seals to design their own bio-plastics. For educators interested in bringing this inquiry-based learning into their schools, FirstHand also offers teacher workshops and training sessions focused on integrating STEAM practices into the classroom.

“The renaming and branding of STEAM Initiatives as ‘FirstHand’ was designed to capture the spirit of its programming. The name evokes the eager student in the front row of the class who raises her hand first, to ask ‘Why?’ or to answer a question,” explains Antoinette Marie Johnson, CEO of At Media, the agency engaged by the Science Center to develop the new brand and website. “‘FirstHand’ helps students understand that the programs offer real-life experiences, to get them so excited about learning that we can envision the entire class shooting their hands up quickly, ready and willing to participate.”

FirstHand is supported by generous donations from Cognizant Making the Future, The Dow Chemical Company’s Dow Gives Program, The Lenfest Foundation, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Rainin Instruments LLC, Thermo Fisher Scientific and Wexford Science + Technology, A BioMed Realty Company.

To learn more about FirstHand, visit www.firsthandphilly.org.

 

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