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Science meets the Black Hills Pow Wow

RAPID CITY, S.D. - The 21st annual He Sapa Wacipi took place Oct. 5 - 7 at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. It was estimated that more than 900 dancers from across the country attended.

For the youth, the weekend started with Youth Day, a popular part of the Black Hills Pow Wow. Youth Day this year included science exhibits such as soda pop bottles erupting like volcanoes, a glimpse at the stars as interpreted by the Lakota culture, a robot, a dig for artifacts and bouncy balls made out of glue.

The science exhibits are a project of the Oglala Lakota College math/science department to interest students in math and sciences from physics to chemistry.

Nearly every student who attended the science exhibit had the chance to drop three Mentos into full, liter-sized soda pop containers. The popular experiment taught students that chemistry can be fun, and the people running the demonstration learned that cola, root beer and other carbonated drinks can damage shoes. The students were given what remained of the soda pop and they learned what Mentos-flavored cola tasted like: ''not bad,'' one commented.

Students crawled into an inflated Star Lab to listen to and view Lakota star knowledge. Long lines did not deter the students and some said as they exited that it was ''awesome,'' ''fun'' and ''dark''; and when asked, they said they had learned something.

Operators demonstrated a replica of the Mars Rover for the students. OLC is the only institute of higher education in the nation to have been given the chance to run experiments on the Mars Rover.

The robot rover, designed by iRobot, is a replica of the rover that will be sent to a site on Mars. OLC students and government scientists will conduct experiments in the Badlands of South Dakota during the winter months, when snow is available, to iron out any problems the rover might encounter. The Badlands, located on the Pine Ridge Reservation, are said to be similar in terrain to what the Mars Rover will encounter on Mars.

The robot was sent by the operator across the large room and surprised many groups of students who were engaged in conversation. Smaller robots were available for the students to learn how they work.

Jay Roman of the OLC math/science department said if students apply themselves to the sciences and earn an appropriate degree, NASA is eager to hire them.

Roman said many middle school students become interested in science when they see the robot, which OLC takes to parent/student nights at various schools.

Youth Day at the Black Hills Pow Wow drew students from across the reservations for the pow wow, but while at the event they managed to take in some of the educational events, a concert and a skateboard tournament.

Middle and high school students from the Rapid City school district and the reservations were treated to workshops on peer pressure, gang activity and suicide.

Sequoia Cross White, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, told middle school students that he was suicidal after his mother was sent to jail and he was taken from his father. He spent a few years in one foster home after another, and at the age of 4 was diagnosed as suicidal. He used music to get him out of the depression, he said.

Most of the middle school students said they have attended similar workshops and have been told about suicides and suicide prevention. Some of them said they knew someone who had either attempted suicide or knew of a family that experienced suicide.

Many of them already knew that it was okay to tell someone if a friend was suicidal, and to ask questions of their friend if he or she was planning to hurt himself or commit suicide.