Sheboygan STEAMfest features virtual reality, CPR dummies and more
SHEBOYGAN — Light projections flying across the wall, paint splattered on a canvas, blood platelets under a microscope, virtual reality welding.
These were only a few of the activities hundreds of students participated in during the Sheboygan County Chamber of Commerce STEAMfest Oct. 12.
The science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics event hosted about 50 Sheboygan County businesses and 1,600 fourth- and fifth-graders from every school in the county, said Josh Aschenbach, Chamber director of membership and workforce development.
“Everyone learns in a different way,” Aschenbach said. “Some people thrive in the classroom and some people don’t. And so (we’re) giving our kids an alternate way to learn, to get their hands dirty, to expand their minds in a way that they maybe wouldn’t in their own classroom.”
The businesses each had a table in the gymnasium at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Sheboygan campus and offered kids an activity related to STEAM. Businesses present included Gearbox Labs, Advantage Prototypes, Road America, Orange Cross Ambulance and The RUFF Rage Room.
Mason Wefdern, fourth-grader from Pigeon River Elementary School, said he liked “everything” about STEAMfest but was especially excited about his hammer he designed and built out of cardboard.
Resha Vang, also a fourth-grader from Pigeon River, said it was cool to see all the businesses in the community and agreed the event “probably” did make STEAM seem cooler. She said her favorite part of the day was taste testing and deciding which flavors she liked the most.
Aschenbach said he’s happy to see the response of businesses coming to the event and the students able to attend.
“All you gotta do is look at the kids’ faces as they’re walking out, right?” he said. “They walk in, it’s one thing, but watch them as they walk out, you know, they’re excited. They’re smiling. And I think the best compliment is the teachers are also smiling.”
One of the businesses present, and a sponsor of STEAMfest, was MilliporeSigma, a global life science business with a site in Sheboygan Falls. For STEAMfest, volunteers from MilliporeSigma showed kids the Curiosity Cube.
The Curiosity Cube is a shipping container-turned mobile science lab that travels across the county to provide kids with a unique science experience. It began in 2017, said Natalie Randolph, Curiosity Cube coordinator who travels with the lab.
“We wanted to find a way to take our sciences out of the lab and into the community so that students can experience how fun hands-on science really is,” she said.
Every year, the Cube features a different experiment. This year, kids learned and participated in experiments about environmental, surface and beverage contamination while interacting with scientists from the community.
“The unique experience with this is that the kids get to interact with real-life STEM experiences,” Randolph said. “ … The kids get to learn from people who are working in the industry and people who are doing these types of experiments every day. And it’s really fun just to kind of see that connection.”
Lucas Horn, fifth-grader from Cooper Elementary School, said he likes STEAM more than he did before coming to the event, especially because of the Curiosity Cube’s virtual reality headset showing common types of bacteria found in classrooms.
Another virtual reality experience at STEAMfest was Lakeshore Technical College’s welding helmet. Samson Hou-Seye, welding and maintenance specialist at LTC, said every kid who came by loved it.
“It allows them to see what it actually looks like under the helmet when they’re welding, so that there’s no sparks or hot or anything dangerous,” he said. “So it allows us to show the kids what’s going on without having them be in risk of being hurt or anything.”
Jeanne Wiesbrock, manager for simulation for the north region of Advocate Health, was part of a team showing kids the medical simulators they use to train medical teams. She said she loves seeing the kids learn about the field and potentially growing the next generation of health care workers.
“I love watching their eyes,” Wiesbrock said. “We were just talking about how you can see when they start listening to the baby’s chest with the stethoscope, and they’re listening and all of a sudden you see the change in their eyes.”
One child saw a CPR dummy laying on the floor and immediately ran up to it, dropping to his knees to get to work. Saying “another person died,” he got to work pumping the chest, stopping when needed to attentively listen to the professional telling him how to adjust his technique.
Leaving STEAMfest beaming, student Lucas Horn said, “We should go here again.”