Air Force Research Lab Super STEM Saturday science demonstrations went off with a bang.
Hundreds attended the showcase at Innovate ABQ at the Lobo Rainforest, to participate in a number of science experiments from driving robots and set all kinds of fires.
Jewel Meyer-Hagen, president of the University of New Mexico’s Chemistry Club, said helping with demonstrations helps UNM students give back to the community.
“It’s a good reminder of what’s outside of academia, which can sometimes be really cutthroat,” Meyer-Hagen said. “Kids were getting excited about science — it’s really good to get kids involved.”
The UNM Innovation Academy partnered to demonstrate robot technology, showing off their robot which won first place in a 2017 robotics competition at AFRL.
Other partners included Sandia National Labs, New Mexico Oil and Gas and other state universities.
“Science Bob” Pflugfelder, a public speaker and self-described science enthusiast, has appeared on television to demonstrate science experiments. He was a keynote speaker on Super STEM Saturday and sat down with the Daily Lobo for a quick chat.
Q: Can you tell me a little about why you’re out here today with AFRL demonstrations?
A: The STEM operation out here gave me a call, and I love what they’re doing. They’re finding new interesting ways to bring in local talents to engage kids in science, and we need that. We need to get kids exposed to as many different areas of science as we can so they can hopefully key into something they (are) interested in as individuals.
Q: Why is science so important?
A: Well, it’s important, because we want to move cultures forward, and science does that. We want to innovate. We have a lot of big problems we need to solve, and science is going to help us get there.
Q: What kind of challenges are facing this next generation, Could you elaborate?
A: Everything from clean water to food supplies to space exploration to climate change — those are going to be cured by science.
Q: Why do you think demonstrations work to talk about science, especially with kids?
A: When you’re working with the public, step one is to get their attention. And demonstrations get their attention. And when you have their attention, you can say, “Here’s why this matters, here’s why science matters and here’s how you can have a role in that.”
Q: What do you think we need to do in terms of science education?
A: I think we need to get as strong as an elementary level of science programs as we can. In middle school, science gets pretty hard, because science can be hard at times. And if students haven’t discovered how amazing science really is at a younger age, it can be tough. But if they know science rules, then they’re tolerant when it gets a little harder, and they push through and appreciate it.
Q: Do you have anything to say to college students in STEM education right now?
A: Stick with it — this is where the jobs are — studying science at the college level...I was over at the laboratory yesterday, and there were an awful lot of young faces, and those are the guys who are going to get us to Mars.
Danielle Prokop is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. She can contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ProkopDani.