PCC played host to the annual Arizona STEM Adventure, a fair for kids to explore interactive science exhibits
By ARMANDO HARMON
Future scientists and engineers were let loose on Nov. 17 at Pima Community College’s Northwest Campus. Over a thousand of young kids were able to ignite their passion for science at the annual Arizona STEM Adventure held by the Southern Arizona Research, Science and Engineering Foundation.
In total, 35 classes from fourth through eighth grades attended this scientific journey. Students from 10 local districts attended as well as students who are home-schooled and attend charter and private schools.
The Arizona STEM Adventure is one of SARSEF’s primary programs, and sponsoring organizations include IBM Corp. and Raytheon Missile Systems. SARSEF was founded in 1955 in an effort to increase student interest in science and to teach Southern Arizona students in grades K-12 critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
More than 795 professionals in the community volunteer for SARSEF each year, and 145 organizations support its programs financially.
This was the third year that SARSEF has held an event at Pima’s Northwest campus. Students were able to explore the campus via 40 scientific exhibits in classrooms with some even being displayed in the parking lots.
About 60 professionals were represented as scientists, engineers and experts in their fields. The professionals provided hands-on workshops and activities throughout the campus. In the process of encouraging STEM to the young students, the scientists provided examples of how science is everywhere and how critical thinking matters.
The Fin Foundation, an ocean educational group, brought in real shark jaws to inform kids about our oceans and how we can preserve them. A Pima County 4-H program called Rockets to the Rescue helped students explore aerospace engineering and build their own rockets. Students were able to build their own paper airplanes by understanding the basic principles of flight and physics taught by Raytheon’s Fun Shuttles.
Likewise, teachers attended a professional development seminar focusing on critical thinking in a classroom. This seminar showed how to integrate state standards, such as teaching higher math levels by conducting research. Teachers also received $150 worth of data collection materials to be used immediately.
“My favorite part would be the look on their faces when they stepped onto the campus. They were very excited and eager to explore.”
More than 200 PCC students, staff, faculty and administration volunteered at the event, while 45 companies from the community were present to promote the importance of science.
Small groups of kids, each overseen by a student chaperone, traveled among the different exhibits. Over 260 student volunteers attended, with about 75 percent of the students that volunteered are majoring in math, science and engineering fields.
Arturo Ross, a kinesiology major, was one of the Pima students to volunteer for the STEM adventure. Ross’ group of kids were from Estes Elementary School.
“I enjoyed being a chaperone and me being in the position to answer any questions about college,” Ross said. “My favorite part would be the look on their faces when they stepped onto the campus. They were very excited and eager to explore.”
Student Life coordinator Tiffany Hastings was responsible for overseeing the volunteers and working closely with the science department.
Hastings noted a major benefit for local youth in attending the event.
“Expose these young kids to what college would look like and to experience higher education and to stay focused and to participate and to see college as a possibility,” Hastings said. “With the Pima chaperones, the fourth- through eighth-graders are getting the direct experience.”