Children in lab coats make manuka honey potion as part of STEMFest

Families from around the country and the Western Bay flocked to Durham Street in Tauranga to share in wonder, amazement, curiosity and discovery, as STEMFest took over the city for a day full of exciting experiments and engaging hands-on learning.

The world class festival was designed to engage and inspire a new generation of scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians. And it did just that.

A Fun-Filled Day for the Family

With exhibitors from industry leaders such as Nanogirl Labs, Beca, Comvita, Trustpower, MOTAT and education providers such as House of Science, Te Puke High School, University of Waikato, and Maths Craft NZ, there was plenty to be discovered. Experiments, games, workshops and demonstrations galore; there was something for everyone, no matter their age or interest.

Engaging attendees with a practical learn-by-doing approach, the festival promoted and established the relevance of STEM in everyday lives. Visitors could explore math in a whole new way with hands-on crafting activities, make slime in the ‘Dirty Science’ zone, extract DNA from strawberries, learn how to code, take on virtual reality and programming challenges and create topographical maps with an augmented reality sandbox. With over 40 exhibits to explore, there were plenty of opportunities for kids and families to become budding STEM learners.

The fun-filled festival was free to attend, igniting curiosity and imagination in over 3,500 attendees.

“Some families told us they planned on staying only an hour and ending up staying up to 6 hours trying to fit everything in. And there still wasn’t enough time to do everything! It’s fantastic that we were able to provide such an engaging experience—who knows where that will take these young people on their journey with STEM; it could spark a new passion or future career-path” says STEMFest founder and project lead Tia Lush.

And it was an eye-opener for parents too.

“One parent said they always knew their child was interested in science, but didn’t realise how much before they saw it for themselves at the festival. It’s great that parents got to see the opportunities that are out there for their kids.”

Leading up to the festival, there were also a number of fringe events that complemented the day’s events.

STEM Debates during September and October posed contentious topics such as ‘Diversity in STEM’ and ‘Does empathy constrain good science?’. A STEM Challenge Day aimed at children aged between 8-12 years old who hadn’t already expressed an interest in STEM engaged around 170 new learners. With special guest Dr. Michelle Dickinson (aka Nanogirl) bringing her famous ‘hands on fire’ demonstration to the day and launching rockets with the teams.  The day was supported by the STEM Champions, a programme that brought together young inspirational people working in STEM who were keen to share their stories with children and their parents.

Girl wearing goggles creates green flame on bunsen burner

TECT Principal Funder of Festival

Tia says the festival and fringe events couldn’t have gone ahead without the hard work of their many volunteers and the support of TECT.

“We are so grateful for TECT’s grant of $30,000; it meant we could provide an exceptional world-class experience for thousands of young people and their families that was free to attend, making it totally inclusive.

“The grant also enabled us to bring in some truly inspirational exhibitors that wowed the crowd. Every single exhibitor contributed 110% with creativity in conceptualising how they would engage children and adults alike, to delivering enthusiastic and meaningful understanding of their STEM-based innovations.”

TECT Trustee Amanda Sutcliffe says the STEM Festival not only inspired young people to be actively involved in all things STEM, but showcased the region to the rest of the country.

“STEM is an extremely valuable range of subjects that help students to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Young people are our future, and the festival did a brilliant job of making sure there was plenty of engaging and interactive activities that would spark that lifelong interest in STEM.

“The Festival also helped put Tauranga on the map as the place to go to for STEM exploration, showcasing our region’s innovation and growing STEM-related industries.

“We’re so pleased our community and visitors enjoyed the event. It was a sell-out success and we look forward to seeing it grow year-on-year.”

To learn more about Tauranga STEMFest, visit www.taurangastemfestival.co.nz.


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