MR. FASCINATE INSPIRES YOUNG PEOPLE’S INTEREST IN SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Justin “Mr. Fascinate” Shaifer is the founder of Fascinate Media. PHOTO PROVIDED BY FASCINATE MEDIA.
Justin “Mr. Fascinate” Shaifer is the founder of Fascinate Media. PHOTO PROVIDED BY FASCINATE MEDIA.

MR. FASCINATE INSPIRES YOUNG PEOPLE’S INTEREST IN SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

By Tia Carol Jones

Growing up, Justin Shaifer had a natural fascination with planets and the aquarium. He remembers living in Chicago and going to the Museum of Science and Industry and the Shedd Aquarium.

Shaifer is the Founder of Fascinate Media, a media production company that creates content around science and technology that is meant to educate and engage audiences. Projects include “Why Am I Like This” on PBS and Hood Science, as well as series for LinkedIn Learning and NSF iCorps.

Shaifer attended Mount Carmel High School and graduated from Hampton University. He spent time in South Chicago, where his grandmother lived.

“I just remember that vibrant community, of mostly Black folks, that poured into me at that time,” he said.

He described the people in the community as people who had grit and determination. He also attended ETA, where he attended summer camp. Having a background in theater from his time there, really helped him with the television and speaking engagement he does today. He fondly remembers giving Common his autograph at 12 years old.

In undergrad at Hampton, Shaifer got seriously involved with science and technology. He studied marine and environmental science. He graduated with the highest-grade point average in his department. He chose the field of study because he loved science and wanted to study something that would be the most politically applicable science. Marine and environmental science is about climate change, the environment and advocating for different policies.

“It was a great start and a lot of the work I do is related to me studying that field in undergrad,” he said.

Shaifer realized he had a mix of skills, the ability to speak to people in public and a background in science. He didn’t know how he would put it together, but he did. After graduating from Hampton, he volunteered at a museum in Washington, DC. As a way to engage with the students who visited the museum, he would freestyle rap about the exhibits. He called himself Mr. Fascinate and it really resonated with the students. At the same time, he was working as a tech consultant full-time, but knew he wanted to travel and inspire people in science and technology.

Shaifer ended up putting all his extra time into building a platform to create content around science and technology. He changed his Instagram name to Mr. Fascinate, then he quit his job, moved to New York City and tried to become Mr. Fascinate full-time. He developed STEM and STEAM curriculum for students across the New York City area, then he scaled and did more media and content production. He has hosted science television shows explaining science, similar to Bill Nye the Science Guy. Recently, Shaifer hosted the largest K-12 science competition in the world, with Bill Nye.

He built Fascinate Media as a way to make content and sell those ideas. Now, Fascinate Media is making content at a studio in Los Angeles called Fascinate House. One emerging field Shaifer is working on involves virtual production using video game environments to create immersive educational content. Mentees and students Shaifer has worked with and performed for; he has been able to see them dive into STEM careers. One student who worked with Fascinate finished their degree.

“I love the opportunity to see, visibly, the long-term impact of some of the programs we hosted and the content we’ve created on people,” he said. “It’s cool to see the long-term trajectory that you’re trying to help.”

He loves that he can see that he has a positive impact, that is what truly matters to him. All of his achievements happened because of STEM, and he would like to see more young people get involved in STEM.

“I just always want kids to see that STEM is really where it’s at,” he said.

For more information about Fascinate Media, visit www.fascinate.media.

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