Symposium gives kids hands-on STEM experience

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HERNDON, Va. — Kids in Northern Virginia are getting a chance to learn more about opportunities in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields and show off what they have learned already.

The STEM Symposium at the Nysmith School in Herndon offered children hands-on opportunities to apply STEM topics to real world applications.

Some students got some seat time with a computer joystick to take command of a virtual fighter jet. Others got crafty.

Students in one classroom were building catapults capable of tossing Ping-Pong balls and marshmallows.

There were also exhibitors to assist students interested in pursuing a STEM career.

Sajni Bederey is with STEM All-Stars, which tries to help girls pursue a career in the sciences field. The biggest problem she sees is perception and stereotyping.

“All they can picture of a programmer is a nerd typing away on his computer,” Bederey said.

But she says girls need to know that it is OK to play with Legos instead of a Barbie doll when they are young.

The exhibition also allowed students to showcase their work in a science fair.

Fifth grader Michael Conner looked at what type of water was best at growing a healthy plant: comparing tap water, carbonated water, San Pellegrino sparkling mineral water and distilled water.

The best?

“I would say Pellegrino,” Conner found, if you wanted the most bountiful, bushy plant.

The plant fed with carbonated water grew the tallest.

But this student says if you aren’t willing to splurge on some pricier water, don’t put that garden hose away just yet.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a bad option,” the fifth grader said about tap water.

“I would actually say it’s kind of good but also not so bad. I would say if you didn’t have carbonated or Pellegrino, tap would be the next-best option.”

Just down the hallway, fourth grader Harshal Lobana had her own mini fan operating just on water.

“This is my thermal electric generator,” Lobana showcased at her display.

Two blue buckets, one filled with hot water and the other with icy cold water, sat on the table with metal connecting the two and wires feeding out to a small fan.

“It generates electricity using the metal as a conductor and makes the fan work,” Lobana said.

Lobana wasn’t sure if it could generate enough power to charge a phone, in case desperate times called for desperate measures, but she says it wouldn’t be unreasonable.

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