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FEATURE STEM WEEK EVENT: Worm Heartbeats, 3D Printing & New Earth Space Exhibits: Experience Them All as Lane County STEM Hub and Science Factory Host STEMfest

On Saturday, May 6th, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Lane County STEM Hub, in partnership with the Science Factory, will be celebrating all things STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math! Not only will the Science Factory have free admission for all comers, local kids and their families will have the opportunity to experience the excitement and creativity associated with STEM fields—and learn just how cool they are—by participating in a wide variety of related activities. And nothing says “cool” like the opportunity to listen to the heartbeat of a microscopic worm!

Erin Maloney, Project Coordinator for Lane STEM, noted, “Often, kids do not have a lot of exposure to what STEM fields really are, or they associate STEM with reading dry science textbooks and math problem sets. We want to show students how exciting these areas of study can be, and what career opportunities exist, by having them really dive into some captivating STEM-related activities.”

Over 500 people are expected to join Lane STEM and the Science Factory, along with partners such as the University of Oregon Science Library and the Eugene Astronomical Society; after-school educators Fidgets2Widgets and the Academic Achievement Center; and local STEM businesses such as NemaMetrix (a company that uses the microscopic worms to help firms test compounds) and InHaus Fabrication. The exhibitors will have engaging projects, both inside and outside the Science Factory building, designed to inspire the brain and get the hands working to explore, build, create, and output, all skills that are important to careers in these areas. Attendees will not only get to hear that tiny heartbeat, but also see a 3D printer in action, construct and fly foam-core airplanes, work with Lego Robotics, experience planetarium shows, see light-scanning technology and make a wearable item with thermoforming, among other opportunities.

As part of STEMfest, the Science Factory will also be unveiling a new Earth and Space Science Toolkit exhibit; this display includes hands-on earth and space science experiences and was awarded to the Science Factory this year by the National Informal STEM Educational Network. As part of the day’s activities, museumgoers will be given a very relevant lesson about viewing August’s solar eclipse safely, along with a pair of eclipse safety glasses. Parts of Oregon lies along the path of the totality (where the sun will be completely blocked), so many area residents are likely to attend.

When asked about the aims of the event, Maloney emphatically stated, “We want as many people as possible to visit the Science Factory (particularly if they’ve never been before) and to discover what science, technology, engineering and math allow us to accomplish. An important goal for STEMfest is for students to leave thinking, ‘STEM = FUN!’ and wondering, ‘What kind of new thing can I discover or create today?’”

Lane STEM: The Lane County STEM Hub coordinates, promotes and supports STEM education in Lane County, Oregon. Building on the nationwide STEM movement to integrate science, technology, engineering, and math in the classroom and beyond, the STEM Hub brings together a diverse population of students, teachers, local businesses, public officials, and the community at large. The STEM Hub provides teachers in Lane County with connections to STEM professionals (engineers, scientists, technicians, and analysts) and offers resources for Lane County educators, industry professionals, families, and community members. Current efforts include professional development for educators; elevating and supporting community STEM activities; creating a STEAM asset map in order to visually represent all STEAM programming for youth in Lane County; and connecting students to industry through job shadowing and internship opportunities.

 

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Melissa Dubois is the South Metro-Salem Hub STEM Director. The South Metro-Salem STEM Partnership (SMSP) is a collaboration of school districts, community colleges, universities, out-of-school programs and business and community partners that is focused on increasing student access and success in STEM fields.