By Kelsey Keener
Iron County Today
CEDAR CITY–Students from five counties came to Southern Utah University to participate in the third annual Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics Festival Oct 16-17.
More than 3,000 students, aged from kindergarten to eighth grade, had the chance to take part in the two-day, volunteer-run festival. The Ballroom in the SUU Sharwan Smith Student Center was filled with stations and activities for the kids to participate in, which were operated by different clubs and organizations, including Thanksgiving Point, the National Park Service, the SUU Archeology Club, the Southern Utah Rock Club, the Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum and Subzero.
Academic Enhancement Coordinator Laurel Dodgion said the festival brings students together to learn in an engaging way.
“We bring kids in from the rural community as well as Iron County to learn about (STEAM) subjects in a fun way,” she said.
William Heyborne, Director of the SUU Center for STEM Teaching and Learning and associate professor of biology at SUU, said the STEAM Festival is one of many events that the center puts on to support its mission and get kids interested in STEM fields.
“The whole mission of the center is to engage the K-12 community in hands-on STEM learning,” he said. “This is just one of about 23 different initiatives we do every year. It’s all about either igniting an interest or keeping them interested in STEM fields so that hopefully they’ll go on to study those disciplines and then maybe pursue careers in those areas.”
Heyborne said increasing interest in STEM fields is important because the most rapidly growing sectors of the economy are related to those fields.
“As we think about economic growth within our area, within the state of Utah, we know we have a huge shortfall of qualified people to fill those jobs,” he said. “So the more kids that we can keep interested in those areas, the more successful we’ll be at filling those jobs going forward.”
Although the STEAM Festival only engaged students for about an hour and a half, Heyborne hopes it will keep students interested in the subjects they got to learn about.
“The hope is that some of the experiences they’ll have here will cause them then to go home and continue to ask questions and pursue answers and keep those interests alive that kids naturally have at this age,” he said.