FT. BELVOIR, Va. (10/11/2012) - Understanding monoclonal
antibodies can be difficult for a college student to understand, but
explaining it to elementary age children can be a daunting task.
April 29, 2012 - Dr. Bob Moyer, a microbiologist with Defense Threat Reduction Agency's
Chemical and Biological Technologies Department (DTRA CB), watches
as a young girl tries to complete a puzzle while wearing rubber
gloves at the United States Science and Engineering Festival in
Washington, D.C., this past April. Moyer, along with a couple of his
colleagues from DTRA CB, volunteered to work at the festival as a
way to share their love of science with children of all ages.
Courtesy Photo by DTRA CB
Charles Hong, science and technology manager, Defense Threat
Reduction Agency's Chemical and Biological Technologies Department
(DTRA CB), thought of a simple method to show monoclonal antibodies
“I had [the kids] use [building blocks] to build a
field goal post, which looks like a monoclonal antibody,” said Hong.
Hong, along with Dr. Morgan Minyard and Dr. Bob Moyer, both
microbiologists with DTRA CB who work at the U.S. Army Edgewood
Chemical Biological Center with Hong, participated in the United
States Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C., this
past April. DTRA CB, which seeks methods to reduce the chemical and
biological threat to the military and our Nation and functions as
the Joint Science and Technology Office for the Department of
Defense's Chemical and Biological Defense Program, was one of the
agencies that participated in the event.
The festival was used as a method to gain kids' interest in
science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Recent studies
have shown that fewer U.S. born scientists are working in the U.S.
than in the past. According to the Population Reference Bureau
website, the ratio of U.S.-born scientists and foreign born
scientists working in the U.S. in 1994 was 6.2 U.S.-born workers to
every foreign-born worker. In 2006, that ratio was 3.1 to 1.
When Hong volunteered to work at the festival, he wanted to find
a way to draw kids to the booth and not just hand out literature. He
wanted something interactive, so he came up with the idea with the
building blocks, which he called “Build-a-Bug.” The blocks were used
to show children about passive and adaptive immunity and how
vaccines and anti-virals work to protect the human body.
While “Build-a-Bug” was great for younger children, the three
wanted to draw older ones as well.
Building off an existing
idea, Hong developed an activity that challenged the dexterity of
children of all ages. He made participants wear rubber gloves,
similar to the ones scientists wear in labs, and had them try to
complete a puzzle in the box. The gloves made it surprising
difficult and challenged older children.
“The activities attracted a lot of kids,” said Hong, whose
hometown is Centerville, Va. “They introduced the kids to science
and made it fun.”
While the festival was a great opportunity
to share science with children, this was not the first time for
Minyard and Moyer to share their passion of science with others.
Minyard, who is from Odessa, Texas, speaks to students as part
of the AVID Program. AVID, which stands for Advancement Via
Individual Determination, is a national program that helps students
prepare for college and invites professionals to speak to students
about the importance of college. Minyard also volunteered at an
elementary school to help educate children on soil contamination by
conducting experiments with live earthworms.
Finding the time
to volunteer to work with kids is not easy, especially for
scientists who are invested in researching ways to reduce chemical
and biological threats to warfighters and our Nation, but the
explanation as to why they do it is relatively simple.
“It's fun,” said Moyer, when asked why he volunteers. “A lot of
time is spent outside of work to [volunteer], but it is fun.”
Moyer, who is from Cleveland, also volunteered to be a mentor
for a local high school student to help him with his senior project.
“It's a chance for a student to make a connection with someone in
the bio-medicine field,” said Moyer about the mentoring, “and get an
idea of what it is like to work in science.”
None of the
three are looking for attention for their efforts with working with
children; they simply do it because of their love of science.
However, that has not stopped them from getting some special
“A kid wanted to take a picture with me at the
festival because I was a real scientist,” said Minyard with a smile.
can be found about DTRA CB its site.
By Jason Bortz, DTRA CB
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