Kids get hands-on STEM education at TechFest 2023

For 20 years, Dayton’s annual TechFest has introduced and nurtured an interest in all things STEM for kids from kindergarten to high school.

Science educator Kevin Cornell has participated in the event each year since 2004, first as an attendee along with his daughter, then as a committee member, and now as chair of the fest.

“That’s what’s cool about this event; it transcends generations and gives kids and families an amazing opportunity to explore STEM in a new way that some of them haven’t seen,” Cornell said. “Kids don’t know what they don’t know, so this gives them an opportunity to get their fingers wet and check some cool stuff out.”

Cornell also serves as an exhibitor at TechFest. As an educator turned “edu-tainer,” as he describes it, Cornell is the face of Mister C Media, an education-based media company that aims to inspire and engage learners of all ages using video, music and live presentations.

Cornell said STEM-based learning is important for all age groups, especially children.

“It’s essential for kids to see this at a young age,” he said. “By having such a wide variety of exhibitors, presenters and speakers, it gives kids the opportunity to touch base with all of these amazing branches of STEM and, hopefully, something triggers them to say, ‘Wow, I want to learn more about that.’”

Dayton Regional STEM School seniors Hridhay Wiswanathan, Nathan Varghese, and Yash Kakade were at TechFest on Saturday.

Kakade said he’s a regular at the event, attending every year.

“I like seeing the new exhibits each time and seeing those that return each year,” Kakade said. “I really like doing the crafting stuff with the rockets and the planes; that always intrigues me.”

This year was a first for Wiswanathan and Varghese.

“Today’s been great,” Wiswanathan said. “Seeing all the booths and the different activities; it’s really engaging for young audiences.”

After high school, two of the friends said they plan to continue into STEM fields, with Kakade studying mechanical engineering at CalTech and Varghese studying chemical engineering at Ohio State University. Wiswanathan will also attend OSU to study business.

TechFest 2023 featured more than 50 exhibitors, according to exhibit coordinator Kara Combs.

Combs first attended TechFest at age 10. After studying industrial and systems engineering at Wright State, she now works as an associate computer engineer for the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Combs said TechFest can give kids an a look into STEM-related careers through a variety of hands-on activities.

“There’s a bunch of different activities, like robotics, learning energy efficiency through bike riding, rocket launches, radio building, and just a lot of things that show what a career in tech could look like,” she said.

TechFest 2023 is a free event sponsored by local businesses, organizations and individuals. It will continue Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Sinclair Community College’s Building 12.

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