For the Cumberland Times-News
KEYSER, W.Va. — More than 40 presenters from industry, academia and education groups offered hands-on activities to children and families at the first Mineral County STEM Festival held at Potomac State College of West Virginia University.
The purpose was to inspire interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. The event was coordinated by the new Mineral County STEM Network.
“The STEM Festival was an unqualified success, not just because of the large turnout, but more importantly because of the impact it made on the children,” said Gary Seldomridge, mathematics professor at Potomac State. “When I talked to the children, the most common word I heard was ‘awesome.’ If we got these children excited about math and science, then it makes me feel awesome.”
“My children loved it,” said Jamie Young of Short Gap. “We stayed the entire time and the robotics interactions and other activities were great for the kids.”
Chuck Worley, with Walmart, called the event a great day. “We had 264 individuals visit our station where they determined the height of an object given the distance from the base of the object using the angle of elevation method.”
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection offered a watershed model demonstration. Alan Hartman talked to a student who was looking forward to visiting the other stations as well. “He put his hands to his head with a blissful expression and said, ‘I know I will have fun because it’s science. I love science so much I just don’t know what to do!’
“It made my day,” Hartman said.
“STEM is everywhere; it pervades every aspect of our lives. Investing in the future of science, technology, engineering and mathematics makes sense,” said Paula Campbell, work-based learning facilitator with Mineral County schools. “We need to encourage children to understand and embrace the technology that affects their everyday lives.”
The presenters volunteered their time and provided their own resources. “The STEM Festival was a success because of the talented and dedicated people involved,” said Seldomridge.
“This was collaboration at its best,” said Margaret Miltenberger with the West Virginia University Extension Service. “We were an entirely new working team and we pulled it off together.”
Groups represented on the Mineral County STEM Network’s planning committee included Alliant Techsystems, Mineral County Family Resource Network, Mineral County Schools, Potomac State College, Potomac Valley Hospital, WVU-ES, West Virginia Division of Forestry and Department of Environmental Protection, as well as community volunteers Mitch Durst, Gary Kalbaugh, Ward Hill and Pat Mason.
“We are already making plans for next year,” Mason said. To be added to the STEM Network listserv, send an email to email@example.com.