Christina Davis, student research assistant with the 711th Human Performance Wing, Air Force Research Laboratory, assists a student with identifying plant cell structures by extracting visible DNA from crushed and strained strawberries during STEMfest 3.14 at the Youth Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, March 14. (Skywrighter photo/Amy Rollins)

WPAFB Youth Center celebrates Pi Day with inaugural STEM event

The Youth Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base celebrated theoretical physicist Albert Einstein’s birthday and Pi Day March 14 in a big way – with its first STEMfest 3.14.

Pi Day is an annual celebration of the mathematical constant pi, the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.

For several hours after school, more than 120 youth from the Prairies School-Age Program, Teen Center and Youth Center gathered to explore activities related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, while snacking on chocolate chip cookie pies donated by Raytheon.

Spheros was one of the activities, where participants used a tablet computer to drive a sphere, said Joel McKeever, youth programs assistant.

“Technology is everywhere so if the kids can find something they are interested in, that might move them into a career in tech,” he said. “We’ve never done a Pi Day STEM activity – but we do STEM-related activities frequently. So we put this together and the kids seem like they are really enjoying it.”

Sumo wrestlers were the inspiration for the Sugo activity. Three LEGO robots built by youth matched up to try to push each other out of a circle on the floor. Other LEGO robots, steered by a tablet computer, ran through an obstacle course constructed of cardboard, foam blocks and assorted materials.

Other activities were run by base organizations and community entities, including the 88th Air Base Wing Civil Engineer Group, Air Force Research Laboratory, Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, Montgomery and Greene County 4-H programs and libraries.

Noah Fillian and James Landfair, energy engineer and energy project specialist, respectively, with CEG’s Energy Management Office, worked with kids to help them discover how much energy different types of light bulbs use.

“You can see individually how hard it is to get them to light up,” Fillian said. “This is a good activity because it teaches kids how much energy newer versus older technology takes for the devices in their home.”

Christina Davis, student research assistant with the 711th Human Performance Wing, AFRL, worked with students on identify plant cell structures by extracting visible DNA from crushed and strained strawberries.

“Activities like these get kids introduced at a young age to cell structures and the importance of DNA,” she said.

Bennie Luck, Youth Programs coordinator, said the STEMfest also was designed in part to honor Women’s History Month.

“The kids get to see people who are in STEM-related jobs; we want to encourage young ladies to go into STEM,” he said.

Speed Stacks, building a pyramid with drinking cups as quickly as possible; a batteries kit; Rubik’s cubes; flying structures constructed from paper strips, straws and tape; smoothie drinks and stationary bicycles by the 4-H; and a 3D printer brought by the Greene County Library completed the activities.

Luck said the event was so well received, he hopes to repeat it next year. The next large STEM-related event that will take place at the Youth Center this fall will be its observation of 4-H National Youth Science Day, “the world’s largest youth-led science experiment.”