Science and Engineering Festival Attracts Some 400,000 People

IEEE volunteers connect with students and educators at the largest STEM outreach event in the world

25 May 2016

IEEE-USA is no stranger to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) outreach—which is why it returned for the fourth year to the USA Science and Engineering Festival. The event, which was held in April in Washington, D.C., brought together nearly 400,000 students, parents, and teachers to participate in hands-on activities and learn about the latest scientific and technological advances.

This year the volunteers at the IEEE-USA booth came up with several ways to engage students. One was an interactive exhibit that aimed to teach children how to generate electricity to light up bulbs including LEDs.

A theremin was on display, as well. The hands-free electronic musical instrument’s two antennas sense the position of the player’s hands. One hand controls frequency; the other controls volume.

People of all ages waited in line to try the activities. Volunteers enjoyed watching attendees participate, then turn around and explain to others how the displays worked.

Volunteers showcased IEEE-USA’s MOVE Community Outreach Project, which brings Internet access and phone chargers to neighborhoods affected by natural disasters. The booth also spotlighted IEEE History Center’s REACH program which, in partnership with the IEEE Foundation, is producing free resources to help high school teachers instruct students about the history of technology and the role engineers play in society. Teachers signed up to be REACH beta testers.

Two volunteers—IEEE Senior Member Jeffry Handal and IEEE Member Ata Atanasov—dressed as the character Dr. Volt. Wearing white lab coats with IEEE Technology Expert embroidered above the pocket, they answered questions and engaged students with lively discussions about engineering.

Volunteers handed out light-up bracelets and pens as well as bookmarks and stickers, which were snatched up quickly.

Many thanks to the IEEE volunteers who helped out during the three-day event, donning the bright-red team T-shirts and sharing their excitement about STEM fields with attendees. The volunteers were, once again, excellent engineering ambassadors to the thousands of students who stopped by the booth. As IEEE Senior Member Martin Schulman, a first-time volunteer, says, “We sometimes hear kids today don’t care about science or engineering, but the massive crowds at the USA Science and Engineering Festival prove interest is alive and well.”

IEEE-USA’s K-12 STEM Literacy Committee has been fortunate to play a role in STEM awareness across the country. Each volunteer has touched thousands of lives at the Science and Engineering Festivals, leaving a lasting impression on the next generation.

IEEE Member Dusty Fisher is past chair of IEEE-USA’s K-12 STEM Literacy Committee and has served on the IEEE Educational Activities Board. Fisher was recognized by the Engineer’s Council with the Distinguished STEM Educator Award. She provides strategy to global tech companies and has launched the Digital Skills Lab to provide insight into the tech tools and skills needed by today’s U.S. workforce.

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