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Boy’s Curiosity Unleashes Social Media Campaign

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AAAS staff launch social media campaign. | AAAS

An interesting letter came in the door late last month and quickly captured the interest of Rush Holt, AAAS chief executive officer and executive publisher of the Science family of journals.

It was not an invitation to speak at a national science conference, not a request to pull together a multidisciplinary group of scientists to launch a pressing research project, not even a university research lab seeking guidance on forming a scientific partnership.

In carefully penciled block letters, Drayden Walker of Graceville, Fla., wasted no time getting to what he wanted from “Dear scientist.”

“Can you find a way for me to have super strength and fly, or just make me fly, or you can make shoes that make me fly, and send it to me so I can test it out,” Drayden wrote, adding, “I just wanted to know if you could do it which I think you can.”

In his response, Holt explained that thrust and fuel, lots of it, are needed to send a boy aloft on rocket-powered shoes; yet, sadly science has not yet mastered the feat. Holt praised Drayden for his passion and curiosity, noting, “You are already thinking like a scientist because you are asking questions.”

The exchange prompted AAAS to ask its staff to share what prompted them to first think like a scientist or an engineer. Posts poured in. A social media campaign quickly took hold.

One post featured a photo of a flying saucer and was entitled: “I WANT TO BELIEVE TEST MY HYPOTHESIS.” Others shared memories of, at age eight, catching tadpoles in the Arizona desert and watching them grow; at age five, subjecting a cheese curl to microscopic examination on Christmas morning; and, at age five, deploying cooking oil on a playground slide to ramp up the speed.  

Participants joined the conversation from as far away as Sweden and Ghana to Bulgaria and South Africa using #ThinkLikeAScientist and #ThinkLikeAnEngineer. More than 67,000 people viewed posts and almost 1,900 got involved in the effort, including Drayden’s mom, Heather Dunaway, who posted a picture of her budding scientist on Twitter, where she publicly thanked Holt for his letter.

So, what was your first encounter? Join the campaign at #ThinkLikeAScientist and #ThinkLikeAnEngineer.