UW-Rock County's Super Science Saturday teaches, entertains kids
JANESVILLE—Jackson Repaal has dreams of one day being an aerospace engineer for NASA.
As an eighth-grader from Clinton, all he can do for now to achieve his dreams is prepare. He watches the NASA TV channel, plays video games such as “Kerbal Space Program” and “Minecraft,” and builds Lego and K’nex creations.
Another thing he does is attend science fairs, like the one UW-Rock County hosted Saturday. Dozens of kids and their families showed up to Super Science Saturday to see and participate in several activities related to science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.
Jackson’s grandmother, Marguerite Quillen, watched as a volunteer showed Jackson how to use a tablet to code a small, electronic robot to walk forward and backward and make specific noises.
To Jackson, it was elementary; he had several lessons dedicated to coding in fifth grade, he said.
Quillen said most of the fair’s stations were a bit basic for Jackson. Still, visiting the fair was worthwhile.
“I enjoy science,” Jackson said matter-of-factly. “It’s fun, and I know it’s going to help me in the future.”
There were plenty of other stations besides ones related to coding. Other areas taught about the heart, nature, computer programming, slime and even bubbles.
One boy spent several minutes dunking a circle of string into soapy water and running it through the air to make giant bubbles, some that stretched several feet.
Another station featured colorless beads that kids could use to make bracelets. The beads turned different colors when exposed to ultraviolet light. Volunteer and UW-Rock County student Alexandra Harris demonstrated how sunglasses work by putting beads under UV-protective lenses and showing how they don’t change colors.
“I think it’s really important,” Harris said of the event. “I’m not really good at science, and if I would have had more opportunities to go and do sciencey things as a kid, I might have a better understanding.”
A popular area was a room illuminated by black lights. Visitors had a blast using UV light laser pointers to “draw” on glow-in-the-dark boards and using black lights to illuminate different objects.
“The best part is being able to share the stuff you love with kids, who are natural scientists. They’re very creative. They love to just explore, and that’s what hooks people,” said chemistry professor Eric Stone, a returning volunteer who ran the black light room.
“It’s fun because every scientist I’ve ever known is really a big kid at heart,” he said.
UW-Rock County program specialist and event organizer Molly Cook said the event is a great opportunity for budding scientists.
“We just want them to come, have fun, get a little exposure to science, familiarize themselves with our campus because we’re here, and just get involved because science is super important,” she said.