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STEMosphere Share Fair captivates D.C. community at George Washington University

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The first STEMosphere Share Fair in Washington, D.C. welcomed the community to test out technology and learn about STEM fields March 8 at the George Washington University (GWU,) where the Charles E. Smith Center gymnasium was transformed into a super-sized playroom.

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In one corner, towers of blocks loomed skyward as budding construction engineers and architects tested out designs using KEVA planks. Moms and Dads were part of the action, too, helping littler ones to stabilize their creations... or maybe just wanting to join in on the fun!

One Mom taking photos of her two kids busily absorbed in their building project said, "I love how engrossed they are thinking about what they want to create and working at it together."

Eliciting delight in another corner came from the FIRST Robotics exhibit. Here, kids of all ages could remotely direct structures of various shapes and sizes, with wheels and arms and other parts moving at their command, and earn a "robot driver's license." FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a non-profit charity founded in 1989 by inventor and STEM advocate Dean Kamen "to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders" and "develop the muscle between their ears."

Also inspiring kids were two NASA exhibits. One exhibit enticed them to test aerodynamics with air pressure experiments using marshmallows; and another, featuring BEST students from UMBC, challenged them to design and build a Mars Rover.

More hands-on science adventures were brought by exhibitors Einstein in a Box (balloon rocket races, wind tunnel ping pong games and paper airplane target practice - the two open levels of the gym were ideal for this last experiment, as airplanes could be launched from the upper floor to the lower;) Anatomy in Clay (skeletal model molding using clay;) and Paleo Quest (fossil hunting.)

GWU, too, featured a variety of exhibits from its STEM departments. Available for exploring were: the environmental effects of climate change in the Arctic; brain and fossil sizes of various living animals; autonomous cars that drive themselves; healthcare and nursing careers; and DNA, with opportunities to extract DNA from fresh strawberries and view a fruit fly's DNA through a microscope. They also presented a Bag Monster (an Office of Sustainability representative dressed in a costume of 500 bags - it was as scary as it sounds!) to teach facts about recycling and the environment.

GWU Associate Director of School Alumni Programs, Jacynta Brewton, who helped head the event for the Graduate School of Education & Human Development, said more than 3500 members of the community attended, including a significant number of local alumni. In addition to bringing their families, many alumni also volunteered and participated in the professional development presentations. "GW's commitment to STEM education is clear," said Brewton. "It was heartwarming to see the strong alumni support of this event," she said, adding "we are excited about the possibility of hosting again next year."

Other exciting exhibitors on hand to encourage STEM education were the American Chemical Society, Bach to Rock, CAISE, Einstein Fellow at Polar Programs, 4-H Health Rocks, iSchool, Jane Goodall's Roots & Shoots, Jason Learning, Koshland Science Museum, the Nature Conservancy, Siemens Science Day, Smart Starters, Inc, SMART Technologies, the Smithsonian Science Education Center, Stellogix, STEM Tot Academy, UDC 4-H, UM College Park Scholars, Whiting-Turner and Wildscreeen USA/ARKive.

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