“How are you” with space travel? UW graduate known as Hip Hop MD is on a mission for future STEM leaders

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Rocket in space is an experience many have dreamed of, but few will actually experience it.

Maynard Okereke is now one of them.

Okereke is a University of Washington graduate who, like many children who looked up to the stars and dreamed of floating among them, wanted to be an astronaut as a child.

A few months ago, he got as close as the so-called “citizen astronauts” get today – at least, as close as the non-billionaire citizen astronauts are.

He was selected to perform a weightless flight with the Space for Humanity Group, a Denver-based nonprofit with a stellar mission: to send a diverse group of citizen astronauts into space, where they can experience “l ‘preview effect’ that some astronauts have reported during space flight.

It is a pronounced cognitive change in consciousness caused by seeing the Earth from afar. A feeling that Space for Humanity hopes to motivate these intrepid citizens to protect the planet.

In essence, the goal is to change the world by changing the perspective of ordinary people, literally and figuratively.

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This mission resonates with Okereke in the same way it was able to resonate with his young self: “I want it for my 8 year old self, curious and energetic, ambitious with an unblase mind, blessed with immigrant parents.”

And for 18-year-old Okereke, whose global perspective was framed by her parents’ immigration from Nigeria and Cameroon who took her to UW to earn her civil engineering degree.

Today, now “38 years old”, he uses his lived experience, his knowledge and his penchant for entertainment as a MD Hip Hop.

You have to to see him to come down with that.

The goal of the Hip Hop Science platform was to find a way to be able to talk to these students who felt excluded, using music, entertainment and comedy – things that we are already connected with in our lives. everyday – to truly be able to inspire this next generation to be a part of the future of science, ”he says.

In addition to his online classes, Okereke also works with teachers and students, especially students of color, encouraging their interest and curiosity in STEM.

“Breaking that stereotypical norm of that old white man in a lab coat, right?” He’s joking. “Show that scientists can be cool. Scientists can be passionate about music and fashion. They can be stylish and dress up. “

To do this, he infuses references to pop culture.

Imagine how much more interesting physics classes in high school would have been if you had learned gravity from Nicki Minaj.

It’s about making complex science – sometimes translated as “boring” in teen parlance – more palatable by infiltrating social media with references to the latest movie, album, or whatever kids love these days.

That’s all it takes to connect with your audience, Okereke says, connecting something like gravity to something they’re already connecting with.

It might be easier said than done, however.

Okereke makes it seem easy because he sets an example.

“To be able to have kids who can emulate that and see that as a realistic path that they can take,” he says, “that’s the motivation… to be able to spark that curiosity and generate that enthusiasm for future STEM leaders.


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