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Youngest ALS Users Go to the White House Print


Christine Mytko, Patricia Falcone (White House Office of Science and
Technology Policy), Sam Schickler, and Jane Yarnell.

Two seventh graders from Black Pine Circle (BPC) School in Berkeley, who came to the ALS last November on a field trip that included actual beam time earned through peer-reviewed proposals, have now made it all the way to the White House.

Samuel Schickler and Jane Yarnell, along with their science teacher Christine Mytko, were invited to attend the first-ever White House "Maker Faire." The event featured "Makers, innovators, and entrepreneurs of all ages who are using cutting-edge tools to bring their ideas to life."

The White House Maker Faire website describes how the BPC students "used a powerful x-ray beam at the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science's Advanced Light Source to get high-resolution scans of samples they selected, then used open source visualization software and 3D printing to make enlarged physical models, revealing the samples' internal microstructures."

The first-ever White House Maker Faire was held on Wednesday, June 18, 2014.

The students' presentation of their work had earned them high honors at a regional Maker Faire held May 17–18 in San Mateo, where they won Editor's Choice and Best in Class awards for demonstrating "great creativity, ingenuity and innovation."

At the White House, the students rubbed shoulders with fellow innovators from across the country, whose do-it-yourself projects ranged from a robotic giraffe to a low-cost, non-electric infant warmer that can help save premature babies in rural villages. They were present in the East Room where President Obama, in his remarks, said that the "democratization of manufacturing" exemplified by the Maker Faire "gives you a sense that we are at the dawn of something big," noting that comparisons have been made to where we were with the Internet 25 to 30 years ago.

The President also highlighted the importance of learning by doing and asked how we might redesign high schools so that young people can do more than just sit and listen to a lecture. "So math, science all gets incorporated into the task of actually making something, which the students tell me makes the subject matter that much more interesting."

Left: Microtomographic image of an eggshell. Right: Several 3D prints of the eggshell data.

The journey from BPC to D.C. began last fall with lessons that had been developed by Mytko during a summer internship at ALS Beamline 8.3.2, with Beamline Scientist Dula Parkinson. The lessons culminated last November in a class visit to the ALS, and those whose proposals were scored highest by fellow classmates used Beamline 8.3.2 to scan their samples, including things such as egg shells, snake skin, and duct tape. The students then used the microtomography data to 3D-print blown-up versions of their samples, some of which Jane and Sam carried in their pockets with them to the White House.