Annual fair exposes children to science

Studies, smashing co-exist at 20th Western UP Science Fair and STEM Festival at Michigan Tech

Photo by Jon Jaehnig At one of the more popular tables, Michigan Tech's Mind Trekkers taught local children about temperature by freezing flowers and oranges in liquid nitrogen and then smashing them.

HOUGHTON — It was all about fun learning using the scientific method Thursday at the 20th annual Western U.P. Science Fair and STEM Festival held at Michigan Technological University

“Approximately 160 students from schools in the CCISD and GOISD submitted projects to the science fair on an investigation they conducted using the scientific process,” according to Shawn Oppliger, director of the Western UP Center for Science. Thirteen area elementary and middle schools were represented and nine Michigan Tech departments made the event possible.

Learning didn’t stop when the students submitted their projects, however. At the STEM Festival, held in Michigan Technological University’s Memorial Union Building, students and their families had the opportunity to interact with over 30 activity stations. Each activity station was led by members of Michigan Tech Student Organizations and community members.

Presenters were there to pass on a love of STEM, but also to discuss its importance.

“We want to gain a bit of exposure to people at a young age,” said Jason Worful, a Tech student-member of Engineers Without Borders. Their booth allowed children to use a sand-filled tube and a ceramic cone to filter. “Engineers Without Borders helps communities become sustainable,” explained John Marino, a fellow presenter who said that their booth was all about “giving children an understanding of how important having clean water is.”

A nearby table set up by the Railroad Engineering Activities club featured a model train and a working signaling bell. Tech’s Mind Trekkers also had tables where students could learn about inertia by standing on a rotating plate, or learn about temperature by freezing objects in liquid nitrogen and smashing them with a hammer – all under careful supervision, of course.

The event was an opportunity for grownups to learn as well, as the presenters would often cross the aisle to chat with each other when traffic at their booths was down. Presenters also took advantage of opportunities to speak about their topic on a more advanced level when an interested parent or teacher stopped by.

After the portion of the event that was open to the public, judges went upstairs to deliberate over which of the little scientists’ projects would be announced the winner. As of the writing of this story, the judges were still deliberating, but the science teachers whose students participated in the event will be notified later today about who the winner was. Students are judged on their findings, their presentation, their documentation and questions that they answer during the judging.