By Roel Godinez – This year’s Super STEM Saturday took place on March 9th on the California State University San Marcos campus from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. STEM, which in an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, is a field of education that is incredibly important to many schools, especially the Classical Academies.
“This has been a collaboration between the Classical Academies and CSUSM,” said Mitchell Stanley, director of communications for the Classical Academies. “We worked on this for probably a good 8 months prior to the event. We had many monthly meetings with partners and contributors like Viasat. It originally started ten years ago on our campus (Classical Academy) until it outgrew our campus and was relocated here. I think that the highest amount of attendees that we’ve had was 14,000. Usually we have around 80 booths and this year we have about 108.”
Parking, entrance, and all activities were free of charge; the only money being handled was at the various food trucks and on campus restaurants. This family oriented event aimed to entertain through its various interactive booths and demonstrations. These could be found almost everywhere on the campus; one could spend hours wandering the halls and traversing the many staircases while continuously finding new and exciting experiences. Most of the booths, many of which had intuitive games and challenges, were incredibly educational.
The demonstrations, which were too many to count, could be found tucked away in multiple, small venues. On one elevated lot, for example, were two stations; one in which attendees could launch small rockets and another in which two scientists were demonstrating the overwhelming power of burning thermite, a substance that burns at incredibly high temperatures. In the performing arts theater, a team of drama students described how light is used to create specific settings and moods. The combination of STEM and performing arts was a unique mix.
Another notable demonstration was the Chemistry Magic Show. Organized by CSUSM professor Dr. Robert Iafe. This 15 minute chemistry show featured fluorescent blue lights, nitrogen frozen flowers, and liquid that transformed into a mirror. Oohs and aahs were heard throughout the presentation from the sizable crowd of mostly parents and children.
“The purpose of the magic show is really to inspire and spark people to consider going into the STEM field,” said Dr. Iafe. “We think that the younger students will be intrigued in a fun way. Hopefully, we can guide them to being scientists. The big reason why we care about the young people is because they will be the people solving our problems. We’re not smart enough to fix these things, but they will be.”
The need for STEM careers is ever growing. There is a need for a critically thinking, capable workforce that can spearhead technology and innovation in the coming decades. However, according to the U.S. Department of Education, there are relatively few students who actually do pursue this career path.
The students who do pursue this path, however, tend to enjoy their experiences. In fact, many of the booths were student run, by both university students and Classical Academy students. They each proudly displayed their science projects and expertise.
“I just love the STEM community,” said PJ Smith, member of the El Camino Robotics Club.
“It’s just so much fun. Regardless of the robots performance, it is always uplifting. I love the communication between the team, it’s just really impactful. Obviously this is impacting my career, I would have never thought that I would ever go into a STEM related career either.”
All in all, The day was a great success, as surely as next year’s Super STEM Saturday will be. The interaction among the Classical Academies, CSUSM, Viasat, as well as all of the other sponsors and community at large make this a community event to anticipate annually.