Binghamton University spent millions of dollars developing the Innovative Technologies Complex (ITC) for engineering and scientific research, but over the weekend, it became a playground.
The BU chapter of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BES) held its eighth annual “I’m A Complex Kid!” (ICK!) in the ITC building Saturday, where 96 elementary school students from the Binghamton area participated in hands-on experiments to learn more about science.
The event, which raised $1,920, consisted of 14 stations of hands-on experiments that ranged from lava lamp-making to extracting strands of DNA from strawberries.
Children rotated through stations, each of which focused on a different field of science such as physics and botany.
Although some stations such as DNA extraction were included in the event in previous years, the stations are updated each year to keep the activities interesting for the children, many of whom have attended past ICK! events.
For Lucas Tran, a second-grader from Apalachin, the biome in a cup station, in which participants could plant pea seeds in a plastic cup, appealed to his interest in plants.
“Science tells you about a lot of things,” Tran said. “Plants are beautiful; I like sunflowers.”
Some of the most popular events included the Strawberry DNA Extraction station and the Egg Drop station, where students constructed a basket and parachute to drop an egg from the top of a staircase.
Alexandra Bennett, a volunteer and member of the BES, attributed the success of the event to the new stations and the reliance on feedback from children attending the event.
“We try to keep the stations as interesting as possible,” said Bennett, a senior majoring in integrative neuroscience. “We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback.”
She added that exposure to sciences at earlier ages can also help children develop skills necessary for future success in school.
“I didn’t realize until I was in college how everything is changing so fast and how important research is and how important it is to think critically and be innovative,” Bennett said. “They’re learning at a young age.”
Some of the children who attended the event said that they recognized the importance of the skills they gained from the experiments. Lilly Wlowoski, a third-grade student from Vestal, said she enjoyed the station in which children made boats from tin foil and tried to predict how many beans it could hold before sinking.
“It was about learning to estimate and trying to do your best,” Wlowoski said.
According to Justin Ziske, a junior majoring in physics, a variety of activities available at the ICK! event could change the perspective that young students have of math and science as being hard or boring subjects.
“We want to try to get kids interested in the stuff early so that they see that math and science isn’t this terrible thing that everyone makes it out to be,” Ziske said. “It can be very interesting to know how things work.”
Although organizers of the event said that they hoped that early exposure to the sciences might lead children to pursue scientific professions, some of the children already had a clear idea of what they wanted to do when they grow up.
“I’m going to be a firefighter because I like to help people,” Tran said. “And I want to be a McDonald’s cashier because I love giving out food.”