During his time on the Mechanical Engineering Graduate Council executive board, Brandon Patterson created and facilitated educational programs for local K-12 students.
Patterson, a research fellow in the Medical School’s Department of Radiology, also was co-lead of RELATE, an organization dedicated to helping researchers communicate their work to larger audiences through workshops and training sessions.
Over the years, he also has spent countless hours volunteering as a teacher and tutor in various organizations.
“It’s been kind of a chaotic pinball process,” said Patterson, regarding his development as a community leader in educational outreach. “I largely just jumped on things as they came and took opportunities that seemed interesting in front of me.
“I was on the other side of that (educating youth) growing up. I was in Science Olympiad as a kid and loved it, and when I went to college I thought, I can keep on doing this stuff. I’ll just be on the teaching side.”
One of Patterson’s large-scale projects is a children’s book he co-authored with Marc Henry de Frahan titled “Brooke Bubble Breaks Things.” For two years, sparked by an interest in communicating their academic research on fluid mechanics and cavitation, the pair collaborated with Erika Lazar, a Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design alumna and illustrator. The project was funded by an Arts Engine microgrant through the Stamps School.
“It’s definitely translation,” Patterson said, regarding the book-writing process. “And you realize that you don’t want to dumb anything down, but you also can’t include all the details since it’s a kids’ book.
“You need an element of fiction in it — the bubble is alive and has thoughts and feelings. It was a process that took two years of going back and forth. I think our final draft was version 39. It’s hard when you only get 700 words, especially when you’re used to writing 20-page articles or 200-page theses.”
However, the book proved to be a success, and the team debuted it to children audiences at local libraries and preschools.
“I think the most memorable moment (in producing the book) was when we got to the point where we could actually print it out and staple it together,” Patterson said. “It looked like an actual book. The illustrator and the other author and I had worked on it for over two years, and to actually have a physical book in our hands that we could read, we were almost brought to tears.”
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Patterson is satisfied with the positive responses he received to “Brooke Bubble Breaks Things.” He and Henry de Frahan have been motivated to continue their creative line of work by producing another children’s book, which is currently in the works.
“Marc and I are hoping to write a second book,” Patterson said. “Our goal by the end of it is to teach kids that they are made of star-stuff — literally most of the elements of yourself were forged from dying stars. This one has proved to be very challenging to write, and we’ve been tinkering around for eight months now.”
The pair is using all of the profits they received from their first book to fund their new project. Patterson hopes to continue his efforts on educational outreach, whether through projects designed for graduate students or for young children.
“The more I meet people the more I realize that there are a lot more interesting problems out there that you can solve,” Patterson said.
“And a whole lot of little things you can do to make the world better, or make things more fun. And that’s what really inspires me to keep going.”