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People's Liberty grantee takes his mobile science lab to streets

Aaron Greene with the prototype of his mobile science lab, It's Just Science.


Aaron Greene has a passion for science. As the program chair for bioscience technology at Cincinnati State, his work “encapsulates everything from pharmaceuticals to environmental biology.” Bioscience technology is applied to things as varied as the creation of insulin for diabetics, techniques for cleaning up the Mill Creek watershed and the development of new foods and flavors.

Though Greene is well-versed in the many applications of science in our everyday lives, he recognizes that not everyone shares his understanding, and that many people regard science as intimidating.

“What I hear is that ‘science isn’t for me, I’m not good at it’,” he said. “But it’s not something for somebody else, and it’s not something you’re good at to start with. It’s for everyone.”

A desire to dispel the misconceptions about science led Greene to apply for a $10,000 People’s Liberty grant for a project he calls It’s Just Science.

“My main goal is to show people that it’s not scary," Greene said. "It’s much more accessible than people give it a chance to be.”

When he applied for the grant, he had to clarify exactly how he’d make science approachable for the general public.

“How do we get it out there and into the hands of people?” Greene briefly considered using a tent or a pop-up camper to house a portable science lab. “But we really wanted to reinforce the accessibility and make it as mobile as possible, so we settled on a tricycle.”

Greene worked with a custom tricycle company based in Oregon to create a collapsible lab on wheels. The trike includes fold-out shelves on the side, which Greene will pack with microscopes and DNA extraction kits as he travels throughout the city.

Greene is busy reaching out to local libraries, community centers, events and even breweries to bring his mobile lab to learners of all ages and experience levels. “The trike is to break down the initial barrier, lowering the hurdles to the public," he said.

“Demystifying science is at the heart of this whole project,” Greene said. The soft launch of the It’s Just Science tricycle will happen in the coming weeks, but Greene already has his sights set on big goals for the future.

“I’m looking at a physical presence in an unused storefront to do a larger launch,” he shared. Ultimately, Greene has dreams of establishing a community lab where people can explore science in a less stressful environment than the classroom, under the supervision of scientists and graduate students who know science and can answer questions.

“As a scientist, I already understand the uses for these technologies,” Greene said.

But he anticipates that engaging people from different backgrounds in scientific exploration could yield new approaches to old problems. “I’ll be interested to see what comes out of it. When you think outside the box and let new minds come in, that’s where you get a lot of new innovation.”

To get up-to-date information on upcoming It’s Just Science appearances and find out where you can catch it next, visit its Facebook page.

Twice per year, eight grantees are chosen per grant cycle to prototype solutions to civic challenges. Project grantees are supported with $10,000, a launch event and access to People’s Liberty’s workplace and mentorship. Stay tuned to Soapbox for profiles of this year's 15 other grantees.

 

Read more articles by Kamal Kimball.

Kamal Kimball is a freelance writer and co-founder of Ampersand Creative Services.
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