STEM-tastic 2016: Exploration, Curiosity, Learning

Mini EinsteinsTwo young scientists in a white laboratory coat smiled broadly as an assistant took their picture. The Mini Einsteins activity was one of many hands-on events at last week’s STEM-tastic Saturday that drew more than 2,000 attendees.

As with last year’s successful event, the day featured exhibits, games, experiments and workshops like building a replica of our new bridge with LEGO® bricks, coding, sciences labs, soldering, computer animation and shark dissections.

The day mobilized more than 340 participants and 170 volunteers, STEM Alliance of Larchmont-Mamaroneck President Meg Käufer said. “We don’t apologize for it being overwhelming. This speaks to the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) disciplines.”

Rube Goldberg chain reaction machine components were engineered by 11 teams of six members each/Jill Bock

Rube Goldberg chain reaction machine components were engineered by 11 teams of six members each/Jill Bock

STEM Alliance activities continue throughout the year, and “we want them to leave here eager to do more of this on the other 364 days,” Kaufer said.

A big hit was KEVA plank building zone, a block-building experience based on a single unit with all blocks being identical. “Kids can create incredibly strong and geometrically-shaped structures,” she said.

“The young kids tend to build flat, and what they build has a story behind it — this is where the train runs or this is what my house looks like — and as the kids get older, their designs get more abstract.” One child built a double helix from KEVA planks, an example of the beauty of the material.

Wind TunnelWestchester Children’s Museum Wind Tunnels in the library had kids create objects that are aerodynamic enough to rise and not to fall, was aided by a fan at the tunnel base. A new activity was The Chain Reaction Challenge, where 11 teams of six each had to build chains that connected to each other into one long chain reaction.

“The ball flowed from one end to the other,” she said of the engineering challenge. “Each team’s segment was unique.”

Beach Physics by Curious-on-Hudson was a sneaky way for kids to learn about cohesion and buoyancy while having fun with sand and a tiny pool filled with water.

“I thought that was really well-crafted, making castles from sand and adding various degrees of water, and seeing how paper cup boats float, depending upon how many pennies are added,” Käufer said.

NNYB Educational Outreach Administrator Andy O’Rourke explains the state’s twin-spanned, cable-stayed project.

NNYB Educational Outreach Administrator Andy O’Rourke explains the state’s twin-spanned, cable-stayed project.

Now in its third year of educating students and the community, the New NY Bridge project continues to fascinate and ignite interest in STEM careers. Kids had a chance to make their own mini bridges at a hands-on LEGO® Bricks 4 Kidz workshop in another part of the building.

STEM educator Aisha Arenas’ concept of creating a dress-up area and engaging kids in active role-modeling play as Mini Einsteins was new this year and popular with the kids who eagerly donned white lab coats to have their pictures taken.

“This goes beyond being a fairy or a fireman (for Halloween).” Käufer said, speaking to the heart of STEM. “What about being a scientist? What about creating those goals to do other things?”

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2016

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