23rd Annual Science Day at GE Global Research
“Wow, that is so cool” was by far the most frequent comment from the close to three hundred 4th grade students that just visited GE Global Research for Science Day. Their day started with a chemistry magic show that was a half hour of magic tricks (or was it chemistry?) that included potions that change color, a stick that burst into flame producing an unharmed rose, balloons that shrivel up when placed in a bubbling potion and reform when they are removed, and other balloons that explode when the crowd yells “Abracadabra!” After the magic show the students split into a dozen groups that took turns at different hands-on science exhibits. I was able to host one group that got to see a metal bar heated white hot in a 2000 °F oven, squished flat in a press, and then cooled so the students could touch it. Other exhibits my group tried included playing with nanotechnology that can repel water or be used as a magnet, writing secret messages for their teacher with invisible ink and spraying the message to reveal it to her (most of the messages were that they love their teacher), and making colored slime that they could take home. The day ended with a half hour question and answer session where the students pelted a dozen volunteers who ran the exhibits with great questions on how the exhibits work, what the volunteers do in their jobs, and how many years of school they needed to do stuff that is so cool.
This is the 23rd year that GE Global Research has been holding Science Day and it has never been more important than now. The United States Department of Commerce recently reported that “over the last ten years, growth in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) jobs was three times as fast as growth in non-STEM jobs.” The report concludes with the statements “STEM jobs are the jobs of the future. They are essential for developing our technological innovation and global competitiveness. … STEM jobs should also be highly desirable to American workers. Regardless of educational attainment, entering a STEM profession is associated with higher earnings and reduced joblessness.”
Science Day is just one of many programs GE Global Research holds on site to inspire the next generation of scientists. In the past, I have also volunteered to proctor competitions for Mathcounts and read questions for Science Bowl. Mathcounts is a national middle school coaching and competitive mathematics program that promotes mathematics achievement through a series of fun “spelling bee” style contests. Science Bowl is a national academic competition that tests High school and middle school students’ knowledge in all areas of science using a format similar to Jeopardy.
Personally, last year I was able to take my eight-year-old daughter and four-year-old son to a Preview Night for Science Day, where the families of GE employees have their own opportunity to watch the volunteers run through the chemistry magic show and exhibits. My daughter now wants to be a mechanical engineer and my son wants to be a chemist. They have both talked about this multiple times over the last year. For example, last week while my son was taking his bath he was moving water back and forth from one container to another while adding colored soap and he said he was “mixing his potions” like he saw at his daddy’s work. This lets me think my children are off to a good start, and makes me smile.
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