Student Volunteers at MSU Theatre Use Drama to Engage People in Science

Picture a person sandwiched between two beds of pointy nails. Place a cement block on top and smash the block with a sledgehammer. The person between the nails is neither punctured nor smashed. How come? It’s science, Shannon Morey laughs.
Morey is director of the Michigan State University (MSU) Science Theatre. She and about 40 other students use the nail bed and other “look at that” demonstrations to pique the interest of children and adults and encourage greater respect for science.

Jobs in science fields are growing, yet training is falling short. Morey, the chemistry major, puts it gently.

“Americans in general, compared to other nations, are not as good at understanding science.”

A new study from the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) shows the problem begins early. About half of Michigan's tenth through twelfth graders failed the “proficient” level in science standards under the federal government’s No Child Left Behind Adequate Yearly Progress test, according to BIO.

The Science Theatre aims to change that picture, performing 35 times this past  year, mostly in schools. Its catalog lists 50 demonstrations, including dipping a banana into liquid nitrogen and then using it to hammer nails.
By the way, the nail bed demonstration works because the weight is evenly distributed over and under the person, thus dispersing the power of the sledgehammer. The force is divided by the area, Morey explains.

When people see it, they go "Wow!"

“We want people to know that science is cool,” Morey says.

Source: Shannon Morey, MSU Science Theatre

Gretchen Cochran, Innovation & Jobs editor, may be reached here.

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