On September 21st, Binghamton University student and faculty volunteers from various science departments headed down to Binghamton’s Roberson Museum & Science Center for a new, exciting event: Outta the Box Science that Rocks. The event was a collaborative, community-wide science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) career exploration event sponsored by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Broome County’s CITIZEN U, 4-H Tech Wizards, and Samsung Summer Science programs.  The event featured twenty interactive stations where elementary school students learned about STEM careers through fun and informative hands-on activities and experiments. Binghamton University participants, who volunteered through the Center for Civic Engagement’s Youth Engagement Project, came together to set up a range of scientific activities which allowed local youth to gain hands on experience and learn about different fields.

With the help of her roommates, senior Biology student Lauren Kiesel showcased two different experiments. The first, which demonstrated the scientific properties of hydrophobia and hydrophilia, provided an engaging look at the colorful chemical reactions between milk and dish soap. During the second experiment, the volunteers taught local youth how to make homemade lava lamps using the chemical properties of many common household items.  Kiesel commented on the importance of the event and why she and her roommates volunteered: “It is such a great feeling to watch the amazement and inspiration in kids' eyes as their minds are blown by something new. I wanted to take part in giving them that sense of enthusiasm… I think that fun events like these motivate students to be more inquisitive, creative, and interested in learning.”

Leading more hands-on activities in a different scientific field, Anthropology PhD students Sarah Cunningham and Jess Smeeks taught the local youth about bones and archaeology. Each student was given a cookie with the task of carefully excavating the chocolate chips with toothpicks. The chocolate chips were compared to different artifacts one might find in the field, and keeping them intact was a task which required both concentration and precision. This exercise showed students the importance of carefully extracting and documenting artifacts as they learned about the work of modern archaeologists.

The third group of student volunteers from Binghamton University led by Heather Fiumera of the Biology Department, hosted a station which exhibited the properties of genetics.  At the station, participants isolated a visible quantity of DNA from a single strawberry, using household reagents such as shampoo, coffee filters, and rubbing alcohol.  Participants also made models of the helical structure of a DNA molecule using Twizzlers and marshmallows.

Thanks to the Binghamton University students who volunteered through the Youth Engagement Project, the Outta the Box Science that Rocks event at the Roberson was able to provide nearly 300 children and their families with a truly unique science learning experience they won’t soon forget.

For more information on the event check out this article by Binghamton University’s Pipe Dream:

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