Connect2STEM gets students hands on with science

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Brisa Mady, 6, holds fire at an outdoor physics demonstration. (Nicholas Serpa/DD)

Inside the Physics Bus, a small group of children put on special glasses and watch a movie. (Nicholas Serpa/DD)

Carrie Wheeler and her son Wilson Wiggins, 5, check out the microscope station inside the Physics Bus. (Nicholas Serpa/DD)

Children play with circuit board-based experiments at the Intel booth. (Nicholas Serpa/DD)

Dillon, 9, discovers the shocking truth about static electricity. (Nicholas Serpa/DD)

Lucian Jennings, 4, feels a replica of the planet Venus at an outer-space exhibit. (Nicholas Serpa/DD)

With bubble wands in hand, Ashley Estrada, 9, spins around to create massive soap bubbles. (Nicholas Serpa/DD)

A group of students reach try to touch helium-filled bubbles as they float away into the sky. (Nicholas Serpa/DD)

Thousands of kids and parents got their hands dirty on Saturday with technology and science experiments put on by Connect2STEM.

The University of Arizona’s College of Medicine in downtown Phoenix organized and held the 3rd Annual Connect2STEM event. The free event, which was partially sponsored by Arizona SciTech, offered interactive exhibits for kids to try out.

Inside the College of Medicine, kids interested in health sciences held pig hearts, used stethoscopes, learned to suture and tested out ultrasound technology and surgical robots.

“It’s just grown by leaps and bounds every year,” said Marian Frank, Associate Director of Public Affairs for University of Arizona Health Sciences. “You just can see the looks on their faces, that they just eat up all the science that we offer.”

Those interested in space could visit the Challenger Space Center of Arizona’s solar system exhibit and walk among scaled down replicas of the planets. Jon Van de Water, Director of Education at the Challenger Space Center of Arizona, said that the exhibit’s main goal is to get kids excited about space.

“We’re just trying to inspire kids, showing them the planets so that they can get a better feel as to how large space actually is and how much more we have to learn,” he said.

Other popular demonstrations included helium filled bubbles that would float miles up into the sky and a Physics Bus filled with all sorts of hands on gadgets and experiments.

But not all students attending Connect2STEM were there to interact with the exhibits and experiments — some were there to teach. By means of the Chief Science Officers program, over 200 sixth through 12th grade students were elected to be ambassadors of STEM among their peers. Many of these students helped run the various tables and answered questions.

“Having kids actually interact with other kids — that excitement comes across so much more clearly than when it comes from an adult,” said Susan Farretta, Director of Educational Initiatives with the Arizona Technology Council Foundation. “The kids are doing a fabulous job trying to make science cool.”

Van de Water said that putting on events like Connect2STEM and getting students passionate about STEM is critically important.

“The kids are the future of this,” Van de Water said. “We need to make sure that they’re engaged and really excited about where the future is going.”

Contact the reporter at Nicholas.Serpa@asu.edu.

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