As the school year winds down, students from across the country are gearing up to compete in the National Engineering Design Competition.
In April, I attended the MESA Day Prosthetic Arm Competition organized by Dr. Jamie Bracey, director of STEM Education, Outreach and Research at Temple University. Dr. Bracey leads Pennsylvania Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA).
Teams of “STEMists” from seven high schools – Abraham Lincoln, Edison, Frankford, G.W. Carver, High School of the Future, Hill-Freeman World Academy and Penn Wood – competed for an all-expenses-paid trip to Utah to represent Pennsylvania in the national competition. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Their challenge was to design and build a low-cost prosthetic arm suitable for an urban environment.
The day began with inspiring keynote remarks by Ken Scott, an electrical engineer, who shared how he got started in engineering.
A lot of it is curiosity. If you like solving problem, engineering is for you. No one is better at solving problems than engineers. It’s about having the initiative to do different things. … Engineers rule the world. Everything starts with engineering.
The teams were judged on a number of tasks, distance accuracy, object relocation and dexterity, design efficiency, technical paper and academic poster presentation.
And the winner is …
Good luck to Dr. Bracey and the awesome STEMists from George Washington Carver High School.
For most folks, Philadelphia’s jazz legacy begins and ends with John Coltrane. To be sure, Coltrane is a giant part of the story. But as James G. Spady wrote in “Lost Jazz Shrines”:
Conversations with pioneers of the jazz community in Philadelphia reveal the city’s illustrious yet largely undocumented jazz history.
We’re working on an app for that. All That Philly Jazz is mapping Philly’s jazz heritage from bebop to hip-hop.
From Dizzy Gillespie at the Downbeat to The Roots mural on South Street, we are breathing life into legendary jazz spots like Union Local 274 (Clef Club), Pep’s, Showboat, Aqua Lounge, Watts Zanzibar, Café Holiday, Geno’s Empty Foxhole and the Red Rooster.
Sadly, few of the physical assets remain. Jazz spots fell victim to race riots and urban renewal. As a result, the legacy largely resides in the memories of those who were there. So to preserve the history for future generations, All That Philly Jazz is crowdsourced. As we build out the interactive map, we have created a placeholder website where community members and folks anywhere in the world can share their memories, photos and videos of the jazz scene back in the day.
I’m making a presentation on this citizen-led project at the third annual Fast Forward Philly, a DesignPhiladelphia festival event.
I will answer the question: What’s next for Philly? To get involved with All That Philly Jazz, contact us.
Posted at 12:21 PM in All That Philly Jazz, Blues, Civic Apps, Civic Engagement, Civic Innovation, Civil Rights, Crowdfunding, Crowdsourcing, Culture, Innovation, Jazz, Music, Race, Social Media, STEM | Permalink
I am spearheading All That Philly Jazz, a digital history project that’s mapping Philly’s rich jazz heritage. While jazz enthusiasts know about John Coltrane’s Philadelphia, the map tells the rest of the story.
From the organ joints on 52nd Street, aka “The Strip,” to Columbia Avenue’s “Miracle Mile” (now Cecil B. Moore Avenue), there was a jazz spot on nearly every block. South Philly was known as the Harlem Quarter.
There was so much jazz happening that folks in West Philly didn’t venture into North Philly and vice versa. Time after time I’ve heard, “You stayed in your neighborhood.” But there were two legendary spots that no matter where folks lived, they went – Pep’s Musical Bar at Broad and South streets and the Showboat on Broad and Lombard.
The World Communications Charter School now sits in Pep’s footprint. Given Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s appreciation for jazz, it may be more than coincidence that the Roots’ mural is on one of the school’s walls.
The building that housed the Showboat is still there. The jazz club was in the basement of what was then the Douglass Hotel. The historical marker out front notes that Billie Holiday “often lived here.”
Last fall, I visited what used to be the Showboat with Yasuhiro “Fuji” Fujioka, founder of the Coltrane House of Osaka and co-author of “The John Coltrane Reference”; Lenora Early, founder of the Philadelphia John Coltrane House; and Dr. George E. Allen, former chair of Overbrook High School’s Art and Music Department and author of “I Was Not Asked.”
Until that visit, I assumed the Showboat was in the basement space with the two windows facing Lombard Street. As we descended the stairs, Dr. Allen said something was wrong. Back then, there was no landing between the steps. Instead, the club was down a steep set of stairs.
And sure enough, after a bit of snooping, we found what remains of the original steps that led down to the Showboat.
So imagine the likes of Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Cannonball Adderley, Philly Joe Jones, Thelonious Monk, Dinah Washington, Ramsey Lewis, Ray Charles, Lee Morgan, Percy, Jimmy, and Tootie Heath (the Heath Brothers), and Nina Simon descending those steps to take up their place on the stage that was behind the bar.
As we build out the All That Philly Jazz interactive map, we will have images, video and audio that will take you back to the day when jazz and blues giants were live at the Showboat.
Today is International Day of Happiness. Established in 2012 by resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, the day recognizes that “the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal.” It also highlights “the need for a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development, poverty eradication, happiness and the well-being of all peoples.”
This year, Grammy Award-winning musician Pharrell Williams has teamed up with the United Nations Foundation “to encourage people to take action to support the UN and to create a happier world for people everywhere.”
Dr. Jamie Bracey, director of STEM Education, Outreach and Research at Temple University, walks the talk.
Dr. Bracey leads Pennsylvania MESA, an initiative that is “designed to prepare students for academic and professional careers in mathematics, engineering, science, and technology.” She says the key to STEM success is OTL and MTP.
Dr. Bracey’s success in seeding the STEM pipeline is recognized in the September issue of Black Enterprise:
Pennsylvania MESA is equipping middle and high school students with the tools they need to compete in the global market.
Read more: Unlocking Innovation in Teens