The Ottumwa Courier

March 11, 2014

iExplore STEM gets kids excited about highly skilled fields

By MARK NEWMAN and LYNNETTE OOSTMEYER Courier staff writers
Ottumwa Courier

---- — OTTUMWA — These kids will tell you: science, technology, engineering, math? They really can be fun.

Booth after booth engaged the children in various experiments and demonstrations that highlight the fields of science, technology, engineering and math at the iExplore STEM.

A favorite event seemed to be the booth devoted to the science behind a childhood favorite: blowing bubbles. Wendy Weber, a math professor at Pella’s Central College, said “everyone likes bubbles” and that they can also be very educational.

The “bubbleology” booth showed kids the math behind blowing bubbles. For example, various plastic frames would produce various shapes of bubbles.

“It gets students excited about math and science and we need them to be excited,” Weber said.

Kids were asked to make predictions on what would happen, while others blew the bubbles.

Though meant for kids around the fifth-grade level, students of all ages filled the building at Indian Hills Community College during the event Tuesday. And that was fine with organizers and participants.

“The more kids that we can get out exploring science and math, making predictions and just becoming interested in it, the better off we are going to be as a society,” Weber said.

“There are relevant things going on in the world in terms of math, science and engineering,” said Karen Swanson of Indian Hills Community College.

The festival was sponsored by the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council South Central Hub at Drake University, Indian Hills and Great Prairie Area Education Agency.

“One of the reasons for this has to do with our need for a workforce, a need for highly skilled workers [earning] family-sustaining wages,” Swanson said. “If we can get younger students interested at an early age, we can start filling some of those gaps.”