Friday, September 29, 2006

Hip Hop and Science at Duke

[Duke Chronicle Article]

CIEMAS brings hip- hop to middle school

Leigh Wilson

Posted: 9/29/06

Hip-hop and science may seem like an odd pair, but students from Githens Middle School found yesterday afternoon that the two actually "mix" quite well.

Students participated in an interactive performance called Mix Tapestry Thursday that used the technology of Duke's Fitzpatrick Center for Interdisciplinary Engineering, Medicine and Applied Sciences studio along with hip-hop lyrics to inspire them to pursue educational opportunities in science and technology.

Middle school students at the University of Illinois were able to participate via the Internet, as well.

Robi Roberts, also know as J Bully, is a hip-hop artist and adjunct faculty member at Duke who performed his original rap, "Lemonade." The song encourages students to pursue an education with lyrics such as, "get your bachelors, your masters, and your doctorate. It's there if you want it. You're the only one stopping it."

As students danced along, the motion of their dancing was captured by webcams around the room, and computers turned this motion into sound, transforming the studio into a space that could be "played" like a musical instrument.

Roberts stressed the importance of combining student interests with a positive message.

"If you get students involved using something they're into, they are much more likely to remember the experience," he said.

Kitty Brawley, the 8th grade councilor at Githens Middle School, also spoke out about the importance of these types of experiences for students.

"Our students don't do well in traditional classrooms all the time, so the opportunity to be interactive helps them to get excited about education."

Ginny Darnell, an elective math teacher at the school, also confirmed the effectiveness of the project for students.

"A fun technological exposure will allow them to know that [technology] is here to help them broaden their horizons," she said.

The students expressed a desire to hold a variety of different occupations such as a pediatrician, an artist, a lawyer, a basketball player, a cosmetologist and a police officer in the future.

The project Thursday helped them to see that both science and technology will be important in any of these jobs, said Rachael Brady, director of the Visualization Technology Group and the coordinator of the event.

"The idea is to make science and technology relevant to the African-American culture through an instance of their culture," Brady said.

"It shows that everybody, even rappers, need to learn these things so they do too," she added.

The experience also encouraged the students to spread the message about the importance of technology to other student as well.

"It helped me want to help get others involved now that I have had a chance to be involved myself," said Jessica Lunsford, a student from Githens Middle School.

Matthew Etherington, who teaches at the nearby Camelot Academy, heard about the performance from a parent of a student who works at the University.

Etherington requested his students be allowed to participate at the studio as well.

"I've been teaching my high school students music technology mainly using [the Apple program] GarageBand and they have been creating their own pieces," he said. "This seems like an interesting way for them to see how interactive and applicable the music technology they are learning about can be."