Nanotechnology, a topic many adults never heard of, drew 150 excited Oakland youngsters to the City Council chambers on Saturday, Jan. 22.
The leader of the Youth Violence Community Task Force, Kweli Tutashinda, organized the event. He, like many other task force leaders have declared their intention to continue with implementation of the recommendations, utilizing the sense of participation and possibility which they achieved through the Task Force effort. Among the recommendations to slow youth violence was the idea that youth need jobs now and access to jobs of the future. Nanotech is the perfect example, since the Oakland area is one of the top areas of the country for nanotech development.
Many of the young people in attendance came from U.C. Berkeley and Holy Names Upward Bound programs. The behavior of the students and the spirit of the adults was inspiring. One adult counselor could be overheard coaching youngsters about how to interact with the community leaders they would be meeting throughout the day. Another offered the little-mentioned truth that “Your parent and grandparents built this building. Take care of it.”
The students were attentive and intrigued by the information. In one demonstration of Nanotech principles Nina Horne, who works at U.C., instructed half the youngsters to suck on hard candies and the other half to chew on the same type of candy. One brilliant youngster hypothesized that those chewing would finish more quickly than those sucking because “the surface area is greater” (after the candy has been chewed up into smaller pieces) illustrating an important principle of nanotechnology that “small is better.” Discussion questions for the follow-up groups included issues such as the ethical challenges of the emerging field.
In addition to Kweli Tutashinda, organizers of the event included researchers from The Center of Integrated Nanomechnical Systems (COINS); Chinyere Tutashinda who works for Youth Together; Oakland Parks and Recreation Department; Oakland Youth Commission; and others.