What do dissected pigs, lasers, snakes, equines, rockets, LEGOs and drones have in common? The Mineral County STEM Festival!
Faculty, staff, students and community members volunteered to present a variety of activities on campus March 24. The festival introduced children in Kindergarten through 12 grade to science, technology, engineering and math concepts through hands-on activities. About 1,000 visitors attended the STEM Festival.
The festival included displays put together by the students, faculty and the surrounding community. The Potomac State College agriculture department had horses and goats on display for the families. The equine students were showing the kids how to tack horses and explained their daily routines in the barn. The goat farm also brought some goats to the quad for the children to interact with.
“I think it is important for kids to feel comfortable around animals and gain experience about them,” said PSC equine student Mallie Otoole.
Ameicorps sent representatives from the Americorps Forrest Service and the Americorps Fish and Wildlife to teach the community about non-native invasive species. The point of their booth was to help educate the public on how to identify non-native invasive species and help reduce their spread and the harm that these species can cause to the environment.
“The earlier that children are informed the earlier they can get involved,” said Americorps Forest Service worker Haley Hutchins.
The Mary F. Shipper library had many classic displays, such as the virtual reality glasses that have been a hit at past STEM festivals. The families were allowed to put on the VR glasses and then they were read a story while being shown images through the glasses that went along with the story. A brand new drone display was also being shown in the library. David Miller of the PSC library was educating the public on drone safety and the importance of drones in the future of our society. The children were also allowed to fly the drones through an obstacle course that the library put up.
The sciences were very popular at the STEM festival. Professor of Biology Dr. Gerald Wilcox was showing off the difference between healthy lungs and a smoker’s lungs using real pig lungs. He used the pig lungs to show how smoking can discolor a person’s lungs. There were also dissected fetal pigs being shown to the children. They were even allowed to look through their organs.
“I was sad because they were dead, but I learned that their hearts are really small,” said seven-year-old Juniper Judy.
The Potomac Valley Chapter of the Mountain State Valley Council for the Blind sent representatives to the festival to educate people on technologies that allow for blind people to live independently. These technologies include the “Brail Note” that allows for blind people to type and the “Seeing Eye” application that allows for blind people to read through the cameras on their phone.
There were a lot of engineering presentations on display. The PSC engineering department had a gokart that they built on the quad for families to drive. Orbital ATK was present to teach children about the anatomy of rockets by letting them make their own rockets out of paper and launching them using a using an air bellow. The community robotics team “Rambunctious Robots” was showing off the robots that they built. These robots included a tank, one that used pressure sensors to push off of surfaces and one that is programmed to give high fives.
West Virginia University sophomore Olivia Young was present on behalf of the Science Public Outreach Team, a team founded by NASA and Greenbank Observatory, to educate on space and radio waves. She was running an exhibit that was showing how meteors strike the earth.
“I think it is important for kids to take an interest in science early because as we get older science becomes less about discovery and more about memorization. And it is important to keep that passion in discovery because it really goes a long way,” said Young.