Saturday, April 9, 2016

STEAM in Utah

So, I'm sitting in the Denver airport, on a long, leisurely layover, on my way back from a quick jaunt to Utah.

First, I want to say that modern technology is just amazing.  How the heck am I connected to the internet, here, so far from home?  Nothing is plugged in right now -- not my computer, not my phone, and yet I can check email and phone messages.  Bizarre is the new normal.  I even got to do some on-line banking on my trip, and almost immediately got a call from the bank ("why the heck are we getting password changes from Utah instead of from your normal home state?").  How incredibly nice to know they're e-protecting my accounts!

I was in Utah for a "STEAM" Expo (that's "Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math").  I've been to various such events, but this was one of the most playful-yet-comprehensive I've seen.  So to Ed-the-organizer, Kudos!   (Oh, and sorry you set your beard on fire during that demo, by the way, although the kids loved it.)

Here are just a few photos of what went on.

Tour of the wind farm.  Fun fact: the max rotation is 15 RPM,
but that means the tips of the blades go 190 mph!
The quality and consistency of the chalked graphs (below) that the students prepared in advance really impressed me.  There were two blocks of sidewalks full of these graphs, all incredibly well done.  These students have an awesome and organized professor.

Dalwena draws the graph of a function that is a quadratic in x and quartic in y. 
Emanuel has a cool pair of functions with nice symmetry.
Local high school students kicked off the event with dance performances.  Wow.

Just after he set his beard on fire (do not try this at home, folks) Ed delighted the students by demonstrating how Bernoulli's effect applies to leaf blowers and rolls of toilet paper.  Did I mention the word "delighted"?  Kids were in stitches!

And then, after the stage demonstrations, came the workshops on useful technology:  like, how to pick up an egg with a backhoe.

Or (possibly slightly more useful) how to solder electronic devices . . .

. . . or solve a murder mystery.

Kids also got to climb in army trucks, fire trucks, tractors, and other gigantic vehicles . . . 

. . .  as well as pedaling an utterly idiosyncratic cart that required 6 strong pairs of legs to make it move.

Plus, there were talks by scientists about solid rocket boosters (explosions!) and Navajo Code Talkers (espionage and torture!) and even more prosaic topics, like similar triangles.

All of this happened in a place that the organizers Ed and Eric warned me is in "the middle of nowhere" and "almost impossible to get to".  Hence, my three planes to get back home and my long Denver layover.  But it turns out, that what you can see in the middle of nowhere can be pretty darned amazing.  Thanks, Ed and Eric!


  1. How cool!! Hands on experiences and exciting demonstrations make these subjects come alive for students. Sure wish I could have had more it when I was in high school.

    1. Me, too! I loved the soldering -- I'm half thinking of going out and getting my own soldering supplies, although I have no idea what I'd actually use it for around the home.