John Zulaski’s presentation of the IEEE-Chicago Section’s Science Kits for Public Libraries Project at IEEE-USA’s Annual Meeting in May, served as powerful testament to IEEE’s continued dedication to provide pre-university students with educational opportunities in science and math--to enrich local communities, and stimulate the minds of tomorrow’s engineers.
During his presentation, John Zulaski spoke about the birth of this wonderful project. While he was serving on an advisory board for his local public library in 2009, Zulaski became very interested in the services his public library was offering to the local community. One service being offered was providing library members with “Take Home Learning Kits,” which people checked out for educational purposes. Existing kits covered topics such as history and social studies. But Zulaski was quick to notice the Take Home Learning Kits neglected two crucial topic areas--science and math. So he began to ask library staff: “Why not offer Learning Kits in these areas?”
Like most deficiencies in public libraries, the problem boiled down to a lack of funding. Recognizing the problem and willing to work toward a solution, Zulaski approached his local IEEE Section to gain their financial support to provide the library with Science Take Home Learning Kits. The IEEE Chicago Section fully embraced this opportunity, and graciously donated $5,000 to purchase not one, but eight science kits! With this funding, the library purchased kits that included model rockets, Van De Graaff electric generators, and chemistry sets--to list a few.
“These Kits were an instant success! To this day, you cannot keep the Van De Graff generator on the shelf,” Zulaski commented. “It was amazing! Some of the children, who had not had this opportunity before, now had their minds stimulated by these Science Kits!” To demonstrate the effectiveness of the Science Kits, John presented a video of a spin-off, after-school program called The Mad Scientist which utilizes the Science Kits for educational purposes.
Already, this story is an amazing one of how engineers involved with IEEE can make a difference within their local communities. But it doesn’t stop there! After seeing the instant success of the first Science Kits, Zulaski and other members of the Chicago Section submitted a proposal to the IEEE Foundation for additional Science Kits for public libraries around the country. Subsequently, the IEEE Foundation has approved a $40,000 grant for 26 Science Take Home Kits for other national public libraries!
The work of the IEEE Chicago Section, and community leaders such as John Zulaski, make me proud to be a member of IEEE! I challenge more engineers to explore these types of opportunities to help out in their own local communities, and fulfill IEEE’s motto to Advance Technology for Humanity. This session was a great highlight of this year’s IEEE-USA Annual Meeting.
Levi J. Lyons is IEEE-USA’s Young Professional’s Voice Editor.