Boosting an interest in science

TRAER – Who knew science could be so cool?

Hundreds of children found out how cool it could be during the Family STEM Festival Sunday afternoon at North Tama School.

Dozens of exhibits featuring projects related to the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics initiative in the state were featured, from a flight simulator to robot demonstrations.

“I think it boosts their interest and excitement in science,” said Lisa Chizek, science teacher at North Tama. “It also makes parents more aware of it.”

Vickie Damro, of Dysart, brought her 11-year-old son Noah to the event. All of the exhibits were right up Noah’s alley.

“This is my little professor and he eats this stuff up,” she said of her son after he finished with the virtual reality welding exhibit offered by Hawkeye Community College.

Several colleges and universities from across the state were represented. Rick Seeley from the University of Northern Iowa ran the popular flight simulator exhibit.

“They get to take it off and land the plane,” Seeley said. “They love it. It’s really fun.”

Ethan Gates, 12, of Belle Plaine, agreed.

“That was pretty cool,” he said after using the simulator.

Another popular exhibit provided the opportunity to operate a robot and do a task of hanging a ring on a pipe. It was presented by students from Union High School.

“They definitely enjoy driving it,” said presenter Drake Mossman, a student at Union.

The STEM initiative is designed to prepare students for the jobs of the future and to help close the gap between these types of jobs and the available workforce. It is one of the initiatives of Gov. Terry Branstad.

Other projects included learning about aerodynamics, owls, chemistry and a wide range of other experiments and activities. James Hoelscher, of the Northeast Iowa Regional STEM Hub, said he saw plenty of students saying “Wow!” Sunday.

“I think it really sparks their learning,” Hoelscher said. “They get to do hands-on, fun, science-related activities.”

Chizek said there are hopes to make the STEM Festival an annual event. Several other area school districts also helped in the effort and Chizek thanked the exhibitors for making the event a success.

“The people who helped with this have been incredible,” Chizek said.