Saturdayâs annual STEMfest provided free fun-filled activities that exposed students to science, technology, engineering and math careers.
Frisbee-throwing robots, laser labs and haunted physics labs were just a few favorites showcased at the event hosted by NIU STEM Outreach.
The fest included more than 200-hands-on exhibits, attracted nearly 5,000 spectators. Melinda Morrison from Rock Island, Ill., came with her granddaughter, Kailee Bazil.
âKailee is eager to see the Fun with Liquid Nitrogen exhibit,â Morrison said.
Shannon Martinez, from Montgomery, Ill., brought her daughter and her Girl Scout troop along for the fun and pro-active day at the fest.
âI love the STEMfest because I have an engineering background and I want to expose my daughter to science as well,â Martinez said. âI want her to explore the hands on things she can do at a young age like building things and doing home science projects.â
âIf you take a look at the kids around here they are learning, touching, exploring and having a good time,â added Tom Fenner, a parent from Milwaukee. âThey are shocked and intrigued and this is setting the foundation for further education and interest in the STEM field.â
With student competitions, performances, exhibits such as the Midwest Museum of Natural Historyâs bone and fossil collection and a workshop that teaches how to change the sound intensity of an mp3 player or iPod, there was something for everyone to explore at the STEMfest.
âTheÂ Mobile DJ Unit from Redmoon Theater CompanyÂ was a huge hit. Itâs a Segue that has been retrofitted with a sound system and a bubble blower,â said Gillian King-Cargile, Outreach and Engagement communications coordinator. âAt one point, the unit was circlingÂ the track whileÂ kids and adults followed behind it dancing to âCall Me Maybeâ in a cloud of bubbles. Redmoon appeared with MashPlantÂ to discuss the intersections of technology and art.â
A presentation by sci-fi authorÂ Kat Falls also proved popular, King-Cargile said, as did the familiar favorites.
âReaders of all agesÂ packed into the stage area to hear her talk about her latest book âInhumanâ and then get their copies signedâ, she said.Â âAs in past years, our F.I.R.S.T.Â Robotics Robo Arena, the Haunted Physics Lab and laser labs were great fun. I think there was truly something great for everyone this year.â
Volunteers played a huge role in conducting the STEMfest. Many students and teachers volunteered this year to host exhibits and create a positive and enjoyable experience for everyone.
Gus Diaz, a volunteer and member of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers at NIU, was excited to see all the students drop in to the Convocation Center for the fest this year. He helped out with his organizationâs ânuts and boltsâ exhibit and asked interesting thought-provoking questions about electrical technology to all who approached the booth.
Eddie Ham, an elementary education volunteer, hosted a booth on air pressure using a couple of ping pong balls and the vistorsâ own air pressure from blowing out against a pendulum.
Ham, who teaches a sixth-grade science class, said he believes students need practical science exposure at a young age to spark interest. STEM Outreach hosts many other programs and events for the community, including STEM Saturdays, STEM Teen Read, STEMÂ CafĂ©s, summer camps and more.
âItâs important for learners of all ages to understand how much of a role science, technology, engineering and math play in society today,â King-Cargile said.
âWe want to open students up to the possibility of working in these important fields and to show them that a scientist isn’t some old guy in aÂ lab coat who scribbles down formulas andÂ equations all day. Scientists look like you and me. TheyÂ work on a variety of different applications that will shape ourÂ future,â she added. âWe hope that students will see something cool atÂ STEMfest that will light a spark of curiosity that will grow into a passion to learn more.Â These students will be the leaders and innovators of tomorrow. We hope that we can encourage them to learn and succeed.â
by Chonce Maddox