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Science Wednesday: “Nifty Fifty” Scientist Inspires Next Generations of Innovators

2010 October 20

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By: Paul LaShier

On Thursday, October 7th, 2010, Dr. Paul Anastas, the Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development, visited Calvert Hall College High School in Baltimore, MD, as part of the USA Science and Engineering Festival’s Nifty Fifty Program.

The goal of the Nifty Fifty Program is to invigorate the younger generation, such as myself, to take on careers in the sciences, engineering, and technology.

Dr. Anastas started his lecture, titled Innovating Tomorrow, by presenting abstract images and asking the audience what they were. My personal favorite was when he used Georges Seurat’s painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Using Seurat’s technique of pointillism to his advantage, Anastas zoomed into the painting to show thousands of soda cans piled up in a landfill, representing the 106,000 aluminum cans we use every 30 seconds.

Dr. Anastas made it clear that we need to change the world. He told us that not everything is 100% perfect and that we cannot be lazy and expect someone else to fix it.

He let us know that we can do tremendous things, but that these things can have tremendous consequences, such as the BP oil spill. According to him, sustainable design would have made the BP oil spill impossible. He says it is not about making things less worse, but making things better, invoking us to view the way we approach problems differently.

To conclude his speech, Anastas then told us inspiring words that the innovators today will not be the innovators tomorrow. He was, in a sense, passing the torch to us, telling us we are the leaders we have been waiting for. He reinforced that innovation is not some abstract concept that we cannot really comprehend by stating that his iPhone has more computing capability than the entire mission control had during Apollo 11. This is only possible because of innovation.

Dr. Anastas accomplished the Nifty Fifty Program’s goal of inspiring students, and to say it in Dr. Anastas’ Boston dialect, he did so in “wicked awesome” fashion.

About the Author: Paul LaShier is currently a senior at Calvert Hall. Paul has a deep interest in the environment today, which has in a large part been influenced by his father, who like Dr. Anastas also works for the U.S. EPA.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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4 Responses leave one →
  1. armansyahardanis permalink
    October 21, 2010

    To do experiments Science & technologies need expensive costs and brilliant human resources. For these our students in my country just touch its sense and its aromas. I hope they do not plagiators, because we are only user not producer. Congratulations USA Science and Engineering Festival….!!!!

  2. Jesús Torres Navarro permalink
    October 23, 2010

    La ciencia nos permite entender los que es el mundo y porqué es así, pero creo que hay que ir más allá, tenemos que aportar nuestro grano de arena para hacer este mundo mejor para nosotros y para nuestros hijos; solo eso puede dar un verdadero sentido a nuestra vida
    Excelente artículo felicidades

  3. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    October 24, 2010

    Niffty Fifty is one of the great programs we have in the high schools today. And students today are going to be the innovators of tomorrow. Transportation will be a key issue. How to make public transportation more accessible, more efficient, and more environmentally friendly? The next generation of fixed route transit bus could be low floor built with a suspension system that allows the floor to ajust to sidewalk hight letting seniors and disabled persons walk on or roll on with their wheelchairs without having to climb steps or wait for a wheelchair lift to be deployed. The fare box would be modified so a fare would be paid by swiping or scanning a credit card, bank debit card, or transit district refillable smart card doing away with the need for cash and exact fare requirements that can be problems for disabled persons and seniors. The bus of the future would operate on all electric power, hydrogen power, or be an electric/hydrogen hybird. Solar power could be used to recharge the electric batteries on the bus and to manufacture hydrogen. A bus powered as an electric/hydrogen hybird would have the electric batteries recharged as needed in normal operations by the hydrogen cell, reducing the need to be taken out of service and go back to base to recharge the batteries. Someone has to put these ideas into a demonstration project, and then, someone has to move them from demonstration project into mainstream bus operations in our transit systems. Our transit systems are critical for the Clean Air Act to work, for California’s Global Warming Act to work, for the California Integrated Regional Land Use Act to work, and for transit dependent people in the disability and senior communities. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  4. share market permalink
    May 2, 2011

    I really appreciate your post and you explain each and every point very well.Thanks for sharing this information.And I’ll love to read your next post too.

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