In 1991, Khizer Husain attended the Summer Institute for Creative Engineering and Inventiveness (SICEI), one of the early summer programs that the Belin-Blank Center hosted (at the time, the Center was called the Connie Belin National Center for Gifted Education). High school students came from across Iowa to spend three weeks studying environmental science. The program was a blend of engineering and creativity, bound together by the idea of solving a real-world problem. Among other experiences, they heard from an environmental science expert who discussed how poplar trees can help reduce groundwater pollution by removing nitrates from the water.
Following the program, the students teamed up with mentors and began an independent project related to environmental science. Khizer said that the program was meant to “whet your appetite [for research] over the summer, but now we want you to do whatever you want with environmental science.” One student designed a bicycle trail. Khizer focused on how industrial scrubbers can help reduce pollution, and he recalls another student who “built sort of a precursor to a Nest system with his home computer. The judges were so impressed that they gave him a scholarship to the University on the spot.”
Khizer had as many stories about the other students as the projects and topics. “I felt like the program…was the first time I had colleagues so deeply passionate about stuff – the meaning of life and philosophy.”
Today, Khizer works for Two Rivers Public Charter School in Washington, DC. as Chief of Staff. His job is about “the odd nooks and crannies that make an organization work.” The school focuses on expeditionary learning and self-discovery. In addition to his work at Two Rivers, Khizer has also written several stories for Farfaria, a story app for children in grades 2-9.
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