WHITE HALL – Joslin Workman said she likes to learn about science, technology, engineering and math topics, but doesn’t always get to in interesting ways.
On Wednesday, however, she and her classmates participated in a bevvy of STEM activities, through a carnival of sorts.
“We don’t always get to do things hands-on in school,” said Workman, an eighth grade student at Taylor County Middle School. “I feel like we did a lot of it here.”
Workman was one of the students who took part in the activities of the STEM Carnival, which began Wednesday and wraps up today at the Robert H. Mollohan Center in White Hall.
The carnival, which was organized by workers from NASA’s IV&V facility, included multiple booths where professionals from different fields demonstrated different concepts. Students stopped at the booths where they got a chance to partake in hands-on activities that bring the subjects to life.
“Our mission is to bring them here to the Technology Park and engage them in hands-on learning activities with actual workers,” said Josh Revels, education outreach specialist for the IV&V Program. “That way, those companies can answer questions or inspire the kids to get interested in science. Also to show them that there is something they can do right here in West Virginia in the field of STEM.”
Students from seven middle schools from all around West Virginia attended the STEM Carnival, which Revels said, have been on a waiting list for the annual event. A teacher from Taylor County said the carnival was a good way to get students interested in STEM, and that’s why it was important for them to get their kids to the event.
“It probably helps them understand it more hands-on,” said Kendra Larew, a teacher at Taylor County Middle. “It gives the kids a better insight on how these processes work.”
Organizers targeted middle school students because they are at an age where they could potentially lose interest in these subjects. They decided a carnival-styled event would draw them in.
“Ultimately, the concern is that middle school is the age where students tend to lose interest in these STEM fields,” said Katie Parker, public relations specialist for NASA IV&V. “This was started as a way to re-engage them; to remind them that this is fun, that it’s interesting and there’s a million different things you can do with science, technology, engineering and math.”
Revels and Parker said the activities around the Mollohan Center were planned and manned by different people of different departments. Students from West Virginia University also took part in planning the day’s activities.
“We have several robotics tables, kids always, always always like robotics,” Parker said. “Outside, they’ve got rockets launching and then inside we’ve got little straw rockets launching, so two sets of rockets going.”
Because the program has been an annual occurrence for more than 10 years now, the activities planned for the STEM Carnival have changed over time. Nevertheless, Parker said the goal is to introduce new activities constantly.
“We have new stations every year,” Parker said. “Whenever there is new technology coming out, we do our best to highlight it here.”
Revels said that the carnival is practically the bread and butter of the Tech-Park itself.
“This is the Technology Park,” Revels said. “That’s why we like to invite different groups here to bring something because they’re the ones that are doing all the new stuff, so when they come in they do the most amazing things.”
As the event drew to a close, students reflected on the skills and information they learned. Workman said she learned a great deal.
“We learned a lot about light pollution,” Workman said. “We used tire pressure to see if we could launch a rocket across a field into a basket.”
Watching the kids enjoy the carnival was a welcomed sight for Revels, who is already anticipating the next group of students who take part in the carnival today.
“It really helps bring them into the technology fields,” Revels said.