CENTER VALLEY, Pa. — Students in grades six to eight looking to take a deep dive into various aspects of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields can find a treasure trove of information at an upcoming Penn State Lehigh Valley (PSU-LV) program.
“Design Your Own STEM-tastic Day” is a free, half-day program set for Saturday, Feb. 3, from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the Penn State Lehigh Valley campus. During the event, students can choose from several hands-on, STEM-centric workshops.
“It’s an opportunity for students to get into our labs and classrooms, learn about these subjects, and get excited through hands-on learning,” said Samantha Beebe, program coordinator and assistant teaching professor, biobehavioral health program and event co-organizer. “For us, it gives our STEM faculty the opportunity to engage with the community and fuel the curiosity of these middle school students, while hopefully inspiring the next generation of scientists, engineers, and mathematicians. That’s our main goal — to fuel the fire for these students who may already have an interest, or maybe they didn’t have that interest but the workshops ignited their interest.”
Pre-registration is required. Students choose their top four workshops from a list of 10 when registering; organizers will make every effort to place students in their top three choices. Workshop topics include:
A CSI Investigation: The Role of DNA in Forensics
Designed to Draw
Engineering Design Challenge
Make a Pendulum Painting!
Can You Make a Rainbow from Purple Cabbage?
Zombies are Real: Come See for Yourself!
Reading the Bones: Messages from the past!
Ready? Set? Escape Dr. Beebe's Lab!
Larry Musolino, assistant teaching professor, mathematics, and event co-organizer, said PSU-LV was moved motivated to host an event like this to address the critical shortage of qualified graduates to fill positions in STEM-related fields which are needed to sustain U.S. global competitiveness and national security.
“For example, Congress recently passed legislation called the CHIPS ACT, which invests significant resources to bring semiconductor design and manufacturing to the U.S., which will require a significant pool of STEM graduates," said Musolino.
There is also a significant gap in underrepresented student populations in the STEM fields, he added, saying, "The aim is to get more diversity among STEM graduates."
Grades 6-8 were identified because middle school is often the time students start thinking about high school and beyond — namely, college majors and future careers.
“All of this led to a group of us saying, ‘Maybe we should try offer this type of event to help middle school student explore and discover STEM related activities.’ We didn’t want to stand in front of the group students just talking about STEM — we wanted the students to try it out themselves … so our Penn State faculty have designed the various hands-on workshops to engage and excite the students,” Musolino said.
Another aim of the event is to introduce middle and junior high students (and parents) to the college experience through their visit to the PSU-LV campus, he explained.
“It exposes these students and their parents to a university environment, many of whom may not know there is a college campus in Center Valley. They can take it in and see what it’s all about. We might have some of these students come back as Penn State students later on down the road,” Musolino said.
Mark Capofari, lecturer, project and supply chain management and member of the event committee, added, “First and foremost, we want the students to have fun and come back next year,” “We want to share some cool things these students may not have considered or been exposed to in their current curriculum and take part in the different STEM functionalities."
The STEM-tastic event, sponsored by Penn State Lehigh Valley, Lehigh Valley Engineering Council, and Broadcomm, is open to all students in grades 6-8. Homeschooled students, Boy and Girl Scout troops are also welcome. For more information or to register, visit the program website Design Your Own STEM-Tastic Day! | Penn State Lehigh Valley (psu.edu).