Late last fall, the Crown Heights Library hosted several STEAM programs presented by science edutainer “Brainy” Bill Louden. From exploring the states of matter, to digging for fossils to spooky science, Brainy Bill made the learning experience accessible and fun for all! We hope to see more of Brainy Bill this summer as we explore “A Universe of Stories”.
Just for fun, we thought we’d get to know him better and ask him some mostly serious questions.
What exactly is an "edutainer"?
An edutainer gets to bring the best of both 'edu'cation and enter'tainment' to each event. Science can be difficult, and sometimes people worry whether or not they 'can' understand it or if they'll be interested in it. Laughter is disarming, so if an edutainer can get the crowd to have fun it's easier to communicate complicated ideas and get people excited about them. It's almost like you trick them into learning.
In your opinion, why is STEAM education so important?
STEAM education doesn't just give you a solid foundation in scientific and engineering careers; it empowers you to make critical, evidence-based decisions in everyday life, from deciding what foods to buy to what skin and hair care products to use. There's a lot of information out there, and STEAM skills can be a powerful tool to help sort out facts from marketing and misinformation.
What got you into teaching science?
I actually have more experience in the entertainment side of things; I was on track to become a musician but still had this desire to communicate how awesome I think science is. Then I discovered there was a career to be had in making watermelons explode, launching rockets, and mixing up spoopy chemical reactions. Some people are talented at communicating science as a classroom teacher or as a panelist and some, like me, prefer the spectacle of oversized, hilarious demonstrations.
What is your favorite thing about teaching in libraries?
My favorite thing about teaching in libraries is that everyone there has signed up to participate in the program so there's a built-in enthusiasm in the room before I even introduce myself. Students, parents, staff; everyone has signed up to be there, have fun, and experience the science. And because the libraries are so tied into their communities, word travels fast and soon everyone is peeking in and asking to join the fun!
What is your favorite program to present?
Definitely "Goin' Buggy". When you bring out stick bugs, millipedes, cockroaches, and even earthworms, you get to see the whole gamut of reactions from people. Everything from laughter to terror to squeamishness to wonder. Usually people experience a little of all of these, and you can see it on their faces. It's like a roller-coaster; people don't even always know how they're going to react until they're literally face-to-face with a Madagascar hissing cockroach for the first time.
What is the funniest kid's reaction you've ever had in a program?
Kids' logic can be as solid as it is silly. I was trying to get a group of kids at a party to help me figure out what to add to water to increase the surface tension (dish soap) by asking "What do we need to have to wash our hands and get rid of dirt and germs?..." and a kid immediately called out, "We have to have hands!" I had to admit, he wasn't wrong.
Who is your favorite scientist?
Carl Sagan, absolutely. His ability to make science profound, personal, and so imminently important is unmatched. I was a junior in the UB Music Department when someone turned me onto Cosmos and I realized I'd never watched it straight through. After a few nights of binging it on Netflix I was in the Physics building signing up for classes, and the rest is history. If you've seen me perform, though, you can guess that the Mythbusters come in a strong second place!
Give us your best mad scientist laugh spelled out.
Oh, well, a-hem...mmmwwWWAHH-AH-AH-AH-Ahhhh!!!!
For more STEAM fun at the library, search for Library Lab through our online events calendar.
And don’t miss SUMMER LAUNCH, our annual Summer Reading Kickoff, coming up on Saturday, June 1, 2019.