Centenary College students and professors bring STEM programs to annual Barksdale Air Show

Centenary College students and faculty members will join dozens of other local STEM professionals this weekend in STEMZONE, part of the annual Barksdale Air Force Base Defenders of Liberty Air Show. Centenary will have three booths created and hosted by the College’s biology and kinesiology departments.

STEMZONE is organized by STARBASE, a U.S. Department of Defense-funded after school STEM mentoring program that brings science-based activities to students from 5th through 12th grades. STARBASE is an official Centenary community partner, a designation that allows students from the College to volunteer with the program and act as science mentors to local students.

Centenary’s biology department booth is a giant walk-through cell, allowing STEMZONE visitors to embark on a self-paced tour of different organelles and cellular components, including a cell nucleus and a mitochondrion, the powerhouse of the cell. Biology faculty members Dr. Rebecca Murphy, Dr. Scott Chirhart, and Dr. Jarret Richardson worked with theater professor Don Hooper to create the monumental space and structures. The booth also features several scannable QR codes that feature games created by Centenary students during their Cell Biology course.

“One of the things that sets Centenary apart from many larger institutions is our ability to make deep connections within the community,” noted Murphy. “Participating in this event reinforces our commitment to the next generation of STEM professionals, and the collaboration between the theater and biology department really highlights our strengths as a liberal arts institution.”

The College’s two kinesiology booths, created by Dr. Anna Leal and Dr. Xiaoxia Zhang, will engage visitors in movement-related activities and will also showcase a set of diverse anatomical models created last spring by Centenary students. Anatomical models are an important tool used in biology and kinesiology courses, but the vast majority of commercially-available models depict bodies that are young, lean, white, and male. Three Centenary students transformed some of the College’s existing anatomical models, which will be on display this weekend. The students have presented research talks based on their project at multiple academic conferences and will present at the American Physiology Summit in California next month. Meanwhile, Centenary students from the Motor Learning course will bring several interesting and entertaining lab experiments to this STEMZONE and lead the visitors to explore the underlying motor control and learning mechanisms of some daily activities/phenomena.

“Participating in this event is very meaningful, because it allows Centenary College students and professors to show some fun facts about the sciences to K-12 children and their parents, which may at some point trigger some new thoughts and ideas,” said Zhang. “College students can also apply what they learned in class to teach or show to a diverse group.”

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