Successful STEM-tastic Saturday: Ready for 2016

sculptureThe day after STEM-tastic Saturday, STEM Alliance of Larchmont-Mamaroneck President Meg Käufer began gearing up for next year. The event was created by the all-volunteer STEM Alliance with advice from the national Science Festival Alliance.

The MHS Talks event was awesome: “65 STEM experts at the high school at 19 roundtables talking about the disciplines,” Käufer said. STEM Alliance focuses on the arts in addition to science, technology, engineering and math, integrating art and performing arts.

“Our Alliance connects applied learning opportunities for youth by leveraging the experts in our community whether they’re institutions or individual experts,” she explained. “We know that great learning goes on but sometimes it’s hard to integrate it.”

Kids examine a mini drone before it attempts to maneuver its way around an obstacle course/Photo by Amanda Lai

Kids examine a mini drone before it attempts to maneuver its way around an obstacle course/Photo by Amanda Lai

The idea, she said, is to engage STEM experts in conversations and experiences with district youth in order to create more applied learning opportunities for students in the STEAM (A for art) disciplines. “We are a networking group that serves as a liaison between schools and these experts to enrich the educational offerings in our schools.”

This year the Alliance supported a Robotics Club at the middle school, Hour of Code (all students in the school district learn for at least one hour) during the annual worldwide celebration in December 2014, and an Explore Your Opportunities conference for 7th-grade girls hosted by the American Association of University Women.

“We did Hour of Code at the schools and in libraries and local businesses, tinkering nights at each of the local elementary schools for parents and youth together,” Käufer said.

NASA Astronaut Capt. Kathryn Hire speaks with students about her experiences in space/Photo by Krystel Perez

NASA Astronaut Capt. Kathryn Hire speaks with students about her experiences in space/Photo by Krystel Perez

The idea behind MHS Talks was roundtables with small student-to-expert ratios that put students in conversation with STEAM experts to hear not only their current work but also their life path to that work (education, career, other influences), she explained.

“Brian (Conybeare) was at those conversations to show the diversity of backgrounds and people (even public relations and politicians) who are needed for a major infrastructure project,” she said.

Rockets were launched, drones were demoed, microscopes were peered into, and motors became circuits. Participants made glass from sand; one local 5th-grade student built a hovercraft from “bouncy castle” motors, and the New NY Bridge display drew interest and questions.

experimentThe Expo featured keynote speaker and NASA astronaut Captain Kathleen Hire plus hands-on exhibits and interactive experiences.

“It’s getting kids exposed to disciplines they might not know were of interest to them, leveraging curiosity and creativity,” Käufer said. “People like to have fun, and when you create an atmosphere where people can have fun and learn through that, they’re going to be exposed to things that they would not naturally gravitate toward.”

The Intrepid Museum demonstrated a vacuum effect on different materials, Mad Science experts helped attendees grow their own crystals. There was a garden of locally-grown vegetables. Professionals ranged from firefighters to physical therapists to mathematicians.

Plans are underway for next year’s event. For information or to volunteer, contact the STEM Alliance of Larchmont-Mamaroneck at info@lmstemalliance.org or visit http://www.lmstemalliance.org.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2015

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