Discovery Space empowers 5th graders through STEM career awareness program

BELLEFONTE — For the past five years, Discovery Space has been focusing on helping kids understand potential options for careers.

“We aren’t expecting that every student we reach will go into a STEM career, but we are working to expand the world of options that kids know are available to them. We have seen it turn into motivation for students to try harder in math class or begin to care about what their science teacher is teaching,” stated Michele Crowl, executive director. The program is called stEMPOWERed – meant to highlight the word empower within it.

Through funding from AAUW State College, the VWR Foundation and Paula Bell, a former Lock Haven professor, Discovery Space has been able to reach fifth grade girls in the Bellefonte and Penns Valley school districts and is working to build a network of participants who support one another.

“In the Bellefonte School District, for example, we have been able to run sessions at two elementary schools for consecutive years. We invite all of the participants back each year for an event, giving younger students a way to meet past participants This also helps when they first arrive in middle school together,” said Crowl.

This year some of the sessions have focused on aerospace engineering, mechanical engineering, food science and computer coding. Discovery Space partnered with faculty and graduate students in aerospace engineering to provide participants with an opportunity to use a flight simulator and experience a room used to test different ways to prevent helicopter blades from getting covered in ice. With graduate students in mechanical engineering, participants learned about a research project that is building wheel chairs for people with ALS. During a visit to the Food Science department, participants learned about the science of chocolate and sensory science. At Minitab they explored computer programming and statistics, using Minitab’s software.

“The program has two important elements: the STEM content that kids get to see, experience and learn in a real setting from professionals; and, a network of supportive friends and mentors that we hope will empower them to stay engaged in school and beyond,” says Crowl.

Discovery Space is the area’s science center, located on N Atherton Street. The center has 5,000 sq feet of interactive exhibit space and hosts birthday parties, field trips, summer camps and events for kids primarily 14 years and younger.

For more information about Discovery Space contact: MyDiscoverySpace.org or frontdesk@mydiscoveryspace.org or phone 814-234-0200.