Local children filled the Innovative Technologies Complex (ITC) this past Saturday for the final event of National Engineers Week.
Community Day was the last event organized by the Thomas J. Watson College of Engineering and Applied Science in honor of this year’s National Engineers Week, featuring a series of interactive science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) activities and booths for local elementary, middle and high schoolers. Events held by Watson College earlier in the week included a Lockheed Martin Career Panel and a STEM Career Fair, both tailored toward Binghamton University students.
Kimberly Eiche, the director of Watson Career and Alumni Connections, detailed the process of returning Community Day to an in-person format this year.
“Last year’s Community Day was moved to a virtual format due to the [COVID-19] pandemic, but we wanted to do our best to move Community Day back to its traditional in-person format while maintaining a safe environment for all participants this year,” Eiche wrote in an email. “For this reason, we implemented a new preregistration requirement and [added] a capacity limit per session. There are three sessions in total, morning (9 a.m. to 11 a.m.), midday (noon to 2 p.m.) and afternoon (3 p.m. to 5 p.m.) … All sessions reached full capacity quickly, so we know that this offering is enticing to families in the community!”
One of the student organizations participating in this year’s Community Day was the Watson College Scholars, a Watson College initiative composed of underrepresented students. The Watson College Scholars brought two activities to the fair. One was the “Pasta-La-Vista Tower,” which saw local students compete against Watson College Scholars to build the tallest and strongest marshmallow tower, and the other was “Swimming Seasoning,” where kids experimented with adding seasonings and food coloring to water to explain surface tension and water cohesion.
Christian Martinez, an undeclared freshman who helped make “Swimming Seasoning,” explained how the Watson College Scholars came up with their ideas.
“In late November we were told we were going to be doing Community Day,” Martinez said. “And since then we have been coming up with ideas, coming up with slideshows to present to [Eiche], who is the person in charge of the entire thing, and then just buying all the materials was basically on us. So it was super easy and super fun.”
Katherine Peters, an undeclared freshman who helped run the “Pasta-La-Vista Tower,” said the participants worked quickly and creatively to develop their projects.
“It’s kind of crazy how fast the students go,” Peters said. “Like the kids, and the concepts they come up with and the different shapes, like, I never would’ve thought. There were some pretty young kids in here, and they were going. They were putting it all together so fast and the way their minds work at such a young age, it’s cool how you can see the gears turning.”
Eiche said student organizations and campus offices played a crucial role in planning and preparing the educational activities.
“Additionally, the Watson [College] student organizations did an amazing job creating fun, interactive, STEM activities that [took] place during the event for the children (elementary, middle and high school) and their families in the local area,” Eiche wrote. “We hope that all of the children attendees leave the event inspired by what they have learned, with the goal of piquing their interest in [STEM] careers in the future. We have a record number — 29 — student organizations and some campus offices that are facilitating the events this year.”
One event which drew a large crowd was the “Egg Drop.” Facilitated by Pi Tau Sigma, participants created makeshift devices to protect eggs from a drop from ITC’s rotunda bridge, consisting of components such as balloons and cotton balls. A number of attendees gathered to watch the final drop.
Rebecca LaBombard, a mother from Johnson City whose son participated in the “Egg Drop,” said she enjoyed the event.
“It was quite awesome,” LaBombard said. “All the students were very helpful and informative, and we had a really great time. I’m having trouble getting him to leave.”
Eiche expressed her hope that the events interested their participants’ interest in both STEM and BU.
“By hosting activities such as Community Day, we hope to pique the interest of all children to show them that science and math are options for everyone,” Eiche wrote. “[BU] is a wonderful place, so maybe someday they will even consider pursuing an education with us in the future!“