While visiting Homewood campus on Wednesday, fifth-grader Levon Brown from nearby Barclay Elementary/Middle School struggled to take off one of the famous Johns Hopkins Ebola suits without letting the bright yellow exterior touch his unprotected skin.
"It was hard," he said. Nearby, his friend, Yasmim Carter, danced in another Ebola Suit, and then struggled to get the garb off, too.
"At first I thought I wasn't going to be able to breathe," Brown continued "But you can breathe through that big mask … We need the doctors to take the suit off that way so they will stay safe." Carter agreed: "They do it that way to protect the workers."
This quick lesson in health care protective equipment, and the Ebola virus, was part of a daylong field trip for 25 Barclay students, who participated in STEM-enhancing activities ranging from trying on the Ebola suit to manufacturing with a 3-D printer to learning about the Hubble Space Telescope.
Whiting School of Engineering Dean Ed Schlesinger greeted the students in Shaffer Hall: "I think that it is wonderful and so important that you are studying engineering because there are big problems out there that the world needs engineers to solve … The world needs more engineers and I want to encourage all of you to continue your engineering studies. I hope you all become engineers."
In November, the Whiting School of Engineering and Baltimore City Public Schools partnered in a $10 million effort to designate Barclay as the city's first pre-K through eighth grade school dedicated to giving students a foundation in engineering and computer skills. The curriculum is supported by Whiting School educators and coordinated through the university's Center for Educational Outreach. A new STEM/computer laboratory, co-founded by JHU and city schools and outfitted with cutting-edge technology, opened at Barclay in the fall.
The new partnership works hand-in-glove with "STEM Achievement in Baltimore Elementary Schools"—SABES for short—a National Science Foundation-funded collaboration between Baltimore City Public Schools and Johns Hopkins University, aimed at improving educational outcomes in STEM disciplines throughout Baltimore City's elementary schools.
After meeting Dean Schlesinger, the students split into two groups—dividing their time between the Department of Biomedical Engineering's Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design (CBID) and the Space Telescope Science Institute. On the way across campus, students played a form of BINGO that challenged them to locate various objects and places on campus, from a recycling bin and the Gilman clock tower to a residence hall and the JHU shield.
At the Space Telescope Science Institute, educators Jessica Kinney and John Maple talked to the students about the Hubble Space Telescope, telling them it was the first major infrared-optical-ultraviolet telescope to orbit around the Earth from its perch 350 miles away. To demonstrate how Hubble "sees," Maple and Kinney trained a special heat-detecting video camera on the students. The students seemed fascinated by how warm spots (including their own bodies) appeared light orange on the monitor, and how cooler spots (including their hands, after they each held an ice cube) appeared in black.
Meanwhile, over in the BME Design Studio, Chris Browne, senior laboratory coordinator, was teaching students how a 3-D printer layers materials to make a solid gadget. Nearby, Teaching Fellows Victory Yu and Aaron Chang were helping students into and out of the Ebola suits. At least one student, Carter, seemed intent on studying a STEM subject. "I'm going to start with math."