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