Annual AfterDark event gets students fired up for science

by Samantha Stark

starksa@mnstate.edu

Dragons AfterDark hosted their annual Science Night Wednesday in the Langseth Atrium and Hagen Hall with the help of volunteers from the  Chemistry and Biochemistry Club, Society of Physics, Pre-Health Professionals, Wild Life and Tri Beta.

The social experiment consisted of chemistry and physics activities and  demonstrations, homemade Dippin’ Dots, fire bubbles, planetarium showings, science BINGO, strawberry DNA extraction, dissections and more.

“It’s slightly academic, but fun at the same time,” chemistry and biochemistry instructor, Shireen Alemadi, who helps organize the event each year, said. “I know Dragons AfterDark always puts on great events, and a lot of them are fun and a way for students to interact, but this adds a little academic twist to it.”

Mitch Johnson, assistant director of First Year Programs, started the Science Night a few years ago when he was a graduate student.

“He brought it up to me that he was thinking of doing a Dragons AfterDark event in the science lab and was wondering if I could help him to think of some ideas of demos that can go on,” Alemadi said. “Mitch kind of spearheaded the idea, and I assisted with some of the science stuff.”

The experiments and activities presented at the event are demos the clubs typically do for outreach.

“Strawberry DNA we do for outreach a lot with 8th graders, 3rd graders and 5th graders,” Alemadi said. “It’s an easy way for people to see DNA and learn more about it.”

The clubs pick activities that show students the magic of science. Alemadi hoped the event would get students excited about it.

“A lot of students don’t go in this building,” she said. “They think, ‘that’s a science building,’ but they don’t often know what goes on in here. So, being able to provide an opportunity for students to interact with one another in this building with science majors and maybe understand science isn’t so scary and kind of cool.”

In addition, Alemadi said the event was designed to foster a better relationship with people all over campus as well as making students aware of what goes on in the building.

“A lot of times students wouldn’t be able to see the greenhouse or the aquariums or the planetarium or the wildlife rooms,” she said. “So, being able to give them that opportunity to tour those I think is good.”

Each year, Alemadi notices a decrease in the number of attendees. She remembers four to five hundred students lined up outside of  Langseth’s Atrium waiting for the doors to open the first year the event took place.

“I don’t know if it is due to the time of year or spring break just getting done,” she said. “But it has still been pretty popular every year because people love science.”

Although the attendance couldn’t compare to five hundred, this year’s event still managed to entertain more than a hundred students.

AfterDark graduate assistant Erin Edinger assumes the attendance is down due to the event being held later in the academic year.

“As the year goes on, we kind of expect there to be a drop in numbers,” she said.

She said she typically notices a decrease in attendance to AfterDark events toward the end of spring semester, so she was impressed with having even a hundred students attend Science Night.

AfterDark is planning to continue the tradition and host a Science Night next year, although they hope to position it at beginning of the semester.

“It was a really easy partnership, and we have done it for so long that all it took was calling Shireen [Alemadi] and saying, ‘Hey, do you want to do it this month?’ and just as long as we let them know far enough ahead of time they always seem happy enough to work with us,” Edinger said.

She said it’s one of the easier events for AfterDark to plan due to the cooperation and support from the science department and clubs.

“All the science-based stuff she [Alemadi] thought up and then we basically just brought in the food and the prizes,” Edinger said.

For more information about upcoming AfterDark events, visit mnstate.edu/afterdark/events.aspx.

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