NKU’s Informatics+ grant helped fund the Science Around Cincy Project and employ more students

November 20, 2020

Science+Around+Cincy+host+Chris+Anderson+talks+with+local+geomorphologist+Rachel+Bosch+in+the+%E2%80%9CMammoth+Caves%E2%80%9D+episode.

Science Around Cincy host Chris Anderson talks with local geomorphologist Rachel Bosch in the “Mammoth Caves” episode.

A group of NKU students and alumni led by electronic and media broadcasting lecturer  John Gibson have been helping with production of the “Science Around Cincy” Project. The project is a public television and web series created and produced by Chris Anderson, a science educator and communicator who works with teachers and educators in the Greater Cincinnati area, focusing on teaching people how the world around us works involving science. 

The series focuses on local scientists and their projects in short five to 10-minute long episodes hosted by Anderson and assisted production by NKU students and alumni. The project received a grant of an undisclosed amount from NKU earlier this year that helped bring on more students to help with production.

Gibson is also an executive producer and editor on the project. Gibson recalled his meeting with Anderson where the two became “kindred spirits” through their love of Star Wars. It was from there that Anderson messaged Gibson about a project he was working on. At the time, the project wasn’t known as ‘Science Around Cincy,’ but was a project that Anderson had been working on by himself called “Science Over Everything.” Gibson and Anderson brainstormed on how they could get students involved in the project. 

“From there all the pieces started to fall into place. It was all about finding really good students who are reliable, have a good work ethic and know how to do what’s needed to be done, and turning them loose on this project,” Gibson said.

Before receiving the grant from NKU, the project had a smaller team of only a few students from Norse Media producing the episodes alongside Anderson and Gibson. One of these students from the first season of the program is Michael Pikar.
Pikar, an electronic media and broadcasting major, has an interest in filmmaking. Pikar has worked as a director and editor on the project since the first episode of the program.

Pikar said work on the project started around January of 2019. Pikar was with Norse Media and he was contacted by Anderson and Gibson who had been talking for a while about getting students involved. Pikar and another NKU student, Jordan Bardgett, were the first two students involved in the project. 

The first season of the program was funded by a small grant that was enough to pay students for their time working on the project, according to Gibson. The grant from NKU that came earlier this year allowed them to film a second season of episodes as well as expand the crew of students working on the project.

“It’s definitely easier now in the sense of we have more projects going on, so we have more editors, cause it used to just be me as the final editor. Having the extra crew members through the season two stuff is nice,” Pikar said. 

NKU’s grant opened more opportunities for Gibson to reach out to additional students to work and ease workload for other students already working on the project. 

“The grant from NKU helped a lot, it allowed us to bring in more students and also to do more episodes. I think the first season was about six short episodes with the same two to three students working on them constantly. Having more grant money allowed us to expand to more scientists and more researchers but it also allowed us to hire more students,” Gibson said.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit earlier in the year, students working through Norse Media at NKU, like Pikar, were not allowed to participate in the project. That is when Gibson reached out to alumni of NKU to help produce the episodes. 

“Chris had an external grant, still had a little bit of money left over and we were able to hire NKU grads to do a lot of the freelance work in the summer, so we were still able to keep everything very NKU-centric,” Gibson said.

One of the alumni hired on to the project is Zach Meyers who graduated from NKU with a degree in electronic media and broadcasting in 2019. Meyers is the current audio production lead for the Cincinnati Park Board and oversees running sound for community events and concerts. 

“They really needed a sound guy. A lot of the Norse Media people knew who I was because I went through EMB with them and I developed a pretty decent rapport with them and kind of just got roped in along the way somewhere,” Meyers stated.

The alumni who were brought on to work on the project are still involved even when the current NKU students were able to return to production due to the new grant money provided.

“Since we used the money from the previous grant to pay the alumni workers, once students were allowed to return the project, we were able to pay them with the new grant money as well as hire new students,” Gibson said.

The Science Around Cincy Project currently has sixteen episodes across two seasons with more in the works. The program has its own website where all their episodes can be watched for free. 

The videos are also available on their YouTube channel.

For more information on the project and NKU’s involvement, you can visit their website, sciaroundcincy.com, or check out their YouTube channel, Science Around Cincy, to watch for more episodes in the future.

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