Frantz Lucien, Jr. ’12: Bridging the Digital Divide

One alumnus combines a love of science and communication — plus his hip-hop performance skills — to teach STEM concepts and digital literacy all over the world.

Frantz Lucien, Jr. ’12
Frantz Lucien, Jr. ’12

By Frantz Lucien’s own estimation, he’s taught students across the U.S. and on every continent except Antarctica, all from the dock of Pier 86 in New York City.

As the manager of Interactive Experience and Family Engagement and a museum educator at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum on Pier 86, Lucien ’12 created a distance-learning program for the museum in 2016. The Intrepid Museum is a nonprofit educational institution that features the USS Intrepid aircraft carrier, a National Historic Landmark that served tours of duty in World War II and the Vietnam War, plus home to America’s first space shuttle, Enterprise, and jets and submarines. The museum presents exhibitions and interactive educational programming that showcase American innovation and bravery.

“I take a lot of pride in the fact that I created our distance-learning, virtual field trip program,” said Lucien, who majored in communication and media studies on the broadcast track at Scranton. “And it was one of the reasons we were able to pivot so quickly (when COVID happened) and go to the digital version of our museum and do different digital programming.”

Relying on Experience

Prior to the pandemic, Lucien would traverse the floor of the museum with an iPad to host virtual field trips, teaching students from as far away as Texas and China. He said teachers often told him that their students felt like they were right there with him at the museum. Fast forward to March 2020. Lucien sought to replicate that experience, even when the museum was closed at the height of the pandemic.

“My question was, how do I translate that (immersive experience) when I am sitting in my living room with a sunset painting behind my head?” Lucien said. “So I immediately went down to the ship — because I didn’t live too far from the ship — right before everything closed down. And I took videos walking through and talking, like what we normally do. And then I edited those videos and added different pictures and video clips, and they literally got shared all over the world.”

To create the videos, he used Final Cut Pro software and said, “I only knew how to do that because of my broadcast background at Scranton.” In addition to the virtual field trips and videos, he also participated in a Microsoft Education professional development session for teachers, sharing his tips on how to teach STEM concepts remotely. Lucien said it felt both “nerve-wracking and exhilarating” to use his expertise from before the pandemic to help the museum continue reaching students and interested visitors even when it was closed to in-person guests.

The “Melting Effect”

Lucien, who grew up in Newark, New Jersey, got his start teaching others as a park ranger at Thomas Edison National Historical Park, a job he had during high school and college. He first worked at the Intrepid Museum at one of its summer camps, while he earned a master’s degree in rhetorical communication from Hofstra University.

The seven years he spent working at the Intrepid Museum — hosting planetarium shows, STEM concept demonstrations and virtual field trips — was a perfect marriage of his love of science and communication, Lucien said.

“I called it the ‘melting effect,’ when kids would come in and sit there with their arms crossed, and then slowly start to uncross their arms and lean forward and pay attention.”

In a demonstration from Virtual Kids Week at the museum in 2020, he used common household items and dry ice to create a “comet.” By combining ammonia, sand, dirt and water with the dry ice in a bag — while wearing gloves for safety — Lucien showed the students how comets form. The smoke from the dry ice replicates a comet’s tail, and once the materials finish reacting in the bag, a rock forms.

He welcomed the challenge of connecting with kids who didn’t seem interested in science, whether he was presenting at the museum or at home on Zoom.

“I called it the ‘melting effect,’ when kids would come in and sit there with their arms crossed, and then slowly start to uncross their arms and lean forward and pay attention,” Lucien said. “What they really enjoyed was the fact that it was accessible, and it was done in a way that wasn’t like someone was teaching them.”

Frantz Lucien, Jr. ’12 engages a class in distance learning at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

Engaging With the World

Being in front of a crowd comes naturally to Lucien, who is also a hip-hop artist. He performed back in his Scranton days, taking the stage at campus events to rap and perform with Urban Beats, the campus hip-hop dance team, and he even got pulled up on stage to rap with performer B.o.B. at a Scranton concert.

He met his wife, Meagan Molina ’13, at the University, and credits Scranton’s General Education Program with helping him explore topics outside his natural interests.

“One thing that I really enjoyed was the integration of philosophy into my education. It caused me to think a lot differently,” Lucien said. “In terms of being a critical thinker and welcoming diverse ways of thinking, I think that’s something that came through my exploration of philosophy. And the integration of cura personalis, being for the other person.”

Matthew M. Reavy, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Communication and Media, taught Lucien when he was an undergraduate and said, “Frantz is one of those people whose spirit stays with you long after graduation. He is engaged with the world and fully committed to his unique expression of it.”

Lucien’s work at the Intrepid Museum expanded access for students who might not otherwise have experienced interactive STEM programming, and now he’s working as a STEM Education Consultant at The STEM Alliance, a nonprofit in Westchester, New York, where he and Molina now live.

“I’m working on a project to give 500 residents of Yonkers free Wi-Fi, laptops and digital skills training,” Lucien said, “to try to bridge the digital divide that is evident and prevalent in today’s times.”

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