Creating music from bone conduction, smoke ring target practice and an infrared light lounge were just some of the scientific exhibits over 1,500 local children and families were able to experience at Hancock College’s annual Friday Night Science.
The free event, held every year to spark young children’s interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, is made possible by a grant from Ted and Cheryl Maddux and featured interactive demonstrations to engage children in scientific experiments, as well as exhibits and tours.
Demonstrators were on hand to interest young children to teenagers, and even their parents, in STEM experiments.
Just after leaving the cow eye dissection exhibit, where Hancock physiology students were demonstrating the similarities between cow and human eyes, Nicholias Acosta, 6, said the jelly oozing out of the eye was scary, but he emphasized that he’s interested in environmental sciences.
“This is a very positive outlook on science for my kids,” said Nicholias’ mother, Verenyse Acosta. “Instead of kids being at home on their electronics, it’s good for them to see and learn things like this hands-on.”
On the main stage, the main focus was physics, where college professors entertained families with classic inertia demonstrations and the “power of pressure.”
Students and families were able to see the college’s Industrial Technology Complex and toured the labs, watched welding and automotive technology demonstrations, and tested their
creativity in the Architecture Lab.
Nearly 100 Hancock College students, mainly physics and STEM majors, helped design, test and build the demonstrations leading up to Friday Night Science, and many were there to help run the exhibits throughout the evening.
Friday Night Science over the years has become even more family-oriented. According to Emmanuel Guerrero, instructional assistant in Hancock’s STEM center, a major success of Friday night’s event was that several Hancock students brought their parents to the event to show them what they’ve been working on at school.
Siboney Guardado, STEM director at Hancock, attended Friday Night Science with her son, Miguel, a senior at Pioneer Valley, and her 9-year-old daughter, Saira.
“For me, it’s to spark that interest and be able to make STEM appealing to them,” Siboney said. “They get to see all aspects of STEM in action.”
Miguel will head to CSU Fullerton in the fall as a kinesiology major with a minor in biomechanics, and he attributes his interest in the field to the encouragement his mother gave him when it came to education. Her passion is reflected by his chosen path.
“She’s opened me up to different fields, and it was fun seeing those fields because I got to see and decide what I liked,” Miguel said, adding that Siboney took him to events like this often.
The Santa Maria Valley Makerspace program also had a strong presence at Friday Night Science, which is part of a statewide initiative that focuses on preparing students for careers in STEM through hands-on, content-rich design project and curriculum. Hancock students were in full force, engaging young ones in laser engraving, building tin can robots and tearing apart old computers to see what’s inside.
A makerspace is a physical space provided to children, teens and, even, adults, with shared resources to pursue technical projects that are interesting to one personally. With guided projects, children were able to build upon the structure with their own imagination.
Hancock College, the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum and the Santa Maria Public Library are collaborating on a joint effort to bring makerspaces to the Santa Maria Valley after recognizing a need for them in the area.
Bob Mabry, a machining and manufacturing technology instructor at Hancock who has spearheaded the makerspace effort at the college, explained that the organizations received a grant in order to bring the new outlet for creativity to the valley and have been finding ways to implement it since.
“We wanted to introduce and test the concept in a big way,” Mabry said. “Friday Night Science is very big in this town, and we wanted to contribute to it in that way.”
“We talk a lot in education about training people specifically for one job,” Mabry continued. “What kind of skills will people need to succeed no matter where they end up? This is about collaboration, communication, critical thinking and problem solving — creatively. (Makerspaces) are a vehicle for all of that.”
The makerspace activities continued Saturday during events at both the Santa Maria Public Library and the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum.