NSF Billion Oyster Project video features Pace!

The National Science Foundation (NSF) released a cool new video featuring the Billion Oyster Project (BOP) and Pace University! The Billion Oyster Project is a community of students, teachers, scientists, volunteers, businesses, and schools. Its goal? Getting down and dirty to conduct research and restore the New York Harbor back to its oyster-inhabited glory. With a $5 million grant from the NSF, the project leaders hope to inspire students, specifically middle school students, to help drive the restoration.

At Pace University, the Curriculum and Community Enterprise for Restoration Science (CCERS) and BOP Fellowship trains teachers and educators how to engage students in environmental science and restoration ecology. In 2016, our annual STEM Collaboratory camp teamed up with BOP for an exciting two weeks of research, problem solving, and design thinking. We taught campers HTML, CSS, JavaScript and Google Charts to create a helpful solution.

The NSF video features our very own professor Lauren Birney, the director of Pace University’s STEM Collaboratory. “We’re creating this smart and connected community here in New York City, but then allowing that to grow into other communities,” Birney said. She hopes to build the Billion Oyster Project by continuing to target local middle schools in low-income neighborhoods where students are underrepresented in STEM fields.

Participants aren’t just making new friends, they’re also engaging in STEM activities while restoring the ecosystem in their own backyard! Hands on work teaches students how to measure oysters, test water samples, and other cool activities that keep them active and constantly contributing. The Billion Oyster Project’s website keeps track of teachers, students and volunteers’ work with an interactive map.

Learn more about the 2016 STEM Collaboratory NYC experience, or go further back and check out our Summer Scholars program’s awesome experience with the Billion Oyster Project in 2015!

“Smart and connected communities” come together at STEM Collaboratory oyster event

The STEM Collaboratory NYC held a fantastic event on June 8th involving dinner, panel discussions, and networking. The event, held at Pace University’s Schimmel Theater, focused on law and technology’s place in restoration, in particular the NY harbor restoration. The Seidenberg School is close to the Billion Oyster Project, which aims to restore the NY harbor back to its previous oyster-inhabited glory, and Billion Oyster Project co-founder, Murray Fisher, spoke on one of the panels.

After enjoying a buffet-style dinner of sandwiches, pastries, and – of course – oysters, attendees moved into the auditorium and were welcomed by Pace Provost, Uday Sukhatme, who made the opening remarks before passing the mic to Dr. Jonathan Hill, the Interim Dean of Seidenberg.

“This is a powerhouse of people who have innovative ideas about how to teach STEM in schools,” Dr. Hill said, before the first panel began.

20160608_171125_resizedThe Environmental Law and Policy panel included Murray Fisher, Steve Kass, Sean Dixon, and Andrea Leshak, and was moderated by John Cronin. The panel discussed environmental restoration, with Sean Dixon – who teaches Oceans and Coastal Law here at Pace – pointing out that “the biggest thing with oysters in NYC is how big an opportunity they are.” The restoration of the harbor to a point where oysters can once again populate the water means cleaner water for other things.

20160608_180509_resizedThe second panel invited top young entrepreneurs from the NY tech scene to present and discuss their projects. Among participants were Olga Bogomolova and Julie Gauthier, two Seidenberg students (as well as staff/professors!) who created coding app Codapillar together. Other panelists included the talented Delali Dzirasa and Carson Chodos, with the DOE’s Director of Technology and Engineering (Teaching and Learning Division), Nancy Woods, moderating.

20160608_182049_resizedFinally, Ben Bostick, Ray Sombrotto and Bob Newton took to the stage to discuss “Restoration Science – A Scientific Perspective.” They discussed the restoration of the NY harbor in a very optimistic light, with Ray explaining that “the focus on keystone species like oysters helps with restoration.”

“If you’re going to talk about restoration, you may as well shoot high,” he said.

The evening concluded with a raffle, where lucky several attendees won gift cards.

Thanks go out to Lauren Birney, Jonathan Hill, Brian Evans, Pace University and the NSF for making such a wonderful evening possible!

10th Annual Summer Scholars Experience

Every summer for the past 10 years, Seidenberg has hand-selected some of the highest-achieving high school students across the nation to be a part of the Seidenberg Summer Scholars Experience (SSSE). SSSE brings these scholars together on our campus in New York City for a week of mobile hacking that will prepare the scholars for a bright future in computer programming. The camp includes an intensive hackathon that challenges their skills in team work, ideation, programming, execution, and – dauntingly for some – presenting and displaying each step of their process to their peers and mentors. For students preparing for their final year of high school, it’s a big and exciting undertaking for the summer.

Amanda Zeitlin Nicole Budzinski

What is even more enriching in the Scholar Experience is that each summer we challenge the scholars to create an application that has the potential to help a cause. In some years this has been a call for apps that augment STEM education; in other years we focused on Cyber Security and User Experience. This year, we asked the scholars to create an app around the Billion Oyster Project, a project which Seidenberg has become proudly affiliated with over the past year through a generous grant awarded to the school by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Brandon Ingram Beck Fuga

Of course, along with the challenge of hacking for multiple hours a day, the Scholars Experience is always balanced with a collection of the best adventures in New York City. The scholars get a curated tour of the tech scene, including tours of Google and Microsoft’s headquarters. They also enjoy intimate visits to startups like AppFigures, which have been pioneered by Summer Scholars of the past, as well as Seidenberg alumni. Then, just to be absolutely certain that this experience is unforgettable, the Scholars are also treated to performances like Fuerza Bruta and some of the delicious cuisine that this city has to offer.

Nicole Feygin Joe Redling-Pace

Not only are mentors and professors shocked every year by what these scholars can accomplish in just a week, but the scholars themselves  surprised even themselves with their skills! One of our scholars from Staten Island, Nicole Budzinski (top right), expressed that her own abilities surprised her, as she hadn’t taken on a project quite like this before. On the experience overall, Amanda Zeitlin and Nicole Feygin (top left and bottom right) both laughingly agreed that they were surprised to have found such good friends at “nerd camp.”  With a week’s worth of days filled with fun, vigor, and excitement, the scholars are able to form long-lasting friendships with their team mates from across the States. On top of that, participants will always have a direct connection to the heart of NYC through their mentors and professors at Seidenberg.

For more information on this year’s scholars, take a look at our video introducing each scholar! Plus, this year we’ve made daily videos that can be found on our YouTube channel.

(Pictured from top: Amanda Zeitlin from NY, Nicole Budzinski from NY, Brandan Ingram from OK, Beck Fuga from PA, Nicole Feygin from MI, and Joe Redling-Pace from NJ. Photography credit belongs to Noura Boustany Jost).

More photos of the experience can be found on the Seidenberg Facebook page.