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STEM Beat

Science Halloween House

A 'pirate' demonstrates scientific principals while creating a mini cannon to protect her loot!

Friday October 24 the McCollum Science hall transformed into a Halloween House for all ages to attend. From 4:30-7:30 families could attend the Halloween House to watch shows and create their own experiments. Kristin Staude who is a Senior at the University of Northern Iowa discussed how much work goes into creating the Halloween house and how much fun it is to create it each year. “The Halloween House brings together the Chemistry, Biology, Physics, and Earth Science Departments. This year we will have 3 chemistry rooms with demonstration shows that are on a set schedule, The Devil’s Den, The Witches’ Lair, and the Pirates’ Cove. These shows will have fire, acid/base, dry ice, and indicator demos, and kids will be able to smash daisies with the help of some liquid nitrogen. Mummies Yummies will be an ongoing show and will be making liquid nitrogen ice cream and dry ice root beer to serve our guests. The Physics Department will put on Frankenstein’s Lab and will be an ongoing show that will have electricity and light themed demos.  The Biology Department will have 3 ongoing shows, Skeleton Graveyard, Pumpkin Patch, and Creepy Crawlies. Kids will be able to make marshmallow spiders and build skeletons out of noodles. Earth Science will host an ongoing show, Wizards and the 4 Elements. They will have various demonstrations including a tornado demo, a stream bed table, and astronomy globes.”
 
Each room has its own theme where student, kids, and parents will be able to learn a lot about various science topics.  Families can expect to learn about acids and bases, fire, electricity, states of matter, the elements of the earth, what makes a fruit a fruit, insects, and much more.
 
Kristin commented that the Halloween House is both educational and fun. “The event is both fun and educational. Students will learn by watching us do some of the demos, but there will be many opportunities where they can participate. They will be able to eat liquid nitrogen ice cream, drink dry ice root beer, smash flowers, make marshmallow spiders, look at fossils, and much more. “
 
Kristin has been helping with the Halloween House for three years now and she    explained how much planning goes into creating the Halloween House each year.
“There is a lot that goes into planning for the Halloween House. The officers of the ACS, American Chemical Society, and our faculty advisors had many meetings to get ready for the event. Many details have to be decided in relation to the date of the event, advertisement, prepping the demos, getting students and faculty to staff the Halloween House, decorating, and much more. Students are required to go through safety training and practice their demos before getting to participate with the Halloween House. “
 
 
Kristin’s favorite part is the kids. “My favorite part is seeing all of the kids come through McCollum and get excited about science. They ask questions and want to know what is happening during the various demonstrations. I love seeing the kids just being able to talk with them in between shows and I like to ask them what they have learned and what their favorite part of the Halloween House was. “
 

Stefani Keller, UNI STEM
Posted: 10-28-14

Expanding Girls Horizons with STEM

EYH Girls investigate which metals are in coins.

Veterinarian, pediatrician, novelist, interior designer, teacher, physical therapist, material engineer—the girl participants of Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) have big plans for their own futures. These girls know that in general fewer women than men enter STEM fields, but they have come to UNI for a day of exploration designed to create opportunities that change all that. 
 
Expanding Your Horizons is a day dedicated to helping girls become aware of and prepared to take advantage of every opportunity available to them, including participation in future math and science courses that will insure they leave high school prepared to pursue a STEM career.  EYH begins with a motivational speech by an outstanding Iowa engineer, Nancy Post, Global Quality Manager for Large Tractors at John Deere.  Nancy shares her own story of growing up in Iowa with 14 older siblings.  No one in her family expected her to seek out a career in STEM, but they supported her when her grades and personal interest made it a possibility.  Family encouragement and support is important to every student’s academic success.  Parents and family members don’t have to be experts in STEM, just being supportive of a child’s participation in STEM opportunities increases the chances that she  will seek out future opportunities.  At the end of her talk Nancy invited the girls to ask her questions and they did!  What was the biggest challenge you’ve faced?  Why did you decide to work for John Deere?  What helped you most?
 
Over 100 Cedar Valley grade girls in 5th through 8th grade participated in EYH on October 4, 2014.  Each girl participated in 3 engaging STEM sessions, most were led by women STEM professionals including presenters from University of Northern Iowa, John Deere, Viking Pump, Cargill Inc.,  ConAgra, and Iowa State University.  Additional volunteers from Hawkeye Community College and the American Association of University Women ensured that participants met a wide variety of STEM mentors throughout the day.   Session activities included becoming a taste-tester, metal casting, programming robots, materials testing, and determining which metals different coins are made of.
 
In the Interior & Textiles Design session girls learned how CAD (computer aided design) and Photoshop are used to “see” and “walk in” a space before it ever exists.   They used a program to assist them in designing their own repeating pattern material as an example of the aesthetic side of design. The girls also discovered that material science is essential to ensuring our designed spaces and apparel are safe—this is an important message about STEM careers.  Even among girls who self-identify as interested in STEM, aspirations to pursue STEM careers is low, primarily because of the stereotypes that prevail about it is like to be an engineer, computer programmer, or scientist.  Girls want a career that allows them to be a part of a team and results in making the world a better place.  At EYH stereotypes are left behind, girls talk with real STEM professionals about what inspires them, what they do every day and why they choose their career. 
 
Expanding Your Horizons is a national program (http://www.expandingyourhorizons.org/about-us.html).  Cedar Valley SWE (Society of Women Engineers), along with the sponsors listed below, developed and funded this Cedar Valley EYH event.  Planning has begun for the next Cedar Valley EYH to take place on the UNI campus Fall of 2015.
 
Cedar Valley Expanding Your Horizons Sponsors
 
· MAGMA Foundry Technologies, Inc.
 
· John Deere Product Engineering Center
 
· EPSCoR
 
· Geater Machining & Manufacturing, Co.
 
· AAUW
 
· Carpenters Brothers, Inc.
 
· Midwest Contractors, Inc.
 
· University of Northern Iowa
 
· VGM
 
 
 

Marcy Seavey, UNI STEM Coordinator
Posted: 10-10-14

A Physics Superstar by Day and an Animal Caregiver by Night

UNI Physic Major, Darian Everding

 
             

               Darian Everding is no stranger to the word challenge. In fact that should be her middle name. At a young age Darian knew that she wanted to be challenged with her career and that is exactly why she chose to be a Physics major at the University of Northern Iowa.

               “I get asked that question a lot, why did you choose physics? Physics is hard. That is exactly why I chose it actually. Because when I was in high school I went through all the way to my junior year and had decided that I wanted to be an English  teacher.  And that was awesome. But as I went through my senior year, I wasn’t challenged.”

               It was during her senior year when Darian realized that English was not the right fit for her. She took a physics test that same week.

               “If you have ever studied anything that has to deal with electronics, it is confusing. I was really hung up on voltage. I took that exam and for the first time EVER, ever, ever, I completely failed something. I got like a 38% on the exam. It wasn’t even close. As a student I never had been confronted with challenge and don’t know   how to handle it. I broke down and started crying because I didn’t know what to do. My teacher was like, “you know, you messed up, but you know it and I know you know it.

               So he stayed after school with me and we did after school meetings for a couple of weeks and he let me retake the exam. I didn’t ace it, I got mid 80’s which I was very proud of because that was coming from an absolute fail. I was continually challenged throughout the year.”

               Darian graduated as one of the valedictorians of her class and had her mind made up on attending an Ivy League school.

               “I was already deciding between Brown and Princeton, and I had not even applied or been accepted. I humored Celeste Bembry by saying I would go take a tour of UNI. And when I got to UNI, and I know this is going to sound cliché, but it felt right. It felt like home. I met the people and saw what they were doing with physics and I knew that I would continually be challenged.”

               One of Darian’s favorite courses at UNI so far has been Physics III. Physics III is about programming and using systems. It was during this class when Darian discovered that there was nothing she couldn’t accomplish.

               “It was three days before an exam was due and I was up way too late trying to come up with some sort of idea of what I could do with gravitational motion and forces. I was reading a story about Comet ISON, the comet that came really close to the sun and I’m looking and then it clicked, I can just model that! And I’m like that is what NASA is  doing. They are  modeling the motion of this comet. It was daunting it was huge, I  needed to find the angles, the speed, how fast it is traveling, and the mass. I needed to know all of these things. The day the exam was due I had my final product. Everyone said this is going to miss the sun and will go back out into the solar system, I don’t think that is true. I really think it is going to hit the sun and it is a comet of ice, it is going to melt. And I said that before NASA said that and sure enough through my exploration of modeling I came to the conclusion that ISON was going to burn up and hit the sun. And it burned up and hit the sun on its way around. There is no more  comet ISON in the solar system. It was so cool and it was because I was challenged to find something I could know how to do even though I didn’t think I knew I could do it. But that was my favorite moment in physics. It was something that seemed so far out there and I was shown that even though no one was there to hold my hand I know enough to tackle complicated problems and it was awesome.”

               During her free time, Darian loves to read and she has two bunnies that she takes care of, Penelope and Norman, and recently added two cats, Cricket and Charlie.

               “I love my fur babies and they definitely make life complete in the sense that I get to care for something else.”

               In the future Darian is not entirely sure where the road will take her. She does know that her dream job would to be the next Bill Nye.

               “I want to be like Bill Nye, that would be my dream, where you can be that face, or voice for kids interested in STEM.”

               Her advice to a future panther is, “One of the key elements of being a scientist or a STEM person is pushing questions and buttons until you know. There are some things we won’t know but when it comes to seeking answers you get the chance to do that at UNI. The people here are great. I guess the big things is if you think you have interest in STEM don’t be afraid to go ask for opportunities to explore. You need to fight for yourself. You are your biggest advocate. Go fight for it.”

Stefani Keller, UNI STEM
Posted: 10-08-14

Changing the World One Solar Car at a Time

Pat Higby (right) with her student workers, Tracy and Maddie in front of FREE Banner.

When I first discovered UNI FREE at one of the NE Iowa STEM Festivals I was fascinated with their solar cars and bike pedal power, but Pat Higby taught me that UNI FREE is much more.  As I stepped into the FREE classroom, Pat took me by the hand and began showing me, rather than telling me, what UNI FREE was all about. We experimented with the solar car kits and wind turbine kits. She even let me experience them on my own and I discovered that I need more practice producing wind for the turbines.
 
 
“The CEEE is a building, the center for energy environmental education.  Tom Harkin was able to get the funding for this building and it is the first modern green building in Iowa. We are an organization, Fabulous Resources for Energy Education (FREE) and we are administered by the CEEE."
 
 
UNI FREE does three big things a materials loan program, professional development workshops, and energy outreach for Iowa youth.
 
 
The Loan Program: “It is a free loan program, which means these can be loaned out to boy scouts, girl scouts, schools, 4H, anybody willing to teach about energy gets to borrow our kits. They come in a bag. So you get a bag and usually you have two kids working on it. They build their little car and they learn about electric circuits and lot about solar panels. We love it, every time there is a problem that has to be solved they are learning something. And it is such a hoot to watch those kids the first time they set their car down on the ground and it  goes backwards and their little faces are just puzzled ‘like what’s going on?’ You could go up and tell them how to fix it but that’s not going to teach them anything. ‘So what you do to fix it?’ And there are a few ways to fix it, but we leave it up to them to try and figure it out, because we want them to be problem solvers and that’s the hard part for teachers, not just telling them how to fix it. We also have our junior wind turbine [available for loan].”
 
 
Professional Development: “Part of the way we want to do that is our professional development - I want it to go online as a MOOC (a massive open online course) so you can take the course for free if you want to get a certificate.”  Teacher may also have an option to take the MOOC for credit for a small fee.
 
 
Outreach: “We did a fabulous job with outreach this summer with our Science of Energy program. We offered two different programs. One was on solar energy with the solar cars and the other one was on wind energy. I sent an email to the state librarian and she sends it out to every librarian in the state. It was just great and it allowed us to do so much outreach.”
 
 
UNI FREE provides kit loans for UNI Student’s as well. “As [UNI pre-service educators in] level 1, level 2, and level 3, you have to go out and do something with your class. You can always borrow these material/resources to take to your classroom. These resources are free for UNI students to use and borrow. In fact I had one UNI student, who student taught in Japan and she took a few kits with her to use and demonstrate.”
 
 
When I asked Pat and her student workers, Tracy and Maddie what made UNI FREE so great the response was unanimous. They love knowing what they do has an impact on students.
 
 
“The workers are pretty great. I think the best part of this job is when kids are doing  the solar cars and they start questioning if the car will even work. And then they get out in the sun and car goes! And their face lights up. And you know you have made an impact on the kids,” said Tracy.   Maddie who is just joined the UNI FREE team a few weeks ago talked about how excited she is to be a part of FREE, “I didn’t know student teachers can borrow our supplies and what this is all about. I am excited to learn and I think you guys do really great work and I can’t wait to be a part of this team.”
 
 
Pat concluded with her thoughts of why UNI FREE is so great for the public. “Having been a teacher myself I know how hard it is to get your hands on materials because our schools budgets are in really bad shape, for me to be able to help teachers teach I think that is important. You know teachers are probably one of  the most underappreciated people. The success or failure of our future is going to rely on the students and teachers of today. So we have got to support them because that is going to guarantee our  success in the future.”
 
 
 

Stefani Keller, UNI STEM
Posted: 09-15-14

Digital Storytelling Camp

Camp Director checking in with Digital Storytelling Campers during project free work time.

Digital Storytelling Campers learn basic and advanced Photoshop techniques and then develop their own master project. Some campers design game cards while others develop digital and print mini-comics. While much of the camp is spent on their own individual projects, these campers often collaborate by sharing advice, design ideas, and providing feedback on each other's work. Digital Storytelling and UNI's other STEM camps are sponsored by EPSCoR.


Posted: 07-11-14

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UNI FREE Program

UNI FREE, Fabulous Resources for Energy Education Logo is the word FREE in modern text over University of Northern Iowa
 The UNI Fabulous Resources for Energy Education (FREE) Program provides classroom resources on energy topics and a kit loan/purchase program.
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