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5 BENEFITS OF VOLUNTEERING FOR T.W.I.S.T.E.R. by Amrita Banerjee, ASC T.W.I.S.T.E.R. Intern

Amrita Banerjee is Adventure Science Center's T.W.I.S.T.E.R. Intern and a graduate student in the Department of Cell & Developmental Biology at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. Amrita has been a volunteer for multiple years of T.W.I.S.T.E.R. and is passionate about sharing the world of STEM opportunities with young women. 

1. Paying It Forward

Participating in T.W.I.S.T.E.R. has always been more than a day spent volunteering… it’s been about giving back or, really, giving forward.

When I was in elementary school, I loved events like T.W.I.S.T.E.R. because they gave me the opportunity to spend the day with other girls who loved science and technology as much as I did. We met amazing role models who opened our minds to scientific ideas and topics we had never heard of before while we took part in memorable hands-on activities that gave us a peek into their daily lives. In fact, I still have the Styrofoam neuron with pipe cleaner axons that I made at a similar event years ago. (Pictured here... a work of both art and science.)

While it’s always awesome to volunteer for your community, volunteering for T.W.I.S.T.E.R. showed me that events like this, and the people who coordinate them, are what fueled my passion for science as a young girl.

2. Gaining Inspiration

In the immortal words of Eric Matthews from Boy Meets World, “Life’s tough, get a helmet.”

The daily grind of work can overwhelm the best of us and make us lose sight of the wonder and discovery we had when we first learned about science, math, or technology. T.W.I.S.T.E.R. is an amazing opportunity to soak up the energy, optimism, and excitement of these budding female scientists and passionate presenters.

Trust me – their enthusiasm and eagerness to learn from each other will stay with you for weeks after, and it’ll give you a little extra inspiration when you get back to your lab or office.

T.W.I.S.T.E.R. is also an excellent way to remember one of the (many) reasons we got into STEM in the first place… it’s just plain ol’ fun!

3. Hearing Awesome Speakers

At some point in our careers, by necessity, we specialize in some niche subject and only really hear from speakers in our own field. T.W.I.S.T.E.R. provides the unique opportunity to break those boundaries and hear from professionals in a wide range of fields, from public health to astronomers to transportation logistics engineers.

With T.W.I.S.T.E.R. running the gamut of STEM fields, it creates an enthralling experience where you can learn about a topic completely outside your immediate scope. While volunteering one year, I watched as a team of Deloitte engineers taught girls basic coding concepts using a fun online game the girls could access at home. Another year, I saw NASA scientists challenge the girls to construct a tower made of straws and tape that was capable of withstanding the weight of three textbooks.

At T.W.I.S.T.E.R., you never know what sort of knowledge you’ll walk away with… and that’s only half the fun!

4. Networking

Making contacts and networking are essential at any stage of your professional development, and T.W.I.S.T.E.R. is an excellent opportunity to exercise these skills.

With so many talented and interesting professionals from all sorts of backgrounds, there’s already a great icebreaker to cut the inevitable awkwardness: “don’t you just love T.W.I.S.T.E.R.?!” (Spoiler alert: the answer is an enthusiastic YES!).

In fact, I met a great speaker at T.W.I.S.T.E.R. who later invited me to a panel discussion at MTSU aimed at encouraging high school girls to continue pursuing math and science courses in college. So when you volunteer, make sure to introduce yourselves to each other! You never know what kind of great connections you’ll forge.

5. Being at Adventure Science Center

With school and a social life, I don’t get too many opportunities to walk around Adventure Science Center, so T.W.I.S.T.E.R. is a great excuse to explore this awesome space. The Science Center has so many fantastic exhibits and an enthusiastic staff who are ready and willing to answer any questions about everything from outer space to your own body. While you’re there, ask about some of the great programs they host for kids and adults throughout the year.

In short, there are definitely other ways to spend your Saturday, but what would be better than volunteering at Adventure Science Center? I hope you’ll join us on Saturday, Feb. 17, at T.W.I.S.T.E.R. 2018: There’s No Place Like STEM!

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- Amrita Banerjee, ASC T.W.I.S.T.E.R. Intern

Posted by Molly Hornbuckle at 2:30 PM
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