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‘Because Science’ Uses STEM-Themed Holiday Gifts to Promote STEM Careers

Circuit boards, resistors, and capacitors make futuristic replacements for jewels in earrings, pendants, ornaments and other gifts.

Although Amanda Preske has a PhD in chemistry focusing on semiconductors, these days she’s using those electronic components to create STEM-themed artwork. Her Virginia store, Because Science, offers gifts, workshops, and demonstrations of its techniques to create fun art from upcycled electronic waste.

While Preske was synthesizing quantum dots during grad school at the University of Rochester, she noticed old, broken equipment gathering dust in the corners of the lab.

As an amateur jewelry maker since age 14, Preske (not Dr. Preske, she’s concerned about the title scaring off people potentially curious about STEM) thought some of the components in the broken equipment held promise as jewelry. Casting broken circuit boards in resin produced striking pendants that captured beautiful futuristic worlds in glossy resin.

Customers at craft fairs demonstrated demand for the products, and upon defending her PhD thesis, Preske started Circuit Breaker Labs to create circuit board ornaments. Now, Circuit Breaker is the in-house jewelry and ornament brand for her Because Science store, which also offers science-centric products from other vendors, such as apparel, stationery, baby products, and chemistry glassware.

The store hosts workshops every Saturday, giving customers the opportunity to learn how to make their own jewelry and decorations using obsolete technology. She says that the wreath ornament is her best seller, while “anything with a rainbow” is her personal favorite.

Because Scienceamanda_preske_studio_photo_.jpeg

Because Science founder Amanda Preske, PhD at her workbench.

Rainbows are a challenge because orange circuit board is a rare commodity in electronic waste. Most circuit boards are the familiar green, though IBM boards are blue, she said, and MSI makes a lot of red PC motherboards.

The storefront has been a success at attracting kids to STEM, Preske reports. “We have a microscope in the store than anybody can use, and the other day I showed a young boy how to use it. Ten minutes later he was looking at everything in the store under the microscope.”

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