Youth stewardship ready to grow through national collaboration with safety science company

A youth stewardship program received more than just a $25k national award; they received an offer of support and collaboration from Underwriters Laboratory (UL).

The Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative received a national Environmental-STEM Innovative Education Award. To learn more about the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative and the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Innovative Education Award, read “Youth stewardship program receives $25K national award” by Michigan State University Extension.

The Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative was not only honored with an Innovative Education Award in North Carolina, but we also received an offer of support and collaboration from UL. UL is a premier global safety science company with more than 100 years of proven history.

Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative network coordinator Meaghan Gass and I traveled to Research Triangle Park in North Carolina to accept the UL Innovative Education Award on behalf of the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship. Upon arriving in North Carolina, we were greeted by Christiane Maertens, deputy director of the North American Association for Environmental Educators, and Cara Gizzi, director of education and outreach at UL. We spent the evening talk with the other four award winners along with Gizzi and Maertens.

The following morning began with breakfast at UL where we were joined by a number of UL employees who were interested to learn more about our efforts in connecting youth through environmental STEM. Next, each winning team presented an overview of their work to the other teams. Our presentations included time for questions and provided us the opportunity to learn more about environmental STEM efforts across North America.

The highlight of the trip was a tour of the UL testing laboratories and the chance to better understand the breadth of the work undertaken by UL. My favorite part was the helmet testing lab where the technician explained how they drop a large metal spike from a specific height so that it generated the minimal force the helmet must withstand for safety standards. During his explanation, the technician explained they calculate the force using force = mass x acceleration. It’s exciting to see real world examples of Newton’s Laws in use. I now have new examples for when youth ask, “When will I ever use this?” and I can respond, “In this really cool job. This is where you will use it!!”

Our UL tour included the testing pool for personal floatation devices, the electronics lab where everything from fans to light fixtures and vacuums were tested, and wrapped up at the extreme testing facility. This is where items could be tested under extreme temperature conditions and even in simulated earthquakes. We left Research Triangle Park with a greater understanding of UL, honored to have received the UL Innovative Education Award, and excited about new friendships and future opportunities.

While Gass and I were the ones accepting the award, we are but a small part of the larger Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative network that is working to grow environmental STEM in northeast Michigan. The picture above are members of the administrative team for the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative: Meaghan Gass with NEMIGLSI; Brandon Schroeder with Michigan Sea Grant/MSU Extension; Barb Frantz, executive director of the Community Foundation For Northeast Michigan; Sarah Waters with Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary; and Tracy D’Augustino with MSU Extension.

For more ways to share science with youth in your life, please explore MSU Extension’s Science and Engineering website. For more information about 4-H learning opportunities and other 4-H programs, contact your local MSU Extension office. To learn more about 4-H and Extension opportunities in Alcona County, stop by our Harrisville office at 320 S. US-23 or visit our Alcona County MSU Extension Facebook page.

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