By Morgan Petronelli
The bright eyes of eager children learning about the possibilities of science, technology, engineering and mathematics lit up the room at the March for Science STEM Appreciation event on Saturday.
Watching chemical experiments, interacting with drones and learning about nutrition were just a few of the activities that went on at the event. These activities educated both children and adults about the wonders of STEM-related fields.
Rachel Young, a representative from Valley STEM Me² Academy, said her program is an independent tech school that works with the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center (MCCTC) to bring a hands-on approach of STEM-related studies to ninth and tenth graders.
With her, Young brought a grinder to the event that students from the program drew on the computer and then figured out how to manufacture it.
“The program is a great opportunity to promote the engineering and manufacturing process with parts and devices,” Young said.
She also brought a 3-D printed creation, a motherboard of a laptop and another laptop which displayed various languages of code.
Young says high school students in ninth and tenth grade interested in STEM can apply on their website, https://mahoningctc.com/stemme2, in February.
Mike Serra, an associate professor of chemistry at Youngstown State University, along with two of his students, Salam Picard and Brea Bartley, held a table at the event showcasing various chemical experiments.
Serra said it is important to educate the public about chemistry because it is involved in everyday life.
“We call chemistry the ‘central science’ because the basic understanding of chemistry is important to so many things. It is important in medicine. It is important in forensics,” Serra said.
He cited examples, such as designing drugs through chemistry and how doctors should know what they are giving their patients. Serra said chemistry can also help understand DNA in order to solve murders or arson crimes.
Salam Picard, a pre-med student at YSU, said he studies chemistry because it is important in medicine to understand drugs, diseases and the human body down to a molecular level in order to achieve better health.
“It’s very important to understand what’s going on. All three sciences — biology, chemistry and physics — play a big part in anything. So, it’s good to go through all three of them to understand not only how different they are within each discipline, but how they all really intertwine,” Picard said.
Dr. Alexis Smith, a radiologist at Mercy Health in Youngstown and the event coordinator, said it is important to hold events that support STEM in the community.
“We want people to realize that this is an integral part of society and that science, technology, engineering and math are all so important to our everyday lives,” said Dr. Smith. “The problem is people don’t really realize that and fail to conceptualize how much STEM does for us and our livelihoods.”
She said that the best way to promote STEM is through education, which is why she chose to organize a STEM appreciation day instead of an official march.
“We are trying to educate people about STEM so then in turn they demand their legislators use STEM and make legislative policy because we feel like at the moment they are not using the expert knowledge and best evidence available to make policies,” she said.
Dr. Smith said at the end of the day, it comes down to how politicians can utilize STEM to make policies that benefit everyone and the environment.
“STEM is non-partisan. The facts are the facts and they need to be used when making policies that affect all of us, the rest of our lives and the future of our world,” said Dr. Smith.
The free event was held from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Youngstown and was organized by Dr. Smith and Peter Norris.
More information about how to get involved in the March for Science can be found online at https://www.marchforscience.com.