Making sweets using STEM

Emerson ‘I Heart STEM’ activities entertain, educate kids

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS - Local students turned into candy makers Friday morning for EmersonÕs ÒWe Heart STEMÓ day. Groups like this heated beakers of sugar water to different temperatures and tasted the product at each interval, recording their data on a table. From left: Isabelle Brown, Joaquin Jones, Brock Drew and Jessica Johnson.

Ice cream and candy may not conjure images of scientists laboring in a lab, but those are examples of what about 140 children were experimenting with Friday morning at Emerson.

Many other types of experiments, games and activities were on the agenda for the company’s “I Heart STEM” celebration.

“Throughout the year, all of these events are going on in different countries and different cities at Emerson locations,” said event coordinator and Emerson materials engineer Cherra Meloy.

The students ranged from entering first grade to eighth grade and were divided by age group for the day’s activities. All were either the children or grandchildren of local company employees.

“The elementary school kids are going to be making ice cream, they’re going to be building little chain reaction games and they’re going to be learning about putting a vacuum in things and seeing what happens,” Meloy said. “The older kids are going to be making candy, they’re going to be making structures to withstand an earthquake and they’re going to be making little chocolate valve bodies and molds.”

All of the activities were centered on concept of chain reactions. Meloy said chain reactions are used every day at Emerson as various Fisher valves are created and tested.

The kids had good reviews for the activities, including ice cream and candy making, both of which involve some chemistry.

“It’s not bad … it’s edible, I’d say,” said Joaquin Jones, 13, of Marshalltown as he and his group heated up sugar water in a beaker.

The idea behind the experiment was to test how the sugar water changed in taste, texture, shape and more as heat was applied. They tested at different temperature levels and wrote down their findings.

“It’s really cool,” said group member Jessica Johnson, 14, of Tama County. She and Jones both said they’re interested in getting into STEM careers as adults.

Younger experimenters also got to make sweets Friday morning. Using sugar, salt, milk and more, elementary students created homemade vanilla ice cream.

“It’s really good, but it’s also really, really cold,” said 8-year-old Liliana Núñez of Marshalltown as she chowed down on her chocolate syrup-drenched dessert. “It was really fun.”

Adam Frank, 9, of Conrad also enjoyed making ice cream.

“It was really fun, it took a while,” he said. Frank said the ice cream was saltier than he expected because of the process they used to make it, but that the dessert still tasted good.

Meloy said it is beneficial for kids to have experiments like these.

“I think it’s a great way to get kids exposed to STEM activities — I think it’s really important that kids do get exposed to STEM activities and understand that careers in those types of fields can give you a lot of opportunities,” she said.


Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or