Middle schoolers explore STEM fields at Stout Connects You

Several hundred attend university’s Wisconsin Science Festival event
Taejo Kim, UW-Stout assistant professor in the department of food and nutrition, talks with Stanley-Boyd Middle School students as part of Stout Connects You STEM Festival about how germs and bacteria grow. / UW-Stout photos by Brett T. Roseman
Pam Powers | October 15, 2018

University of Wisconsin-Stout junior Rochelle Knier loves seeing the faces of younger students light up when they learn about science.

Knier, who is majoring in applied biochemistry and molecular biology, was one of the volunteers helping Friday, Oct. 12, when about 300 students from six area schools visited campus for the Stout Connects You STEM Festival. It is part of the Wisconsin Science Festival.

Students took part in interactive displays and visited science labs related to STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – programs offered at UW-Stout.

Knier, of Oak Creek, who is vice president of the UW-Stout student chapter of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and chapter president Gabby Dachel, of Hudson, who is in the same major, used red licorice and marshmallows to show the younger students DNA molecules.

“I want them to think science is exciting and they can be passionate about it,” Knier said. “If they are passionate about it, it can become their careers.”

Dachel said she hopes some of the younger students will choose to attend UW-Stout to study science. “I love doing outreach with children, so they have fun and get interested in science,” Dachel said.

Stanley-Boyd Middle School student Kylee Hetchler tests drinking water during Stout Connects You STEM Festival with Taejo Kim, UW-Stout assistant professor in the department of food and nutrition. Hundreds of students took part in interactive displays and visited science labs at UW-Stout.

Students learned about water absorption in the chemistry lab, germs in the food science lab, visited the plastics lab, Furlong Gallery art exhibits and Discovery Center Fab Lab and did other activities.

Rainy Antolak, who teaches seventh-grade science and social sciences at Stanley-Boyd Middle School, said the STEM festival was a good experience for her students. About 85 from Stanley-Boyd attended.

“We knew it was a good experience for them to visit UW-Stout and see some of the career paths in science, technology, engineering and math,” Antolak said. “This is a great experience for our kids who may not have been on a college campus. They are seeing a different aspect of life. They are excited about hands-on learning, but this is a whole other level for them.”

Abe Sanchez, 12, a seventh-grader at Stanley-Boyd, said his favorite part of the visit was using a mold to make a plastic UW-Stout keychain. “You could operate the machines and molds,” he said. “They let us make pick and make our own thing.”

Fellow seventh-grader Megan Geist, 12, made a Snoopy figure in the plastics lab that she plans to use as a keychain. “It was just cool,” she said. “We got to choose what we wanted to make.”

In Heritage Hall, Taejo Kim, UW-Stout assistant professor in the department of food and nutrition, worked with the festival students as they collected samples in the building to learn how germs and bacteria grow.

Carson Oemig, a Stanley-Boyd Middle School student, conducts a test during the festival, which is part of the Wisconsin Science Festival.

Blake Mellor, also a seventh-grader at Stanley-Boyd, said he really enjoyed that part of the festival. “I like it because it is hands-on,” Mellor said. “We got to collect germs from the bathroom handles. I think there is going to be a lot of germs on those.”

Along with UW-Stout students, many faculty and staff from the College of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Management helped with the STEM Connects You event.

The Wisconsin Science Festival: Curiosity Unleashed was founded in 2011 and is part of the national Science Festival Alliance. In 2017 about 36,000 people attended more than 200 events throughout the state. Events this year were held Oct. 11-14.

UW-Stout is Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University, with a focus on applied learning, collaboration with business and industry, and career outcomes.

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Photos

Stanley-Boyd Middle School student Kylee Hetchler tests drinking water during Stout Connects You STEM Festival with Taejo Kim, UW-Stout assistant professor in the department of food and nutrition. Hundreds of students took part in interactive displays and visited science labs at UW-Stout.

Carson Oemig, a Stanley-Boyd Middle School student, conducts a test during the festival, which is part of the Wisconsin Science Festival.