Fairfield Ledger

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Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 20, 2017

Free event aimed at boosting STEM interest

By Nicole Major, Ledger staff writer | Feb 22, 2017

Local students will soon have a taste of what it might be like to work in industries that regularly use science, technology, engineering and math during the Fairfield Family STEM night.

The event is from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Monday at the Fairfield Arts and Convention Center.

According to the press release, the free hands-on event is designed for third-through eighth-graders to explore “the wonders” of STEM while freely enjoying more than 25 different booths.  Students will learn about robotics, the water cycle, the human body and much more though activities provided by many area businesses and organizations.

The Fairfield Community School District, Indian Hills Community College, Southeast Iowa STEM Hub, Great Prairie AEA and French-Reneker-Associates sponsored the event.

Local presenters include the Jefferson County Health Center, French-Reneker-Associates, Agri-Industrial Plastics, Cambridge Investment Research, Iowa Wind and Solar, Iowa State University Extension and the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service.

Melanie Carlson, an engineer at French-Reneker-Associates, spearheaded the event. Carlson, who graduated from the Fairfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Fairfield program, helped organize a similar event at Fairfield Middle School two years ago.

Around 160 students showed up to that event, where her Leadership Fairfield team brought together a group of volunteers from area businesses and organizations to conduct a variety of activities aimed at educating students in grades kindergarten through eight about the diversity of science, technology, engineering and math related careers.

“It’s a little different than [it was] two years ago. It’s a carnival type atmosphere where students can come and go as they please,” Carlson said. “There are approximately 25 booths. Some booths will be more interesting to younger students, while others are geared toward older students … everyone will find something interesting.”

Carlson said it’s important for students to learn early about STEM careers for a couple of reasons.

“First is economic development … I want to get our students and their parents in touch with the local companies that use STEM every day,” she said. “Maybe one of those students will be a future engineer at Agri-Industrial Plastics, Dexter [Laundry] or French-Reneker. Second, the earlier we encourage kids to explore and make mistakes, the sooner they start to make discoveries of their own. The sooner they make discoveries, the sooner we find a cure for cancer, [the] energy crisis or food insecurity.”

In addition to the exploration and fun for students, Fairfield High School senior Olivia Hammel will receive an award for the artwork she created for the Jefferson County STEM Festival. Agri-Industrial Plastic will present the prize.

Although the event is geared for elementary to middle school aged children, students of all ages are encouraged to attend.

“Student registration is encouraged so that we can be prepared,” Carlson said.

For more information or to register for the event, visit www.se.iowastem.org/jefferson-county-stem-festival.

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