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STEM educator “Grand Hank” visits Austin middle schoolers

AUSTIN, Minn. (FOX 47) – Getting kids excited to learn about science, technology, engineering, and math isn’t always easy.

Having been at it since 1990, STEM educator “Grand Hank” seems to have found a fun and entertaining way to inspire students.

Fifth and sixth graders at IJ Holton Intermediate School in Austin had an action packed Tuesday afternoon filled with dancing, learning, and science provided by “Grand Hank”.

“It was actually really amazing,” said student Christopher Webber.

“Grand Hank” is the stage name for Tyraine Ragsdale, a Philadelphia native who graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in chemistry.

He was a pharmaceutical chemist for Johnson and Johnson until he saw the need for a fun way to get people interested in science.

“By working inside the lab, it was kind of like a closed environment,” said Ragsdale. “And I thought, ‘we’ve got to get this out to the public’. So we developed a program and we were then approached by schools to come as a visiting scientist, and to talk and to share things.”

It later evolved into a science TV show that aired in schools and on major TV networks on the east coast. Today, he shares that enthusiasm all over the country.

“What this does is it brings science to you in a way that’s exciting, entertaining, and fun,” said Ragsdale. “Where science traditionally, was being taught in a very boring and non-engaging way. By us adding the entertainment component, the kids love it!”

The entertainment based in science had the students engaged and excited.

“When he lit the jug on fire, while not really on fire, but the inside of the jug,” said Webber as he recalled his favorite part of the show.

Nathan Olok’s favorite part came: “When he put the girls hand inside the water bowl.”

“The take away from this is the theme that anyone can be a scientist, including you,” said Ragsdale.

In addition to teaching science lessons, “Grand Hank” gave out a few life lessons including the importance of asking for help, following instructions, and never giving up no matter what challenge you’re faced with.

Sarah Gannon

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