STEMania was back and bigger than ever this year at Weatherford College Wise County Thursday.
The second annual education event – where elementary students learn how science, technology, engineering and math intersect with everyday life – drew more than 800 fourth graders from Wise and Jack County schools.
This was an increase over last year’s event, which drew around 600 students from only Wise County.
The increase in attendees was no accident, according to Mike Endy, dean of academics.
“It’s not just about STEM,” he said. “It’s about exposing these kids to a college environment at a young age. They may be fourth graders right now, but they’re going to grow up and become college students, if they choose to do that, and we want to provide them options.”
More than 50 stations were spread out around the campus, where students could go to learn about everything from how electricity is made to how to harvest banana DNA. Some stations, like English professor Dr. Erin Sagerson’s “Frankenstein” exhibit, used humanities as a way to teach the students about science.
Sagerson, calling herself “Dr. Sagerstein,” explained Mary Shelley’s tale of Dr. Frankenstein and his monster to a rapt audience before showing the fourth graders a skeleton they could take apart and put back together.
“We were trying to come up with ways to show that there’s always overlap between STEM subjects and other subjects,” she said. “The first story we could think of was ‘Frankenstein.’ It’s a nice tie-in for the kids for Halloween, too.”
Many of the stations, including demonstrations on smoking, bicycle safety and chemistry, were staffed by WCWC’s own nursing students.
Penelope Lawyer, a third-semester nursing student who was working at the smoking health station, said she enjoyed the opportunity to positively impact the youngsters.
“It’s important to get them to realize they need to not smoke – I smoked for 25 years and finally stopped right before I started this nursing program, so hopefully we can get them early,” she said.
To make their point, the nurses had the students listen to the breathing patterns of healthy lungs and then had them listen to recordings of what a smoker’s lungs sound like.
“Listening to the lungs was really cool,” said Paradise Elementary student Hugo Huerta. “It made me not want to smoke.”
Many of the students said they want to pursue careers in STEM-related fields when they grow up.
“I think I would like to do something in electricity, and make brighter lightbulbs,” Carson Elementary’s Wade Bates said.
Jayton Watson, also a student at Carson, said the cattle roping station in the parking lot inspired her to want to go into agriculture when she gets older.
“I think I might want to become a roping teacher,” she said. “It was fun being outdoors for that part of the day.”
If those students choose to pursue those dreams, Endy said the college is ready for them.
“These 800 kids will be the most people in this building at one point all year,” he said. “We built this new building as much for them, 10 years from now, as we did for ourselves. Hopefully everyone here realizes that hosting this event isn’t a waste of time, but it’s an investment in the future of the kids as much as it is for the college.”