The University of Oregon will host two STEM-forward events Feb. 25: the Eugene Youth Math Festival and the Central Western Oregon Science Expo, both spearheaded by College of Arts and Sciences faculty members.
The fourth annual Eugene Youth Math Festival will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at McArthur Court. Admission is free, and elementary and middle school students are invited to enjoy 50 interactive and fun activities. Stations ranging from optical illusions to hands-on puzzles will fill the arena, along with hundreds of students, organizers hope, and more than a hundred volunteers will share their passion for math.
Maria Nemirovskaya, an instructor in the Department of Mathematics, founded the math festival in 2017 on the idea that math can be fun, after realizing how much she enjoyed sharing that with students. Her favorite part of this event: getting to see the looks on kids’ faces when they experience that fun.
“The excitement and the engagement,” she said, “that’s the best part.”
She came up with many of the activity stations herself in collaboration with UO students and other faculty members, and the materials are largely low cost.
“I soak garbanzo beans for 24 to 36 hours,” for the construction station, Nemirovskaya said. “Students can use them with toothpicks at the station as a cheap construction set.”
Children ages 5-14 and their parents are welcome to join Nemirovskaya and her volunteers enjoying the fun side of math. Though children may not be eager to do more math on a Saturday afternoon, the festival aims to change that perspective.
“We play math,” Nemirovskaya said. “We show kids the different branches of math through games, hands-on activities, problems, crafts and experiments. And it's beautiful.”
The Central Western Oregon Science Expo, which also will take place Feb. 25 on the UO campus, looks to not only encourage fifth to 12th grade scientists in their STEM studies but also promote the UO as a great space for science education. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.
“We use the opportunity to showcase the University of Oregon as a place where cutting-edge scientific research is taking place,” said Bryan Rebar, associate director of STEM CORE at the UO. Participants, teachers, adult sponsors, family members and other supporters who attend are invited to tour UO labs.
Science projects and judging will be at the Guistina Ballroom in the Ford Alumni Center. The awards ceremony will be in the Erb Memorial Union ballroom.
This year, the event has arranged for the Museum of Natural and Cultural History to open its doors free of charge to all participants. Afternoon UO lab tours and the opportunity to visit the museum will take place while judges decide on various science awards to recognize students.
Rebar, who helped organize this year’s event, emphasized the event’s focus on showcasing students’ research and encouraging their pursuit of STEM.
“Holding this event helps promote student engagement in doing science, not just learning science,” Rebar said. “I love meeting the students and learning about what inspired them to explore so many different, interesting questions.”
UO senior Dana Zaidan, a neuroscience major who has volunteered to help at the event, told Rebar she would not have considered attending the UO if it weren't for her UO scholarship awarded at the statewide science fair, and likely would have enrolled in a local community college. Her scholarship was based her potential demonstrated by the high school research project she presented, Rebar said. “She took advantage of the opportunity and has immersed herself in science at UO.
“She took advantage of the opportunity and has immersed herself in science at UO,” he said.
—By Alyson Johnston, College of Arts and Sciences