Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Diversity, Youth Spark COSI CEO’s Speech at Black History Month Event

When thinking about famous scientists, there’s a stereotypical appearance. Whether it’s Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, or even Bill Nye “the Science Guy,” the general association is that science is exclusive to older, white men. But there are countless others who’ve created revolutionary inventions.

“It’s not just for these really smart, geeky, nerdy, old men in the hallowed halls of ivory towers of academia, but that it is for Joe and Jane Public, and Tariq and Shaqueka,” said Dr. Frederic Bertley, the president and CEO for the Center of Science and Industry.

Bertley was the Ohio Supreme Court’s featured speaker at its eleventh annual Black History Month event, and spoke to a crowd of nearly 200 people – including more than 100 students and faculty from Columbus area high schools. His message was how connected science is to every culture and fabric in society, including the legal profession.

"I was just amazed and star struck with how it’s connected to law,” said Bertley, who – along with working at renowned research institutions Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – also spent years as a technology specialist focusing on patents at a law firm.

During his speech, he referenced several historic African-American inventors – including agricultural innovator George Washington Carver and stop light creator Garrett Morgan. He also highlighted those with modern breakthroughs, like Dr. Marc Dean – who helped make the personal computer possible – and Professor James West – who came up with the technology for microphones in cell phones.

“We appreciate the technology, and benefit from the technology, but we don't really think about the men and women behind them, and it’s a shame,” said Dr. Bertley.

One of the main points he stressed to the crowd was the power of youthful experimentation. His enthusiastic switch for science flipped when he was just nine. It was the result of his battery-operated video game exploding after he tried to power it with a lamp’s electrical wires. For Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Windows creator Bill Gates, their trials and errors in their teens and twenties changed history.

“As someone [who] aspires to be an astronomer, it was exciting to see someone in that field give that speech to me, and it definitely motivates me to get out there more and experience more in my own life,” said Timothy Nelson, a student at Westland High School.

As technological advances in all industries have become more rapid, so has the demand for people from all walks to work in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). During his research, Bertley found there are approximately 140,000 open jobs in Ohio. Half of those are STEM-based.

“I’m not talking about getting a Ph.D. or Master’s. You can go to Columbus State – or any other community college – get a two-year technical degree, and start at 50, 60, 70, or 80-thousand dollars [per year], depending on the field,” Bertley said.

While there are numerous personal ambitions among the teens who attended, the main priority for most was to produce something for the betterment of others.

“We need to have our focus, basically, on more scientific communities. The more we get into our scientific communities, the more that our earth’s going to benefit just from how we’re living,” said William Holland, who also attends Westland High School.

Bertley's background in applied science and science education allows him to distill complex scientific principles into more easily digestible concepts for wide audiences. For him, it’s part of a general purpose and mission he feels everyone needs to embrace for the benefit and development of young minds, especially with intimidating and complex subjects.

“We’re all born curious, and it’s up to us as adults that you all can take that curiosity to the next level, because, ultimately, we've got to make sure that we take care of this planet and make sure that we have a great future,” Bertley said.