I popped into the room soon enough to hear the an engineering student volunteer, say, “We’re going to give you 10 minutes to build your windmill.” Elementary school students, all between the ages of 6 and 11, were fixated on the volunteer as he explained the rules to the Windmill Wonder activity. Kids in lab coats looked at the equipment, eyes wide with excitement.
They started the activity: building the windmill propeller to generate electricity. They connected each of their propellers to a motor, turned on the fans and cheered when they saw the meters showing the voltages their windmills were producing. I could feel the excitement as teams went back to improve their designs. All of the students were organized in teams from local elementary schools, and most of them had team t-shirts and other gear. This activity was one of six offered at the Elementary Science Olympiad last Saturday, and all of them were just as exciting and engaging for the students as Windmill Wonders project.
As an engineering student, it was really cool and empowering for me to see kids getting excited in STEM. These opportunities are incredible for them to become interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Parents, were also very involved in seeing their students succeed–sometimes even too involved, when volunteers had to keep parents from getting to close to the students and affecting their competition. A lot of the students I saw were very smart; some had even trained for the competition for several weeks, and it showed when they participated in the activities. I know I would have really enjoyed these competitions when I was younger, and that activities such as this would have made me more interested in STEM and potentially helped me discover earlier what I wanted to pursue as a career.