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Fun, Learning, and Herky Come to LACMRERS

Postdoc Carrie Davis (left) and IIHR grad student Oscar Hernandez demonstrate the use of a nutrient monitoring sensor. Photo by Aneta Goska, Iowa Flood Center.

Postdoc Carrie Davis (left) and IIHR grad student Oscar Hernandez demonstrate the use of a nutrient monitoring sensor. Photo by Aneta Goska, Iowa Flood Center.

It was a soggy, rainy day, but that didn’t discourage more than 500 people from taking part in the IExploreSTEM Festival on Saturday, May 4, at the Lucille A. Carver Mississippi Riverside Environmental Research Station (LACMRERS) on the banks of the Mississippi River near Muscatine.

K-12 students were able to experience firsthand how fun science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) can be. A variety of hands-on activities were set up, including an interactive flood model from the Iowa Flood Center (IFC) and the National Weather Service, an opportunity to build a robot with the Iowa State Extension Office of Muscatine County, and the chance to run through a pit filled with gooey, oozy glop called “oobleck” (a fluid made of cornstarch and water), sponsored by GPC.

Even more exciting, a celebrity stopped by to take in the event. Herky the Hawk, the University of Iowa’s famous feathery mascot, checked out the exhibits, posed for photos, and exchanged high-fives with the kids (and their parents).

Matt Wunsch, an IFC graduate student and a volunteer at the STEM fest, said that the best part of the day was talking with the kids – some of whom stopped by more than once to see the interactive flood model demo. “A few kept coming back, just to watch again,” Wunsch says. “That showed we were reaching the kids in an exciting way that they would come back wanting to learn more.”

Kids loved this slimy, gooey glop — called “oobleck” (a fluid made of cornstarch and water), at an exhibit sponsored by GPC.

Stanley Consultants President and CEO Gayle Roberts spoke to the crowd, sharing some of her own inspiring experiences an engineer. Later in the afternoon, UI College of Engineering Dean Alec Scranton presented a demonstration titled “Fire and Ice.” Scranton showed the crowd what happens to items such bananas, gummy bears, and flowers when dipped in liquid nitrogen. By igniting a spark in a clear jug of ethanol vapor, Scranton also demonstrated how quickly a colorful flame spread through the vapor.

The rain outside the tents didn’t seem to keep anyone from having fun. “Though it was pouring most of the day, hundreds of kids (and parents) stopped by all the booths and were all eager to watch and learn,” says Scott Rowe, a STEM fest volunteer and IFC graduate student. “We did not have very cooperative weather, but the event was a success because the participants had a great time.”

“This event demonstrates the great partnership between the University of Iowa and the Muscatine community,” says Doug Schnoebelen, director of LACMRERS. “By working together, we can achieve some amazing things!”  LAMCRERS  is part of the University of Iowa’s IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering, and provides a beautiful setting for people to study, collaborate, and learn about the river.  Learn more about LACMRERS at www.iihr.uiowa.edu/lacmrers.

The Lucille A. Carver Mississippi Riverside Environmental Research Station (LACMRERS) hosted the IExploreSTEM fest on May 4.

The iExploreSTEM festival at LACMRERS was a part of Living with Floods, a statewide series of events that marks the fifth anniversary of the historic Iowa floods of 2008, and recognizes and celebrates the strength and resiliency of Iowans in the face of repeated flood events. The culmination of Living with Floods will be a free public performance by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band on June 11 at Riverside Park in Muscatine.

“The planning committee in Muscatine should be congratulated on a great event,” Schnoebelen says. “They really pitched in, doing everything from securing donations to lining up demonstrations, arranging publicity, and preparing food. “ The team included: Tim Bower (John Deere), Diane Campbell (Muscatine Schools), Tina Campbell and Holly Jacobi (Muscatine Power and Water), Tammi Drawbaugh (HNI), Greg Jenkins (Muscatine Chamber), Ray Lukkarien (Stanley), Janet Morrow (Muscatine Magazine),  and Kevin Schilling (GPC). Ken Snyder with the Iowa DNR graciously opened up his nearby fields for parking to accommodate parking.

Several UI departments and units are collaborating on Living with Floods; these include the Iowa Flood Center, Hancher, the Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, the UI colleges of education and engineering, the Department of Health and Human Physiology, and the State Hygienic Laboratory. These UI partners are engaging with seven communities across the state, including Davenport, Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Des Moines, Dubuque, Iowa City, and Muscatine. Throughout the spring of 2013, Living with Floods is sponsoring community forums; STEM learning events for K-12 students; and free community concerts in the partner communities. Sponsors of the LACMRERS iExploreSTEM Festival also include: Kent Corporation/GPC, Muscatine Community College, Monsanto, HNI, Carver Pump, Central State Bank, Stanley Consultants, Sycamore Printing, Iowa’s Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, Hy-Vee, and the Muscatine Community School District.

For information on Living with Floods and how you can participate, visit www.iihr.uiowa.edu/livingwithfloods.

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Last modified on June 19th, 2015
Posted on June 18th, 2013

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