by Jade Owens and Najah Shuja-Green, eighth-grade students, and Robert Kenyon, science teacher
Five students from J.S. Jenks Academy for the Arts and Sciences were invited to attend The World Affairs Council’s 21st Century Technology Conference on Drexel University’s Campus on Feb 3.
The students were present for three of the topics discussed that day. The first was “The Bio Sciences: Will Genetic Science Cure Us or Enslave Us?” The discussion ranged from how we got to where we are today in medicine and to what is happening now to the outlook of the future of genetic cures.
The second discussion, “Energy and Climate: Will We Light the World or Burn It?” was paneled by Dr. Stewart Prager, director, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy;Jesse Simons, chief of staff, Sierra Club, and Alisa Harris, vice president, Government and Public Affairs at UGI Energy Services. It centered around the condition of our atmosphere, what are we doing to forestall the threat of global warming, and the impact the new technologies, such as fusion reaction and the dropping costs of solar panels, will have on the environment?
The last panel discussion featured Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 astronaut and the second man to walk on the moon, and Derek Pitts, chief astronomer at the Franklin Institute.
Aldrin recounted his early years and the time leading up to the Apollo 11 mission, as well as discussing the future of the space program and his hope of a mission to Mars. He believes that such a mission would encourage us to “reach for the stars literally by advancing our technological capabilities and investing in a plan for long-term space exploration.”
Students showed Aldrin the December 1969 copy of the National Geographic Magazine held in the library. On the cover is a picture of Aldrin standing on the moon with his helmet reflecting the image of Neil Armstrong taking the shot. He said there were three words that described why that cover picture was so famous: “Location, Location, Location.”
The legacy of participating in the World Affair Council Program has helped create a new mindset for the students that attended. They learned how people in some of the highest positions resolved medical, environmental, and political issues. It opened up their minds to how to approach issues and be receptive to new possibilities and conclusions.