Love of Science Is Contagious
Ashley McCray is one busy woman, but she jumped at the chance to spend two days helping young kids get excited about science.
McCray, a college student who works as a co-op for Dow’s Michigan Operations, volunteered at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Science and Engineering Festival at Delta College in Bay County, Mich., in October. On the festival's first day, more than 2,500 middle school students swarmed the college's gymnasium and surrounding hallways, where about 30 exhibitors set up a range of demonstrations, experiments and displays designed to show kids the cool side of science and engineering. Dow was the primary sponsor of the event. The festival opened to the public on the second day, and organizers said more 5,000 people passed through over the two days.
"I love this," McCray said as she showed a gaggle of giggling students how the polarity differences between crayons and paint can result in artistic magic. "I love kids. I love science. I love when people have passion for science."
McCray certainly knows about passion. She grew up in suburban Chicago, is a chemical engineering major at the University of Pittsburgh and spent four weeks last summer volunteering and doing research at a hospital in Tanzania. Now she's part of an effort to raise donations and supplies for the hospital. And her life's dream is to create a nonprofit organization dedicated to developing ways for people everywhere to have sustainable sources of food.
McCray's passion for science began as a high school student, when she watched a demonstration of mousetrap cars. Then she took part in an engineering program at the University of Illinois.
"Meeting college engineering students and talking to them and hearing their dreams and goals, and knowing that there were other people who thought like I did, that sealed the deal," McCray said.
Now it's her turn to spread the word about the excitement of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers. She is the Region 2 program chairwoman for the National Society of Black Engineers; Dow is a sponsor of NSBE and a member of its Board of Corporate Affiliates.
So McCray saw the Science & Engineering Festival as an opportunity, not an obligation.
"One day, when you're in eighth grade, can make or break what you're going to do for your whole life," McCray said, recalling how one girl beamed with excitement when McCray's polarity demonstration reached its big reveal. "If that's the only person who gets an epiphany today, I will be happy."