Over the squeals of surprise and the high five slaps of two teens working on a wind tunnel experiment, a parent was shouting into her cellphone, “You have to get your kids over here now! This event is unbelievable.” The parent was talking about STEM-tastic Saturday – a community celebration of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – that was held this past weekend at Hommocks Middle School in Larchmont, NY. Organizers from the STEM Alliance of Larchmont-Mamaroneck had hoped for 700 attendees but ticket sales indicate that 2,000 people were making, building, programming, experimenting, connecting and learning for the fun of it at STEM-tastic Saturday.
Each corner of the building offered something new from microscopes to a “Take Apart” hacking zone, from launching rockets to fire fighting science workshops. Students were not just attendees. They also led numerous experiences including serving as experts at the Community Exhibit Hall where they displayed their own innovations and experiments. Jamie Kauffman, 6, the event’s youngest exhibitor, explained to visitors how circuits work on the R/C Snap Circuit Rover that he built. “I can’t believe someone my age is doing this!” he exclaimed. Just steps away, there was Geodesic Dome building being led by the Girl Scouts of the Hudson, Mamaroneck art teachers making furniture out of recycled water bottles and a robust Root Beer making experience organized by Mamaroneck Avenue School parent, Sonya Giacobbe. High school students from Original Science Research, the Engineering department and Future Business Leaders of America all showcased work or lead workshops.
Hommocks Middle School Principal, Dr. Seth Weitzman embraced the event from the beginning, “The two facets that impressed me most today were the range of ages and the range of activities. There were elementary students, high school students, current district parents, and older parents with students out-of-school – all engaging in the STEM-tastic offerings. You could build and race cars, view art, touch starfish taken from the Sound, and try the latest technology – and that just scratches the surface of what was offered.”
STEM festivals need STEM experts and local professionals offered roundtables and workshops throughout day to let kids ponder the endless potential of STEM careers. Dr. Gali Lodish, a local internist with a focus on women’s health, was thrilled to participate and noted, “I was most impressed with how mature the youth were. The 7th grade girls who attended our ‘Women in Medicine’ roundtable came equipped with thoughtful questions. I’m definitely coming back next year!”
Co-event chairs, Jill Bock, Meg Käufer and Antonella Kauffman along with many of the STEM Alliance members, have children with STEM passions. The STEM Alliance is dedicated to enhancing STEM offerings both inside and outside of the school day and inspiring young people to follow their STEM passions. The idea for STEM-tastic Saturday grew out of a STEM Alliance community meeting in the spring of 2013. Meg Käufer, former educator and Alliance leader said, “We had a vision of bringing together all of our community members – parents, teachers, STEM experts, students of all ages and from various interest groups such as girls, Latinos, athletes, performers, and artists – to discover and experience the innate joy of STEM disciplines in a fun and engaging way. The cognitive skills involved in STEM learning such as posing good questions, solving problems and working in teams are life skills that serve everyone across all subjects. We all depend upon STEM products and functions in our everyday lives and our youth can design the future, now!”
Mamaroneck School District Superintendent, Dr. Robert Shaps, School Board members Nancy Pierson, Ann LoBue and Melany Gray, as well as notable dignitaries including State Senator, George Latimer, State Assemblyman Steve Otis, County Legislator Catherine Parker, Mamaroneck Village Mayor Norm Rosenblum, Larchmont Mayor, Anne McAndrews and Mamaroneck Town Supervisor, Nancy Seligson enjoyed the day as well. All noted that this was a truly unique event of unexpected proportions for its inaugural year. They further recognized the importance of a Mamaroneck Schools Foundation grant that made the entire event possible. At the close of the day, an elementary student who arrived too late to partake in the festival looked at organizers with tears in his eyes and asked, “Can you do it again tomorrow?” To which they responded, “We’ll definitely do it again next year!”
The STEM Alliance of Larchmont–Mamaroneck is a grassroots non-profit organization based in the Larchmont-Mamaroneck community in Westchester County, New York. The Alliance is a dynamic group of educators, parents, community members, alumni and business leaders working to advance STEM education and enrichment initiatives from K-12 for the benefit of students and educators in the Mamaroneck School District and the Larchmont - Mamaroneck, NY community.
To join the Alliance’s efforts, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org