March 23, 2001

UCSD Chancellor Builds Community Ties In San Ysidro With ... Legos

By Yvette tenBerge

As part of a UCSD-sponsored science enrichment program, University Chancellor and physicist Robert C. Dynes joined 20 excited third grade girls at Smythe Elementary School in San Ysidro Wednesday morning to participate in a physics lesson taught with Legos.

Chancellor Dynes helps (left to right) Ruby Rodriguez,(8 years old), Jhaime Charles (9 years old) and Sheila Barowie (8years old) create a Lego model.

Chancellor Dynes took his small, plastic seat next to a group of eight and nine year-olds, plunged his hands into a tub filled with Legos and began a journey with his new classmates into a lesson on levers, gears and pulleys. The event was to help commemorate the University's 40th anniversary as well as to highlight its theme of "giving back to the community."

The students selected to participate in this event were part of the Girls are GREAT program run by UCSD's San Diego Super-computer Center (SDSC.) The program's goal is to give under-represented youth exposure to the world of science. With more than 5,600 total area-wide participants, the program targets second to eighth grade, minority girls from the inner city and border communities of San Diego County. The Girls are GREAT curriculum explores the entire spectrum of science topics, including chemistry, computer science, Earth science, engineering, life science and physics.

Girl Scout staff members sporting maroon T-shirts took charge of the majority of the class's instruction while photographers snapped pictures of the Chancellor working with the children at his table. At the end of the allotted hour, though, the reins were handed over to Chancellor Dynes who gave a speech that captured the attention of every adult and child in the room.

Leading off with simple questions for the girls such as, "How many of you would like to be scientists, engineers or doctors?" and "How many of you are going to let something get in the way of that?", and then fielding questions like "Is being a scientist hard?" and "Do [scientist's] have to do homework?", the Chancellor did not leave before making sure that his main message hit home.

"If you go to college - WHEN you go to college, you will get a chance to do whatever you want to do. [Being a scientist] is hard work, but it's not work the way you think of work, because it is fun. I know that this is hard to understand, but the key to all of this is to stay in school and go to college. If you do that, you'll have a terrific opportunity, and you can go your whole life doing things that are fun."

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