In February 2017, John and Hank Green celebrated the tenth anniversary of their popular YouTube channel, Vlogbrothers, with a two-day convention, NerdCon: Nerdfighteria. The convention brought “nerdfighters”, a term fans of the channel call themselves, YouTube creators, animators, educators, writers, and scientists to the Hynes Convention Center in Boston. Within the convention center was a designated expo hall where artists, non-profit organizations, gamers, and other creators could share their work and their message. Madhuri Deo (BU ‘20) and Alyssa Arnheim (BU ‘18) represented Boston University STEAM in this expo hall, selling handmade nerdfighter and STEAM merchandise and explaining the concept of STEAM to the nerdfighter community.
Overall the experience was incredibly rich due to the scope of people our booth was able to reach in this setting. Our events primarily work with Boston University students, and though the BU community is fairly diverse, it didn’t match the range of people of different occupations, ages, educational backgrounds and familiarities with STEAM as NerdCon: Nerdfighteria. In particular, it was extremely impactful to talk to educators, both those who were actively encouraging interdisciplinary work and those who were less familiar with the concept. Hearing their perspective on the barriers within curriculum in school systems of various levels was extremely valuable as we often forget that our universities provide a certain level of freedom that more structured environments lack. On this point in particular, NerdCon: Nerdfighteria itself held a STEAM workshop space where they had elementary to high school level activities that connected back to conventional curriculum. The workshop space had six to eight tables, each with supplies, volunteers and instructions for that table’s activity. In the future, we hope to continue to have a place in the expo hall, but also get involved in writing the curriculum or hosting our own STEAM workshop. Outside of the event, we hope to work with middle and high schools in the Boston area this upcoming year.