Even rainy weather couldn’t dampen the excitement for the sixth annual Flagstaff Community STEM Celebration at the Northern Arizona University Walkup Skydome Monday night.
This year, 110 organizations, clubs and other groups presented on subjects ranging from the Grand Canyon to the human body, encouraging participants to take care of themselves and Flagstaff’s remarkable environment, to dream big and to discover more about the vast world they live in.
Albert the Abert’s squirrel, the mascot for the Flagstaff Sustainability Program, even made an appearance.
Adults and children alike reveled in the educational festivities as they wandered through colorful displays that freckled the Skydome floor, gathering freebies and tidbits of information about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Robotics activities were named the favorite among young learners like Valani Kamrowski, 11, a fifth-grader at Cromer Elementary, and Marceau Dramais, 10, a fifth-grader at Montessori School of Flagstaff. Participants could watch local specialists like the Coconino High School robotics team control the robots, as well as program and drive the robots themselves.
Other crowd-pleasers included bottle rockets, thermal infrared cameras, and a space simulation using a large black tarp and weighted objects, where participants were asked to try to get a marble to make a figure eight around a blow-up “Earth” and baseball “moon” to simulate the Apollo 13 mission’s return trajectory.
Isabel Zeilman, 10, a fourth-grader at BASIS Flagstaff, said the event is great for science lovers, even if they don’t know which topic they like most.
“Find something you like in science and maybe it will be here and you can study it more,” she said.
This was true for Mackenzie Spillman, 13, an eighth-grader at Mount Elden Middle School. Though she said social studies is her favorite subject in school, she enjoys visiting STEM night each year. Her favorite activity this year was the balloon-powered cars.
Through these activities, local organizations are able to speak directly with such students and encourage them to take an interest in STEM. This mission inspires groups to return year after year.
Megan Taylor, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Flagstaff, said even though local meteorologists work around the clock, the organization has found a way to host a table at STEM night every year. This year, the meteorologists had soda bottle tornadoes available for students to use.
“Science is fun! That’s the whole point of tonight. That’s why people come here and put their booths on. It’s all about the fun for us, too, and being able to make science fun for the kids,” Taylor said. “It’s not only about the kids, but it’s neat to be able to connect with the adults, too, and share what we do in the community.”
The Boys & Girls Club of Flagstaff has also been a repeat contributor. Deanna Burrell, teen director and events coordinator, said the goal of the event is to show that STEM is more than beakers and Bunsen burners. This year, the Boys & Girls Club booth demonstrated density with the floating hard-boiled egg test.
Adult attendees agreed that this event successfully demonstrates STEM’s diversity and the community these subjects create in northern Arizona.
Stephanie Hanson has lived in Flagstaff for 12 years and has two children who attend Sechrist Elementary. She said the kids love seeing their teachers and friends at an event like this, as well as doing hands-on activities they can take home with them.
“Just getting excited about science and creativity and fostering that creativity is awesome. I think our community does a great job at that,” Hanson said.
Kaitlin Olson can be reached at the office at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (928) 556-2253.