Some people come for the butter cow. Some people come for the carnival rides. Yet, on the last day of the Iowa State Fair, thousands of people took a detour from the regular attractions to take part in a family-fun STEM experience on the Grand Concourse.
Thanks to 24 exhibiting organizations from across the state, STEM Day at the Fair, supported by a generous gift of Rockwell Collins, attracted thousands of people and introduced families and young Iowans to the Iowa STEM program and different opportunities or careers in STEM. Exhibitors offered a variety of hands-on STEM activities, making robotic hands, flying small drones, learning about plant pollination and more.
“The students insisted on it,” said Andy Marshall, FIRST senior mentor, about exhibiting at STEM Day at the Fair. “They had so much fun engaging thousands and thousands of people last year, they told their friends, and so the choice wasn’t mine to make anymore.”
Hundreds of families took on the STEM Scavenger Hunt that asked participants to complete STEM activities on the Grand Concourse, answer a question at the MidAmerican Energy Education Center and use the virtual reality welding simulator in the American Welding Society Lincoln Electric Semi. Three winners who completed the activities were selected in a drawing for donated, family-pack tickets to the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, The Iowa Children’s Museum and the Science Center of Iowa and IMAX Theater.
Four stage acts headlined the morning at the MidAmerican Energy Stage and Knapp Stage, including the Science Center of Iowa, FIRST Robotics Team Neutrino, the Grout Museum District and Blank Park Zoo.
Fairgoers were adorned with “Greatness STEMs from Iowans” shoulder bags to carry their trinkets as well as the STEM message across the fairgrounds, and one of seven STEM Gems, Albert Wiggins, science teacher at Bunger Middle School in Evansdale, signed posters and captured imaginations with combustible wizardry. Former STEM Council co-chair and Vermeer’s CEO and Chair of the Board Mary Andringa walked alongside her co-chair Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds, who brought along her two grandsons to introduce them to the STEM experience.
STEM Day at the Fair is the grandest single event coordinated on behalf of STEM Council. Only through broad inter-agency cooperation among exhibitors, volunteers, vendors, State Fair staff and investors like Rockwell Collins can the Iowa STEM message touch so many Iowans in one day. Shortly, an event evaluation report intended for the sponsor will be publicly available upon request at Info@IowaSTEM.gov.