Promoting STEM at the University of Oregon SPICE Science Open House

October 8th, 2015 by Deborah Fike

As firm believers in STEM education, it’s great to support science education on a global scale.  We’ve given away Contraption Maker to over 400 schools, after school programs, and other educational initiatives around the world.  No matter how global you get, it’s also good to be active in your local community too, which is why we were excited to be a part of the University of Oregon SPICE Science Open House on October 7, 2015.

A brother and sister talk about pulleys and levers in Contraption Maker during the UO Science Open House.

A brother and sister talk about pulleys and levers in Contraption Maker during the UO Science Open House.

SPICE (Science Program to Inspire Creativity and Excellence) is a Eugene, Oregon based group dedicated to creating a learning environment where girls can thrive in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).  Given I myself work in technology and I have four sisters who have gone on to excel in science-based careers, this topic is one near and dear to my heart.  This year, I was pleased to see an equal number of boys and girls running around the exhibits.  The most tenacious inventor at my booth happened to be a 3rd grade girl who returned to play Contraption Maker several times during the fair.  Her father told me she loves to tinker, especially on digital devices.  She ended up creating a complex machine made of tubes and accelerator pipes.

The girl on the left really loved the accelerator pipes in Contraption Maker.

The girl on the left really loved the accelerator pipes in Contraption Maker.

Wednesday’s Science Open House focused on getting kids of all backgrounds involved in engaging science experiments.  From the 3-story egg drop experiment in the Williamette Hall Atrium to Fidgets2Widgets‘s 3D printing stand to our Contraption Maker exhibit, it was a great 2-hour science free-for-all.

The mess created by the egg drop experiment, one of the fair's most popular exhibits

The mess created by the egg drop experiment

What I really love about this event is that it reminds parents and kids that science is not passive.  You don’t just learn science from textbooks or memorize it via formulas.  It’s an active field with lots of applications that even very young children can see, touch, smell, hear, and taste.  The more we take science out of the abstract and into the concrete, the more we encourage kids to pursue the next generation of discovery and progress.  Any contribution that Contraption Maker can make to promote the sciences is a win for us!

Mother and son discuss how to solve a Contraption Maker puzzle.

Mother and son discuss how to solve a Contraption Maker puzzle.

-Deborah Fike

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