Soaking up STEAM

2019 STEAM Extravaganza draws hundreds of families across Douglas County

Hundreds of curious, eager children and teenagers poured onto the Umpqua Community Campus on May 18, looking to get involved in some fun, free, hands-on learning at the third annual STEAM Extravaganza.

The family-friendly event once again showcased activities in science, technology, engineering, artful innovation and math. Dozens of organizations and student-ran clubs from across Douglas County, such as Winston’s Wildlife Safari and Elkton High School’s Cybernetics Elks Robotics Club, came out to show how STEAM thinking is part of their everyday activities and work.

Douglas County Partners for Student Success Executive Director Gwen Soderberg-Chase says the event provides a wide, diverse way for families and students to learn how STEAM learning benefits and stimulates children’s minds.   

“What we work to provide for all kids who are here and their families is an opportunity to explore a variety of different engaging activities,” Soderberg-Chase said. “They’re all about developing STEAM thinking, asking questions, developing creative solutions, problem solving, critical thinking – just challenges of all different levels for all different ages.”

Despite Mother Nature teasing the crowd with afternoon showers, the weather didn’t stop the children and adults from interacting with the outdoor events across campus.

Wildlife Safari Lead Educator Julianne Rose says the STEAM Extravaganza is an innovative, engaging way for students to learn.

“They can meet a snake, they can see the inside of a spider,” Rose said. “Once they learn about those things, usually they’re a little more intrigued by them and they want to investigate them, and that leads them into further discoveries in a scientific realm.”

Along with other organizations, many school programs ran by students showed off their inventions, including robotics and other remote-controlled objects built from scratch by the students.

Elkton High School sophomore and Cybernetic Elks Robotics club member Hayden O’Neal says robotics isn’t just an extracurricular activity, it’s helping him prepare for life after high school.

“It benefits me in that I want to study engineering, later on for college so it’s a really nice way to start out on that,” O’Neal said. “It really gets people interested in that kind of stuff, the sciences and stuff.”

Other activities at the free event included drone competitions; rocket building and launching; Lego League robotics; UCC program tours and demonstrations; pipe organ building; and a maker/tinker space.

“We are thrilled with this year’s turnout, both in terms of the educators and community members who contributed their time to engage students, and the families who came to explore and have fun,” Soderberg-Chase said. “We hope this event will continue to grow each year and become our region’s premiere STEAM experience.”

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