Emerson hosting fifth annual We Love STEM Day event

In 2019, the participants in We Love STEM Day went to the Emerson Innovation Center for the activities. This year, they will still have at-home kits to work on but in-person bottle rocket launches are set for Aug. 1 and 5.

For the fifth year in a row, Emerson Electric is hosting an event centered around STEM education called, “We Love STEM Day!”

But what’s new for the 2021 edition is who the program will be reaching. In previous years, We Love STEM Day was only done with children of Emerson employees participating, but now any child entering grades first through eighth can participate. The goal of We Love STEM Day is to reach children, educate them on STEM, and possibly get them interested in STEM careers.

According to the 2021 chair of the We Love STEM Days event, Andrina Helgerson, the target participant number is 350.

“When we did kitting last year, we found that actually, our budget by removing the in-person costs, we were able to be under budget and that made me think we don’t have the liability of having kids in our facilities. If it’s at home kids, then why are we not expanding this to the community?'” Helgerson said.

She said this year’s budget has allowed them to expand their reach for the STEM Day event.

“We have a chapter called ‘Women in STEM’ here at Emerson and We Love STEM Days is kind of tied to that. Our goal is to reach kids in our community, teach them about STEM and how fun it is to kind of pursue that as a career,” Helgerson said.

In order to reach more kids, Emerson works with the Marshalltown Public Library. Registration for We Love STEM Day can be done on the public library’s website.

Beginning Sunday, the public library will have the kits and kids can pick them up there. In each kit there will be a bottle rocket, as well as other activities for kids to do.

“It is really exciting to be working with the library, because that’s so cool to be able to do the outreach,” event volunteer Rebecca Rutishauser said.

After only being able to send materials in the mail last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Emerson is having sort of a hybrid STEM day. Kits are available for kids to pick up so they can do them at home, but Emerson also wanted a launch.

“We kind of went back and forth asking ‘Is it worth planning an in-person event, knowing that we might have to cancel?'” Helgerson said. “We just proceeded with caution with doing at home kits, because worst case scenario, we just remove the in-person aspects of the kids [event].”

The decision to launch the bottle rockets in person happened a few months ago.

“We wanted to make sure that it was as safe as possible. So we proposed having smaller groups outside to make sure that we’ve got lots of ventilation so people can still participate, but be socially distant,” Rutishauser said.

The launch locations for the bottle rockets will be in green lots near Emerson, 205 S. Center St.. and the library; and green lots by Opa.

Helgerson said the initial planning stages for We Love STEM Day began in the winter. While planning for an event in a time of uncertainty is not easy and can be very stressful, Helgerson and Rutishauser found part of the planning process to be enjoyable.

Rutishauser said her favorite part of the planning stages was thinking about different ways to teach kids about science.

“I just thought it’s been really fun to think about what will get the kids excited and trying to come up with stuff that we think will be both teach them really good science, while at the same time, be fun, memorable and something that will get them excited about science, math, engineering and technology related careers,” she said.

Helgerson’s favorite part was learning what ideas were being presented.

“I got to hear about all the different activities that people were thinking of doing and it was fun to see people get excited about STEM, especially because we are such a stem focused company here at Emerson,” she said.

With her is a planning committee, which Helgerson said helped plan the events and took care of a lot of the “hard work” while she handled the administrative side of things. Helgerson said she wasn’t told about STEM opportunities until her senior year of high school.

“I didn’t have a ton of STEM outreach as a kid, so I didn’t even know what engineering was until my senior year maths teacher told me,” she said. “I didn’t know that that was an option for me.”

Providing STEM education to children is something Rutishauser said is fun and exciting.

“It’s exciting to be a role model to the kids and to give them somebody that they can see who does that,” she said. “That’s really cool that we can have role models of all different types. And it’s fun to be able to do hands-on activities that maybe they don’t get a chance to do at school.”

The goal for next year is to bring the participants back in-person..

“I think in-person it’s just so much more effective, in my opinion, to get people excited about what they’re learning,” Helgerson said.

Contact Sam Stuve at 641-753-6611 or at sstuve@timesrepublican.com


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