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Science Genius BATTLES: STEM in the language of hip-hop

The second annual hip-hop competition featured twenty-two students from eleven different high schools

The students’ rap lyrics are based on a rigorous understanding of STEM concepts

At the end of June, twenty-two high school students from New York City gathered aboard the Intrepid Sea Air and Space Museum in Manhattan for the final event of the 2018 Science Genius BATTLES (Bringing Attention to Transforming, Teaching and Learning Science). Teams from eleven different high schools from around the city performed hip-hop raps written to communicate understanding of specific STEM concepts: the digestive process, the atomic structure of matter, and equally challenging topics.

The genesis of Science Genius
Science Genius BATTLES (chrisemdin.com/science-genius) is the brainchild of Dr Chistopher Emdin. Emdin is an associate professor in the department of mathematics, science and technology at Teachers College of Columbia University (New York, NY).

Science Genius was launched in December 2012, and held its first competition in spring 2013. Students choose their topics from a list of investigative areas in biology, chemistry, physics and other STEM subjects developed with the help of hip-hop artist GZA (Gary Grice) of the Wu-Tang Clan rap group.

The students engage in a rigorous study of their chosen concept, then explain it in a hop-hop rap. All the STEM topics are part of the current New York State standard science curriculum.

For the 2018 event, judges included two current hip-hop artists, a theoretical physicist and physics professor from Dartmouth, and Derek Luke, a film and television actor whose made his debut in the 2002 film Antwone Fisher.

Rapping on atoms and digestion
Diversity/Careers advertising sales director Jordan Weiss and office manager NéKeyià Lewis attended the 2018 event. They heard the winning raps, “Started as an Atom,” written and performed by a trio of students from Brooklyn Community Arts & Media High School, and “Swallowing My Pride,” by Bronx Compass High School student Victoria Richardson. After the event, they chatted with the winners and judges. They also met last year’s winner, Jabari Johnson, a graduate of the Urban Assembly School for the Performing Arts in New York City’s Harlem and now a freshman at CUNY Hunter College (New York, NY). Weiss and Lewis took the photos on these pages.

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