"It was fantastically successful. We saw over 4,000 people and had really meaningful interactions with almost all of them. We will definitely go back!"
Project X connects Oregon State University faculty interested in sponsoring outreach in STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — with graduate and undergraduate students who are dedicated to completing STEM outreach activities.
Who can join? Why join?
Anyone and everyone is welcome. Get involved if you want to help kids, build cool science demos, teach, make videos, be on YouTube, manage projects, learn about social media — everything! We can always use more help, and since we are a melding of science, art and performance, everyone has something they can bring to the table.
How did you get involved?
I founded Project X within an effort to help teach kids about what scientists and engineers actually do. Especially what you learn in college and how you then use that in a career. I have seen so many freshmen come into an intro engineering course, stand up the first day and say something like, “I want to be an engineer so that I can build a better bicycle,” or, “I want to be an engineer and build roller coasters.” Now the reality is, they could do that, but the chances are they will do something else. Simply put, we can’t all build roller coasters, but that doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t be even happier doing something else. Most freshmen just don’t know what they could do because they don’t know what engineers or scientists actually study. This isn’t a failing on anyone, but it’s a challenge that I think we can overcome. I started Project X with the mission of generating STEM curriculum in an open-source environment. More to the point, all of our curriculum is based on things that you will actually learn and that apply to a wide range of subject matter. A lot of demonstrations on YouTube do things because they look cool. We want to do that, but the bigger goal is doing that in a way that really teaches the audience rather than just builds views. I want to help people succeed and to do that, we have to teach them. Whoever said learning couldn’t be fun?
What is your best memory?
Probably the Oregon State University School of Mechanical, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering booth at the United States Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C. The school head tasked Project X with developing a set of hands-on, exciting demos that we could take to D.C. and teach kids about. Now, this festival is massive. It is the entire D.C. convention center and has famous guest speakers like Will Wheaton and Bill Nye, and we were out there with big names like MIT, NASA, Orbital ATK, Space X and Lockheed Martin. I got laryngitis the first night there, but since I was the head guy, I had to push through. For two days our booth was packed; the audience loved us, and we saw more people at our booth than at some of the big-name schools. Our team did a great job and was able to jump in and take over the presentations when my voice gave out altogether. It was fantastically successful. We saw over 4,000 people and had really meaningful interactions with almost all of them. We will definitely go back!
What is the community like?
Everyone is fun and excited, and we all just want to help kids to learn about STEM. We build all of our own demos and everyone is very hands-on. It’s very welcoming and fun, and working with the kids is always a blast.
When did you first feel a sense of belonging on campus?
Oregon State is just generally welcoming.
How have you grown from being involved?
As the president and founder of Project X, I have had to really be on my game. I interact with faculty, school heads, the dean on occasion and all sorts of community groups. It’s been a great learning experience and will be invaluable as I move forward in my career.