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Business teaches kids about science with workshops, blog

Erin Nyren-Erickson looks at carrot root hairs through a microscope at the Research and Technology Park at North Dakota State University, Fargo. This is an exercise she plans to repeat during a three-day Discovery Express workshop she will host for students ages 10-15. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Colfax, N.D. - Erin Nyren-Erickson, or “Dr. E” as she introduces herself to students, has loved science her whole life.

Her parents, Paul and Anne Nyren of Streeter, exposed her to the subject at a young age. Both worked for North Dakota State University’s Research Extension Service, Paul as a rangeland ecologist and Anne as an administrator and statistician.

The couple introduced their daughter to science through nature and the occasional experiment such as building a vinegar-and-baking-soda volcano.

In December, Nyren-Erickson was fondly remembering the lessons that piqued her interest. She realized there was value in sharing them with others.

She decided to turn the idea into a business called Discovery Express.

“Primarily we’re a company that specializes in science and math education for children ages 8 to 12,” Nyren-Erickson said.

She writes a weekly blog and has published two books of science lessons and corresponding activities that students can do in school or at home with their parents.

The books are sold at teacher conferences and trade shows and are available as digital downloads as well.

Later this month, Nyren-Erickson will lead the first in a series of science workshops for children ages 10 and older at Crooked Lane Farms near Colfax.

During the first session, attendees will tour the Bill Erbes farm to learn about community supported agriculture. The second session will address plant biology and the final session will teach about nutrition.

“It’s meant to engage the students in learning about plants, learning about agriculture and learning about nutrition without it feeling like school,” she said. “It’s very hands-on. It’s intended to get kids up out of their seats and engaging with the classwork.”

Nyren-Erickson hopes to develop an after-school program as well.

Her plans have already garnered some big attention.

Nyren-Erickson is currently enrolled in the North Dakota Department of Commerce’s Innovate ND program, which offers assistance to entrepreneurs with innovative ideas build a business. She recently won the program’s One Minute Pitch Competition for Discovery Express.

She is also well-known in NDSU research circles. She operates her first business, HQC Biosciences, from NDSU’s technology incubator. HQC’s mission is to create and produce tools to identify biological threats.

She won $5,000 Tangible Innovations Track and $5,000 Best in Show honors at NDSU’s Innovation Challenge ’13 for tests she developed to detect contaminants in the blood thinner Heparin.

Nyren-Erickson’s enthusiasm about science is evident in everything she does and she is eager to pass that along to a new generation.