On March 8, the UW Student Chapter of SACNAS participated in the first ever Yakima Valley Science and Engineering Festival. The event, sponsored by the University of Washington, Educational Service District 105 and Heritage University, brought 2100 K-12 students and community members to interact with hands-on STEM activities from over 70 exhibitors. It was an amazing day where chapter members Katrina Claw, Daniel Hernandez and I all walked away completely energized and hoarse from so many positive interactions with Yakima Valley community members.
The UW Student Chapter of SACNAS was approached by UW Genome Sciences to participate in event, I was immediately interested in helping. This was a great opportunity to bring the science of SoundCitizen and the community of the chapter to the large populations of of Hispanic/Latino and Native American youth in the rural Yakima Valley. While there is a wealth of opportunities for students in the Seattle metropolitan area to connect with STEM professionals, opportunities for rural youth are few and far between.
An email from an event organizer recounted “Exhibitors/presenters included Boeing’s Museum of Flight, Pacific Science Center, OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry), (OHSU) Oregon’s Health and Science University’s “Let’s Get Healthy” exhibit, University of Washington’s GENOME Project, ESD 105’s STEM Showcase and many other community based booths. There were also representatives from higher education schools such as the University of Washington, Heritage University, Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences, Yakima Valley Community College, YV Tech & Washington State University MESA program.” We repeatedly heard from event participants that there had never been anything like this around Yakima and organizers are receiving emails asking about next year’s event, indicating how excited the community was about this opportunity,
As a representative of SoundCitizen from UW Tacoma, I brought an interactive watershed model to demonstrate how vanilla ends up in ocean water. It was fun to talk to youth and see their surprised looks when they learned about the difference between natural and artificial vanilla, how common vanilla is in the environment and how chemicals they use in everyday products end up in marine systems. One middle school girl told me, “I thought this science festival was going to be kinda boring, but this is really interesting!”
This event was also an opportunity to roll out an exciting new interactive outreach activity for the UW SACNAS Chapter – Match A Scientist. Youth tried to match pictures of chapter members with a description of what they research. It was a really fun and surprisingly engaging activity. Kids would look at photos and say “Look, she’s Mexican!” and “Look, he’s Native!” It was a fun, engaging way for students to see who is doing science and the kinds of science being done at UW! As one middle school student said when they saw the pictures of chapter members, “They’re all scientists?!?!” Yes we are and you can be one, too!
Amanda Bruner is a Program Coordinator at the University of Washington Tacoma. Her current positions with SoundCitizen and the Math-Science-Leadership Program are focused on broadening public participation in STEM and bridging university research to local youth and communities.