FAIRMONT — A carnival was held at Fairmont State University on Saturday, but there wasn’t a Ferris Wheel or cotton candy.
Rather, the event was a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Carnival that was underway for students who were on campus for the FIRST LEGO League Mountain State Invitational Robotics Tournament. They could take part in a variety of fun and educational activities at the carnival once they were finished with the robotics aspect of the tournament.
Held in the field in front of Falcon Center and in Colebank Gym, the carnival even featured a large “zorb ball” which allowed students to climb inside and roll around on the lawn. Josh Revels co-coordinated the carnival with Emily Helton.
Both said they are Fairmont State University education outreach specialists working in partnership with NASA.
“We’ve got exhibitors from across the state of West Virginia that do (science education) outreach annually,” Revels said. “We asked them to join us today for the STEM Carnival. They’re doing hands-on science education activities at the stations with kids to teach them all different types of STEM-related content.”
He said the STEM Carnival was like “an opportunity for kids to take a break from programming the robots, doing the robotics competition,” and was a chance to unwind, learn and become engaged with STEM.
The kids could learn about such things as wind turbines and solar power, among other things. At one station, an infrared camera allowed the kids to learn how an opaque object like a balloon could become see-through through the IR spectrum.
Revels noted how it can be used to open up discussion about the next big thing at NASA.
“We usually talk about how the James Webb Space Telescope, the next NASA launched telescope, is going to use infrared frequencies to help use see through things that we typically couldn’t see through in space,” he said.
Helton said the carnival was going pretty well.
“We haven’t heard any complaints,” she said.
She said the local rocketry club was on hand “showing off some good stuff.”
“It’s a cool opportunity to take these teams that are from all over the country and internationally and show off the science that’s going on in West Virginia,” she said.
Children could also drive NASA’s Modular Robotic Vehicles, climb an Adventure West Virginia rock wall, and “dig real fossils with Prehistoric Plant or witness eye-opening demonstrations from Aurora Flight Sciences, National Energy Technology Lab, spyglass, and SMARTCenter,” according to a schedule.
Other features were rocket launching with Katherine Johnson NASA Independent Verification and Validation center and the West Virginia Rocketry Association, NASA’s STEM Innovation Lab and an electromagnetic can crusher with West Virginia University. In addition, the children could build a popsicle flashlight with Science Applications International Corporation, learn how computers work with West Virginia University 4-H, make inventions with Fairmont State University and take part in a Sphero Robots activity with WVU Statler College, according to the information.
Tricia Stockebrand, a coach with a student team from Kansas, gave everything the thumbs-up.
“The campus is beautiful,” Stockebrand said. “The events are really good.”
Eric Hrin can be reached at (304) 367-2549.