Nerd Nite East Bay #18: Nuts, Maker Ed, and Race in Comics

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The next monthly installment of Nerd Nite East Bay brings many firsts: our first food science talk, the first talk (on modern education methods) based on audience suggestions in our facebook group, and our first talk about comic books. Megan Fisklements will dig through the two billion pounds of almonds California produces each year and distill the most nutritious and entertaining information about your nuts. Aaron Vanderwerff comes out of the shop to let us know how he’s teaching our young about making. Finally, Grace Gipson will show how we paint our superheroes of color in comics and graphic novels.

As usual, DJ Citizen Zain, Rick, and Rebecca will do their best to get the nuts & bolts together. Be there and be square.

Monday 4/28
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
The New Parkway, 474 24th St, Oakland
(less than half-a-mile from the 19th St BART)
$8
All Ages
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BLANCHING KINETICS OF YOUR NUTS, AND OTHER DELICIOUS ITEMS, EXPLAINED TO YOU BY A FOOD SCIENTIST by Megan Fisklements

There are so many delicious foods out there, and almonds are one of them. But every few decades, the skins mysteriously loosen and fall off uncontrollably! Let me share with you my graduate research trying to shed light on this mystery of the slippery skins. Have you ever wondered what almond skins are made of? Or how they form during almond development? And how do they ever come off? Come with me on an adventure of plant anatomy, methods-MacGyvering, kinetics modeling, and Gary Larson comics. On the way, you’ll peak into the bizarre, joyful world of food nerds, and shed new light on common food products you’ve probably already eaten.

Megan earned her Ph.D. from UC Davis in the Food Science & Technology department, and has been working in food product development ever since. When not experimenting in the lab, she is a devoted keeper of sourdough and an anarchist quilter.

FROM KINDERGARTEN DANGER DAY TO LED TUTUS: MAKING IN SCHOOLS by Aaron Vanderwerff

Why would you hand a bunch of five-year-olds saws?

Design and making (including crafts, electronics, woodworking and programming) give context to students’ learning, develop persistence and creativity, and expose students to new career paths. Making is being integrated into the curriculum both as a support to other subjects and as an end in itself. Kindergarteners with saws and hot glue guns develop into high school students who can imagine and create their own independent projects, everything from electric trucks to LED tutus.

Aaron has been teaching kids to make for years – even without knowing that was what he was doing. He has taught chemistry, physics and robotics in East Bay high schools, and is currently the coordinator of the Creativity Lab at Lighthouse Community Charter School in Oakland, where he works with teachers to integrate making into their classes.

BEWARE OF THE STORM: COMICS AND POP CULTURE STUDIES BREAKING THE COLOR AND GENDER LINES IN COMIC BOOKS by Grace Gipson

Historically, comic books have often been dismissed as less relevant and inferior pop culture texts. However, academic scholars are now re-considering and re-introducing the discussion of comic books [and graphic novels] as complex texts deserving of serious scholarly study. Even though specific research on comic book characters [particularly those of black and brown distinction] has begun to emerge there still remains a need to fill the gap, which includes further examination of these superhero characters of color. These complex characters and their stories offer an opportunity to move beyond the surface narrative of the comic book pages. One might say the most fascinating aspect about the comic book world is that this particular medium has a way of strategically telling a variety of narratives from a diverse group of characters. Superheroes have played a significant role in “presenting idealized projections of ourselves as physically powerful, amazing and fantastic versions of ourselves; as well as serving as a roadway to escapist fantasy or funhouse mirror reflections of our desires to create bigger-than-life personas that can exert our will and power in the world” (Nama, 2009). Overall, the superhero plays a huge role, both positively and adversely, in the formation of our thoughts, beliefs, and ideas within popular culture.

Grace Gipson aka Quiet Storm is a Bay Area and Nerd Nite neo that hails from Champaign, IL by way of the Atlanta, GA who by day is a current nerdy doctoral student at UC Berkeley in African American & African Diaspora Studies with research interests in Popular Culture Studies, Film/Media Studies, presentations of Race/Gender in African American Film and Comic Books, Black Gender & Sexuality Studies, Race, and Media. By night, Grace is a mutant-android international scholar at the Berkeley Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters (also known as the Xavier Institute). Her big sister is one of the most well-known X-Men, Storm (Ororo Monroe). And as a student of the human and mutant world, Grace aims to promote academic excellency and the co-existence of nerds, androids, mutants, and humans. All in all, as a researcher of comic books, Grace attributes much of her work to her fascination of the well-known Marvel series X-Men (particularly Storm). So with these last words spoken by her big sis Storm, “Enter freely, and of your own will.”

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