Last Friday, I helped students learn about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). This was the annual [2017 Arizona STEM Adventure] event in Tucson, Arizona. Once again, Pima Community College Northwest Campus provided the venue.
The event hosted 1,200 students, ranging from fourth to eighth grades. Buses collected them from ten different school districts in the area. Home-schooled, private-schooled and charter-schooled children participated as well.
I was just one of 215 volunteers. IBM had 18 volunteers. [Apple], [Raytheon], [Pima Community College], [Agents of STEM], [SARSEF], [StemAZing], [Office of Pima County School Superintendent], [UA Stem Learning Center], and other individuals also volunteered their time to make this happen.
(This is the second time I volunteer. Read my blog post of my experiences of [Arizona 2015 STEM Adventure]!)
There were three dozen exhibits, some were indoors, and others in tents outside. The weather was delightful for November.
- Bicycle Gyroscope
IBM's exhibit used a simple bicycle wheel to demonstrate the properties of a [gyroscope]. A gyroscope is a spinning wheel that maintains its angular momentum. This can be useful for both measuring forces that try to affect it, as well as counteract those forces.
We had the kids stand on a rotating platform, holding the bicycle wheel with both hands. A volunteer would spin the wheel. If the kid leaned the wheel left or right, the platform would spin to counteract the force. (The effect can be accomplished while sitting on a swivel chair. See [Exploratorium] for an example.)
Gyroscopes are used in everything from airplanes to submarines to help with navigation, keeps space-based telescopes like the Hubble pointed in the right direction, helps to dig tunnels straight, and for [Steadicam] filming for Hollywood movies and [IBM Client Center videos!
- Citizens for Solar: Solar Cooking Demonstration
Climate change is a big deal in Arizona. According to the journal magazine Science, [Arizona will suffer more deaths and economic losses] than most of the United States under current climate change projections.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):
"The state has warmed about two degrees (F) in the last century. Throughout the southwestern United States, heat waves are becoming more common, and snow is melting earlier in spring. In the coming decades, changing the climate is likely to decrease the flow of water in the Colorado River, threaten the health of livestock, increase the frequency and intensity of wildfires, and convert some rangelands to desert." (Source: [What Climate Change means for Arizona])
People are not doing enough to [reduce their carbon footprint], so [we'd all better get used to it].
- Vail School District: Boxerbots
The [Boxerbots] is Boxerbots is part of FIRST [For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology] league, formed out of the Vail High School Science, Engineering, and Robotics Club.
Their robots stole the show! This one pictured here was remote controlled. Another one was able to pick up and throw basketballs.
(This is not my first exposure to FIRST. See my 2009 blog post [Helping Young Students] on how I helped fourth graders learn C programming language by building robots with LEGO Mindstorms.)
The team draws students from the five high schools of the Vail school district. I drive by one of these, the Vail Academy and High School, on the way to IBM Client Experience Center. This is not just for boys, about one third of the team are girls!
The students do the design of each robot, do the welding, even do the C++ programming, and participate in competitions!
- Lunch and Logistics
With all the focus on science and technology exhibits, it is easy to forget all the work done behind the scenes. An [Eventbase] website was used to help us direct all of the students, teachers and volunteers to the right place.
Since we had enough volunteers for the IBM exhibit, I chose instead to be a "general volunteer" and was assigned the task of collecting and distributing lunches. For some schools, the students brought their own lunches on the bus, these were collected when they got off the bus, and distributed to them when it was their time to eat. For other schools, their staff packed lunches for each student.
We staggered the distribution into five groups, with color coded labels, starting from 10:30am, every 20 minutes, to 11:50am. The volunteers themselves did not eat until 1:30pm. We were provided pulled pork sandwiches from [Mama's Hawaiian BBQ], a local favorite!
This was a great day! There are plenty of problems that need to be solved in our world, and a shortage of scientists and engineers to solve them. Encouraging kids to pursue these careers is a good step forward.
technorati tags: IBM, AZSTEMAdventure, Pima Community College, PCC, SARSEF, StemAZing, University of Arizona, gyroscope, global warming, climate change, solar cooking, EPA, Science Magazine, carbon footprint, Boxerbots