How do you get kids excited about medical animation? That was the question I was asking myself ten minutes before one hundred 4thand 5th graders were about to pile into the gym in Raleigh, North Carolina for my presentation.

So why wasn’t I prepared?

Well I was originally just slated to just give a keynote at the end of the day at NC State (Hosted by: The Department of Materials Science and Engineering). But Andrew Vinal and his wife Barbara (my awesome hosts) had more ambitious plans for me. How do you get kids excited about medical animation?

After they picked me up at the airport they said, “How about we stop by the grammar school and you can present to a group of elementary school students and show them what you do?”…Well why not I thought, although I had no idea how I would handle it.

So there I was with young eyes staring up at me and it struck me…I did know how to get kids excited about medical animation. I stepped forward and said “Who likes to draw!?” Twenty hands excitedly popped into the air. “What do you like to draw” I asked as I pointed to a bespectacled girl in the front row. “Trees, flowers, animals” she said. I pointed to the next student, “And you?” “Cartoons” he confidently replied. And on it went… monsters, horses, people…every child proud to share what they draw.  They were now hooked, and I was free to share what I do. “Well, I said, I like to draw what’s on the inside of our bodies… you would need a microscope to see what I draw”…and then I showed them our “Inner Life of a Cell”

When it ended the gym was filled with applause! These kids were hooked and I could start to see inspiration bloom and to take hold. I quickly took them back through the video and explained to them what a kinesin molecule does, what a cytoskeleton is, how the golgi apparatus works. More hands were raised, “what was the blue thing” they asked, and “what was the twisty stick thing that broke apart in the beginning?” On it went. I showed more of our work and explained how we have scientists, artists, writers, producers, musicians and mathematicians all working together to create these medical animations and illustrations.

I finally ended the presentation by drawing for them what I liked to draw when I was their age…Dragons!

At the end of my talk dozens of the kids ran up for my autograph, one handed me a paper clip sculpture she was working on during my talk, and several said, “When I grow up, I want to do what you do!”  I said, “If you really want to… keep drawing, work hard, and one day I hope to be inspired by your animations!”

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