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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Seeing The World Differently
by Alastair Lee Bitsoi - Navajo Times
credits: photos by Donovan Quintero - Navajo Times

'Little Shop of Physics' Lets Kids Get Their Hands On Science

ST. MICHAELS, AZ., March 21, 2013 — Out of the 100 plus hands-on science projects that were part of Colorado State University's "Little Shop of Physics" lab on Monday at St. Michael Indian School, Leandra Slim enjoyed the "Horseshoe Magnet" exhibit the most.

The "Horseshoe Magnet" exhibit, like the name implies, is an electromagnet. It consists of a horseshoe wrapped in wire, and when electric currents flow through the wire it makes a magnetic field. The magnetic field then magnetizes the horseshoe, making it a very strong magnet.

"It's amazing how things can connect," said the 17-year-old, who enjoyed how the horseshoe would attract pieces of bolts through its electric current.

The "Little Shop of Physics," a K-12 hands-on science program at CSU, was on full display at St. Michael Indian School on Monday. On Tuesday, the lab made its way to Borrego Pass Community School in Borrego Pass, N.M., and later in the week to Aztec High in Aztec, N.M.

Students from CSU's Native American Cultural Center, the Little Shop of Physics and the College of Engineering's Women and Minorities in Engineering Program were on hand to show students how science can be fun.

The one-week tour by CSU students and staff across the Four Corners is also a recruitment drive to attract Native American students into the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic fields, said Ty Smith, the center's director.

"Outreach to youth is a priority for my office, especially since we're the only land-grant university in the state of Colorado," said Smith, who added CSU's Native American Legacy Award for non-Colorado Native American students reduces tuition to Colorado-resident rates.

Smith added the lab is a "fun and exciting" way for students to learn and experience physics – the study of matter and its motion through space and time.

Aaron Benally, program coordinator for WMEP, was also on hand to encourage students like Slim to consider studying one of the STEM fields during their undergraduate study.

"It is something attainable," Benally said. "It's possible."

About 36 self-reported Native Americans/Alaskan Native students are enrolled at CSU's College of Engineering, Benally said.

One of those is Kirtland, N.M. native Derrick Benallie, 29.

Benallie, a fourth-year student, said the advancement of technology is a major reason why he's studying electrical engineering with a concentration in optics.

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