Mt Pleasant News

Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 26, 2018

7 area schools bring high school students to IW for STEM Festival

Event gives students chance to get hands-on insight into potential career opportunities
Apr 06, 2018
Photo by: Grace King Students from seven school districts attended Iowa Wesleyan’s STEM, Art and Career Festival on Thursday, April 5. Above, students venture to tap Makenna West on the shoulder only to feel a shock of electricity during the festival.

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News


Wapello High School student Makenna West’s hair stood on end as the electric charge from the Van de Graaff generator her hands were wrapped around like she was looking into a crystal ball coursed through her body.

West was standing on a slab of wood placed on top of a plastic crate to keep the static electricity insulated in her body. As other students came up behind her, tapping her on the shoulder or placing their hands on her back, a shock ran from the Van de Graaff generator, through West’s arms, to the hand of whoever was touching her and down through their body to the ground.

“You could feel the electricity in your body,” West said after stepping down from the plastic crate and giving another student a turn. “I was leery at first, watching and seeing that spark of electricity, but it’s super fun, cool, something you don’t get to do every day.”

The Van de Graaff generator booth was one of many run by Iowa Wesleyan University (IW) students, staff and area businesses showing off the ways science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) play a role in their career field.

The STEM, Art and Career Festival at Howe Center on IW’s campus drew students from seven school districts from southeast Iowa on Thursday, April 5, including Mt. Pleasant Community High School (MPCHS), Mt. Pleasant Middle School, Mt. Pleasant Christian, New London High School, Winfield-Mt. Union High School and WACO.

“We have been blessed with a lot of presenters today,” said Rosemary Peck, IW Natural Sciences professor and festival organizer. “It gives students a chance to break into smaller groups and participate.”

DeWayne Frazier, IW Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean, said that it is important for IW to hold festivals like this because they have long been a pioneer in the science industry in the southeast Iowa region. Frazier also mentioned that by showing high school students STEM fields, perhaps that could get them interested in being a part of those fields themselves — or perhaps even teaching them.

“We’re taking it to another level bringing back secondary school science teachers,” Frazier said. “We want to fill the gap in the region.”

As another bus unloaded in the parking lot of the Howe Center, high school students flooded into the hallway, filling the Social Hall and Ruble Arena. They were greeted by fluffy slime, a real pig heart and lungs and various robotic technology they were invited to get their hands on.

Representing Henry County Health Center, nurse anesthetist (CRNA) Matt Miller showed students how to perform intubation using a dummy head with balloons acting as the lungs. Miller said that he volunteered at the STEM Festival because he wanted to give back to the students.

“That’s how I got started in anesthesia,” Miller said. “If I can spark some kid’s interest in anesthesia … it’s enlightening to see kids have a passion. It’s our next generation, someone else to carry the torch.”

After MPCHS student Luke Ryon spent several minutes with Miller, he walked away with a new, hands-on experience under his belt and an excited smile on his face. Although he said as a freshman he wasn’t going to narrow down his options just yet, being at the festival and talking to people with actual experience in a career field was an incredible experience.

“It felt weird being able to do that and thinking it could be a real person,” Ryon said after he successfully intubated the dummy using medical tools Miller borrowed from the hospital.

Other medical-related booths included a dummy from the IW Nursing Department and a pig heart and lungs. Students could choose from five different types of stethoscopes to listen to the dummy’s heart and lungs, which could be programmed to mimic healthy lungs or what lungs would sound like for a person with different illnesses.

At the other heart and lungs booth, IW student Marisa Wieczorek blew into the pigs lungs through a long tube to demonstrate what they look like inflated.

“Students have been like ‘whoah, that’s cool. That’s real?’” Wieczorek said. “I can show them my knowledge. Most of them are coming in with high school anatomy knowledge. I get to show it to them first hand.”

The medical field is just one career option for students interested in STEM studies. On the other side of the room, Jeff Meyer, with the Mt. Pleasant Public Library, was showing students computer programming, specifically HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

“The world runs on electronic software now,” Meyer said. “Some (students) think it’s pretty neat. There’s always going to be a need for computer programming.”

Out in the hallway, Colin McCormick was representing Hearth and Home Technologies. Demonstrating how their fire places work, McCormick said it was safe — their booth was set up right by the fire extinguisher.

When McCormick turned the fire place on, that’s when students were drawn to the booth. Like a moth to a flame, “definitely when we turn on the fire, it draws them in,” McCormick said, adding that next time they see one of Hearth and Home’s fireplaces installed in someone’s house, they will understand how that technology works.

Wal-Mart was another area business represented at the festival. Store Manager Chad Sloat said that people see the Wal-Mart store and the customer service, but what they don’t think about are the engineers who work behind the scenes.

Sloat said Wal-Mart couldn’t do what they do without people behind the scenes with knowledge in science and technology; they even need airplane pilots to move product.

As Iowa Wesleyan student Christian Henriksen demonstrated various brain games in Ruble Arena at the IW Physics booth, he said that four years ago when he was a freshman he never would have imagined an event this size specifically for students interested in STEM.

“Our science program has come quite a long way since I was a freshman. I just think it’s amazing, the amount of students interested,” Henriksen said as he demonstrated how to balance 12 nails onto one nail head. “There is a solution,” he explained.

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