ROANOKE – Four floors of fun activities will fill four hours of Saturday, April 15, for STEM Day at Virginia Western Community College, a program designed for elementary and middle school students. The free event runs 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Virginia Western STEM building at 3080 Colonial Ave. in Roanoke.
Virginia Western faculty in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics are teaming up with community partners to introduce their fields to the college students of tomorrow in fun ways. This outreach is open to any K-8 student in the college’s service region, which encompasses Roanoke, Salem, Roanoke County, Craig County, Franklin County and southern Botetourt County.
Hands-on activities include Raspberry Pi’s for gaming and coding; 3D printing; robots; dissections, DNA extractions, specimens and anatomical skeletons; animal models including a cow and horse hoof; rocks of Minecraft; sound and glass; Non-Newtonian fluids; slime; leaf and tree activities; and more.
Chemistry professor Lanette Upshaw is coordinating the event. Upshaw said she and other faculty members have helped area schools host STEM Nights. After one such event at Back Creek Elementary, she had a new idea. Why not “bring people here to campus,” she said, “and get young kids excited about STEM?”
Central on campus, the Virginia Western STEM building is the college’s newest facility. This 72,000-square-foot space, designed to provide the most ideal 21st century learning environment, opened in 2019. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the STEM building’s potential for events such as this one is only now coming to fruition. Not only can students learn about STEM topics, they can see and use some of the state-of-the-art equipment and tools available throughout the building’s lab space.
“We are thrilled to welcome our community onto our beautiful campus to experience the many STEM opportunities that are available to our students,” said Virginia Western Dean of STEM Amy White. “We hope many people will come and visit with our outstanding faculty, enjoy lunch provided by our community partners and experience four floors of discovery and excitement. This showcase is a testament to the commitment of our faculty and staff to celebrating STEM in the Roanoke region.”
STEM Day activities will span the subjects of chemistry, mechatronics, geology, physics, biology, agriculture, engineering, math, information technology, biotechnology and astronomy.
Community partners will boost the learning opportunities for students – and help satisfy hunger during the event. The Roanoke County Sheriff’s Office will provide free hot dogs. Children will have the chance to see Virginia Tech’s formula race car and motorcycle team, and the Virginia Department of Forensic Science will have educators on site. High school STEM clubs from around the Roanoke Valley also will participate.
Another community partner is Novozymes, an innovative international company with a very local commitment. The STEM Division is pleased to have them as a participant in this event, which adds to a history of partnerships between Novozymes and Virginia Western.
Students in public, private and home schools and their families are welcome, and parking is free. Children will need an adult accompanying them during the event.
-The Salem Times-Register