USA Science and Engineering Festival

Science Wednesday: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math; It’s for Everyone

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

By Caitlin Haworth (Caitlin is student at J.E.B. Stuart High School.)

Dr. Kevin Teichman, the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Science in EPA’s Office of Research and Development, was part of the Nifty Fifty Program [editor’s note: The Nifty Fifty Program was part of the USA Science & Engineering Festival events] that brought top scientists to DC-area schools to get students interested and concerned about the future of engineering and science.

During Dr. Teichman’s visit to J.E.B. Stuart High School, not many students knew what to expect. Within the first few moments of the speech, however, he had everyone’s attention. The way he compared his high school years to those of students now was truly amazing.

Between 1966 and 1970 (Dr. Teichman’s high school years), a 1963 Ford Galaxy consumed leaded gas at about 28 cents per gallon. Now, the average cost of unleaded gas in the U.S. is $2.73, almost 10 times the price 47 years ago. On average, a 1963 Ford Galaxy got about 10 miles per gallon (mpg). Today, Dr. Teichman’s gas-electric hybrid car gets about 57 mpg, which far surpasses the average U.S. mpg at 22.6 mpg.

All of this just goes to show how much the world is growing year by year, generation by generation.

In Dr. Teichman’s generation, discoveries made in the science community led to many laws and regulations that changed the world. In 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency was created. In the same year the Clean Air Act was passed, setting boundaries on air pollutants. Two years later, EPA removed lead from gas. This one task decreased lead counts in the air by 98%.

Finally, in 1993 EPA concluded that secondhand-smoke can cause cancer and respiratory problems in children and the elderly. As Dr. Teichman mentioned, in the early 90’s, secondhand-smoke was the cause for approximately 3,000 deaths per year.

As the previous generations continue to change the world, they leave behind more challenges for the generation of today’s students. Among these challenges are global climate change, environmental justice, rises in autism, green chemistry and renewable energy. Currently the science world is facing challenges with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Many people are coming together to clean up the mess and ensure that it will not happen again.

As Dr. Teichman concluded, “you don’t succeed overnight.” Everyone can work together to change the world and that is just what the science community does daily.

About the author: Caitlin Haworth is a student at J.E.B. Stuart High School.

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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

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

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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.