W&J Students, Professors Bring Classroom to Main Street for STEM Fest

Created: September 17, 2019
Last Updated: December 2, 2019

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WASHINGTON, PA (Sept. 16, 2019) – Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) students and professors brought their classrooms to Main Street on Saturday for STEM Fest, an interactive, science-based festival for local students in kindergarten through high school.

Professors from the chemistry, biology, and physics departments, and students from W&J’s Society of Physics and the Biology Club conducted workshops ranging from nature photography to the chemistry of bath bombs. Representatives from W&J Office of Admission also manned a booth, sharing information about the College with parents and students.

“The outreach we do with local school children is one of my favorite aspects of my job. It is an honor to watch as students discover some of our local biodiversity for the first time,” said Associate Professor of Biology Jamie March, Ph.D. “Their energy is limitless and contagious. I am often reminding college students and other adults to try to find their inner 4th grader – which is to stay curious, ask loads of questions, and maintain a sense of wonder.”

Physics students and faculty, including Drs. Michael McCracken and Cory Christenson, demonstrated diffraction glasses and discharge tubes, mini catapults, liquid nitrogen, and giant bubbles.

Visitors to Dr. Jamie March’s booth, Connecting to Nature Through Photography, tested their knowledge of local biodiversity using pictures of local flora and fauna, and joined in on an Urban Ecology Photographic Scavenger Hunt. If they collected any invertebrates during the day, Biology Club students assisted with taking portraits using the “Field-Studio Technique,” a white cloth box that safely holds a plant, animal, or insect while a photo is taken. The booth was an extension of outreach projects that W&J faculty and students do with local schools.

The most explosive booth was Bath Bomb Chemistry, where students proved there’s more to bathtub “fizzies” than their fragrant smell and fun appearance. Bath bombs are a result of acid-base chemistry.  When placed in water, a reaction between citric acid and sodium bicarbonate (commonly known as baking soda) creates carbon dioxide gas, which is seen as fizzing.  Students learned that the amount of time it takes for the bath bomb to stop fizzing is known as chemical kinetics, and they got to make their own bath bombs and measure the effect of temperature on how long it fizzled.

STEM Fest was organized by the Southwest PA STEM Fest Committee, along with What About STEAM LLC and City of Washington Citywide Development Corporation.

 

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.

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