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Fun of science, math on display at STEMfest

DeKALB – There was a party on Saturday at Northern Illinois University's Convocation Center.

A DJ played music while standing on a mobile cart equipped with a sound system and bubble machine. Participants wore 3D glasses among the neon lights and lasers.

The festivities were all part of STEMfest, an event aimed at making the fields of science, technology, engineering and math fun for children.

“Science can be fun,” said 8-year-old Pilar Martinez. “I learned that here and at school also.”

The event featured a laser lab, robotics field, Lego displays and a haunted physics lab. 

NIU physics professor Yasuo Ito was at a booth in which participants could take wand-like Van de Graaff generators and use them to levitate aluminum foil. 

“We're showing them the basics of simple physics,” Ito said. “By doing this, they can feel physics directly. It's all about getting them to ask why. That's the most important part.”

When children ask why, it shows they are more interested in learning about physics, Ito said.

Montgomery resident Douglas Hughes was at STEMfest with his wife, daughter and son.

Hughes, a molecular biologist, said it was good to expose his kids to this type of thing.

“I'd like to have him grow a passion with science and learning things,” Hughes said of his son, Mason. “Even if you don't go into science, it makes you think critically.” 

Mason was looking at a ball which could expand and contract by pulling on a rope.

“When it's bigger, it moves slower, and when you make it smaller, it's faster,” he said.

Rochelle resident Cayce Groves with was her daughter at the haunted physics lab. Her daughter, a member of Girl Scout Troop 1168, was eligible to earn Girl Scout badges by being at STEMfest.

Groves said her daughter loves hands-on activities. And there were plenty of those at STEMfest.

“It's good for her future and career to learn about these things,” Groves said. “She can build things that can help other people.

“She can create something on her own as an innovation.”

Fatimah Asghar, associate producer for RedMoon, a company which combines art and science, was at a booth with the DJ cart.

RedMoon builds machines and shows them to those living in underserved areas to bring art them, Asghar said.

People can be artists with any career, Asghar said. 

“Bringing machines like this is a cool way to show art is a viable option if you're interested in engineering,” she said.

Oswego resident Kennedy Hampton, 8, was at STEMfest with Girl Scout Troop 944 of Aurora.

She said school was not as fun as being at STEMfest.

“There's no laser show at school,” Hampton said. “I like this because there's lots of things to see.”

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