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STEM Expo returns to William Jessup University

Young scientists showcase projects Saturday
By: Toni Arnés, Placer Herald correspondent
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STEM Expo

When: Judging begins at 9 a.m.; doors open to the public 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: William Jessup University, 333 Sunset Blvd., Rocklin

Cost: Free admission and parking (coffee, grab-and-go meals and snacks available at the campus café)

Registration: Students grades four through 12 can register to participate up until the morning of the event.

Info: www.stemexpo.org

Area students, parents and neighbors will have the opportunity to increase their scientific literacy March 2 at the third annual Placer County STEM Expo. The event, hosted by William Jessup University, is described as an innovative alternative to “boring” science fairs.

Eric Bull, event coordinator and WJU science education professor, explained that typical science fairs are intimidating, often involving scientific processes that students explore in a cursory manner, and parents dread.

The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Expo offers students seven unique categories to select from: Rube Goldberg (illustrated or built contraptions); Invention; Science Fiction; Environmental Innovation (facilitates environmental thinking); Reverse Engineering (figuring out how things work); Robotics Engineering; and Scientific Inquiry.

“Kids feel they can do this,” Bull said, referring to the various categories from which students can explore interests and talents.

Students have the option to compete or not. They can allow judges to critique their projects or simply display them for viewing. Parents or mentors are welcome to collaborate in the non-competitive arena.

Siblings Andrew (grade eight) and Annie (grade six) Kapila both won awards in science fiction writing at STEM 2012. Both are participants at this year’s event, too.

Andrew, who enjoys writing as a hobby, said he participated last year because he felt he had a pretty good chance of winning. The aspiring computer programmer won second place in the seventh-through-ninth-grade group for his story titled “Time Box.”

Entering the same category and group classification this year, Andrew’s story is titled “Aeolus.” The adventure features a 14-year-old boy from a near-future world who roams a barren wasteland, avoids dangers but chases cannonballs, and is rescued by a spaceship.

Last year, Annie placed first in the fourth-to-sixth-grade group with her environmentally conscious story, “Deeper.” This time she will forgo the science fiction writing category and try her hand at scientific inquiry.

Both students attend Granite Bay Montessori, where participation in the expo was optional last year, but mandatory this year. Annie, who hopes to become a science fiction writer someday, said she would participate in the event even if it was not required.

“There are lots of fun activities and the judges are really nice,” she said.

Last year, STEM Expo became an official county affiliate for the California State Science Fair. Six STEM participants can go to the state final.

“A student often enters the expo as a first step to recognition as one of the top young scientists in California,” Bull said.

For students moving forward, roundtrip airfare will be awarded courtesy of Jet Blue Airways, an event sponsor.