Nine-year-old Sydney Wilcox wants to be an astronaut when she grows up because “space is really cool.” She was in good company at a recent CU Science Discovery event where she declared her career aspirations a stone’s throw from the University of Colorado Boulder’s space exploration laboratory and at the heart of CU-Boulder research hubs.
Wilcox and her family were part of a crowd of approximately 800 kids and parents who came to campus for CU Science Discovery’s “Making Stuff” Family Engineering Day in the Jennie Smoly Caruthers Biotechnology Building.
Science Discovery hosted the event as part of National Engineering Week and in conjunction with PBS NOVA's “Making Stuff” initiative, which encourages audiences of all ages to better understand the material world. The open house featured interactive science experiments that engaged kids in the scientific process and encouraged them to make all kinds of “stuff” — balloon rockets, solar-powered fans, plastic-bag parachutes — faster, greener, and safer. The event provided kids and parents a taste of what Science Discovery offers.
“We were thrilled to see such an enthusiastic community response for this event,” said Stacey Forsyth, director for CU Science Discovery. “Parents often tell us that they wish they had the opportunity to participate in our camps and classes when they were young, and this event provided a perfect opportunity for them to build, experiment, and test out new designs together with their children.”
Founded in 1983, CU Science Discovery is a science education outreach program that offers interactive summer camps, after-school and day-off classes, teacher workshops, and community outreach events, such as “Making Stuff.” The program utilizes CU-Boulder scientific expertise, resources, and students to provide unique, hands-on science experiences for K-12 students and teachers.
Often associated with its youth summer camps, Science Discovery has expanded programing to engage kids in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) throughout the year and has recently broadened special offerings for girls and teenagers interested in science.
“We continue to strengthen STEM education outreach on campus by increasing faculty connections with Science Discovery,” Forsyth said. “We also want to provide a lot of opportunities for CU-Boulder students to develop their own skills. Faculty and students bring their knowledge and expertise to Science Discovery and through their involvement, we strengthen the experience for younger kids.
“It’s a perfect win-win: CU undergraduate and graduate students serve as role models for younger students and at the same time, they become more effective teachers and communicators.”
Eric Robbins, CU-Boulder physics student and Science Discovery teaching assistant, led the station where kids could build and improve bobsleds made of dominos, plastic silverware, and other materials.
“This is an extension of my Science of Winter Olympics class,” he explained. “After each bobsled’s first recorded run down the track, the kids get a chance to go back and make changes. The idea is to minimize friction.”
Potential bobsled designers and scientists were up for the challenge and went home with a better understanding of the engineering design process. As one happy patron exclaimed, “that was awesome.”
Online registration for Science Discovery Summer Camps is underway. Register now at sciencediscovery.colorado.edu.