Research has proven that one of the best ways to engage students in science, technology, engineering, and math is with hands-on activities. Utah’s annual STEM Fest does just that. “STEM Fest gives kids a peek into the future of cool STEM-based jobs and technology right here in Utah,” said Troy Holmberg, Director of Engineering Good and Social Innovation at US Synthetic.
Dr. Engberg, Wasatch Academy Director of Engineering and Technology Program, took 18 students from his engineering, design thinking, and robotics classes to engage with science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) through interactive exhibits at the October 7 and 8 event. “It’s a really fun two days,” says Utah STEM Foundation Director Allison Spencer.
According to Spencer, the goal of STEM Fest is to engage the right sides of thousands of Utah student brains. “We’re really trying to show kids that math can be fun, and engineering can be incredible, and developing an app can help make money and change your community,” Spencer says.
The event included exhibitions from universities, public utilities, and private companies. “Students could shoot smoke rings, create sparks from kinetic energy, build insulated beverage koozies, and program digital audio mixers. There were over 100 such exhibits and each had an interactive component,” stated Engberg.
Engberg is passionate about students having these experiences as it allows them to engage with authentic and real-world learning opportunities that may otherwise be missed. Engberg states, “It’s an eye-opening experience to interact with examples of STEM outside the classroom. Students need to engage with outside experts to see the value of STEM.”
Engberg continues, “I hope my students came back from the STEM fest with new ideas to bring into the classroom. In classes like engineering and robotics, design thinking is critical for our day-to-day classroom tasks. I’m hoping my students assimilated some of the innovative ideas they saw and will expand upon them back on campus.”
Incorporating ideas from science and technology allows simple ideas to grow into robust solutions. Engberg states, “I know my students were feeling inspired by the STEM fest. I could hear it in their voices as we walked back to the bus and debriefed on campus. It is exciting when inspiration feeds imagination and creativity.”
A strong STEM program unites critical thinking with the experiential act of making. Engberg leaves us with, “When problem-solving is combined with building in the context of a STEM class, something really magical happens.”