Youth learn, have fun at STEM Festival
Chatter could be heard amid smiling faces Monday night upon entering the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center’s Expo Hall.
Students of all ages tinkered with robotic gadgets and built with plastic gizmos, drew simulated blood from flesh-like arms and explored the basic principals of engineering through free play at the Fairfield Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Fair.
Fairfield parent Sarah Droz said she and her three daughters examined sets of healthy pink pig lungs compared to a cigarette smoke infused set at the Jefferson County Health Center’s science display.
“I think this was really educational for kids,” said Droz. “What we were just looking at — that’s what a pack a day can do to your lungs after 20 years!”
“I think this is a really good experience to find out how science and even math is fun,” said Droz’s 10-year-old daughter, Madelynn, adding that she had enjoyed all she had learned at the STEM Fair, as well as what she’d learned earlier that day.
Fairfield Middle School fifth-graders experienced a double-dose of STEM during a field trip to the Fairfield Public Library. Children’s librarian Afton Hallauer said the school district had approached the library about hosting a STEM experience to coincide with the fair.
“We were really happy; the kids were phenomenal,” Hallauer said. “We would love to have them again.”
Although the day might have been long for some, a few participants thought the STEM Fair could have been longer.
“My friend got here at 5 p.m. and she had to drag her third-grader out,” said Fairfield parent Lonica Kufner.
Kufner’s daughter Alexis Eisenbraun drew simulated blood from a flesh-like arm at an Indian Hills Community College Medical Laboratory Technologist display.
“I think it’s been really great, and really educational,” Kufner said, adding that her children asked if the fair would there the next day.
Kufner said she planned to take her children to a nearby STEM event Tuesday night.
Tessa Seibert, a Fairfield High School freshman who is a member of 4-H robotics team, Illuminati Confirmed, said she enjoyed showing younger students the ins and outs of robotics.
“I wasn’t supposed to be behind the table, but I slowly just edged behind it and started showing them — it was fun,” she said, explaining how the younger kids responded to a robot called “frady bot.”
“This was a great event,” said IHCC high school programs director Karen Swanson. “It was a very, very collaborative effort. The school district was involved, the Fairfield Area Chamber of Commerce … other school districts were also here: Van Buren, Pekin, and Davis County. They brought a bus load of students and they toured Agri-Industrial Plastics … they made an afternoon out of it.”
In addition to Indian Hills and Fairfield schools, other partners included the Southeast Iowa STEM Hub, Great Prairie AEA and French-Reneker-Associates.
Local presenters included the Jefferson County Health Center, French-Reneker-Associates, Agri-Industrial Plastics, Cambridge Investment Research, Iowa Wind and Solar, Iowa State University Extension and the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service.
“I want to inspire,” said Anu Ghimire, a software engineer with Cambridge Investment Research who helped run a booth during the fair. “There are so few girls in engineering; I want to [encourage] them to pursue STEM.”