By Paul Lara, Belvoir EagleNovember 21, 2019
Fort Belvoir Elementary School became a large science lab, Saturday, as the 10th Annual STEAM Family Day brought in scientists; technologists; engineers; artists and mathematicians from Belvoir and its surroundings.
Betsy Stickel is the educator and project director who coordinated Saturday's event, said the DoD Education Association provided a grant to make this happen.
"The Department of Defense identified that we have a great need for STEAM jobs, as they've had so many people retiring in these jobs, with no one to fill them." Stickel said the lessons involved "hands-on activities -- things that bring the kids in -- and show them that science is not scary, science is fun."
Participating agencies included Fairfax County Waste Water Management; the Army and Marine Corps museums; Night Vision Labs; the American Society of Naval Engineers; George Mason University and the Army artist in residence.
"This is a great event for our elementary schools," said Col. Michael Greenberg, Garrison commander. "This event really allows children and families to see technology, robotics and all the different things we do in society and really learn its importance."
During STEAM Day, students peered through microscopes; manipulated robots; played games showing the mathematical concept of infinity; and donned night-vision goggles to pierce the darkness, all with explanations of the science behind each activity. At the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency table, Esther Newman was asking children to identify landforms on a graphic of the earth and moon.
"In order to make a map, you need a lot of skillsets. We want to get kids excited about the math and technologies used in the Global Positioning System and satellites," said Newman.
Sgt. 1st Class Curtis Loter, the Army's artist in residence, showed students that art is an important part of Army history, and even combat.
"With the Army artist in residence, we are part of the Army Combat Art Program, which is a deployable asset. We are the only deployable asset in the Center of Military History," said Loter. "We are tasked with going downrange and capturing current combat operations in a deployable state. We can go downrange and use photos and sketches and other data to pull from to create fine art masterpieces."
The capstone project for the students was to design and construct a container able to protect an egg, as it's dropped from atop a Fort Belvoir Fire and Emergency Services ladder truck. Families gathered as a firefighter dropped each experiment from about 30 feet up. Students had fashioned devices to slow the fall with parachutes; cushion its impact with foam or balloons; and increase drag, with light weight and large surface area. The audience responded with cheers and support for each egg that landed softly enough to remain intact, and with sympathetic sighs when it splatted on the ground.
Maximus Wahlers eagerly tore through tape and batting to discover to his experiment was a success.
"I decided to protect it by making it float down," said Wahlers.
More than half of the experiments were not as successful. One student started crying when she saw her smashed egg inside, and her father tried to cheer her up. "It's okay -- when get home, we can have egg drop soup."