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Opening Young Minds to Science

Photo by Scott Daly

With drones flying around the room, people taking turns sitting in a gravity chair, and slime covering tables, the Mathematics Education Association (MEA) STEM Fair looked like a dream come true for the science-minded, and that observations isn’t far off the mark.

At the MEA STEM Fair on January 31, sixth, seventh, and eighth-grade students from all over Utah Valley gathered together in the Wilkinson Center to learn about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Booths at the fair came from STEM departments all over campus, and the student attendants were dedicated to showing kids the real impact of the STEM fields.

“We just want them to see how exciting these STEM fields are,” said Stephanie Lyon, the MEA President. “When you’re sitting in school, . . . science and math and engineering sound boring. You just sit there solving problems. We want them to be engaged, which is why we try to get these interactive booths, so they can come and get excited about the STEM fields.”

Parents and children alike seemed taken by the exciting experiments. One of the popular booths was the “Will it Hold” booth sponsored by the MEA club. Visiting students used clay and toothpicks to build shapes that would hold the most weight.

“It’s good to get them at that age, to get them to start thinking about career choices,” said Angie Kelli, a parent from Lakeridge Junior High School. “It’s a long way off, but [the fair] is fun, and it gets them excited about it.”

Lauren Wegryn, a student from Vista Heights Junior High School, was excited about the chemistry booth in particular.

“I liked the slime at the chemistry booth,” Wegryn said. “It’s just cool that you can take two or more different materials and make a whole new thing. Two liquids made a sort of solid, which was the slime, and I thought that was awesome. [The best part of the fair] is being able to see the different types of science and see how similar they can be and how different they can be and how they all connect.”

Garett Brown, a physics major from Alberta, Canada, was excited to be able to open up the children’s eyes to the new and cutting-edge technology that BYU is working on right now at the Astronomical Society booth.

“There are a lot of things that are here that didn’t exist when I was [the kids’] age,” Brown said. “It’s pretty cool that we have come so far so fast already. I totally agree that exposing kids to STEM at a young age is thrilling and enlivening.”