Saturday marked the first ever STEM day for Harrisonburg Schools, and it was all about exploration. Hundreds of people from across the Valley were getting a one of a kind experience at the Valley Mall.
Without the STEM Academy Program students from Harrisonburg Schools would have a harder time understanding science, technology, engineering or mathematics. Educators feel that by incorporating fun into their learning more of them are going to get jobs in the rapidly expanding 21st century work world.
"You have to hook them when they're young," said STEM Coordinator Amy Sabarre. "You have to pique their interest at a young age. If you do that, then we are going to create more engineers and more scientists. And hopefully, a more diverse group of scientists and engineers."
One of the main focuses of STEM is the hands on approach to learning. The idea of STEM Day is that by allowing the students to show off their experiments and interact with the public while doing so, the minds of young folks will start to run wild with possibility.
"It's better if kids and students show them instead of an older person because they can look up to them," said JMU Engineering student Paulina Hoang. "They can say wow, if this person can do it, I can probably do this in a couple years. It's great influence on them."
Kids like Jaylin Smith are already starting to reap the rewards of the STEM Program. On Saturday, he expressed interest in joining.
"I'm having a lot of fun right now," he said while showing off a recently created project. "Here's one of the activities that I made. It's supposed to be like a drone pet. Since I've been all over the place, it got kind of destroyed."
Jaylin's father Jonathan is happy to see his son enjoying himself and eager to learn.
"He seems to be responding to everything quite well," he said. "Especially the robotics. He seems to find a keen interest in it and it's maybe opened up an opportunity for him to do it outside this setting. Maybe do it at school or maybe at home more."
The first STEM Day has been declared a success. That's because more groups than the mall could fit asked to be a part of it. A larger venue is being considered for next year.
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