“I want to be known for something great, like
something that will change the world. Polymer
Play gave me more knowledge to create something
right out of my head successfully. It jump-started
my idea. One version of my project has
led to another because of failures and
new ideas. I met scientists and investors,
and they taught me how to start, market,
and fund my ideas.”

explore
Polymer Play gave Jalen, 14, the chance to
explore his interest in science and technology—
and envision a career in science.
Polymer Play gave Jalen, 14, the chance to
explore his interest in science and technology—
and envision a career in science.

“I want to be known for something great, like
something that will change the world. Polymer
Play gave me more knowledge to create something
right out of my head successfully. It jump-started
my idea. One version of my project has
led to another because of failures and
new ideas. I met scientists and investors,
and they taught me how to start, market,
and fund my ideas.”

jalen’s ENDEAVOR

I love everything that has to do with technology and science.” Jalen, 14, from KIPP Charter School in West Philadelphia, was excited to explore his interests in depth when he signed up for Polymer Play, a program run by STEAM Initiatives at the Science Center. Making bio-plastic, experimenting with reverse engineering, and designing a wallet from recycled plastic bags only begin the list of STEM projects that Jalen has combined with design and his own creativity. Jalen was excited to use what he learned as he presented his final project, a windmill made from bio-plastic and a reverse-engineered motor.

jalen’s PROGRAM

I think it’s cool to feel like I’m actually doing something with science,” Jalen says. By providing students with the opportunity to approach STEM subjects with art and design, Polymer Play cultivates interest and bridges the gap between scientists and students like Jalen. Through multi-step group projects and site visits to workplaces in the STEM fields, students successfully build leadership skills and confidence along the way. And that’s important. Polymer Play addresses a serious economic concern within the Philadelphia workforce and school system. Only 30% of 11th grade students are proficient in algebra and biology, and under-resourced schools mean students are graduating unprepared to enter the STEM workforce. Polymer Play, which is funded by Cognizant Making the Future, supports the mission of STEAM Initiatives by investing in Philadelphia’s future scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs.

[READ MORE ABOUT STEAM]

jalen’s NETWORK

Jalen is not just observing innovators from afar; he is also retaining advice from real-life scientists at the Science Center labs. During a lab tour, Research Scientist Christopher Wagner from Parsortix, a startup that is developing cell separation technology to detect cancer cells, emphasized to students the importance of note-taking. When asked what he learned that day, Jalen referenced his notes and said “Science is about reproducing results.” As a research scientist, Wagner finds these experiences equally beneficial. “Speaking to a student group is a great opportunity to see how effectively we are communicating our research content to a general audience,” he explains. “The honesty of kids as a sounding board is refreshing.”

jalen’s HABITAT

The Department of Making and Doing has been home base for Polymer Play students every Wednesday. The on-campus collaborative workspace allows Jalen to immerse himself in science with the rest of the Science Center labs and offices just an elevator ride away. While working on projects and doing experiments, students are surrounded by other entrepreneurs and innovators in various stages of the creative process. Now that he’s been a part of Polymer Play, Jalen says “I would like to work in a workspace like the Science Center.”