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CENI Newsletter — February 2024

February 1, 2024


Welcome back after a restful and snowy break! We hope you enjoyed time with family and friends and are ready to start the new CENI semester. As we begin the exciting new year that lies ahead, let’s take a moment to reflect on the achievements of the past. Last semester, CENI proudly organized two major and successful events: Hokie for a Day and the Science Festival. These events brought together a diverse community of students, exhibitors, faculty/staff, funders, and leaders to promote learning and collaboration across numerous disciplines. We have highlighted some numbers and various organizations that contributed to our success in 2023.

Hokie For A Day 

  • Engaged 391 student participants from 7 different local elementary schools

  • Hosted 364 exhibitors, featuring 292 undergraduate and graduate students as well as 72 faculty/staff

  • Represented 40 disciplines and departments across 8 colleges and institutes: College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences; College of Engineering; College of Natural Resources and Environment; Pamplin College of Business; Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine; Fralin Life Sciences Institute, ICAT

Science Festival 

  • Counted 3600+ attendees, including 406 middle and high school students from field trips

  • Showcased 59 exhibits, comprising exhibitors of over 200+ undergraduate students, 70+ graduate students, 40+ faculty/staff, and 50+ associated organizations

  • Represented 44 disciplines and departments, including 7 colleges and institutes: College of Architecture, Arts, and Design; College of Science; Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology; Virginia Tech Transportation Institute; Hume Center for National Security and Technology; University Libraries; and Institute for Society, Culture, and Environment

We have many news, updates, and opportunities within CENI to share this month. Here’s to another year of innovation and community!

CENI Spotlight

This month, we feature Caitlin Thorn, our CENI liaison for Giles County Public Schools.

Caitlin Thorn
Caitlin Thorn

Caitlin Thorn is the Instructional Technology Resource Teacher (ITRT) for Giles County Public Schools. Her role in CENI is the Giles County Public School liaison. In 2023, she received her Master's degree from Radford University. She is married to Matthew, and they have two children, Dillinger (13) and Lillianna (9). They also have four dogs (Bear, Lou, Blueberry, and Blackjack) and two cats (Milo and Garf). She has no hobbies because she is busy taking her children to their after-school sporting activities.

Fun facts: “I was born and raised in New Jersey. And when I was attending Fairleigh Dickinson University I had the privilege of going to England to study. When I was in London we went to Parliament on a tour and the Queen was making an unexpected visit so we were taken to a chapel located under Parliament named St. Mary Undercroft.”

Campus Engagement Network Updates

Hokie for a Day Field Trips: Exhibitors Wanted 
: 2/7, 2/21, 2/28, 3/13, 4/3, and 4/10 (every Wednesday)
Exhibitor Application

Hokie for a Day field trips bring fifth graders from local Title I schools to Blacksburg for a college orientation, an academic expo, lunch at D2, and a visit to the athletics region. The academic expo hosts five or six exhibits and takes place between 10:00 am and 12 noon at the Moss Arts Center. Exhibitors are invited to share brief, engaging tabletop experiences for fifth grade learners at Wednesday Hokie for a Day field trips. Student clubs, grant-funded projects, outreach classes, labs, and researchers are invited to present. Hokie for a Day exhibits may be part of a grant's Broader Impacts. Exhibitor slots are open until filled. Read More.  

BLAST Program Registration  
: Thursday, February 1, 2024 (Application closes)
BLAST Application 

BLAST (Building Leaders for Advancing Science and Technology) provides rising 9th and 10th-grade students with a chance to experience three days of on-campus living, offering a glimpse into college life. During this time, participants engage in STEM-related activities led by university faculty. No prior experience in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) is required, and the program is FREE for all participants. Read more. 

Roanoke County District Science Fair: Judge Interest Survey 
: Saturday, February 24th, 2024
Judge Interest Survey

The upcoming Roanoke County Science Fair is scheduled for Saturday, February 24th, at Northside High School. If interested in participating as a judge, please fill out the interest survey form. College level students, grad students, instructors, and professors are invited to help. Additional details will be provided to potential judges after completing the survey. 

DesignUP: Graphic design service event 
: Saturday, April 6th, 2024
Contact information:

Our partner Meaghan Dee, chair of Graphic Design at Virginia Tech, is looking for organizations that might be interested in participating in this year's DesignUP (Design + Ut Prosim)—which is a philanthropic design-a-thon that pairs graphic design students with design professionals to provide creative services for local nonprofit organizations. You can see images from last year's event here. This year, the event will take place on Saturday, April 6th, and is estimated to have between 80-90 participants in attendance.

What we would offer: A graphic design solution to a well-defined task of your choosing (e.g., a patch design, a logo redesign, a flyer design, a poster, etc.). What we would need from you: A brief meeting or Zoom with me to discuss your project (in the next few weeks), a 1-hour face-to-face commitment (about three weeks before the event) where you would meet with students and explain your project and allow them to ask any questions, and on Saturday, April 6 you would both need to come to the Virginia Tech CID 1-hour mid-day review and the end-of-day review of solutions.

If you are interested in participating, please email me with the following information:

  • Your organization
  • Your name
  • Your contact information
  • A rough idea of what you would like designed

Liaisons Corner

Floyd County Public Schools

Interested in partnering with Floyd County Public Schools? Contact Kim Keith

Giles County Public Schools

Giles County Public Schools is looking forward to working with CENI on upcoming spring events. 

Interested in partnering with Giles County Public Schools? Contact Caitlin Thorn.

Pulaski County Public Schools

Pulaski County Public Schools is excited to partner with CENI this semester.  Stay tuned for updates.  Interested in partnering with Pulaski County Public Schools? Contact Megan Atkinson.

Radford City Public Schools

Hannah Glisson, Postdoctoral Associate for VT Engineering Education
Hannah Glisson, Postdoctoral Associate for VT Engineering Education

Virginia Tech provided STEM kits to the Radford High/Intermediate School library. The kits, which contained microcontrollers, temperature probes, and digital read-out screens, allowed students to explore the greenhouse effect by measuring the effect of carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration on air temperature.  

Seventy-six 9th and 10th graders from Radford High School participated in a study on vaping messages in social media. Students completed a survey during health class that included questions about where teens are most likely to see vaping messages online. The research team at Virginia Tech will use their survey responses to inform prevention and policy solutions that reduce vaping among adolescents. Read more about the conducted research.

Interested in partnering with Radford City Public Schools? Contact Jamie Little.

Science Museum of Western Virginia

Planetarium opening! For more than 12 years the planetarium has slumbered, nestled in the heart of the Roanoke Valley. But now, The Eye Awakens. Get ready to embark on a celestial adventure as the grand reopening of the planetarium at the Science Museum draws near. It’s not just a reopening; it’s an odyssey for the senses, a performance space where interactive shows aren’t just watched—they’re experienced. Stay tuned for the stars to align at The Eye—where every visit is a journey through the universe. ✨ Opening February 14, 2024.

Interested in partnering with the Science Museum of Western Virginia? Contact Phyllis Newbill.

Virginia Tech Roanoke Center

Interested in partnering with the Virginia Tech Roanoke Center? Contact Don Pizzullo.

Upcoming Deadlines and Events

ICAT Major SEAD Proposals due Feb 4, 2024 - Up to $40,000 available